Elinor O'Donovan

  • 2019
  • Art
  • Intermedia - BA (Hons)

Elinor O’Donovan, Intermedia - BA (Hons): Responding to internet culture

Elinor O’Donovan’s work takes its inspiration from the peculiar and often absurd humour of the internet. “It’s a response to different aspects of internet culture,” says Elinor, “What I’m making at the moment are these digital collages that remix stock photos that I find on Google image searches. I’m trying to look at it as a version of reality that’s constructed by the internet. 

As well as there being humour in finding the ways that an image search reflects a distorted reality back to us, there’s a seriousness to the work’s theme, too. “It can seem like an innocuous thing, but it can be really damaging,” says Elinor, “I’m reading a book at the moment called Algorithms of Oppression which is about how algorithms within search engines can reinforce harmful racial stereotypes. 

The method or the work’s creation is also linked to its subject matter. “I’m calling them collages, but because I’m using Photoshop they don’t have the same visual language that collage traditionally does,” says Elinor, “I've been looking at memes and meme humour, and it evolved from that – this prevalent sense of humour on the internet that’s really weird and off-the-wall in a way that I really like. Combining these images in an unusual way reflects that.”

The Internet of Things_Elinor O'Donovan
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things_Elinor O'Donovan
The Internet of Things

One of the main things that Elinor has appreciated about her time at Edinburgh College of Art has been the time, space and freedom that students have to make the work they want. “Thinking about people who are professional, working artists, I imagine that it is hard to find the time to just be in the studio and actually make stuff, so for me that’s the most valuable thing about being at ECA,” she says, “Edinburgh’s amazing, too. It’s so beautiful. I always forget how nice it is until friends come to visit from back home and remind me!” 

Extra-curricular opportunities through the Students Association led Elinor to join the student radio station, FreshAir, which she has been the president and manager of for the past year. “I love being part of the University of Edinburgh because I’ve been really involved in societies while I’ve been here,” she says, “The radio station has been a huge part of that.” 

She hopes to build on this experience and continue to work in radio after graduating. “The immediate thing for me is to maybe work part-time and perhaps freelance with radio stuff on the side. I’m not in a hurry to make art, but I’m open to maybe doing a Masters in five or ten years,” she says, “A lot of us put pressure on ourselves to be the next big thing and be emerging artists where we immediately do lots of amazing shows and residencies, but actually I feel like there’s so much time to make art, and I don’t feel in a rush to do that, so for me I think I’ll take a step back for a little bit.” 

“A big thing I’ve learned about myself is how I work. When I first started university I was really trying to be what I thought an art student was, as opposed to just doing the stuff that I know how to make and that I like making. I’ve realised that I make better work when I’m having fun with what I’m doing. So that’s something that I’ve learned – to take my head out of it a bit and just enjoy what I’m doing.”

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