Toggler – Antonio Roberts

Toggler is a new website feature allowing commissioned artists to explore, demonstrate and celebrate the potential of creativity in website design.

As websites become increasingly standardised to ensure familiarity and ease of use for online visitors, Toggler allows artists to champion the role of curiosity and creativity in exploring other possibilities for presenting content online.

Visitors are able to view our website through different lenses by toggling between styles developed by commissioned artists.

Antonio Roberts is a new media artist and curator based in Birmingham, UK. He uses technology-driven processes to explore issues surrounding open source software, free culture and collaborative practices.

Unauthorised Copy, Antonio Roberts, 2017

Can you tell us a bit about your practice?

My practice is broadly about copyright, authorship, and how technology and the Internet affects how we create art. Like many young artists I use the Internet to create and share my work. Also like many artists I find myself being limited by archaic laws that concern themselves more with physical media and not the infinitely reproducible nature of the Internet.

I make work that remixes existing, often corporate, imagery. To do this I use a lot of automated process, techniques like glitch art, and a whole lot of programming!

What interested you in the Toggler commission?

I was interested in Toggler as a way to reflect on and fight back against the homogenization of the Internet. As recently as 2010 people would build their own personal websites as a way to communicate with the world. If people didn’t build their own from scratch, websites like Myspace, Livejournal, WordPress, and Geocities provided us with a “vanilla” framework with which we could build on and edit via CSS and have it reflect our own unique personalities.

What has sadly happened is that I have seen many of those personal websites lie dormant or disappear altogether in favour of using websites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. These websites provide a standardised and convenient viewing experience with an unchanging interface but at the expenses of personalisation. What’s more it has undoubtedly affected what and how I choose to make. Perhaps it is the same for other artists but now I have to consider how the work will be experienced when viewed on the endlessly scrolling Instagram interface, how it will grab attention from the adverts surrounding it, or if it will fit within their size and dimension limitations. I hate referring to the cultural things we produce as content. That term relates more to the language of marketing and I don’t think does justice to the art we create.

Allowing myself and other artists to reconfigure the look of the Fermynwoods website may make the website ultimately illegible but I hope it’ll remind visitors that the experience of browsing the Internet is more unique than the four big websites we visit daily.

Can you explain the ideas behind your approach to Toggler?

Ultimately this work is about the invasiveness of advertising and how we willingly allow corporations and brands to influence us.

For as long as I can remember I have used ad blocking plugins on my browser. Occasionally I will disable it just to see how it looks and I’m astounded by how much advertising there is. These adverts surround whatever we’re trying to view, interrupts it, and sometimes completely blocks us from viewing it.

Simultaneously I wanted to reflect on companies that steal ideas from independent artists and designers. Zara are well known for having done this but are by no means the only perpetrators.

I’ve made 3D scans of myself and Emily Jones and allowed ourselves to be infected by their imagery and for it to steal our identities.

I hope the combination of these two ideas presented in this way shows how we readily allow corporations to steal our attention away from what we want to do. It seems as though the content is really only important if it makes money.

Toggler - Antonio Roberts
Toggler screen grab – Antonio Roberts, 2019

To explore our website using Antonio’s commissioned code select ANTONIO ROBERTS from the drop down Toggler menu above. Please note Toggler will not affect your visiting experience of the home page. To return to the standard website design, please select DEFAULT from the menu.