Matthew Greenburgh on Yajing Hu

Yajing Hu’s install was of three unframed photos of replicated dressed artist’s drawing dummies in groups (the artist had initially placed one of the dummies on a plinth in front of the photographs but after discussion decided to remove it as the pictures were strong enough on their own).

The images might at first be suggestive of a commentary on the loss of identity of the individual in the present time.  However, a longer look reveals that the arrangement of the figures perhaps also recalls formal photos of communist functionaries and workers from before the conversions to capitalist in Eastern Europe and China.  The faded, desaturated aesthetic adds superbly to the sense of a past era.  But after further consideration the feeling emerges that the faceless, identical figures could be robots from some nightmarish post-human future.  This a future where the state dominates its subjects not for some hoped-for greater good (as with communism) but because it is the logical destination of power in a digital era.  The seeming ease of endless replication that Yajing Hu brilliantly generates reinforces the fear that at some point every human endeavour will be overwhelmed and replaced.  Alternatively, within the framework of Deleuze’s desiring machines, are the models Bodies Without Organs whose uniforms result from recording by the system?

These uncertainties over what is meant oppose in an interesting way the clarity of what is physically depicted.  The figures themselves give rise to further uncertainty as it is hard to work out how they have been created, for example, whether the immaculate clothes have been made materially or in Photoshop – in either case it would seem an extraordinary amount of labour would be involved (in the current state of technology).

These elements also help the pictures escape from the representational restrictions of the classic photograph.  The timelessness of and the repetition within the pictures refuse to allow a “punctum” or some other kind of personal association for the viewer of a copied reality or remembered emotional state.  The unfussy, casual presentation of the unframed pictures aids in this undermining of the status of the photograph, just as the figures themselves have no status.

The exquisite production combined with the multiply suggestive concept indicates the work of an artist of great talent and insight.

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Diana Lloyd on Asa Desouza-Jones

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When I first saw Asa’s installation, I suspected there would be something lurking beneath the rather generic and homely surfaces of sofa, cushion, lamp and magazine. Something already felt to me a bit incongruent when I noticed that a number of pages in this professionally printed magazine lying assumedly on the sofa, had been recently glued together to create the type of rippled texture you get when you use too much PVA glue to attach paper. This amateurish DIY intervention embedded in the glossy magazine intrigued me, due to the object’s inherent material contradictions. At that point I was unsure of the artist’s intentional decision behind this.

However, I put this to one side and continued to relax and make myself comfortable on the sofa, casually browsing the pages of the magazine as if I were actually at home. It was easy to do so due to the artist’s clever use of lighting, as the main gallery space was significantly darkened to ensure that the lamp was the main light source. For me the choice of lighting was very effective in achieving a cosy, familiar and intimate atmosphere, which I associate with being at home. At the same time, because the type of furniture and homeware used in this installation was very bland and generic, the installation could have been anywhere apart from home like a waiting room for a GP, dentist or hair salon. For me the experience of browsing the magazine in this simultaneously homely and contrived stage-set made me feel at once connected to and disconnected from reality. It also contributed to another layer of superficiality and manipulation that the magazine displayed as I was turning its pages.

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The pages in the magazine, they too felt very familiar. I had seen these images and texts before many times on Instagram and on Youtube videos and on blogs. They were the seductive photographic images of Starbucks cups, of the exotic tropical beach holidays of far-far-away; they were the “inspirational” quotation memes. It was clear that the artist had appropriated such aspirational images from Instagram posts. I like how Asa collated and sequenced these photographs to highlight the on-going mass repetition and proliferation of such imagery used to present us with a highly individualistic, consumerist reality. I felt Asa’s magazine exposed how we can both feel connected to and disconnected from the digital world at the same time.

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What I most liked about Asa’s work however was the performance aspect, in which we were invited to tear open the magazine pages that had been glued together. This is because for me it was a really playful way of shifting the audience from being passive consumers of aspirational images and objects to active participants who could choose to break down and destroy this particular representation of reality to create something else instead. The process of tearing the pages apart transformed the magazine into both a sculpture and a collage at the same time. I am really interested to see where Asa takes this work next.

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Diana Lloyd on Diana Lloyd

I am interested in exploring the relationship between the materiality and perspectives of physical places and the experiences associated with duration, specifically of process, memory and intuition. Influenced by the theories of Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory, which asserts that the nature of duration is always in a state of continual transformation that is never fully visible or tangible, I believe that the concept of process is integral to the installation itself. In the context of duration, I understand process as full of potentialities that may never be completely realised; that it is never completely grasped, but it is always certainly ambiguous. Therefore my install embraces such ambiguity by engaging with the contradictory themes of visibility and invisibility, and of materiality and immateriality through my specific use of sound, and through the mediums of found materials and journal entries derived from an edgeland site that I discovered and revisited over a period of twelve months.

I had clear intentions about the nature of the install, one of which was to highlight the process of constructing and installing itself. I intended to assemble the tarpaulin in a way that would drape and fold, because it relates to the fluidity, ambiguity and sense of movement inherent in durational process, and I chose to decide how I do this on the install day itself. For me being flexible in the creative process of the install invited more interesting possibilities than if I had already planned and fixated on a specific method prior to install. I feel that suspending the muddy tarpaulin from the wall and ceiling was the most effective method and it could not have happened in any other way than by enabling the install day to be open to many possibilities in the first place.

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Furthermore, I chose to keep all of the string used to suspend the tarpaulin (and also hanging down from it) visible, because it too demonstrates process itself. I extended one of the string pieces down to the ground connecting it with the found piece of wood at an angle on the floor, suggesting in a vague diagrammatic way, one of the many perspectives that time could be experienced through duration. Using the wood in this way also has gives appearance of anchoring the floating tarpaulin, whilst providing a necessary formal structure within the installation’s composition.

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I created differing tonal photocopies of both the grass and soil and of the intentionally illegible handwritten journal entry extracts about my recent site visit, alluding to the repetitions and rhythms of duration, and the unstable reproduction of memories that are always changing. By scrunching up these photocopies into different forms, they become simultaneously images and objects. It is less clear what is 2D or 3D, and what is a subject and an object here. The photocopies were crumbled and scattered on the floor alongside the soil and grass in different directions again referencing transformations and multiple, simultaneous perspectives experienced in duration.  On reflection the installation would look more effective if I had covered more of the installation space with crumpled photocopies and mounds of earth, because it would look more unusual.

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Finally, as duration concerns itself with the abandonment of linear time in favour of the use of the senses, leading to intuition, I was curious to experiment with sound for the installation. This is a specific sound of banging on a door, which I reproduced, that is both discordant in its nature and in relation to my experiences of the edgeland site within the installation. This sound and its associated memory for me evokes a feeling of fear and another type of uncertainty or ambiguity, because it is unclear in the installation who is banging on the door and why. The sound was played continuously on a loop and was a durational experience in itself, where over time members of the audience became increasingly disconcerted and annoyed as they heard this sound within the gallery space. I had underestimated how powerful and effective this sound was and this is something I may develop further in a future installation.

Max Stanley on Max Stanley

We are entering a point in our development where we encounter various kinds of imagery with limited restrictions as to how and where we see them. We experience the world through countless frames of reference and our understanding of where one starts and where another begins has become unclear. The fluidic nature of the boundary between the physical world and the digital has made questions of hierarchy uncertain. We spend just as much time perceiving our lives through a screen as we do viewing it with our eyes-only. How this change is affecting our relationship to the world and the way we navigate and inhabit it is what this project will be looking to explore. The work exhibited attempts to reconfigure our idea of digital spaces and their relationship to the image through the construction of still-lives created from 3D printed objects. Consequently, by bringing these objects back in to the image and creating scenes that allude to digital renderings but are in actuality analogue photographs. I hope to question and subvert the viewer’s preconceived notions about how and where these spaces exist, as a result of the ambiguity of the production of the image. However, once the work began to interact with the space I felt it needed a different approach. The addition of the original 3D printed objects into a separate part of the gallery space to juxtapose the primary pieces added another frame of reference for the work to exist in. Again looking to question the hierarchical systems that govern objects and representation, at the border between the physical and digital worlds. I felt this approach was slightly more successful and going forward the addition of the physical objects into the installation is something I will develop further for the next install, as well as refine the image process for the 2D works, which I felt was somewhat lacking in clarity and execution.

Arthur Trombetta on Arthur Trombetta

Inspired by the reading of the book ‘Lucifer’s principle’ by Howard Bloom which describes through anthropologic analyses and sociologist facts how violence and ideology build society. I was thrilled by the idea of making artworks about new technology and its consequences in nowadays society.

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As a starting point, I made two pieces of work which are part of a project I name ‘The New Religion’ Here I am interested into the similarities in how we, human, interact with the two themes which are religion and new technology.

The first piece named ‘Assimilation was made with wafer which I bought in a shop dedicated to church ceremony and vicar, I placed them in a way they form a series of four Christian crosses the idea of turning them into a series was to give the impression of repetition as in the industrialisation of a product.

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I glued a sim card chip on the central wafer of each crosses, and then framed the whole. The idea was  to compare the act of assimilating the Christ as depicted by Christian when they consumed the sacred wafer at a mass with the evolution of new technology and the forthcoming evolution where it is about to be part of human body. Innovation made by firms such as Google intend through various innovation to make chip that could be consume by human to cause certain effect on a body and enhance interaction between human boy and new technology. I believe it can be either a threat or a benediction depending on how we want to use it, however when I observe the current use of today new technology I think that it tends to follow the latter tendency.

p1030050-2 The New Religion (Photo b Lynda Becket)

The second piece of work is named ‘The New Religion’  is made of a series of QR codes printed on a paper, I placed them in a way that the whole take the shape of a Christian cross, again my intention was to compare new technology with religion. Each QR code can be read by a phone and lead to a video I made or taken from YouTube, each video is related to an aspect of new technology and its possible consequences on humanity.

Both pieces were displayed on two different walls, the former was placed on a grey wall close to human height to emphasise the icon aspect of the work as it is for Orthodox religious icons which are placed high in believers’ home. The second was placed at the end of a corridor to give the audience  the feeling to be part of  a procession as in church to reach the piece which was placed a slightly above eyes head in a such you had to look up as if you were looking at a divine presence.

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However the piece  remained close enough to allow people to read with the help of their phones, with the QR codes. I initially wanted to make a piece that people could interact with as I personally believe that is one of the main innovation brought by new technology in the art, it allows a huge amount of new possibility to create a physical relation between the piece of the audience which I found interesting to observe, it is possible it may change the art of the next decades to come.

 

Carla Benzing on Carla Benzing

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Carla Benzing’s installation is a 10 min video loop, large-size projected into a corner of the wall, stretching out to the ceiling. The video shows a female person in its natural state in a a bizarre and empty site as part of, and in contrast to the surrounding man-made urban space. The person is slowly observed by the camera as if by an uncanny stranger eye trying to scan the body. The screening of this process is accompanied by the sound of buzzing bees, which is almost exactly the same than the sound of a drone, enhances the uncanny feeling of observed and observing at the same time.

The viewer becomes an observer too and is granted an intimate view onto a trivial, empty setting which seems to turn into a stage through the presence of the lone, nude protagonist. We can see the persons body but it stills remains a faceless representation of man. The body surrounded by urban space marks the divergency between intimacy and distance, loneliness and oneness, diversity and conformity, between the original and the artificial. The work is exploring Heidegger’s idea of the essence of technology as both the technical and the poetic.

The female nude body works a representation of a whole generation being more presented and exposed than ever in times of Instagram, Snapchat etc. Pictures showing nudity often get censored of an unknown instance controlling what we are allowed to show. Where is this desire emanating to show the own body to the whole world? Are we becoming machines on those platforms searching for a no more human perfection instead of being physical existent in our natural state? Where does nature start and where is the end of being a human – of being real? „The invention and reinvention of nature – perhaps the most central arena of hope, oppression, and contestation for inhabitants of the planet earth in our times.“ (Harraway, 1991) The process is about observing, exploring and sensing the body through new technologies to enhance a kind of non human perspective which, at the same time, could be a more human representation of the eye than we would ever expected.

 

Matthew Greenburgh on Matthew Greenburgh’s install 31.10.16

My installation was of a 2 minute video entitled: “GOoggle & AI” (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ13zXltf-U).  It is centred around the ancient Sino-Japanese board game of Go, which encapsulates elements of Deleuze’s desiring machine concept.  Two players interact, each with a desire to win and to do so they must gain territory.  Productive connections are made between stones, lines of flight and flows develop throughout the game and seemingly secure territory can be de-territorialised.  In addition, Go is traditionally considered to be an artwork created by co-operation and opposition.

The desiring machine concept in a world of emerging Artificial Intelligence has a new potency.  In March 2016, a computer programme (DeepMind, owned by Google) first defeated the best human Go player.  This was a deeply significant AI development because Go involves immense complexity making it less dependent on calculation and more on intuition.  The ability of a computer to mimic intuition suggests that a much richer part of human mental activity (including art?) will soon be replicable/replaceable by algorithms.

The victory of AI in Go echoes the increasing dominance of the machine over art – Microsoft and Google are using AI to generate “art” and more insidiously Google chooses which art people see and learn about through its search algorithms.  This framing of art (of course Google Image searches place everything in a series of frames) is similar to the role of the art market in capturing/taming (territorialising?) the most radical of artists.

My video explores these themes both through direct use of related images and through the ongoing drumbeat of the Go stones gradually turning from their binary nature to a single bland white stone.  The sound mixes classical (ie pre-computer) music with an electronic beat – its perhaps overly portentous tone is also intended to generate some uncertainty as to how seriously the piece is intended to be taken: is irony one of the last defences against AI?  This final question is reinforced by the visual pun with which the work ends.

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Lynda Beckett on Arthur Trombetta

 

Assimilation

When I first saw Assimilation and The New Religion I thought they were striking works. Both were images of the cross – an inescapable thought provoking symbol that incites a reaction within me. To view Assimilation it was necessary to look up, as if you were in a church at the foot of an icon. I immediately recognised the communion wafers and was fascinated to see there was a computer chip stuck to the wafer at the centre of each cross.

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Immediately all of my associations with eating the wafer at communion came to mind. Take a communion wafer within a protestant church and you are saying that you belong, you are part of community and you accept the doctrine of the church. Ingest it and you are consuming the body of Christ and want Christ within you. A communion wafer with a chip embedded adds new dimensions. If you swallow it are you allowing yourself to be indoctrinated by the church? On swallowing it would the church be able to programme you and control your mind and body?

Outside of the connotations of the church, Assimilation made me think about the way we all swallow ‘new technology’, without thinking. New technology is ‘the religion’ of the 21st century. It infiltrates our lives and there is no escape. We constantly consume it and spend hours communing with it. Our phones, ipads and computers have become the demi gods we can’t live without, while the large technology companies such as Apple and Google become ‘the religious’ organisations that control our lives as the Catholic and Protestant Churches did for centuries.

The New Religion

This leads me onto Arthur’s second piece, The New Religion. It was positioned at the end of a corridor in the gallery space, like an icon. Having to walk towards the work gave the piece gravitas.  To engage with the work you were forced to look up.

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To be able to read the QR codes that formed the cross you had to interact with the work using your phone. Put your phone up against the QR codes and short videos about new technology as ‘the new religion’ are revealed to you.  This made me think about the boundaries of new technology. Are there no limits for how it infiltrates into our lives? Wearable technology, that can be placed under our skin, is just around the corner.

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The following is the link to the film, Chaplin’s Phuturistic Vision, from the QR code in the middle of the cross https://vimeo.com/146522368