Artist Hive Studios Interview Artist Katie Hallam


We welcome Katie – also known as The Beautiful Error to the Artist Hive community, an Edinburgh-based artist and graduating artist of 2020 with a background in Arts education. Her current series of works look at the connections between new media technology and archaic power, looking at geology, fossilisation, resources of power, materiality of technology and the geopolitical concerns with our future use of technology. We find out more about her practice and upcoming ambitions.


 1. What do your works seek to reveal about our existing and future relationship to technology?

It is hard to detach ourselves from technology and our relationship with digital culture has become even more connected during recent months. When people first look at my work they are perhaps seduced by the colours and aesthetics of the digital which in a way is exactly what happens in reality when we use our devices being constantly seduced by visuals we scroll through. What people are looking at though is in fact corrupt images, pixels that have been scrambled and an interrupted flow of information which in a highly functional contemporary digital culture should just not happen. I also create an awareness perhaps of how the digital is used, stored or disregarded. Dedicated landfill sites for redundant computers and industrial technology affect the environment and the connection to geology in my recent work suggest the future impact digital culture will have buried deep within the earth's landscape.


2. Your photography explores the construction and deconstruction of an image. How do you arrive at a point of completion? Would this ever develop into an evolving artwork?


Destroying photographs intentionally goes against logic. I can never predict how an image will turn out once I have taken away some of the original content or data and this to me is the reason why it's so exciting and surprising to see images transform the way they do. There is never really an end point as I could keep working on a single image infinite times to degrade the quality and I'd like to actually produce a series of works which record this process - taking one image and seeing how far I can alter, rearrange and destroy the information whilst still creating a visual outcome.


3. There’s an element of temporality to your work. Can you explain how your work seeks to provide permanence?   

Creating a frozen snapshot of moving pixels or a 'glitch' creates permanence at that very second but data is constantly flowing, moving and traveling in our devices so it's never just one image, one colour or one pixel. My work combines digital layers embedded in natural formations or through complex compositions and what I aim to achieve is somehow to bring the digital into the physical, to make it tangible. I am currently working realising these digital versions of 'digital fossils' into sculptures which would bring a completely new dimension to how they are viewed.


4. What ways do you think you would integrate new technologies into your works?   
Using photography to create the digital colour elements in my work is one way but I am increasingly looking at incorporating other techniques into the sculptural works such as laser etching directly into rock surfaces or using CAD software to scale up and print out small models or rocks. I really like the idea that new media technologies will create my work but also play a part in degrading the quality at the same time.


5. In series ‘Technological Fossil’ you intermix geology with the digital age. Could you explain the duality of natural ancient power and new technologies that you’re wanting to reveal? 


I am interested in the idea that materiality of our technology such as aluminium, copper, silicone, LCD electronics, break down literally into dust and particles and how that will eventually become embedded back into the earths surface. Over time, I want to imagine how these digital elements form new infrastructures, grow into new minerals and crystals and attach to the the natural world to be excavated or discovered in the future. Using coal is a visual symbol of how the natural raw materials found in the earths strata is or has been used to power our technological devices, it's almost a cycle and constant connection between archaic power sources and technology working together.

6.  You graduated this year from Edinburgh College of Art? Could you share your experience of graduating in such unprecedented times? 

As for everyone, recent times have had a huge impact on our lives. As an art graduate, having no access to my studio space, workshops or even the dialogue between fellow artists came as a big adjustment. Luckily, as most of my work could still be created through photography and digital software I managed to continue to develop ideas as best I could on my laptop whilst making the most recording the empty city and locations during lockdown walks. Graduate degree portfolios this year have been represented online but nothing really can replace a physical degree show and lots of artists have struggled to show their work as they would have wanted. However, as a result I have developed new skills in in designing virtual exhibition rooms, publications and been involved in online artist residences and even been given opportunities to sell work having been represented by online galleries such as Artist Hive Studios so every cloud has a silver lining!

7. How have you used this time as an artist to reflect and create visibility for your works? Any tips or challenges you could share? 

Recent times have given me no choice but to really reflect on my practice and forced me to think creatively about how to adapt and change ideas accordingly. Instagram for me has been a fantastic source of support for developing visibility for my practice. I quickly witnessed art communities growing in response to lockdown finding new ways to support each other and keep the art economy going! The Artist Support Pledge was the first initiative I successfully participated in which gave artists of all levels the opportunity to sell, promote and connect with other art communities to keep an income coming in but also to start collecting and finding new artworks and inspiration. I also realised that online residences provided a safe space to promote your work, gain a broader audience and to be creative in the content you showed others; participation and networking was key for me during Covid.



8. If you could exhibit your artwork anywhere and in any medium, where and what would it be? 
I have this vision of having my sculptures created and placed in the epic landscapes of Iceland. I think the environment would be perfect to have a 'digital fossil' placed back into such powerful, beautiful yet intimidating scenery!
9. Do you have any upcoming news to share?
As part of my final submission for the MA I created a small publication for residency proposals and sculptural work so I'm really looking forward to getting it in print and getting it out into the art world. I am also in discussion about a potential sculpture commission of 'Powering the Cloud' to be part of a large scale sculpture garden here in Scotland. I am so happy that even through these unprecedented times, I am able to continue my practice alongside part time teaching and I am really excited about future projects so watch this space! 
To discover Katie's practice visit her artist profile here.