A space for reflection: on the artist, their medium and our modern condition. To clarify, that’s ‘modern’ in the mode of Nadine Jessen’s “technologically advanced colonisers”, where the patriarchal drive to conquer has gone as far as penetrating our very minds; through a ‘progress’ that’s almost reached that Singularity of man–made devices superseding human intelligence. That’s planned obsolescence care of things sold to people as a necessary tool in the mundanities of daily life. Books are read, bills paid and idle chatter conveyed through these pixelated oracles, where information can be withheld and data surrendered to the Greater Will. So then, how much control do we have over these tools of convenience? More importantly, if these iPads and tablets are imbued with our thoughts, becoming embodied with our consciousness, then what else are we surrendering?
“(pause) Focus Inside (on hold)”. That’s a quote from the limited-run litany supplementing Eloise Bonneviot’s group presentation, The Meditative Relaxation Cycle. It sounds like the language you’re more likely to use on the phone or watching a DVD but in this scenario, you are doing at least one of those things. In the sparse curtained space of London’s Arcadia Missa, you’ve got one flatscreen, one remote control and 11 artists on the Main Menu to choose from, each one producing six drawings, rendered on an iPad or tablet and administered via the divine guidance of Surrealist automatism. This is a psychic exercise, an expression of the very “materialisation of spirituality” the exhibition leaflet alludes to, as revealed through a commodity.
As a gentle nudge to interaction with the 66 on show, images move forward one-by-one, zooming in from micro to macro, before diffusing and making room for the following. It takes time to view every series; 12 precious minutes to properly engage with the image in front of you. There’s the suspended motion of Anne de Boer’s vivid PaintShop swirls, glitching briefly at points, Ada Avetist’s disheveled default toolkit compositions, violently shuddering when they get too close, and FourfiveX’s white-on-black geometric patterns, becoming more intricate and expanding well beyond their frame. Digitally generated and captive to the grids and pixels of its artist’s chosen program (‘chosen’ insofar as being limited to the catalogue of software and computers they have access to), every image is a rendering of its creator’s character, an expression of their subconscious –their very personhood.
The results vary wildly in terms of approach. Hrafnhildur Helgadottir’s candid sketches use shape presets as for their gestures and Aude Pariset’s flat coloured strokes stand in stark contrast to Ilja Karilampi’s slinking, shaded ribbons and Sæmundur þór Helgason’s solid spheres. Already, it’s apparent that the aesthetic language, the creative lexicon has been set out by the tools used, even the dimensions of the frame, as Helgadottir’s light–blue tempest of circular scribbling demonstrates. Its rounded edges are slashed at the sides, being incompatible with the sharp 45-degree angles of the box it’s supposed to sit in.
But there’s also disruption. Juliette Bonneviot‘s coiled scrawl quivers as it magnifies, giving the illusion of spiralling ever-downwards while staying suspended in motion. Luca Francesconi’s thin, inky black line, not only trembles in response to its own contrast with a bright white background, but also conjures a whiter-than-white residue appearing as a silhouette in hue-less space, as visual focus flits across the screen.
To a degree, artistic response to the brief appears highly gendered. Karilampi, Helgason and Gregory Kalliche fortify themselves against the perils of contingency, establishing order by creating depth, texture and tangibility to their CGI sculptures. Kalliche’s abstract scenes from his psychic depths, a procession of moulds that operates on textural juxtaposition, are overwhelmed, attacked and torn apart by an even more brazen image to follow.
But as stunning as they are, it’s as if there’s less, not more, depth to Kalliche’s renderings; their structure and stubborn substance blocking out the incidental behaviours that make the cookie-cutter sparseness of something like Helgadottir’s drawings far more dynamic. It’s an unruly energy that only briefly slips through a fissure on the crumbling surface of Helgason’s heavy, rounded orbs in the form of a flickering electric line buried in a crevice. Mostly, though, it’s in the space around his images where the fault lines of a pixelated fallout appear.
Actively confusing these formal distinctions, the blurry, feathered edges of Martin Kohout‘s strokes presented in high definition, mirror the nature of these images as a whole. As each one comes closer, blurring and sharpening at intervals, while its form imperceptibly dissolves into a grid-like skeleton, it becomes impossible to distinguish where an image ends and where it begins. All the while it reveals itself as both construction and imagination –its real world effect as actual as it is abstract.