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Student Spotlight: Robert Cooper

Friday 13 January 2017
Words Spindle

Studying at Edinburgh College of Art, Fine Art student Robert Cooper makes digitally altered self-portraits, which he posts on his Instagram account The Future is Famous. Combining photography with illustration and graphics, Robert creates clever, funny, and wacky images. His work perfectly comments on our ever more digitised world, joining a new breed of artists harnessing social media, turning it into their own artistic platform. Intrigued by his unique approach to art and image making, we caught up with Robert to find out more about his process.

What made you want to study Fine Art at Edinburgh College of Art?

When I was 18, I had a huge desire to move as far away from home (London) as possible. Scotland definitely fitted that category. I chose Fine Art because I didn’t find the specific discipline that I wanted to pursue during my art foundation. So I picked a subject that allowed you to explore anything you want.

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Tell us about the art you create. How would you describe it and your artistic style?

For the last year I have been working on Instagram. I post pictures of myself that have been digitally altered, which is exactly what everyone does on social media. What makes my feed different is the illusion of appearing different. My style is surreal, slightly gloomy, and pop.

How and why did you begin to combine photography with illustration and graphics?

I went on a semester abroad to Munich, Germany, where I was put in a traditional sculpture making class. The professor looked at the work I had been making before Instagram and asked me why I thought I was so funny. I didn’t, and I became intimidated by the academic art world. So I never showed up to that class again and ran away to the Internet. I started posting online because it felt democratic; it enabled me to share anything and get many people’s opinions rather than just one old fashioned tutor. Also, as I was in another country, I didn’t have the resources to build something new. I had my phone and some Adobe suite skills I had learnt doing work experience. So I combined the two and @thefutureisfamous was born.

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Your work has a very humorous tone, with visual metaphors and playful, clever, imagery. How do you get your ideas, and what do you want to say with your work?

I wanted to create a character that had got lost halfway between reality and technology. I use the character to discuss what is going on in the world. I hope it’s obvious what I’m saying. Everyone feels stretched and confused.

Where do you look for inspiration, and what or who inspires you?

Most of my inspiration comes from the strange things people say to me at parties.

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What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am continuing to pump out creative content for free for a giant social media corporation. I’m also trying to bring the virtual images I make into the real world.

What’s your creative process?

I never stop thinking about the next thing. I don’t like to linger on one thing for too long. I sketch about fifteen ideas in advance and then end up doing only one or two because I have moved onto a new style that I think looks better.

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How has your style and work developed while studying your degree?

My course is half history of art and half art practice. The amount of theoretical work we have to do has informed my work more than I want sometimes! I think I will always want to make beautiful things to look at, but learning about art history has taught me that the art world is an important space in which huge ideas can be discussed relatively freely. I hope my work takes a look at the bigger picture.

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt as a student?

Compromise.

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Do you have a dream project for the future?

I want to be the director for the Festival of Britain 2051. I predict that a display of design and technology will be needed more than ever before for inspiration after going through whatever difficulties lie ahead.

View more of Robert’s work on his Instagram @thefutureisfamous