Michael Cheung on Arthur Trombetta

On Arthur’s third installation, to me it is like a setting of the military strategy control rooms, with various satellite images of buildings and transportations, which are labeled as missile assembly buildings, and cargo trucks… etc. Meanwhile, there are several toy soldiers and toy trucks placed on the prints.

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The images very much remind me of the evidence of mass destruction that the US government always refer to justify their military actions. Yet the presence of the toy truck and toy soldiers, since those are usually related as childish, gives me a scenes of oddness to the scenery as a whole, which makes me wonder if there are more to tell in the images.

As it turns out, some of the images of buildings labeled as missile facilities are of the Granary Square Building of CSM, which we are in at that time, after this is being revealed, alongside the political messages, I think about how the contexts of a picture can vary, or maybe manipulated, depending on what information is given about it, and it also reminded me how people take images as “truthful” as common sense.

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Moreover, as for the installation as a whole, I think Arthur’s work cohere perfectly with Asa’s installation, about what happens when context and image detach from each other.

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Diana Lloyd on Arthur Trombetta

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On first impressions I felt invited to engage in Arthur’s installation as a detective entering a potential crime-scene, whose mission it was to piece together the many different clues, derived from both the warfare and everyday objects and images strategically assembled on a low-level plinth. The low-level plinth itself was cleverly integrated into the installation, functioning as a desk to support an intentionally ambiguous and unfinished project. The desk combined with the table lamp suggests that the audience is now entering a private, domestic environment such as a bedroom or a study. This heightened my experience of entering a space potentially loaded with secrets, becoming more aware that in the process, I am covertly surveying the assemblage more closely.

Indeed surveillance is a central theme in this piece, as the desk was covered with a proliferation of printed images taken from satellites such as Google Earth and drone footage of military combat. What is interesting is how the artist integrates such sinister appropriated images with other objects and images associated with childhood, play and creativity to construct a larger model of an imagined warfare yet to be realised. Facts and fictions become blurred as a toy soldier is carefully placed on top of an image taken from a drone missile targeting a group of people whose identities we are uncertain of. Glue stick, scissors and Sharpie pens are used to frame and collage selected images and captions to simultaneously manipulate and circulate visual representations of objective facts as a means of constructing future strategies and/or histories. It subverts the notion of art, play and creativity as being purely benign and benevolent acts, echoing the ethos of Jake and Dinos Chapman through their distinctive use of toy soldiers in the Fucking Hell dioramas.

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Furthermore Arthur interestingly includes a Google Earth satellite image of the art school, Central Saint Martins alongside the war surveillance images perhaps suggesting a wider complicity beyond the imagined perpetrator of this assemblage. While the use of toy soldiers and art materials within the piece might imply this to be the fictionalised work of a child, I believe it may also convey how easy it is for anyone to collude with the visual culture of aerial and drone surveillance. Due to its operation and consumption within the private sphere as evidenced in the artist’s installation, we are all complicit in this type of domesticated warfare and surveillance, whether we are aware of it or not. The install is open enough for us to at once occupy it as conspirators ourselves, whilst also enabling us to imagine all other conspirators who might occupy this domestic space: the terrorist plotting in the bedroom, the soldier operating a warfare drone while in the safety of his hometown, and even the person playing Call of Duty-type simulated drone warfare video games.

Arthur’s install was cleverly engaging and thought provoking through his effective use of appropriation, drawing attention to the complexities of surveillance visual culture, whilst depicting an unsettling reality that home is where both the camera and the gun reside.

 

Elena on Elena

My first piece consisted of a two-sided video installation. Against one wall, a projected landscape stands several metres high, showing a large-scale photograph flush to the ground. Moving slowly, the landscape is seen to transform, layers folding into and over one another. Facing this, a laptop stands mounted on a plinth, its webcam watching the projection back in a live feed. In the webcam’s aperture, the projection and the space around it become subtly transformed, drawing back into themselves. As the viewer walks round and looks closer at the changing image, they see their own blown-up shadows entering into the landscape on the opposite screen – part of the artwork and moving with it.

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The work explores reflections in all their guises; literally, in the work’s subject, and physically in it’s installation. This came about as part of the process and through the research that was interesting me – working from an original single photograph that showed a reflection, I became intrigued by the idea of image-making not as mimesis but as transformation: that art is a way individuals have sought to materialise what they want to see. Accordingly, the work blends ‘truth’ and irreality in equal measure; pieces of the original photograph at times used in their original state and at times heavily edited, pulled apart, blended and re-made.

I was influenced by the use of art to create one’s own idyll. What is often misinterpreted now as mimetic traditional landscape painting has in fact with little exception been a form of mutating pastiche, with many of the most famous works of the genre bearing little relation to any pre-existing reality; rather such works are inventions and combinations of the artist’s fantasy. Equally, in creating a double reflection within the work, I was inspired by the artistic creation of entire spaces, such as Little Sparta or the Trianon at Versailles, alternate environments, that invited the visitor to stand within a constructed vision. Similarly in this piece the viewer is invited to enter into the landscape, into the work, and in this way to enact the theoretical trope that “When we look at a work of art, we are art”.

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Elena on Lexi Sun

Can the gallery itself be overcome? It’s a question that has been posed repeatedly since the origins of the conceptual art movement in the 1960s, when performance art and social ‘happenings’ began to subvert the trope of an art object that could be easily bought, sold, and exhibited. Lexi Sun’s third performance A (vanished) room seems to enter into dialogue with this subversion. The visitor is first met with a sign that states: “Keep erasing the room until it vanishes” – though whether this is order or explication is unclear. Inside, the artist is seen acting just that impossible order: repeatedly and strenuously dragging erasers across walls, floor, tables and even behind other pieces.

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The piece is an exercise in endurance, lasting through several hours in which Lexi wore clear through multiple erasers. It was the repetition and consistency that seemingly enhanced this work’s power: at first viewers were inclined to laugh, but increasingly became impressed by the sheer effort involved in the apparently simple task. The contradiction is clear: the gallery never disappears, the erasers do. It is the effort of the artist that is worn away, all use of strength and perseverance coming no closer to the supposed ambition.

The happening functioned as they often do: out of line with what viewers might typically expect to find in a gallery, it was a confrontation that caused visitors to question both the seeming loadstone of an art establishment – confining where art belongs and therefore the form it takes – and the artist’s role in responding to that tradition. Yet the performance also questioned the nature of labour. It’s repetition, the gruelling process by which Lexi continued through all distractions, indefatigable, recalled similar ‘happenings’ early in performance art – for example by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, whose work rendered the repetitive and intense labour of the service industries unavoidable, rather than invisible. In this way it becomes more of a social art form, and it is along such lines one feels Lexi might explore further: by pushing the political aspects of banality and labour that are already inherent, in a performance that subverts the form of art, and the site in which it seems inescapably to be situated.

Hongjia Liu on Yulia’s 2nd install

Artist Yulia Dunaeva’s 2nd artwork is a lighting installation. By using a spotlight towards a hanging mess of lines and characters, projecting the shadow on the wall behind, you will find the shadow of lines and letters twisted together. This work gave me some inspiration and thoughts relating to the transformation between two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects, and the relationship between linear and nonlinear language issues.

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Through putting a light source behind a three-dimensional object, we can directly convert it into two-dimensional shapes. During this transforming process, even though we lost most of the three-dimensional information, we still gain some new experiences: the ability to transfer the material from a linear structure into nonlinear shapes, two separate lines inside a three-dimensional space finally connected to each other directly in the two-dimensional layer.

And human being’s brains and minds are also working in a similar pattern. When our minds begin to think, the “ideas” and “logical thinking” are somehow nonlinear, and it’s hard to find a clear clue to sort and organise your mind until you write it down. The thoughts and ideas exist in our brain are nonlinear, and the words and sentences written on the paper are linear. On the contrary, when you are reading a paragraph or sentence linearly, you are abstract those information and comparing them to the knowledge you have known, and then change these ideas into memories, which will separately and nonlinearly stored inside our brain tissue.

Both of our communication method and the way of sharing knowledge between human beings are always following that “nonlinear-linear-nonlinear” formula, which is one of our natural qualities.

In conclusion, the artwork reminds me of Jean-François Lyotard’s saying, if we want to break the tradition, we should escape from the frame of the linear relationship to time.

 

Luke Payn on Arthur Trombetta

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Arthur’s work evoked a scene from a film, a spy or political thriller, a sense of walking into a secret space where surveillance and a military plot were in progress, that you have stumbled into this secretive space and shouldn’t really be there, you may be caught any minute. Whilst you felt there was highly sensitive information in front of you there was so much it was hard to decipher it quickly, what exactly were you looking at? Buildings, weapon depot’s, labels suggest chlorine and chemical manufacture, which makes you shudder, another image is a screenshot from photoshop, suggesting the images have been altered in someway. Then you recognise the toy soldiers and model truck on the table top, wait, this truck is also in one of the satellite photographs….what is going on? Is this a government-military office or a rogue  group of some kind, or perhaps a journalists research. It feels very creepy.

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This concept is an effective one in opening up the domain of the photograph, we are not looking at a photograph but at a scene using photographs. It might be a re-creation of a famous moment in history re-created in a museum, like Madame Tussauds, or even a snapshot of a gaming table, people playing a modern version of a role-playing wargame an exaggerated version of Risk. However I couldn’t shake this uncanny feeling of complicity. Something felt nationally after the famous controversy of Blair’s declarations of WMD and chemical supplies, and the ensuring confusion and debate about the details. Satellite mages of various types are big business too, oil companies use them to track competitors trade, developers and construction businesses to chart the next profitable venture.

arthur-trombetyta_jan-16th-2017__-5edSatellite maps and images are used daily in our news feeds to assist illustrate a news story, and in our personal lives as we use them to navigate and plan our journeys, we are becoming more used to seeing and using maps, with the undercurrent that satellite images are ‘accurate’ or truthful in someway, they reveal something we cannot see with our own eyes, they can have have an uncanny sense of the detached, mechanical truth. However they are compiled using a range of complex algorithms, photo stitching and colouring or redacting by people. “The map is not the territory” as Alfred Korzybski said, but maybe the data that creates these maps, and the stories we can conjure from them is becoming a territory.  

Luke Payn on He You’s 2nd install

He Yous installation was a continuation of his work in previous installations using a ‘laser line level’. A  ‘laser line level’ is a tool usually used by architects and builders for construction, landscaping and civil engineering works. It creates perfectly straight red lines which form a cross, when calibrated it provides perfect horizontal and vertical red virtual markings on whatever it is directed towards. Essentially this is a tool for the reshaping of the natural world.

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He You’s piece presented us with an image of foliage at twilight and red laser cross, suspended from the ceiling hanging at chest height, beneath this was a bench with a projector on top which projected a wide thin image of a desert scene at twilight, a dark red oscillating ridge of hills, dunes, and deep clear blue sky meeting it halfway. In the photograph the red laser level can be seen, although discontinuous as the scale of the scene renders the line invisible in places, whilst in other parts it stretches for some considerable distance, a distance and scale which is hard to discern due to the lack of any recognisable features or artefacts, a desert that leaves the mind confused.  In the centre of this image is a white plinth, making the projected image wrap around it, with a metronome on top, clicking at intervals. The bench made a kind of barrier as the main image was in a 3-walled space, so it was not easy to get to the main image or metronome, you were looking in at it with the suspended image next to or in front of your viewing position. This hinted at slightly cinematic feel, the widescreen and expansive, exotic image of Morocco pulling you in but keeping you out at the same time. The image of the desert scene was made by stitching separate photographs together in Photoshop, this act had not been disguised but was visible if you examined a little. Daniel suggested this hinted at the result of the unfolding of a map.
Daniel suggested removing the plinth and the metronome, which did work to provide the image with the serene clarity that the image suggests.
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The metronome was  invented in the early 9th century by Abbas ibn Firnas and  patented by Johann Maelzel in 1815 as a tool for musicians, who gave it the name. ‘Metron’ means ‘measure’, and ‘nomos’ meaning ‘regulate, law’. This is interesting as the source of nomos is the same as Nomad, meaning to divide up or regulate pasture lands or rights, so there is a significant correlation between rhythm, measurement and nomadic and landscape mapping.

Whether the metronome was absolutely needed or not is uncertain. Perhaps included but not within eyesight, certainly the projection was impressive enough without it.

The core concept of a laser line level, with it’s provision of absolutely accurate straight lines, and this relationship with nature is surely a fertile area for exploration.

It reminds me of the words by Hundertwasser; “Beware of the straight line… The straight line leads to the loss of humanity.”, and of the notorious response by the British and European Empires to the mapping of territories in the ‘New World and the Middle East, a challenge for the rational empire as the residents tended to be nomadic, to various degrees and the borders were often in flux or seasonal, in a frustrated response they took rulers out and simply drew straight lines on the map, regardless of any other concerns. This is also a interesting twist on the connection between the straight geometrical method of perspective line drawing as demonstrated by the architect, engineer and sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi in 1413 and the contemporary laser line level for drawing and marking out directly on nature is very effective, and as the execution becomes more refined I think this will be even more potent.

Hongjia Liu on Carla Benzing

I was impressed by artist Carla’s 3rd installation. I found the artwork is simple but powerful, full of information and inspiring. The installation is a looping video, static shot, one naked woman standing on the ground, facing the urban landscape miles away, at the same time, a flying drone keeps surrounding her and observing her.

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The artist’s work successfully attracted my attention, the bright image situated in a dark exhibition area, drove me to think about the future of human and technology, and how further could we go on this exciting and dangerous journey.

Sometimes people have to admit the fact that, one day those state-of-the-art robots and machines could dominate this planet instead of human being. Machines’ physical and material bodies (preferably called “assembly units”), somehow would not be limited by organ dysfunction and diseases. The artificial intelligence could be more effective、accurate and logical since the computer memory devices would not be puzzled by the issues of amnesia, unstable emotion and so on. Furthermore, sharing knowledge and memory between robots and machines should be extremely accessible and controllable.

As a result, those machines we produced, could be much stronger than us, much more intelligent than us. Considering the growing worsened ecosystem we are living, in the upcoming future, those products of technology could be much more suitable than us to survive on this planet. As Dervin’s saying, “survival of the fittest.”

Beyond that, we all know that scientists today are making enormous efforts to study and improve the high wisdom artificial intelligence. However, only a few of the scientists are willing to pay attention to the threats of artificial intelligence, not to mention a defensive strategy.

To quote Deleuze’s famous saying, we are not scared to look for new weapons, because we always insist those weapons would stand by us.

Carla Benzing on Michael Chung

 

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Michael Chungs 3rd install consists of a small monitor showing a video of twelve sequences. Each sequence shows a virtual 3D model of his own head rotating in a white space labeled with ‚clone 01‘ till ,clone 12’ as well as ‚subject: michael chung’. After sequence number 12 ends the headline ‚mesh formation unsuccesful‘ appears, before the video is looping again.

The artist potentially started with 3D scanning his own head continuing scanning each scan again as every sequence is different like different generations of clones. As the head gets constantly transformed into a stranger and strange shape, the work implies a degrading process. The display medium is an interesting choice as the screen itself is an old school monitor which is 3-dimensional as well, unlike a flat screen. This monitor box opens up a square space in which the head seems rotating. This leads to a beautiful contrast between the old ad new technology relating to each other. Moreover the screen symbolizes a laboratory environment which puts the viewer into the role of being an observer of a scientific experiment.

It somehow also reminds of reconstruction of found scalps, relating to the aim of documenting the evolution of human being. The artificial and modern materiality of the work is thus deeply connected with an old human desire to document development but also the desire to capture the own existence in a self portrait. In the former two installs Michael was already exploring the technological aspects of the body functioning as a machine, as a cyborg which could be made my humans itself. In showing his own head the work becomes more personal but also more distanced at the same time, as this alien kind of self-portrait seems so far away from the nature of human being but more like a technological exploration of the self.

Carla Benzing on Anaïs Boileau

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The 3rd install by Anaïs Boileau consists of two large scale video projections meeting each other at the corner of the wall. The videos both show a computer screen with popping up still and moving images as in the last installations. The titles seem to remain as found online and the presence of the mouse opening and closing the windows suggests the presence of the artist.

The work opens a view into a universe of different forms, shapes, colors and compositions. The chosen images show civilization and nature and their connection in crafts like weaving organic materials. This arts and craft heritage is reproduced in the ‚digital weaving‘ by overlapping these images, creating different layers of content and surfaces. Whereas the digital images seems to spring from an analog origin the computer seems to unify everything into a common language. This implies the idea of a common memory, a universal history creating a form of reality through these different surfaces.

In continuing her work exploring the brief of ‚duration‘ the artist is working with material found in the internet this time whereas the the colorful windows popping up in the first install were moving and still images by the artist herself, curated carefully regarding colour and composition. A lot of natural elements such as water, sand, stones, palm trees, desert and a glacier were combined with pictures of architectural elements suggesting urbanization. Inspired by the thoughts of Foucault’s ‚Utopias and Heterotopias’ her work is concerned with how people experience time and being in different spaces. It opens up a view into a common universal space and it seems that the mind is floating between the different locations whereas the body is in another space. The work shows similarities to the great work ‚Grosse Fatigue‘ by french artist Camille Henrot in which the artist aims to tell the story of the universe creation using a screen shot video with popping up images and videos in a similar way.