Co-Workers – Network as Artist, running from October 9 till January 31 at Musée de l’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, presents the work of artists emerged in the 2000s and whose practices deal mainly with networking and systems of exchange that displace the anthropocentric position of the subject, outweighing its human scale. It comes as one of two exhibitions, the other being Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster at Bétonsalon, Centre for Art and Research, focussing more on the way people interact with their environment and how disasters impact and transform us collectively.
Three curators were brought in for the exhibition at Musee d’Art Moderne alone, along with curatorial participation from 89plus, and artists such as Ryan Trecartin, Trisha Baga, Aude Pariset & Juliette Bonneviot, Rachel Rose, and Timur Si-Qin, it is a colossal institutional project.
In Co-Workers one can discern echoes from the 1985 Les Immatériaux at Centre Georges Pompidou. Organised by Jean-Francois Lyotard and Thierry Chaput, director at the Centre de Création Industrielle, it questioned mainly how our relationship to the world had changed. Stating how materiality had lost its criteria of identification and that dematerialisation was but a word that constitutes the materiality of material, Lyotard foresaw the scenario that we are presented with today.
The notion of co-working is illustrated, perhaps too cohesively by the scenography, designed by New York art collective DIS. Approaching the exhibition with their signature fluidity whereby they manage to subdue most divergences, they create a space in flux, the transitions between the individual works are generally smooth, resembling a working area with no clear delineation between private and public space. This dimension is particularly present in DIS’s installation, ‘The Island (KEN)’ (2015), a composite kitchen bench and shower in the room that’s host to talks and performances. The installation becomes a kind of mainframe to the exhibition, providing a reading or a point of entry to the other works.
Parker Ito’s 24 image series are the first works you encounter in the space. The images are made up of a material that responds to light. This, coupled with the superimposed images, gives the impression that they are constantly changing and re-materialising. Ito’s work thus introduces the first topic of the exhibition: ‘Circulation and Rematerialisation of Images’.
Further on, Cecile B. Evans’ ‘Working on What the Heart Wants’ (2015) is a prototype for a work that will be presented at the 2016 Berlin Biennale, also curated by DIS. It’s an installation made up of a three channel work, where Evans presents a 3D environment on the left side, a video showing a character with wavering emotions in the centre, and a chat with freelancers that were asked to work on the production on the right.
The notion of mutability and consciousness –especially during times of emotional agitation and change –is further developed in Ian Cheng’s ‘Emissary in the Squat of Gods’ (2015). It’s the first episode in a new series of works made up of two parts. The first shows a preconscious primitive community faced with a geological catastrophe. The second shows a character coming out of a volcano, as his consciousness starts to grow.
Similarly Hito Steyerl’s ‘Liquidity, Inc.’ (2014), presents an installation that represents a time of crisis and impending catastrophe, while questioning our response to this situation. It’s an installation piece made up of a screen that divides the room in two. On the entrance side, vertically positioned blue foam benches direct you to the other side of the screen where one finds a tsunami-like cushioned area made of the same material.
Placed at the exit is Ed Atkins’ darkly humorous video ‘Even Pricks’ (2015). The work deals with depression and the inability to express a deeper connection than is afforded through emoticons. Following that one finds the self-proclaimed “exhibition within an exhibition”, a curatorial contribution from by a long-term research and multi-platform project 89plus, founded by Simon Castets and Hans-Ulrich Obrist. Their project, presenting work by a younger generation of artists born in or after 1989 –a year marked by the fall of the Berlin wall and the introduction of the World Wide Web –is cut-off from the rest of the exhibition, contained in a glass booth right next to the exit.
Certain aspects of Lyotard and Chaput’s 1985 exhibition remain central and recurrent in 2015’s Co-Workers. It presents as an exhibition dramaturgy of the complex relationship between objects and subjects and new materialism. On an aesthetic level this is vastly explored here, there could be more engagement with an ethical discourse concerned with its themes that goes beyond an aestheticization of the subject. Thirty years on, it’s a problem that’s not yet been resolved. **