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Digital Dystopia: life drawing 2.0

11 October 2013

“No, Ava! Kill the Mechanic! Kill the Mechanic!!”

So screamed The Watcher – great-granddaughter of Raven Rouge – as she fought off Ava Iscariot, a flesh-turned-metal cyborg. Ava rounded on the Mechanic. With a curl on her lips and murder in her eyes, she lunged. Together they locked in combat.

The Watcher screamed again: “Pencil to the heart! Pencil to the heart!” The drawing tools that had been grafted onto Ava’s fingers strained forward. A single graphite tip pressed to the Mechanic’s sternum.

Slowly he sank down on to his knees, haunches to heels, faded slightly forward and deactivated. As his silver cap tumbled to the floor, The Watcher and Ava ran joyfully to a new alternative future…

At most life drawing groups, the organiser will end the last pose with an instruction to stop drawing, an offer of thanks, and a wish for safe journeys home. This, however, was Art Macabre, and the denouement of their Digital Dystopia. Life poses are the dishes served throughout an evening’s narrative.

There were to be two of us modelling for Digital Dystopia: Ava Iscariot as the heroine, and me as an evil cyborg, the Mechanic. Art Macabre supremo, Nikki, had conceived a plot in which she played her own great-granddaughter, The Watcher, organising life drawing speakeasies in a future world where all art is outlawed except android art.

Ava and I both arrived at Cass Art, Islington an hour or so early. Nikki was a couple of minutes behind. She had brought fewer props than usual this time: just two suitcases full. With Linsay and Aaron completing the backstage team in our small (un)dressing room, we set about preparing.

Models were to be body painted so we stripped naked and donned our gowns. While Aaron decorated Ava with fine lines of fading bronze, Nikki coloured me a silver face, neck and breast triangle; bronze ribs and back decoration, black for eyes, jawline, curly moustache and a large ‘M’ on the forehead.

After applying a few extra adornments, Nikki opened the event. Ava would model solo for the first 40 minutes in a sequence of poses of increasing length.

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© Art Macabre, Aaron Jacob Jones 2013, all rights reserved deathdrawing.com

As she began her final 15-minute pose, I made my entrance as the Mechanic. By now in addition to body paint I was further embellished with a silver peaked cap, eye-patch with flashing red light, latex gloves, a mass of clear tubes dangling from my stomach to my knees, a flashlight in one hand and a glitter ball on a stick in the other. Evil!

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© Art Macabre, Aaron Jacob Jones 2013, all rights reserved deathdrawing.com

I first set about menacing the artists with my flashlight beam, or simply by looming over them while they drew. Next I approached Nikki and chalked enigmatic symbols on a board to indicate my instructions: Ava Iscariot was to be taken for ‘upgrading’ to cyborg. I stood sentinel above the cowering Ava as we continued her final 10 minutes in a duo pose.

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© Art Macabre, Aaron Jacob Jones 2013, all rights reserved deathdrawing.com

A short break followed, during which Ava was dressed in her cyborg outfit – a silver jumpsuit with all the trimmings. Meanwhile I was given a top-up of paint, wires, tubes, pens, foil for my left arm, and then accompanied back out by Nikki for a 10-minute pose in the act of upgrading Ava’s previous body props.

Before leaving me, Nikki placed in my right hand a weird vibrating device with a twirling paint brush on the end. For a male life model, essentially nude before a semi-circle of attentive artists, there is a potential occupational hazard to standing in contact with a vibrating thing for 10 minutes. Fortunately the worst case scenario did not arise.

Nikki returned with the now fully upgraded Ava, who stood passive and upright, directly facing the artists. I paced around her then stood directly behind, towering above with arms slightly spread in an attempt to convey a triumph of evil dominance. We held the pose for 20 minutes.

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© Art Macabre, Aaron Jacob Jones 2013, all rights reserved deathdrawing.com

In the final 15-minute pose the tables were turned. Ava took the ascendancy, standing high upon an oil drum while I could only glare dispassionately from below at the being I had failed to subjugate. And that, I thought, was that…

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© Art Macabre, Aaron Jacob Jones 2013, all rights reserved deathdrawing.com

I should have remembered, however, that Nikki has a mischievous streak a mile wide. The part of the script not shared with me was that when I helped Ava down from the oil drum at the end of the pose she was to go haywire. First she set about Nikki, then Nikki set her about me.

“No, Ava! Kill the Mechanic! Kill the Mechanic!!”

It put my improv skills to the test, and gave the artists some light relief at the end of their evening’s work. Collectively we came out of character, if not out of costume, and mingled around admiring the art created.

After a brief struggle to remove the paraphernalia clipped, strapped or wrapped around my body, all that remained was the body paint. As ever, it’s removal was no mean feat in the tiny wash basin of Cass Art’s staff toilets.

With our dystopian future successfully performed, thoughts turned to our own futures. Ideas are never lacking with Art Macabre. Plans are already afoot for new events. The future is bright; the future is macabre.

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