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Nathan Harper

Nathan Harper is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in north Texas. He received his MFA from The University of North Texas with a concentration in New Media. His research examines internet culture through spiritual and ritualistic lenses to reinvestigate our post-enlightenment assumptions about technology and digital society. His work spans a variety of software and mediums, from animation, avatar performance, GAN, virtual reality, and even dirt. His film Drowning in My Sleep has been featured in noteworthy screenings, including at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pylon Lab, and most uniquely, at the Chapel of Santa Maria dei Carcerati in Bologna, Italy. His virtual reality projects have been featured at the Barcú Virtual Art Fair in Columbia and The Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts. More can be read about his work in Coeval Magazine and Anti-Materia.org.



Project:

In 2011 metalcore music label Victory Records announced the signing of a new band, Design the Skyline, with a music video for their single Surrounded by Silence. The video was met with intense internet backlash from the metalcore community. People would create cover videos where they banged on instruments and caricatured the chaotic style of the band. As a teenager heavily involved in the metalcore scene at the time, I initially found the song tonally and rhythmically fascinating but soon changed my tune to fit with the roar of hate from my gatekeeping peers. We measure the success of music by capitalistic measurements like album sales, likes, and streams. Still, anthropologically, a piece of music's success is measured by how often it is reiterated and expounded upon by others. Though these covers are not meant to celebrate the original, they are expoundings, and the ritual they accomplish may be more significant than music deemed successful.


One of the most universal rituals undertaken by human organizations is the ritual of ostracization. A group tends to define itself by defining what (and who) it is not. We may think of the internet as rational and wildly divorced from notions of ritual sacrifice, but this kind of identity cultivation requires a sacrificial scapegoat. In my research, I will explore this digital psychic sacrifice through a chaotic midi piano opera accomplished in laboratory experimentation through Foreign Objekt. Fragile Like Paper (named for a line from the song itself) will be a collection of these expoundings of Design the Skylines music, with the audio converted into midi data assigned to produce piano music shared and documented in the unique spaces of the residency.


By transposing the polarizing audio into an instrument of high art, I draw a parallel between the historically established arts and these online niche communities. The conceptual through-line connects the dots between the seemingly disparate notions of ritual sacrifice, internet culture, and the world of high art. The final constellation of ideas examines the Sisyphean nature of self-proclaimed avant-garde communities. The scapegoat is only one of two goats present in the sacrifice; it becomes a vessel for the community's sins and then is cast out into the wilderness, never returning. While this narrative is tragic on the surface, what could be more revolutionary (and metal, for that matter) than the sacrificial best that proudly carries the "impurities" of its time into the digital wilderness? The other goat is killed.

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