Teen Council Q&A: Abdul Abdullah and Jess Herrington

After teaming up with the National Gallery Teen Council in May to deliver two Online Art Labs, artists Abdul Abdullah and Jess Herrington collaborated on an Instagram Face Filter as part of Artspace’s 52 ACTIONS project. The Teen Council caught up with Jess and Abdul following their collaboration to talk about their artistic practices and where they’d like to take them next.

How would you describe your practice and its concerns? What inspires you?

Abdul Abdullah: Before going to art school I studied journalism, but in third year picked up an elective in drawing and fell in love with having a creative practice. Personally, I see my practice as serving a similar function to journalism in that I try to hold a mirror up to the world around me.

Jess Herrington: I’m interested in art, science, and technology. My practice explores how we represent ourselves in the age of the internet. My work explores our own perceptions of ourselves online, through play and interaction. I combine natural and artificial elements to create surreal digital worlds. I’m also doing a PhD in visual neuroscience, so I’m inspired by visual perception, psychology, and how the human brain works.

Jess Herrington ‘The Feeling of You’ 2020 © the artist

What would you like to try next in your practice? Are there any new mediums you would like to explore?

AA: I’ve been lucky to have been able to work in a lot of mediums over the years, and especially most recently with Jess and the Instagram face filters. Last year for a show in Paris I got to use surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, and earlier in the year I made a sculptural installation for the Adelaide Biennial. Going into the future I am interested in creating immersive experiences using digital, virtual and physical media.

JH: I’m currently working on developing cinematic-style augmented reality and virtual reality. I will be bringing narrative to my newer work, to create a longer, more in-depth immersive experiences. I’m currently experimenting with 3D scanning and plan to use volumetric video (3D video) to bring a new dimension to the work.

Abdul Abdullah ‘Discombobulated 2’ 2020 © the artist

What kind of role does technology and/or social media play in your practice or career?

AA: I’m the youngest of three brothers who all went to art school, but I was the first one who pursued being a full-time artist. My brother Abdul-Rahman is now a terrific artist, and the joke I often make explaining my head-start is that the difference between him and I was the Internet. When he was in art school there was no Internet, but by the time I went there I had access to just about all the art and creative communities that ever existed, and I was able to quickly engage in a broader, national and eventually international discourse. When my brother was there, he only had access to what was in the local galleries and what he could find in books at the library. Technology has always had a huge part in my practice — even when I am doing something very traditional like painting.

JH: I like to think of my work as being ‘post-internet’, meaning that it is web-based and is concerned with the impact of the Internet on art and culture. Social media plays a huge role for me in terms of developing an audience for my work and testing out ideas. Some of the AR filters that I create are used in very different ways to how I intended. I also enjoy seeing how people interpret and perform the work online, as it informs how I create future experiences.

Abdul Abdullah and the Instagram face filter created in collaboration with Jess Herrington

Visit Jess and Abdul’s Instagram accounts to see their Instagram face filter in action.

The National Gallery Teen Council is a group of young creatives who develop and deliver programs for teens. Check out Art IRL and follow us on Instagram to keep up to date on what’s happening for teens at the Gallery.

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