By “intensifying the value of their own visual capital”, adapting the embedded codes and signifiers of the networked image, artists identify and interrogate “the surfaces, visual regimes and aesthetic potentials of branded goods”, ultimately questioning the blurred border between adaptation and reproduction; critique and collusion.
Examining online communication through sculpture and connecting it to a cultural and personal history is a strong theme in Netherlands-based artist David Jablonowski‘s To Satisfy Algorithms/ Still Life with Asparagus, running at Lüttgenmeijer in Berlin. It’s one that he’s commented on before, suggesting that we’re no longer writers or readers of information. Instead, as we browse through the Internet, personalised pop ups based on our search history follow us; suggested links and target advertising meaning we’re no longer in full control –we become ‘users’, in the dependent sense of the word.
At the entrance of the exhibition, Plexiglas squares are stacked one on top of the other, transparent sheets, stones, spices, bamboo leaves and other things placed inside or around them. The same materials, motifs, information reappear throughout To Satisfy Algorithms/ Still Life with Asparagus. There is a souvenir 17th century glass replica from Amsterdam’s Rijkmuseumgift collection, as well as a tablecloth and napkins printed with Adriaen Coorte’s famous ‘Still Life with Asparagus’ from the same museum known for having digitised its entire collection –images of its artworks available online and in high resolution. On a wall behind the multi-layered sculpture, a TV screens test images that camera owners can upload online and present the special features and capabilities of their products. In the same way that painters of the Dutch Golden Age would demonstrate their skill through re-presenting a still life, so too does the amateur photographer.
In the main space several installations, sculptures and videos come together as a single multi media installation. Chaotic at first sight, it’s actually made up of carefully placed elements, separated by individual names and themes. They’re still connected with the presence of similar objects and materials, among them exotic spices, transparent sheets with text or photos and boxes made of Plexiglas, while a transparent roll of thermoplastic flows from one corner to another, sometimes hanging from the ceiling, connecting the space and its pieces together. Having the same temperature as the human body, the plastic not only creates warmth but becomes thermally indistinguishable from the user moving through the internet.
In his ‘Still Life with Asparagus, Dim Sum Voucher II’ Jablonowski presents more of the same objects, alongside the dim sum steam baskets that popped up when ordering the Rijksmuseum napkins. With the help of algorithms and based on his own search history, these baskets are what yields from a search for aluminium and asparagus.
Alongside mirrors, aluminium and other sculpture orientated materials, a video and audio are played based on three different tracing histories that the installation is based on. The layered materials in one of the installations called ‘The Golden Rules of Flaming (Shrunk Version 2014)’, point out how internet communication is traceable. The now-extinct word ‘flaming’ has its roots in early webspeak. Flame wars would strike between individuals on group chats, filled with negative personal comments, overtaking and destroying those chats.
The organised disorder that leads the viewer through paths in the room somewhat replicates Jablonowski’s own search history. In being led through the exhibition, with the help of explanatory text available at the entrance, the viewers themselves become active participants, users constructing and putting the pieces together. Without patience and an open eye they could easily lose concentration, becoming distracted and missing the point of all this information. **