Biography

Born in London 1975 to Spanish mother and Colombian father, I grew up in London, Redhill and Ashford in Middlesex with one older brother. My Father worked for Iberia as a ground clerk and mother juggled family life with repairing things – furniture, clothes and electronic equipment. She was a great influence and had she been a young person today she would have been at a hacker/maker.

At the age of 17 left home with a desperate need to discover the world, love and life. Lived, studied and worked as fashion and graphic designer in Bangalore, India until 1993. Moved back to the UK with as desperate a need to learn, complete and be a normal young person.

Studied Arts Foundation in Isleworth and in 1995 took part in Design Council’s 2045 time capsule project where the brief was to design something that would be part of life in 2045. This was a pivotal point as ideas of nano-technology, the data-divide, cloning and mind-control, wealth and control became big preoccupations. The limbic system, behavioural economics and a negative reaction to media/advertising manipulation informed the political/artistic direction from them on. Until now no internet.

Studied first degree in Interactive Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University where the focus was on collaborative fine art practice, digital arts and interactive installation with a particular interest on science/art collaboration. First exposure to the Internet, email and IRC chat. Often collaborated with fellow student artist Tanya Meditzky on several projects. Together we created Stroke and Rekwear – two installations/interventions both of which dealt with poorly understood issues. Between 1998 and 2003 I developed many soft sculptures inspired by the natural geometry, microscopic radiolaria, pollen grains and Buckmister fullerines. Other pieces explored personal relationships and used soft sculpted forms which although safe in appearance, engaged the viewer/audience in ways which were not always obvious.

Worked in jobs both paid and voluntary from tutoring a 15 year old boy through his exams to running occupational art therapy sessions for groups of Stroke sufferers. Worked as team administrator at the RNIB within the Access Technology Support unit – became sensitised to the challenges faced by visually impaired people in using technology and the internet. Worked on cultural diaspora projects as artist animateur with Cultural Cooperation and stopped animating in Flash.

Worked for Creative Partnerships in 2004 to develop an international youth arts exchange programme between school children in London and Rio de Janeiro. In 2002 became increasingly interested in decision-making and began to evolve the beans game in London. Became involved with the maker/hacker/digital London artist scene, Furtherfield, Campbell works, Dorkbot and other art/tech events. Started living in a warehouse in Hackney Wick and having a big space to stretch creatively. Started to show the bean game at various show-and-tell events – the game was now called ‘Choice, Chance and Circumstance’.

Became a single mother in 2005 and started working freelance as web designer at Limbic Fishnet (now Root Interactive) going by the name Jay Alvarez for communication purposes. Moved to Brighton in 2007 with young family. Decision-making and the bean game still engaging thoughts and informing decisions day-to-day. Set up digital design agency Root Interactive in 2008 with the intention of working with non-profits to nurture a more holistic approach to web development – a more feminine approach to a generally male-dominated domain.

Met Alan Jackson of Aptivate whilst playing bean game (freelancers sink or swim) at Un-conference Bar Camp in 2010 and found an alignment of values and goals. Started working as designer at Aptivate in 2010 and engaged with developing low bandwidth designs for International development sector, and workplace consensus decision-making internally. Started to understand more about the digital and bandwidth divide, how aid flow works and other complexities of global co-habitation.

In 2013 started as MA student in Digital Media Arts at University of Brighton. After 15 years, it was the right time to re-open the doors that had slowly and silently closed behind. Mother passed away leaving behind a book written over several months which became the base of the Linabelina project. Wrote MA thesis on the lack of women artists who do their own coding: Female digital artists and their relationship with code.

Graduated in 2015 with a distinction and started as a User Experience contractor Jay Alvarez with Equal Experts to enable the funding of future artistic development and financial stability. Began working on digital transformation projects within Government departments in 2016. Great insight into the dynamics of power and technology within the civil service.

First long creative sabbatical in 2017 started learning Unity3d game development and C# programming language with a view to creating a narrative based story game. Started collaboration into Virtual Reality with fellow Aptivate collaborator Andy Baker of Ixxy and moved into residency at Fusebox – part of Digital Catapult. Began collaborating with award winning sound designer Anna Bertmark of Attic Sound on 2 virtual reality projects. ‘A House for a Fly’ and ‘Warbells‘ commissioned by the Vorarlberg Museum in Austria. Reinforced notion that technological development inevitably leads to tests of power and dissolution of community.

Became seasonal like Persephone. Winters contracting UX work, spring and summer for creative growth and discovery. 2018 contract in financial sector as UX lead. New perspectives on what people think is important and how they protect it. Evolved understanding of large-scale agile models that marginalise the user.

2019 Brexit – Resting in uncertainty as new fusebox residency takes a turn back towards an exploration of how future technology will impact society and the world. Collaboration talks begin with Phil Jones of Wired Sussex and Sebastian Weidt of the Quantum Ion Technology Group who are building one of the first large scale quantum computers in the country. Looking for funding opportunities to learn how artists can ethically and usefully participate. Discussions about ethics and technology ensue. Participating in workshops and steering groups at Universities on VR and Health, Immersive Technology and Cyborg Futures  – in the midst of the academics and technologists who advise collaboration with the Military industrial complex is a necessary bind to bring technology to use for good.

Developing new virtual reality workflows to facilitate more women to enter coding through meaningful content and the technology of ‘talking and language’ with Louise Winters, Seeing through emotional lenses with Rachel Henson, body mapping with Sarah Ticho and creating literary narrative in VR with Kate Stokes.

 


All content © Copyright 2019 by Maf'j Alvarez.
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