World-building and remodelling the self are central to James Barth’s creative process. Barth uses computer-generated imagery to transform her image into a digital avatar and environments detached from reality. After constructing video works for her avatar to inhabit, she transforms selected compositions into silk screen oil paintings.

In Stone Milker, 2024, Barth’s avatar undertakes a rehearsal for one final dance – a ‘swan song’ to farewell her image. Having used the avatar for the past eight years, Barth has created one last project to deal with subjects of self-portraiture, persona and identity. The title of the work is derived from the Brazilian expression tirar leite de pedra, which, like ‘getting blood out of a stone’, describes great difficulty, wasted energy, and in the context of artmaking, Barth’s repeated efforts to extract an outcome from her avatar.

Barth developed the avatar’s dance routine in collaboration with choreographer Lisa Wilson and it references gestures found in the ‘dance’ of female robots in cinema and art. Barth uses a motion-capture suit to record her real-world performance, allowing the avatar to demonstrate more complex emotions and gestures.

An accompanying series of paintings offers suspended moments outside the action depicted on screen. Barth silkscreens these images onto boards and, while still wet, brushes the surface to create a blurring and softening, intensifying the physical vulnerability of the bodies depicted.