Wendy McMurdo is a photographer and filmmaker who focuses on the relationship between technology and identity expressed through the images and ideas of childhood. She looks at the psychological world of children and young people, both as a protected space and, increasingly, as a ground for marketing wars and a prematurely forced adulthood.
McMurdo has been a long-time expert in leading-edge, digital photography – a working process that nevertheless owes much to early photography pioneers. This allows her to reflect directly on the innate relationship between child’s play, make-believe and technological image making. In her earlier works – for example, In a Shaded Place (1995) – she used photographic techniques to make unnerving images in which children would confront their own doubles.
She recognises that our relationship with the digital world has not stood still. The introduction of computers into early learning has meant that children very quickly become fully networked, online and social beings. This is affecting whole generations and reframing how we develop a sense of identity, how we behave and interact with each other.
McMurdo’s The Skater (2009) created figures inhabiting a similar fantastical world, somewhat like a computer gamer. The related film work, The Loop (2009), showed a girl mimicking the actions of a figure skater on a neighbouring screen, highlighting the desire to play in both physical and digital realms. What is going through the mind of this young gamer, as she mirrors the expert adult caught on an unworldly screen that she studies? We witness the very borderline between fantasy and reality as it forms in the mind of a child.
Recently, McMurdo has extended her technological interest by exploring the growth of artificial intelligence, particularly ‘social robots’. In the series My Real Baby (2009 onwards) scenes were created that put advanced ‘servant’ robotics together with people (both young and adult) to emphasise these humanising electronic forms. Just how much closeness can we tolerate with a responsive machine? Artists such as McMurdo use advanced lens-based techniques to reflect and comment vividly on developments in contemporary science.