The future is only an extension of our past: BB9 + beyond

1 July 2016

Recently, Warner Brothers issued Vimeo with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice, which is essentially a standardised letter explaining the incorporated entertainment company has the copyright to a film that has been illegally uploaded to the video hosting site. In this case, however, it was a false accusation, given the film was not the original but a machinic remix of the 1982 AI tech-noir cult classic Blade Runner. It had been entirely constructed by an artificial neural network called an Autoencoder rather than a film studio; a unique program created by Terence Broad. The artist and researcher taught the machine to watch the film and then reconstruct it from disassembled data. Its remix of Blade Runner —which ironically tells the story of a progressive form of artificial intelligence indistinguishable from mankind and fighting for its own autonomy —was so good at directing and reapplying the data it couldn’t be distinguished from the manmade original.

This story of re-programmed culture and the question of authentic output came to mind while wandering through the endless stalls and booths of the 9th Berlin Biennale (BB9)’s ‘The Present in Drag’ biennial, curated by DIS and recently opening in five different locations of the German capital, all programmed replicants of each other. Aside from a slight variation in accessories or interior décor, the motherboard was ultimately the same. Each work mirrored the next, seamlessly creating an uber-mindful glass army, all sipping spirulina juice whilst in downward dog dropping selfies on Instagram. It sounds like utopia right? At times, yes, there’s cool air and an outlandish philosophy being propagated through highly rendered 3D movies and Shutterstock footage. Softly one droops into oversized lounging bean bags among their exfoliated, shiny, contemporary counterparts. Could this be peace on urban earth?

Maybe. But is this really the art world at present –clean, conscious and business-like? The press release claims, “That as a theme ‘the present’ strikes a slightly desperate tone. Like a spin-call instructor trying to power through a massive hangover.” DIS would like to welcome you to the ‘post-contemporary’, a word that has been coined and repeated through various mouths in the last weeks; some slurred, some enigmatic, and others naively. Amusingly both post-’ and ‘contemporary’ have connotations of desperation to be noted as progressive and historically worthy; raising questions on whether the machine needs credit for its products.

BB9 makes one wonder whether every young artist’s dream now is to be part of a gaping macro-void living on chia seeds and Dom Perignon, while producing endless images of handsome rat-eating protagonists, brutalist glass castles in wild overgrown forests, or lusting after spiritual mayonnaise jars. As you walk through the streams of images, it all looks very familiar. The only thing to awaken you from the trance of a feeling of having been here before is the standardised message tone of not only yours, but hordes of other viewers’ iPhones. This may seem like a mundane observation, but at this point things start to become clearer. Is this new ‘site’ acting as just another contact point for accelerated new nihilistic consumerism; a sterilized commercial venture (trading only in petty ideological horror), with its airport aesthetic trademarks and start-up software sitting prettily in the background?

Writer and theorist Mark Fisher coined the term ‘Capitalist Realism’ in 2009. It’s a concept which takes the form of super-identification with capital, a position precluding any possibility for acting in opposition to it. Throughout the Biennale, many artists attempt to play the double-hand, suggesting, ‘Yes, I’m in the biennale and, yes, its DIS but really I find capitalism vulgar’. DIS has a very specific approach to valorized aesthetics, which they just about pull off through their incongruous musings from their collective online platform DIS Magazine. Mixtapes with titles like How to Fuse Trends & Alienate People are nestled between pieces on Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek’s ‘Accelerationist Manifesto’ and Angela Merkel and Condoleezza Rice Scarves retailing at around $145 online. But in seeing this approach IRL it starts to grate on you. It becomes more desperate. You’re unable to just click yourself out it —when everything is ironic nothing is. Creative branding and corporate aesthetics with art becomes just un-political and integrated, they outline the tired, weak and ineffective politics that appears to lie at the heart of emerging contemporary art today.

Negation of site via the techno-void on and offline has been vital in this leap of acceleration and formatting of cultural imagery/products in today’s hip youth dichotomy of capital and culture. Subversive realms began glitch-ing and fading away through the process of standardization; when post-internet artists started surfacing across art fairs in 2012, offering fixed technocapital the chance to conjoin seamlessly within aesthetics of neo-contemporary culture. It offered a hybrid-leftist consumer a muted form of anarcho-capitalist freemasonry: satiric in gesture, but adaptive, gratifying, and seemingly homegrown. This way, one is not just crassly buying into capital when loving capital-progressive aesthetics.

Anarcho-capitalism is enacted through peer-to-peer foundations like infamous trend forecaster K-HOLE, or open-source groups (online) such as Ikea made fashion, ytinifninfinity, or the ever-wearable Vetememes rip-off trend. One could argue that artists like Debora Delmar Corp. or Nik Kosmas are in opposition to the semi-corporate cultural accelerationist aesthetics of DIS Magazine. In BB9, DDC’s mint smoothies nods toward ‘greenwashing’ —a PR tool which gives your product a green sheen that doesn’t live up to its actual ethical standards. This could be seen as antagonistic in relation to the ‘cultural capital’ accumulated from events like biennales. Kosmas’ garish structures also offer a healthy foundation for simple training sessions, including a power rack, squat rack and weight rig used once a week for a 75-minute training session at the price of 10€. Both functional sculptures have a certain proletarian persona through their principal efforts of self-oriented and wellness-via-viewer interaction. But one wouldn’t dare say this may not align with DIS in the glass halls of the Akademie der Kunst. It’s too precarious. It’s too crass to speak of political alignments post-1968. We also saw how badly it turned out for Artur Żmijewski when he invited Occupy demonstrators in 2012 to occupy the Biennale —it was dubbed the very last gasp of air for the movement by Noah Fischer in Field Journal, as well as the worst Biennale (to date) by many young contemporary artists, alienating both art viewer and activist with its vanilla statement-making.

Nik Kosmas @ 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Installation view. Photo by Tim Ohler. Courtesy the artist.
Nik Kosmas @ 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Installation view. Photo by Tim Ohler. Courtesy the artist.

This lack of radicality aligns with the dis-innovation of the internet at present, as it becomes tamer, less diverse, more grounded and more homogenous. The dream started to fade along with the ready acceptance of ‘post-internet’ as a genre with which to be affiliated —last summer no one would be seen petrified in it but now the label is one worn with brazen pride. LA-based artist Petra Cortright is the best example of this shift. One of the first digital artists to enjoy commercial success, she credulously and ironically just renounced the internet in a recent interview with Amuse:

“I think the Internet is becoming this really gentrified place. Today’s forms of social media feel more like people’s personal brands. Now it’s just people promoting their shit constantly and it makes stuff on the Internet less weird. Everything feels more censored.”

It’s a curious statement from the artist with one of the most commercially endorsed artist Instagram accounts, from sunlit Nike crop top selfies to endless shots of ready-to-wear Elyse platform shoes and #Avene skincare moments. Self-motivated plagiarism, unity and peer enthusiasm seems to be the Kool-Aid of choice for the BB9 —offering sites of contact where inevitable capital extraction seeps into the daily use-value both on- and offline. That’s either through prosumerist data collection —likes, shares, tags —or, in extreme examples, of hand-in-hand partnerships like Cortright’s with Adidas Sportswear or Stella McCartney, all creating an endorsed product for the creatively-aligned consumer.

The line-up of young artists involved in BB9 seem to have every intention of becoming part of this system; living comfortable and unified lives, but not in any revolutionary sense. In fact, many of the artists at BB9 address the home as a place of purity, untouched or tainted by others. In the future everyone will have his or her own pod, sterile and homely. The well waxed lyrical “no-man is an island” adage comes to mind when looking at these weaponised cannons for a better future, from Timur Si-Qin, M/L Artspace or åyr. Their installations point limply to some critical afterthought of community but their impotence sits neatly and cleanly between white-walled islands, cushions and pot plants —then the words “No artist is unique” sink in.

Timur Si-Qin, 'A Reflected Landscape' (2016) @ 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Installation view. Photo by Tim Ohler. Courtesy the artist, Société, Berlin + Studio Ramos.
Timur Si-Qin, ‘A Reflected Landscape’ (2016) @ 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Installation view. Photo by Tim Ohler. Courtesy the artist, Société, Berlin + Studio Ramos.

Is it so passé to be subversive now? Better to be programmed, productive and sold than join the legions of unemployed artists stalking Instagram hungrily everyday, watching and lusting after this hyper-capital form. Confronted with unemployment, high rents and health insurance, one would rather be an Art Bot than take the risk of a failing career in today’s political and economic climate. Young artists today often have no money of their own, no other assets barring their nomadic user-ship and, in that position it’s difficult to progress physically or culturally because fear is always sitting a little too close to the free bar. Yet, nothing matters (really) and nothing exists (really) to this generation, in this virtual day-to-day. Life is a constant ebb of pixels, and why should we be called on to exist within society? The neo-future seems more like no future. The time of the community has now gone and we live in a state of dualism ruled by the individual and the Ego but that doesn’t always rescue us from the lonely nights of the Self.

Like Terence Broad’s new machinic director, these artists have fulfilled the task at hand; to replicate cultural capital for the masses by the masses but this does not mean they cannot do anything else. To quote Blade Runner’s  Dr. Tyrell of humanoid slave manufacturer Rosen Corporation, “More human than human is our motto”. When it comes to the 9th Berlin Biennale and the slew of emerging and emergent artists it represents, one certainly questions the point of humankind and its posited salvation. On walking out of KW, a young blonde girl hands me a little white envelope. I smile, take it and carry on walking. Inside the small package there’s a single card with blood-red ink that issues the typed message “it’s your timing” –soft, personal and comforting but ultimately mass-produced.**

The 9th Berlin Biennale is on in the German capital, running June 3 to September 18, 2016.

Header image: åyr, ‘ARCHITECTURE’ (2016) @ 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Installation view. Photo by Tim Ohler. Courtesy the artists + Project Native Informant, London.

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9800 opening @ 9800 Sepulveda, Oct 29

29 October 2015

9800 transforms a large vacant building into an art space with seven curators, each occupying a different floor of the building and presenting over 100 artists at the historic 9800 S Sepulveda building in Los Angeles on October 29.

The event will bring in a rotation of simultaneous exhibitions and events, many of which were created specifically for the space, and all of which “take the particular location as their orienting force, their impetus”.

The result is something “more in the realm of the experimental, temperamental, fleeting, emerging”, with the curators and artists alike considering the site and creating works “activated” by it. Among the seven curators are Courtney Malick and Ana Iwataki, and among the over 100 artists are ÅYRFatima Al Qadiri, Sarah Abu Abdallah, Felix Melia, Item Idem, Rachel Lord, Fabio Santacroce  and Sean Raspet

See the Facebook event page for details. **


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Frieze 2015 recommendations, Oct 14 – 17

12 October 2015

London’s Frieze Art Fair, running October 14 to 17, brings a new programming addition this year with the Reading Room, allowing visitors to browse and buy a curated selection of some of the best international art publications in a new space designed specifically for the programme by the Frieze architects.

A number of the publications participating at the Reading Room have put together a schedule of events for the fair featuring a group of artists, editors and contributors. They include a conversation with Rachel Rose (winner of the second Frieze Artist Award) and Laura McLean-Ferris, a panel discussion launching Kaleidoscope’s new ART&SEX issue, a temporary tattoo shop by George Henry Longly, Gabriele De Santis and Michael Manning and a conversation with LEAP editor-in-chief and curator of Art Post-Internet, Robin Peckham and artist Zhang Ding.

There’s the book launch of Patrick Staff‘s eponymous project The Foundation, Morgan Quaintance is among the speakers at ‘The End(s) of Post-Internet Art’, and artists Nicholas Hatfull and Holly White are presenting PRET DISCO.

As a response to increasing interest in live work, Frieze London had also launched its own Frieze Live section in 2014, creating a space in the fair for the exhibition and sale of active and performance-based works, and among the six galleries presenting live works this year is Amalia Ulman of Arcadia Missa

That’s just scratching the surface though, and here are some of our top Frieze 2015 recommendations for this week:


The Smart Home by ÅYR

Rachel Rose

The Social Life of the Book by castillo/corrales


Energy as Clickbait: Douglas Coupland in conversation with Emily Segal, Oct 14

Anicka Yi in conversation with Darian Leader, Oct 15

Bad. Planetary-scale. Delicious: Metahaven in conversation with Justin McGuirk, Oct 16

Off-Centre: Can Artists Still Afford to Live in London?, Oct 16


The fair also brings more exhibitors than is wise to recount (without separate links to the exhibitors on their exhibitor page) but some of the ones we are watching out for include: Allied Editions, as well as Antenna SpaceCarlos/Ishikawa, C L E A R I N GCroy Nielsen, The Breeder, Project Native Informant and The Sunday Painter.

See a more booth picks below:


303 Gallery, New York
The Approach, London
Laura Bartlett Gallery, London
The Breeder, Athens
Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
Buchholz, Berlin
Cabinet, London
Canada, New York
dépendance, Brussels
Hollybush Gardens, London
Ibid., London
MOT International, London
Peres Projects, Berlin
Galeria Plan B, Berlin
Rampa, Istanbul
Rodeo, London
Salon 94, New York
Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Standard (Oslo), Oslo
The Third Line, Dubai
Vilma Gold, London


47 Canal, New York
Antenna Space, Shanghai
Bureau, New York
Carlos/Ishikawa, London
Clearing, New York
Croy Nielsen, Berlin
Freedman Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles
Grey Noise, Dubai
High Art, Paris
Koppe Astner, Glasgow
Galerie Emanuel Layr, Vienna
Project Native Informant, London
Société, Berlin
Stereo, Warsaw
The Sunday Painter, London **

Header image: Rachel Rose, ‘A Minute Ago’ (2014). Video still. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London.


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ÅYR’s Newcomers @ PNI, Oct 7 – Nov 7

7 October 2015

ÅYR, the collective formerly known as AIRBNB Pavilion, opens their new exhibition Newcomers at London’s Project Native Informant on October 7 and runs until November 7.

Founded by Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela and Octave Perrault, the collective got its former name during the XIV Architecture Biennale in Venice, when it exhibited in apartments rented through AirBnB. The name change comes under legal pressure from the apartment rental company and in 2015, the collective opted for a new name and, with it, a new show.

Newcomers is a push back of sorts, using what Philipp Ekardt calls “architecturally informed digital rendering and imaging techniques” to create “a new sort of depth”.

See the PNI website for details. **

AirBnB Pavilion, 'Community Development Meeting' (2014). Courtesy the artists.
AirBnB Pavilion, ‘Community Development Meeting’ (2014). Courtesy the artists.
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Bold Tendencies Opening, May 27

26 May 2015

London’s Bold Tendencies opens its doors with the help of AirBnB Pavilion, Metahaven and Richard Wentworth on May 27.

The non-profit organisation, which has taken over an abandoned multi-storey car park in Peckham, launches its summer 2015 programme with a big opening on May 27. It includes events involving visual art, architecture, music, theatre, film, and literature, will continue on until September 27, with curator Attilia Fattori Franchini ensuring a number of names through the course of the summer including those already mentioned, as well as Robin SteegmanLeo Liccini, and Xavier Dolan.

See the Bold Tendencies website for details. **


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Schöner Wohnen @ AirBNB Pavilion, Mar 3 – 29

2 March 2015

Milan’s Armada art space is bringing in a site-specific project developed by AIRBNB Pavilion titled Schöner Wohnen and running from March 3 to 29.

With AIRBNB Pavilion acting as interior designers, the furniture and decoration borrowed from members of Armada gets recomposed into a single installation exploring the blurred lines in how these objects exist – as familiar home furnishings and as the fetishized commodities of Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds.

The press release for the exhibition writes: “As the contemporary furniture store takes off the image of the home and domestic environments increasingly assume the vestiges of Pinterested boards in space, the status of our objects as the (biographical) signifiers of our dwelling selves is ever more at threat.”

See the Armada exhibition page for details. **

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Documentation of AirBNB Pavilion @ 63rd-77th STEPS (2014)

24 December 2014

Looking at the documentation of Airbnb Pavilion‘s Community Development Meeting, there’s little that differentiates the art performance and online exhibition from the corporate residential hosting enterprise that essentially began in disaster relief. The project, headed by London-based collective of architects and “interior decorators” called fàlo (see: phallus) – including Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela, and Octave Perrault – carries on a series of globe-trotting events began at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and resurfaced in Paris, New York and a couple online locations, eventually emerging in a defunct Novocento-style Post Office in Bari, Italy.

Realised alongside 63rd-77th STEPS founder and curator Fabio Santacroce, there are some glaring parallels to be drawn between that physical symbol of global communication in a postal service administered by a fascist government and the development strategy of Airbnb Global Head of Community Douglas Atkin. The event opened with the Community Development Meeting on November 27, the ‘performance’ presenting a first ever physical communion of local Airbnb hosts in Bari – reached via fly-posting, as well as messaging through the official website that required simulating roughly a hundred reservations. Interesting, that the breakfast that featured some of the corporate language and methods for “community building” in a Silicon Valley-style presentation would also be a first for the nearly 600 people and properties available for rent through the Airbnb portal.

The documentation to follow features grayscale image boxes of people suspended in conversation and affirmative slogans like “SHARING IS CARING” and “COMMUNITY OF HOSTS”, accompanied by smiling emojiis or a Euro sign cradling the Dollar, while the site shamelessly announces its success as built on “YOUR STORIES”. Hence, the Do More of What They Love online exhibition to accompany it, which appears less about what Atkin calls “social glue” in his The Glue Project strategy website and more about the business that can be made from it in a “venture that’s dedicated to helping people make successful communities and the loyalty that results”.

Building on the ‘Do What You Love’ culture of modern labour economics, the home for Airbnb Pavilion is not so much about the traditional notion of a community that’s tied to a physical space but the ‘home’ icon of an online portal that’s mediated in the interests of its administrator where Do More of What They Love lives. It features the video work of four artists, including Maja Cule, Juliette Bonneviot, Rosa Aiello and Keren Cytter, comparing the capital exploitation of the exchange economy that the Airbnb corporate giant represents to an indignant Aiello’s navigation of a half-blind first-person protagonist searching for her glasses in ‘First Person Leaky’ (2014). She mutters “one of the guests got particularly drunk and made it clear that my home had been broken into and a bug placed inside one of my rooms” about her “close, personal relationship” with a branch of the Communist party. Meanwhile  Cule’s ‘Facing the Same Direction‘ (2014) – premiered at London’s Arcadia Missa for the artist’s eponymous solo exhibition – follows writer and illustrator Anna Kachiyan as she seeks to raise $80,000 via an indiegogo campaign to “pursue independent interests in projects”.

A simulation of space populated by avatars in Bonneviot’s ‘Minimal jeune fille web’ (2014) features animations of young women’s bodies contemplating consumer items in silence via subtitles: “the polypropylene cap has a strong smell of petroleum, which transmits to the water and kills the concept of a healthy water bottle”. Meanwhile, Bonneviot’s CGI bodies meet Cytter’s flesh ones as a woman past her ‘prime’ considers the long-term consequences of her own objectification and eventual disappearance in ‘Der Spiegel‘ (2007): “I need to prepare, stretch my skin like a lampshade”. These are the ruminations on the capitalisation and commodification of private and intimate space set to a browser window backdrop of collages. There’s a woman posing with an exercise sheet stating, “I home share because… I don’t have to have a day job and can pursue acting & writing!”, a list of ten easy steps to “Successful Culting” and an exponentially growing graph of “Community Life Stages” taken straight from Atkin’s The Glue Project website.

It’s perhaps a little known fact that Airbnb Proper is a corporate giant that capitalised on the idealistic notion of the sharing economy in 2008. It was a brainwave that pounced on a post-GEC population with nothing but its homes to offer in exchange for a livelihood. It was the moment to turn couch-surfing into a business enterprise. All this, at the same time as the rise of social media, where the utopian ideal of a networked online culture existing outside of a capital market would eventually be drawn right back in. **

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