‘Circuits in the Flesh’ @ ASC Gallery reviewed

, 8 March 2016

Andrew Sunderland’s Muscle Memory is an exhibition of sound, print and sculpture, running at London’s ASC Gallery from January 22 to March 18, that explores prosumer networks of digital image and sound (re)production. Images of a muscular body found online are fragmented and morphed to become textures of pink flesh printed onto stretched Lycra, PVC cut-outs and sculptural surfaces. They come accompanied by samples of voices distorted and warped into an abstract soundscape, exposing structures of (re)distribution and methods of appropriation. A press release text by Sunderland details a speculative future of an endless production of the ‘new’. In this scenario of outsourced and accelerated modes of production, human bodies continually self-replicate and recycle all material into homogenous matter or what it calls “grey goo”. It recalls the science-fiction story Blood Music by Greg Bear in which biotechnological advancements backfire and lead to the mass destruction of humanity.

The ‘Circuits in the Flesh’ collaborative performance on February 26 expands on these generative feedback loops, incorporating and synthesising new inputs from visual artists and performers Alexis Milne, Tex Royale and MBJ Wetware. Milne’s performance draws on the lineage of the cut-up by reading chapters of William Burroughs’ Soft Machine, whilst manoeuvring through smoke, printed, hanging and projected digital cut-ups and sculptures on a Segway. Milne wears suits of recycled electronics and sportswear –computer keyboards, wifi modems, shin pads and helmet –like scavenged e-waste in a post-apocalyptic tribalism, and prosthetic extensions of mutated flesh in a retro-futuristic vision of the cyborg. As collaborator Royale hands out ‘systems’ of 3D goggles, dermatrodes and pills to transport the audience into the next chapters of the performance, Milne is like a preacher delivering a sermon through speakerphone. He conjures future visions of cyber-capitalism and nihilism through William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Nick Land’s Fanged Noumena to a progressively faster Breakcore soundscape.

MBJ Wetware –the avatar identity of Marija Bozinovska Jones –explores simulations and the mimicry of natural ecologies through CGI, media, and collectively produced and circulated imagery. From the ‘control station’ shared with Sunderland, multiple voice inputs trigger immersive live visuals that are projected across the performance space. This includes footage of natural landscapes and modern utopian planning of vast urban vistas. They’re spaces that are dislocated and generic, having undergone the homogenising effects of globalised capital. CGI engine pistons and cascading water suggest shifts from mechanisation to liquidity in technocapitalism, and images of used objects, waste and flooding evoke a system on the brink of collapse. One of the last projected images displays a SanDisk memory card encased in fossilised amber, implying a future archeology of debris that will survive the collapse, and what information has been attempted to be passed on after the end times.

Andrew Sunderland, Alexis Milne, Tex Royale + MBJ Wetware, ‘Circuits in the Flesh’ (2016). Photo by Tom Johnson. Courtesy ASC, London.
Andrew Sunderland, Alexis Milne, Tex Royale + MBJ Wetware, ‘Circuits in the Flesh’ (2016). Photo by Tom Johnson. Courtesy ASC, London.

There are many parallels and cross-references between the multiple feedback loops that evolve throughout this performance; from the literary cut-up, voice and sound recordings and responsive live visuals, and alteration of processes of social reproduction and bodily adaptations with new technologies. It spans different time periods and media, from past music genres, current digital image manipulation techniques and science-fiction futures. Through multi-faceted and reactive live performances, the artists collaboratively build up dense and potent imagery and sound that relentlessly accelerate until reaching a frenzied climax.**

Andrew Sunderland’s Muscle Memory is on at London’s ASC Gallery, running January 22 to March 18. The ‘Circuits in the Flesh’ collaborative performance was on February 26, 2016.

Header image: MBJ Wetware, ‘Circuits in the Flesh’ (2016). Live visuals screenshot. Courtesy the artist + ASC, London.