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  • Date
    19 SEPTEMBER 2023
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    Harriet Davey showcasing futuristic avatars with their project ‘’THE REAL UNREAL’’ in collaboration with CALDOworldwide

    We are pleased to introduce you to the British artist Harriet Davey born in 1997, specializes in 3D art and operates between London and Berlin. She pursued a degree in graphic design at Kingston University in London. Harriet, they/she, has showcased her work at various prestigious events and venues, including The Wrong Biennale, MMMAD Festival, Maison des Arts Georges et Claude Pompidou, Miami Art Basel, Berlin Art Week, and the Nxt Museum in Amsterdam. Notably, she has collaborated with renowned brands such as Maison Margiela, Nike, and Adidas. Harriet's artistic endeavors have garnered recognition from esteemed media outlets like BBC, Arte, Vogue Italia, British Vogue, It's Nice That, I-D Magazine, L'Officiel, and Hunger Magazine. 

    We reached Harriet Davey, they/she, for an exclusive interview regarding the inspiration and creative process behind the last project ‘’The Real Unreal’’ in collaboration with CALDOworldwide that is featuring an array of 3D avatars, video works, and, for the first time, physical sculptures and print editions: .

    CALDOworldwide is an online gallery for contemporary art with a focus on Digital Art and Game Art, along with a publishing house that presents digital exhibitions by established and emerging international artists, accompanied by physical editions and publications available for purchase in their online store. Their philosophy is to experiment and explore new, progressive ways of presenting art in the digital space. 

    This unique Harriet Davey’s showcase in collaboration with CALDOworldwide delves into the realm of human identity and its construction, presenting futuristic avatars within a digital space. Drawing inspiration from science fiction and fantasy, Harriet skillfully crafts fluid characters from another dimension, imbuing them with a newfound plasticity and luminosity, especially evident in the shimmering surfaces of their bodies. Through the artistic finesse, the avatars come to life, existing  within an innovative and realistic environment. Their expressive charm creates an air of mystery and magnetic allure, guiding viewers into an enigmatic extraterrestrial cosmos.

    Harriet Davey's work reflects her personal exploration of gender fluidity and queer identity. In "The Real Unreal," they/she delves into the creation and "photographing" of virtual individuals, intentionally generating diversity and inclusion by hand. Rather than focusing on the unconventional aspects of their gender, race, nudity, ability, or expression, viewers are invited to contemplate their strangely glowing eyes, clothes made of rippling glass, or their twisted glitching movements. By exploring gender non-conforming virtual avatars, Harriet Davey aims to reclaim and restore bodies that have been exploited by a male-dominated gaming industry.

    Within these avatars, a new landscape of identification emerges, blurring the boundaries between reality and vision. While they retain a sense of humanity and familiarity, they also serve as a threshold, transcending the limitations of their medium. As viewers engage with the exhibition, the line between "them" and "us" begins to fade, as if the avatars are gradually becoming part of our own reality. This transformative process is mirrored in the physical sculptures and print editions that accompany the digital avatars in the exhibition, further enhancing the immersive experience.

    During the interview, Harriet Davey discusses the importance of representation and inclusivity in her/their work and expresses the desire to challenge traditional notions of motherhood and showcase diverse experiences and perspectives. By featuring a range of identities and narratives, Harriet Davey hopes to create a space for dialogue and understanding. Through her/their collaboration with CALDOworldwide,  the "The Real Unreal" project takes on a new dimension, reaching a wider audience and engaging with the digital art community. Harriet Davey  emphasizes the significance of digital platforms in expanding the accessibility and reach of contemporary art.

    Hello Harriet, welcome to RED EYE Metazine. Reinterpreting the aesthetics of science fiction + fantasy of The Real Unreal through 3D avatars, how challenging was the research for this project?

    Thanks for the welcome! Happy to be here. 

    ‘’The Real Unreal’’ is the title for my ever ongoing personal forage into creating and 'photographing' virtual creatures. It forms the basis of the majority of my work. Through this foray, I explore my sense of self, identity, and expression. It's challenging in the way it has forced me to reflect deeply upon myself; something I have usually avoided. 

    How has your cultural background + childhood had an impact on the creative

    that you are today?

    I grew up pretty isolated in the middle of nowhere in the Yorkshire Countryside. It was beautiful and lonely but I didn't mind that. As a child I would hide away for hours, reading fantasy books, drawing my own characters and dragons - which I was consumed with an obsession for years. Drawing them over and over with this intensity led me to developing decent drawing skills from a young age. I was happiest when I was escaping the real world. Honestly I found it hard to get on with most of my peers IRL, and turned to the internet with social curiosity. After some searching and stumbling I finally felt I had found my people - the weirdos, the nerds, the queers on niche forums. My parents didn't really understand it and tried to keep me away from talking to strangers online or playing video games but I couldn't resist. After I left home to go to university, I built a gaming PC and finally played all the games I had wanted growing up. I have never struggled to make friends online, and now through (mostly) Instagram I am part of so many communities that I could never imagine life without. I think I'm lucky I grew up with the internet in the pre/very early social media days.. everything was more wholesome and pure then. 

    When did you decide to approach 3D art + how was the start for you?

    It was in my second year at uni studying graphic design, after playing countless hours in Skyrim, I wanted to try making some characters myself. I downloaded Blender and Daz3d - determined only to use free software, and was instantly hooked. I finally felt I had found 'my medium'. Everything made sense, finally I was able to faithfully create the characters and stories I pictured in my mind. I go through phases of consuming obsessions, and blender and 3D quickly formed as one (luckily!). I learnt blender back in the 2.4 (iykyk) days before the great UI overhaul, and I won't lie it was pretty horrific as a beginner to wrap my head around it, but I got over the initial learning hump and it has been smooth sailing since. 

    Looking back to that moment, what advice would you give to yourself now?

    Back then I wasn't really questioning what I was doing or if it was the right direction because I wasn't particularly expecting it to go anywhere, so I'm not even sure if I could give any advice there. In general, I don't really believe in bad decisions, unless you're hurting someone, then it's formative and usually important experiences. 

    You have a strong and clear identity, how would you describe your approach to research when it comes to exploring new ways + creating new projects?

    For a while I didn't think I had a style, then I would try and do something really different and would end up hating it. I've accepted that there's a limited palette that I enjoy using and that's ok! At the beginning my practice would revolve around learning new menus in blender, new techniques. I would never have a plan, but instead a goal. These days I'm comfortable enough with the software that maybe I am guilty of not pushing myself as much as I used to. But I go through phases of learning capacity and the last couple years it's been pretty low. Recently I picked Unreal Engine back up after 4 years or so and it has been humbling having to be a noob again! But simultaneously it's really fun to try out new things, and projects I've been wanting to try for years. 

    What practices are you exploring in order to explore more your own gender and queer identity? How has your vision developed over time as a creative and what significant discoveries have you made?

    More recently I would say this has taken a bit of a backseat. Whilst every creature I make has some essence of me and my identity, I feel a lot more sure of who I am these days. I don't have the same hunger I had to create and explore a new character every day as I did when I was figuring everything out. But it's nice, I get to rest now. I've calmed down a bit from the 'visually vomiting' era ;)

    What does it mean to be fluid and human in a digital world?

    For me, this encompasses it all. the human experience; my human experience and not just gender fluidity, but the fluidity of all binaries and finding the central point of any two extremes. 

    How important is the educational background in digital art and what are the main values to follow, in order to improve the future generations of creatives?

    I have some feelings of regret about going to higher education. Mostly because I now have a debt of 70k£ that I'll be slowly paying back until I'm 50. I hate that there is such a pressure in the UK (compared to the rest of Europe) to go to uni at a young age, and if I could have had a similar experience of art school without the paper and academic accolades, I would have loved to do that instead. The best part about it was leaving home, leaving my tiny village in the countryside, and finally mixing with a crowd more diverse than I had seen until then (art schools still leave a lot to be desired on the diversity front), and having time and space. Time to understand myself and explore what I really wanted to do, and space to fuck up and enjoy the process of that. I took a year out in Berlin for Erasmus and I was so close to not returning to England to complete my degree. I did return, mostly for the reason I thought my family would be disappointed. But that year was more formative and important to my work and practice than the other three years at university combined. I studied graphic design, and my 3D is all self taught through youtube and forums. I found the support system there for anyone proactively doing their own thing lacking. I once asked a tutor how I should price my work and they gave me some vague answer about working out my overheads that was so unhelpful I felt more lost after talking to them. This is why I am so open about these things now - if anyone is struggling with pricing your skills please feel free to reach out to me, I also wrote an article that should be helpful with Intern Mag .

    I have so much to say on these topics and don't want to rant but whilst it is amazing I was able to receive the education I had, you shouldn't need it to do well in this world. Nobody ever asked me about my degree - I actually never received the paper because of graduating in corona lol. Education should be free for all who want it. But you shouldn't need it in the arts. 

    CALDOworldwide created an exclusive physical edition featuring your artworks to accompany your digital exhibition „The Real Unreal“. We can see marvelous 3-D sculptures + prints that accompany the digital avatars created. How important is this collaboration and why should people invest in your artworks? 

    For the exhibition „The Real Unreal“ which is on view until November online at we chose to use all existing pieces, and curated a selection from a range of the last few years that really show who I am as an artist. I have a body of work that (unfortunately I guess) has been mostly only seen on Instagram. So, I'm incredibly thankful to have a digital gallery like CALDO to showcase my work that's not in a 3x3 grid. For this show, we have also exclusively created 3D sculptures of two of my characters, 'Destine' and 'Untitled'. It is special to me to see these digitally created bodies as physical sculptures; they look so beautiful and capture more details than I imagined was possible. Additionally we chose the works  „Destine“ and „Don't worry, I'm not scared“ for fine art prints for a more accessible way for people to be able to display my work in their homes.

    Can you share with us your inspiration for ‘The creatures of UNEARTHLY delights’ video available on CALDOworldwide?

    ‘’The creatures of unearthly delights’’ is a piece close to my heart. It was commissioned for a documentary piece about my work, alongside the work of some other incredible Berlin based artists Anna Ehrenstein, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Kianí del Valle, and Tara Habibzadeh. I think it's the first publicly commissioned piece of mine too. We were tasked with reinterpreting Heironymous Bosch' garden of Earthly Delights. I wanted to explore the creatures that weren't present in the original painting. The creatures that were too scared to show their faces, or weren't invited. 

    What is the connection between WHOWLE + DESTINE + METATUBBY avatars?

    What do they have in common?

    Whowle is the avatar I have of myself. They are me, in all the glory the virtual world can offer. The Metatubby piece (one of my strong favourites) is actually quite an old one of mine, from when I first got into VR sculpting. If you look carefully you'll notice that Destine's earring is the Metatubby model. Which I'm also working on making into a physical jewellery piece with my good friend Theotime from AEX - So watch this space for that!

    How challenging is the business part for you as creative?

    Sometimes I feel on the edge of only just managing to do that. I hate it. I hate dealing with numbers, and email threads over 30 emails long, and middle people who's direction doesn't align with mine (despite me and the final client aligning). It's really hard because I would never say I have a business brain, but I've been capable of handling it all alone so far. At some point I would love to establish a studio with someone handling the business side of things, but it's scary! 

    Name us a few creatives that you would like to collaborate with in the near


    Arca and FKA Twigs! To be honest I always say their names if anyone asks me, but they both follow me on insta so maybe I should just reach out.. Actually I think now is the perfect time, as I've been getting more and more into real-time mocap performance and Unreal Engine. I've been too scared to do it yet. But maybe if I write this now, then it will force me to.

    How do you see the educational development of digital art?

    I try to give back my skills to the community that gave me them in the first place. I try to do online workshops on twitch as often as possible, and make sure people know my DMs are open for technical questions and help. 

    A letter to your future self, what would you write?

    I'm not very good at looking towards or thinking about the future. Maybe instead I would ask my future self to send me a letter now in case there's something I'm doing wrong, but probably they wouldn't reply because they still think there's no wrong decisions. 

    Interview by Mira Wanderlust

    Image Courtesy Harriet Davey & CALDOworldwide