A board of blinding lights, the metronomic click of a beat-up CASIO taps against an elastic keyboard loop that stretches and contracts, expands and compresses, across the ebbing tide of space and time. A tiny bottle of Chanel No. 5 materialises, Steven Warwick gingerly squirting its contents on a convulsing audience at the Berghain in Berlin. This is one of several times I’ve seen, felt and absorbed a Heatsick performance but the perfume’s a first.
At the time, I thought it was just another addition to the multi-sensory experience that Warwick strives towards; a bodily transcendence founded on a powerful conceptual bearing. By now I’ve figured otherwise. Said ‘feminine fine fragrance’ reappears, again and again, as a bootlegged ‘climate change’ sweatshirt and the “clear chanel” of his RE-ENGINEERING artist statement, a manifesto of sorts accompanying what he calls the “11 blobs” of his upcoming vinyl release, out through PAN on November 26. “It’s the smell of modernity”.
Warwick is as much a musician as he is an artist and intellectual, the distinction as imperceptible as his life view is malleable. A Berlin-based performer steeped in a visual culture orbiting but not limited to the city, his first full-length as Heatsick is littered with references to the contemporary art discourse and theory that he disrupts, dissects and often parodies, in the same cyclical way that RE-ENGINEERING ends as it begins, if not in a distant, degraded form.
Fellow artist Hanne Lippard’s colourless, disembodied voice preens, over measured exhalations and a crisp melody evoking a dial tone, as she robotically engages in a disintegrating loop of references; speaking, quoting, sloganeering, “black power”, “gay Google”, “what we do is secret”, “labour in the bodily mode”, “second annual trend report”, over a rhythm that is less a groove than a forward lurch. Warwick’s manifesto’s “relentless interconnectivity” carries on, across ideas and ideologies, philosophers and philosophies, even past recordings and present tracks, surfacing and disappearing across its track listing.
“I’ve just really thought about these things, they’re such concerns,” says Warwick through Skype and on tour in Australia, about the ideas and aesthetics that he often explicitly explores, sometimes abuses, on RE-ENGINEERING, “That’s the thing with a lot of network theory and circulation. I’m really trying to link a lot of ideas, or map my own ontology, or even some kind of mode, and I’m trying to think about why I think that. Sometimes, if I see people referencing certain philosophers or schools of thought, and it’s just a bit of a quick joke, you feel a bit short-changed, and not in a particularly subversive way.”
Jesse Garcia purrs, disjointedly in ‘DIAL AGAIN’ emulating the stilted automated voice, deliberately, poorly, over swaggering toms, while Warwick’s voice comes through a far-off megaphone, beneath the noise of a field recording, repeating Lippard’s words (“Modern life is still rubbish, you say. Modern rubbish is still life”) from the beginning, now at the end, as it links into album-closer, ‘ACCELERATIONISTA’ –a circular motion of movement ending up where it began, but different.
“With RE-ENGINEERING, it’s playing around with treating it more like a manual. It’s like, ‘let’s look at these options and maybe you can reprogram yourself to try and get around this dissatisfaction’, or you could just also remould something,” Warwick tells me, following up an email listing ten artists he thinks are doing just that.
“Ed Lehan is known for his acerbic commentaries on participation and the public event. See his various shows where the opening will consist of a reconstruction of an empty charity box built by the artist, a case of beers, a barrel of mojito and the visitor(s). For the one at a gallery in Tallin [Error 404 at Temnikova & Kasela] he reconstructed an adizone that had been popping up in various parts of London for the Olympics.”
“In Loretta Fahrenholz’s film ‘Ditch Plains’, a street performance group contort in the early hours of a desolate area of East New York, various upscale hotel spaces and an apartment in Manhattan, post-Hurricane Sandy. It’s a strange post-apocalypse zombie HD afrofuturist hypercapitalistic ecological crisis; a networked virus of disconnect.”
“Georgie Nettell’s last show [2013 at Reena Spaulings] dealt with notions of recycling, circulation and eco branding. Local dirty dishes were picked up in restaurant bus trays and re-presented in the gallery, images found on the internet were downloaded, distressed and formatted onto raw linen canvases. Her musical group, Plug (with Sian Dorrer), also used a stock image as its cover, confusing the listener as to the public image of the group. “
“Katja Novitskova uses images found on the internet such as wildlife and prints them out, mounting them in physical space and opening up the notions of documentation, preservation, ecology and materiality. The digital image is itself fuelled by carbon materials and minerals extracted from the earth. Species on the verge of extinction are fed back into image circulation and, in turn, play with the neuro-chemical recognition mechanisms in the viewer’s brain.”
“Paul Kindersley’s thebritisharecumming YouTube channel is best viewed left running during a morning after with genuinely bizarre makeup tutorials, presumably also made the morning after (perhaps a satire of the MT genre themselves) at once absurd, daft, unnerving, hilarious and engaging. Current fave: Babes (correct usage).”
“Gili Tal presented REAL PAIN FOR REAL PEOPLE [at LimaZulu] as a wall text superimposed by four gestural paintings, evoking haptic gestures and waiting room paintings. The text consisted of the “goriest parts of Marx’s Capital” (itself full of references to Dracula and Frankenstein), written in languages from post-Communist countries and presented with the deceptively friendly aesthetic of an Innocent smoothie, one visitor was heard to have described the show as “Muji Expressionism”.”
“Sabine Reitmaier is a photographer and artist whose work blurs commercial and fine art contexts. Her show [Not comme les autres at Galerie Friedlaender] last year consisted of portraits of models staged in a similar method to how she would present them for the Psychologie Heute covers she also shoots for. In the exhibition, the large format photos confront us, provoking how we make neurological recognitions and associations, down to posing, body language or the coloured backgrounds that Reitmaier herself painted as per a photo shoot.”
“Hanne Lippard‘s vocal register evokes the automated hold tone of a service centre phonecall and plays with pre-existing imagery found online. Her videos such as ‘Beige’ deploy wordplay and humour to comment upon the hyperreal mundanity of part time work, lifestyles and (non) space.”
“Sarah MacKillop‘s Ex Library Book is itself an artist book consisting of fragments of obsolete library books –withdrawn from circulation and sold off at a discounted price onto a discarded heap –presented as a shiny glossy catalogue. Her other artist book, New Stationary Department, consists of various materials found at various stationers, be it neon marker pens or corrective materials such as Tipp-Ex, found in the commercial office, highlighting and reworking notions of editing, work and commercial presentation.”
“Rachel Reupke deals with HD stock images in videos that, when stripped of its conversations, penetrate an eerie and uncanny atmosphere of social relationships and catalogue-like objects. The warm emotional bond of social relation deployed by advertising is stripped and the viewer is suddenly presented with a cold flat image.In ‘Containing Matters of No Peaceable Colour’ from 2009, the hard gaze confronts the viewer with a series of HD towels while an automated voice proceeds to obsessively list a lifestyle specification quota with the delivery of a Robbe-Grillet novel.” **