The press blurb for Every Line Ever Spoken, running at at Copenhagen’s 68 during Artist Run Festival, describes artists Takeshi Shiomitsu and Sandra Vaka Olsen‘s exhibition as one focussed on the “whiteness, purity and neutrality” in the surface of contemporary aesthetics. Funnily enough, one of those words comes up as a synonym for the other. Apparently, according to the English language, ‘whiteness’ equals ‘purity’, while ‘neutrality’ is an often-used descriptor for one and the other.
The colour white is neutral, the “4. Moral practice” of ‘purity’ includes ‘modesty’, ‘virtue’ and ‘virginity’. A virgin can be “10. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a virgin: virgin modesty” and ‘modesty’ involves a certain “decency of behaviour” that includes “3. simplicity; moderation”. You can put machinery in “the position or state of disengaged gears or other interconnecting parts: in neutral”, or paint them a neutral colour, like, say, white. The antonym for white is black.
Between Olsen’s Sunshield and Shiomitsu’s Pale History, the implications of these words influencing convention, or an “inherited and culturally normalised expression and history”, are not only made visible but material. They’re works that you can touch, that occupy a physical space and thus have a direct impact on how we move around it. It is visible, it is real, and while the image on the screen is intangible, the means for its display –the canvas or the computer screen –isn’t.
“Digital surfaces presume a neutrality or absence of bodily activity” says the press blurb, but it’s “a surface so concerned with so-called immateriality and yet so touched”. **
Exhibition photos, top-right.