Studio Photography + Animation

'Earworm' is a series of animated .gif images designed for digital delivery, reproduction and distribution investigating the relationship between music consumption and emotional expression. What media we consume, what we are a 'fan' of, is a large part of identity and that is especially evident when it comes to music. Music is consumed as emotional catharsis, for better or for worse. It motivates us, it moves us, and it helps us understand and process our own feelings. With that, though, comes a sense of something perhaps a bit less secure. What am I feeling, without the soundtrack in my headphones? Am I happy, without a joyful song to accompany it? What is sadness, without mournful music?

Your screen displays a series of twelve emotional reactions displayed entirely through body language, each photographed against a stark white background. The figures perform emotions, both positive and negative: fear, confidence, peace. One begs for silence, while another holds a hand to an ear as if to listen more closely. Whatever emotion they are playing, it is not reflected in their faces; any expression is replaced by a vinyl record. Whatever emotion they are feeling is subsumed by the music they use to process it. The screen, the means of the instant delivery of music, television and whatever other media you might want to consume, is filled with spinning records and each individual figure becomes only a part of a mass of emotions, each competing for attention and validation.

Consuming music has been compared to a drug, often in a romantic sense. However, the comparison might be a bit more accurate than is comfortable. Listening to, recording and performing music all cause a release of dopamine, the same chemical that the brain produces in response to pleasurable behaviours such as sex and gambling [1]. Sex addiction and gambling addiction are both well-studied phenomena, in which the brain's own dopamine release creates self-destructive pleasure-seeking behaviour comparable to an addiction to an outside chemical such as a drug. Something about music has a unique ability to trigger strong emotion, whether to our benefit or to our detriment.

The figure that makes up these images is my own, and so is my sincere love for music of all kinds combined with a growing awareness of the dysfunction of my relationship with it. Nonetheless, the figure does not have my face. There is very little of 'me' left in the images because the black-clad figure becomes a monolith of every feeling that has ever been replaced by emotionally stirring media stimulus.

[1] Kaplan, Karen. “Science and the Arts: Rock and Research.” Nature, vol. 510, no. 7503, 4 June 2014, pp. 177–179., https://doi.org/10.1038/nj7503-177a.