The two-day event builds around the international launch of The Cyborg: A Treatise on the Artificial Man, written by political sci-fi theorist and activist Antonio Caronia. Curated by Disruption Network Lab director Tatiana Bazzichelli and curator Daniela Silvestrin, CYBORG presents speeches, panels, and live cinema exploring the notion of cyborg identities and the power structures embedded in our modern interactions with technology.
“The ceiling’s fallen down here”, says Emma Siemens-Adolphe while clearing up a small pile of fallen debris at the corner of the floor at Jupiter Woods’Genuine Articles. I’m warned it’s not part of the exhibition on entry but, regardless of it being an incidental, I think it kind of is. As one of the best of many good things orbiting the opulent centre of Frieze London 2014 in mid-October, it’s an indication of the glaring economic inequalities between spaces that sometimes, but not always, become a fairly accurate gauge of how good a gallery’s going to be. The Barnie Page-curated show is in the two-storey space in a largely industrial suburb of South Bermondsey and shows reproductions of other works, including a bin full of crushed cans, cheap souvenirs and an A4 print of a meteor. They’re copies of copies that interrogate ideas of authorship and appropriation through co-authored and appropriated objects. One gets the sense that if it weren’t for the cash poor context of its organisers – not mentioning that as the root of DIY digital culture – it’s an idea that would have never existed.
That might be a bit of an obvious observation: Life presents a thing, the artist reflects in kind. But in a week that thrusts both the struggling and the stupidly wealthy into a shared timezone, it’s hopeful at best, interesting at least, to see what can come of the resulting interactions. There’s the boutique branding display of ‘urban’ street wear at Dean Blunt’s New Paintings, where a life lived in the rapidly gentrifying area of Hackney extends to the body commodified; stretched denim becomes the canvas for an art object for sale at Space gallery. Up near the heart of the CBD in Mayfair, Project Native Informant presents the off-site edition of Shanzhai Biennial‘s Frieze ‘Live’ installation, Shanzhai Biennial No. 3: 100 Hamilton Terrace. It’s a less lurid display of luxury real estate advertising with a house-shaped key floating above a mirror in its own vitrine, as well as glass doors and a wall-length image reproduction of the pool one stands to inherit for an easy £32,000,000.
The collective of artists and collaborators involved in the final product literally inhabit the Frieze-emulating branding and flipped Deutsche Bank logos decorating images of bodies presenting a lifestyle in a light box. Except these bodies reveal more about the exploitative foundations of said lifestyle by drawing parallels between power centres and systems, across time and place, suspended in poolside poses taken from China’s Rent Collection Courtyard. That’s the garden of life-sized Socialist Realist sculptures depicting feudal oppression (and eventual revolt) inside the estate once owned by a pre-Revolution property owner in Sichuan Province. A call for the oppressed to “unite to settle the blood debts with the landlords!” is concealed in the Chinese characters in a corner.
Property. Space. Time. Money. They’re concepts that are thrown into sharp relief and problematised inside and outside the official Frieze week walls as distinctions begin to blur. The video work of Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin‘s Priority Innfield installations at Zabludowicz Collection takes a starkly, almost absurdly, more menacing turn in its dark labyrinth of diamond fencing, blue tiles and park benches littered with iconic red kegger cups and screening the suburban self-destruction of Trecartin’s Ohio teens in ‘Junior War’. There’s a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ in a big green room featuring the rolling credits from old video works, while Rachel Lord‘s ‘Basic Jenny’ CGI avatar bounces on a bed. Said artist later materialises IRL at a night of performance called Burning Head Collage, curated by Total Freedom,to play Judas as part of Jesus Christ Superstar‘s ‘Blood Money/ Damned for all Time’ score, with Jesse Darling and Leslie Kulesh filling the roles of the High Priests who suggest: “think of the things you could do with that money/ choose any charity/ give to the poor”.
Allegedly Lord does just that with her fee from an institution funded by a fortune built on SOLTAM Systems. But that’s not before flinging an iPhone at Darling mid-performance, citing microphone interference as the motive in an email: “As an indigo, I am highly sensitive to electro-magnetic radiation”. I don’t see the event myself but hear about it repeatedly, procuring this slightly abstract explanation from Lord herself:
“The physical repulsion/separation I felt from the people watching because of their phones allowed me to channel the torment of a 1970s Bible-era Judas in a very real way. My intention was to demonstrate how peoples’ perceptions of a politically charged environment create a politically charged environment. The by-product was that in my attempt to break the 4th wall, I encountered the 5th.”
I’m just wondering, ‘if Rachel Lord is the traitor, and Darling and Kulesh her conspirators, then who’s Jesus?’ I don’t think anyone is .
“If love hurts and work makes you suffer, I think we should reconsider”, says the voiceover ofMaja Cule‘s ‘Do What You Love’ (2014) video for her Facing the Same Direction exhibition at Arcadia Missa. Launched along with an indiegogo campaign aiming to raise $80,000 so its subject – writer and illustrator Anna Kachiyan – could “pursue independent interests in projects”, the installation, with its wall-print of a deskchair and video projection of ‘DWYL’, brings the office into the art space and wonders whether there’s a difference. The POLYMYTH x Miss Information exhibition at Auto Italia doesn’t even question the apparent oxymoron of the term “creative practitioner” by inviting working designers, including Metahaven, Pablo Jones Soler, April Greiman and Pinar&Viola, to take over the art gallery space. The shift in context shifts the works’ resonance, whether it’s the impressive clarity of scale in the Metahaven x Holly Herndon music video collaboration, ‘Home‘ – viewed through a large LED screen rather than YouTube – or Jones’ CGI product design painstakingly rematerialised as physical object.
“This is your future”, announces the Auto Italia press release, while Serpentine galleries’ intensive two-day Extinction Marathon questions whether that future is a desirable one. Inspired by the announcement that half of the world’s wildlife was lost to human ‘progress’ in the past 40 years, posters and UV brochures by David Rudnick and Raf Rennie appear at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, along with an installation by Katja Novitskova of her famous stock animal cutouts set to the backdrop of alien planets as an example of the accelerating and“never-ending relationship of image into object”. Extinction Marathon companion site EXTINCT.LYstreams the presentations while writer Huw Lemmey summarises them live on a blog. Kari Altmann, UBERMORGEN, Alex Mackin Dolan and Emily Jones contribute online commissions to the site with its header of a redesigned extinction symbol by Marathon co-curator Ben Vickers, with Kei Kreutler and Lizzie Homersham. It’s the same one that flashes across the Third Line booth wall at the end of Sophia Al-Maria‘s devastating tour of Frieze Art Fair proper. In a continuation of its theme of catastrophic endings, Al-Maria presents‘Whale Fall’ (2014) as it narrates yet another pending extinction of a species through a largely blank blue screen. Jack Halberstam’s polemical ‘The Homosexual Says Yes to Sterility’ appeals to a humanism less concerned with individualism, reproduction and self-preservation at all costs, instead calling on an end to the human itself (“No Future”).
Anna Zett on the other hand imagines a Jurassic Age where humans are yet to exist at all, with a premiere screening of the artist’s This Unwieldy Objectfilm-essay and its companion ‘DINOSAUR GIF’ (2014) video lecture, exploring the ultimately destructive mythology of a young US superpower that’s embedded in the fossils of pre-historic dinosaurs and the film culture to follow. Trevor Paglen envisions the end of the Athropocene era as he contemplates the eternal cosmic debris of communications satellites and their potential for sharing human history with a species of the future in ‘From Fibre-Optic Beings to Fossils in the Sky’. It’s a foresight that looks further than the 10 years Ed Atkins is allocated in carrying out his decade-long epilogue to Extinction Marathon in the www.80072745.netonline commission. He’ll send personalised email correspondence to mailing list subscribers via email, which is probably the most resilient form of communication in an ever-evolving technological landscape. But perhaps the artist knows he doesn’t need to look that far ahead anyway, when you consider his inaugural email subject line: “U R G E N T”.
Jesse Darling, Federico Campagna and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi discuss communication via a spoken language that’s changing with the written online, as Darling proposes a ‘Yolar’ verb for the root acronym of YOLO while suggesting not everyone perceives the world through sight and sound. Marguerite Humeau‘s Cleopatra, on the other hand, is granted a subjectivity beyond her historical objectification via a synthesised voice for the ‘Cleopatra “That Goddess”‘ (2014) music video at the Marathon, while Aleksandra Domanović‘s job applicants are not so lucky at Sunday Art Fair. The artist’s readymade ‘Disney Letter’ (2014) at the Glasgow International booth is dated “June 7, 1938” and kindly informs “Miss Mary V Ford” that “women don’t do any of the creative work”.
Ceaselessly referred to as the “indie” art fair by major media during Frieze, booths from High Art, Seventeen, The Apartmentand Lüttgenmeijerpresent at the Ambika P3 event, among a Laura Aldridge installation of string, soda cans and prints at Studio Voltaire. Florian Auer‘s digital prints of fibreglass and resin t-shirts – body-free but frozen into the shape of a torso – are hung on a wall at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in one corner. Sandy Brown‘s presentation of an installation from Jean-Michel Wicker and two wall hangings from Aude Pariset are in another. The latter’s inverted whitewash of lurid inkjet prints revealed within the white tiles on ‘Rehabilitated Scribble (blue swallowtail / Vyal one)’ (2012), echoes the similarly noxious, though oddly alluring sterility of Amalia Ulman‘s The Destruction of Experiencesolo exhibition at Evelyn Yard. There’s a collector at the gallery just off Oxford Street discussing the price for a piece of her performed and embodied Facebook timeline, under a clock circled with self-portraits inspired by Frida Kahlo. It reminds me of one of Matthew Higgs‘ framed prints hanging at the White Columns booth back at Sunday Art Fair. All it says is, “You get what you pay for”. **