Lawrence Lek

Speculative imaginings on AI, authenticity & a future Singapore in Lawrence Lek’s AIDOL 爱道 (OST), releasing via Hyperdub today, November 27

27 November 2020

Lawrence Lek is releasing AIDOL 爱道 (OST), via London’s Hyperdub, today, November 27, 2020.

This new soundtrack release features music from Lek’s feature length film first shown at London’s Sadie Coles HQ, and more recently as part of Unsound Festival. The third in a series of video by the artist that includes 2016’s Sinofuturism (1839-2046 AD) and 2017’s Geomancer, AIDOL 爱道 builds on Lek’s science fiction universes exploring notion around AI, authenticity, and geopolitics, set against a future imagining of Singapore.

As stated by Lek, discussing AIDOL 爱道 in his conversation with AQNB associate editor Jared Davis for our Artist Statement podcast earlier in the year: “it’s not just this idea of post-humanism, trans-humanism or non-humanism that’s interesting to me. It’s this allegorical nature of a non-human subject.”

See Hyperdub to purchase and listen back to our podcast episode with Lawrence Lek for more.

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Living ruins: Lawrence Lek talks the future of memory, science fiction allegories & the age of algorithmic art on AQNB’s Artist Statement podcast

15 July 2020

“It’s not just this idea of post-humanism, trans-humanism or non-humanism that’s interesting to me,” says Lawrence Lek about the speculative fiction imaginings of the AI populating his video and VR universes. “It’s this allegorical nature of a non-human subject.” Talking with associate editor Jared Davis on AQNB’s bi-monthly Artist Statement podcast. The London-based artist extrapolates on topics spanning science fiction, surveillance, and the future of memory in this era of simulation, for this latest episode of the conversation series, available exclusively to our Patreon subscribers.

In a 2017 interview on AQNB, Lawrence spoke about how, when confronted by empty cities or ruins it can lead to epiphanies about ourselves. This awareness of a social aspect to the cityscape—no doubt drawing from his training as an architect—continues to run through his practice today. He’s since shown notable works at London’s 180 The Strand for the major Transformer: A Rebirth of Wonder group exhibition last year, as well as a solo exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ.

‘Livings Ruins’ is the latest in our podcast series, following on from last week’s bonus episode with Colin Self. Future episodes include conversations with Joey Holder and Cristine Brache, among others, with a teaser for Lawrence’s chat available to listen to above. The full episode is accessible to our subscribers right now on Patreon. Sign up now: www.patreon.com/aqnb

Lawrence Lek, AIDOL 爱道 (2019). Video still. Image courtesy the artist + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

As part of a subscription drive aimed at keeping AQNB (currently volunteer-run and maintained by its dedicated in-house team) alive, the site will be rolling out a number of new incentives to join our Patreon community this month. This includes yesterday’s launch of a regular music and digital art compendium series—with our first mini-compendium Between two stars—and a limited artist edition t-shirt collaboration with New Scenario

AQNB is a trusted editorial platform for artists resisting categorisation and responding to changes brought on by technology and communication, and we’ve built a strong community around us over the years. Our Patreon will be crucial to the site’s survival moving forward. With this new programme of content, we’re gearing toward engaging and working with you—our readers and subscribers—in building a stronger foundation for our scene into the future.**

The latest episode of AQNB’s Artist Statement podcast featuring Lawrence Lek is available exclusively to our subscribers today.

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Lawrence Lek + Kode9 @ ICA, Nov 19

17 November 2016

Lawrence Lek and Kode9 are presenting ‘The Nøtel’ at London’s ICA on November 19.

The London-based simulation artist, as well as producer and founder of London label Hyperdub have created an audio-visual show imagining a ‘post-scarcity’ world where the only thing in short supply is humans. The fully-automated, luxury hotel is inspired by themes of “full automation and post-work utopias set in the shadow of the existential threats posed by artificial intelligence.”

Guiding their audience through a first person/drone tour of the grand but empty spaces, the press trailer (see below) presents a bleak look at an uncomfortably possible future: “We built it all for nothing.”

See the ICA website for details.**

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Maybe Your Lens is Scratched? @ Slate Projects, Jun 24 – Jul 24

24 June 2016

The Maybe Your Lens is Scratched? group exhibition is on at London’s Slate Projects, opening June 24 and running to July 24.

Artists included are mostly London-based such as Matt Ager, Lauren Keeley, May Hands, Lawrence LekBecky Beasley, We Are Visual design group, and many more.

There is no information to accompany the show which is curated by Bianca Baroni and Alex Meurice, although it seems the artists selected to exhibit work with the potential of materiality found in imagery and display.

Slate Projects is itinerant and for Maybe Your Lens is Scratched? will be based in Averard Hotel, an empty nineteenth-century mansion house in West London turned into hotel and currently awaiting renovation.

See the Slate Projects website for (limited) details.**

Lauren Keeley, Garden (2015). Courtesy the artist and Supplement, London
Lauren Keeley, ‘Garden’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and Supplement, London.

 

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Sunrise Sunset performance @ KW Institut, Apr 30

26 April 2016

A day of performances will accompany the current exhibition, SECRET SURFACE: Where Meaning Materialises at Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art on April 30.

The event is part of the show’s performance programme called Sunrise Sunset which recently featured ‘Clapback’ by niv Acosta that aqnb reviewed earlier this month, and follows a live work, Litmus Shuffle, by Patrick Staff and Cara Tolmie on April 7.

During the day Auto Italia, Anna Barham, Lawrence Lek, Emily Roysdon and Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa will look to hone in on and literalise the relationship between observer and observed. They will be both present and presenting works that focus in on moments where meaning materialises, asking if live art and its participation can act like an object that is treated, embodied and imbued by its maker.

New York-Stockholm based Roysdon has worked with KW to develop the day’s pacing and spatial arrangement. The artist with her collaborators will also perform her ongoing work ‘UNCOUNTED [Performance 7]’, short and intermittent readings of Roysdon’s randomised script in the courtyard, where the street meets the space, while Ramírez-Figueroa will combine bedtime rituals with printmaking in a dreamlike mediative scene as the day comes to a close.

See the KW website for details.**

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Incremental Architecture, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Sultana
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, ‘Incremental Architecture’ (2015). Courtesy the artist + Galerie Sultana, Paris.

 

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Glasgow International 2016, Apr 7 – 25

6 April 2016

Glasgow International, the biennial festival of contemporary art spread across Scotland’s largest city, is in its 11th year and this time will host artists from all over the world between April 7 to 28.

Directed by Sarah McCrory, the event holds shows small and large: invited and commissioned at large galleries like Tramway, or self-organised in flats and other public or non public addresses.

Here is a list of aqnb recommendations spanning the two weeks:

See the Glasgow International programme page for more details.**

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A look back at 3hd Festival

17 December 2015

“Maybe, the music lost the war,” posits Ji-Hun Kim at the final panel titled ‘Global and Local Music Scenes’ of 3hd Festival, running across venues in Berlin from December 2 to 5. Given the overall theme of the rather meticulously curated event programme –‘The Labour of Sound in a World of Debt’ –it’s possible to see how that might have happened.

Aurora Sander @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.

In a climate of big brand sponsorship and accelerated media uncovering, exposing and mining the so-called ‘underground’ in the flattened space of the internet, the outlook of what could have been counterculture appears rather bleak. But then, when it comes to a project like 3hd –where its Creamcake organisers Anja Weigl and Daniela Seitz manage an international cast of musicians, producers, desginers, writers, brought to the German city on a tiny budget –it seems there is still hope.

Here, it’s the sense of community, however dispersed along the global online, that really is palpable. Attendance, for one, is healthy. Crowds vary nicely in demographic depending on the night and engagement with the discussion series –moderated by Adam Harper and including topics like ‘What is the Musical Object in the 21st Century?’ and ‘Visual Pleasure, the Impact of Image Making’ –is lively. The latter takes place in Kreuzberg’s Vierte Welt, surrounded by the art of 3hd’s The Labour of Sound in a World of Debt exhibition. It includes sculpture by Ella CB and Per Mertens, the heavily branded graphic design of Simon Whybray’s JACK댄스 night posters and Kim Laughton’s ‘TIDAL (tone-on-tone)’ video featuring a billboard screen ad for the title music streaming site in what looks like an industrial wasteland.

Aurora Sander @ 3hd Festival (2015), Berlin. @ 3hd Festival (2015), Berlin.
Aurora Sander @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.

Vierte Welt is also the setting for 3hd’s official opening, where the multiple wall-mounted LED screenings of Emilie Gervais’ ‘Brandon aka Kamisha’ CGI animation and Lawrence Lek’s ‘Unreal Estate (The Royal Academy is Yours)’ projection is shown up by Easter’s short but striking live performance. With it they unveil their ‘True Cup’ video, a film that’s part of a sort of distributed art project featuring the artists, Max Boss and Stine Omar, staring at their flip phones and moving, model-like, around Galerie koal where they also have an exhibition. The show features a serialised video piece, Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me, running at the same time as 3hd and featuring a cast of global creatives, including voice over by Vaginal Davis and cameos by actor Lars Eidinger and Britta Thie. The latter Berlin-based artist similarly has an episodic video work, drawing on Leigh Bowery and showcasing an international art scene in her Transatlantics web series. It’s for that she’s been invited to join the ‘Branding–Hype–Trends’ discussion of 3hd, with its focus getting lost in the panelists’ understandable inability to identify and deconstruct the complicated, inextricable inter-relationship between creativity and capital.

That collusion, or obsession even, is unsettlingly present at the HAU Hebbel am Ufer night of performances the following day. The plastic palm trees and cartoonish props of the exotic Contiki-esque Aurora Sander-designed ‘Love Jungle’ sets the scene for Dafna Maimon and Adrian Hartono’s performing the high-life in a massage for ‘Dear Unkown One’. Conceptions of luxury, money, power, feature heavily tonight. Classically-trained cellist Oliver Coates performs the disturbing soundtrack to a live rendition of Lawrence Lek’s ‘Unreal Estate’. The 3D animation travels through the empty rooms of an imagined London Royal Academy of Art, now up for private sale. Lek’s bilingual voiceover reads English and Mandarin translations of instructions on running a wealthy household from Russian Tatler magazine: “Learn how to do everything yourself. That’s how to stop the servants blackmailing you”. Colin Self’s multimedia performance of his sequential opera ‘The Elation Series’ is a festival highlight, while Aaron David Ross (ADR)’s ‘Deceptionista’ presents an assault of noise and real-time Vine videos shattered into violent shards of visual information fed through the Tabor Robak-developed VPeeker software.

Colin Self @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.
Colin Self @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.

Repeatedly, a blurring of boundaries between what you might consider ‘pop’ versus ‘underground’ circulates throughout the four-day event. Malibu opens a queer, vocoder-heavy sung performance at OHM with Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?’. A video presentation by Nicole Killian opens the ‘The Media, Fan and Celebrity Culture’ panel live via Skype from her home in Virginia. The Richmond-based artist talks Tumblr aesthetics and self-started teen girl culture as not only a subversion but a kind of hack into the power of celebrity by not just ‘killing’ their idols but by ‘eating’ them too.

That kind of pop culture cannibalism is something that Danny L Harle and DJ Paypal do in their own way at Südblock on the last night. The former does so by weaving his high-classical background with ‘low’ pop music appreciation into the slightly manic electronic opuses he and his PC Music peers have become known for. DJ Paypal, meanwhile, hijacks dance to develop an almost aggressive pursuit of a pure high. The subject of Justin Bieber again emerges at Vierte Welt as Simon Whybray shows the global superstar’s latest Purpose album cover as an example of bad graphic design in his opening lecture for the ‘Branding–Hype–Trends’. It seems that Whybray, too, is unsure of the distinction between what is and isn’t ‘bad’ when considering counterculture and its position within the mainstream, but then that’s probably, vitally, the point. **

Creamcake’s 3hd Festival was on across venues in Berlin, running December 2 to 5, 2015.

Header image: Nile Koetting @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin. 

 

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The Uncanny Valley @ Wysing Arts Centre, Sep 26 – Nov 8

25 September 2015

Cambridge’s Wysing Arts Centre is presenting The Uncanny Valley group exhibition, opening September 26 and running to November 8.

Curated by Donna Lynas, the show features existing works and new commissions exploring the Masahiro Mori-coined concept of the ‘Uncanny Valley’, as in the emotional response and intellectual uncertainty experienced when a viewer encounters a hyper-real object.

Including a new piece by Joey Holder and music produced by Rachel Maclean during a her 2015 Wysing residency, the show looks at “the aesthetics of the uncanny through computer generated imagery” via contributions from Julia Crabtree & William Evans, Benedict Drew, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Holly Herndon, Sophie Jung, Lawrence Lek and Katja Novitskova.

See the Wysing Arts Centre website for details.**

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Faith Dollars… @ Assembly Point, Sep 10 – Oct 17

10 September 2015

Assembly Point brings a new group exhibition titled Faith Dollars, Taxfree Imagination & Uptown Bliss, running at their London art space from September 10 to October 17.

The show comes as the second exhibition for the new artist-run South London space, following their inaugural Back to the Things Themselves exhibition opened in June. “In an era of financial abstraction, absurdity and surrealism,” the FDTIUB press release begins, “this exhibition explores the political — fictional or real — contemporary experience of post capitalist realism (or neoliberalism or the global economy) through its ideological and structural context.”

Inviting a handful of London- and Berlin-based artists—including Kim Asendorf and Ole Fach, Lawrence Lek, James LowneEva Papamargariti, Cory Scozzari, Lea Collet and Marios Stamatis—the exhibition plays with the shifting notions of public and private in order to “resolve and (re)affirm a collective intimacy; a new form of intimacy”.

The event will be accompanied by an event organised by Stamatis and called Gilded Ceremony  on October 1.

See the exhibition press release for details. **

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Joey Holder @ Channel Normal, Jul 10

7 July 2015

Online exhibition space Channel Normal invites another artist to exhibit digitally, this time bringing in UK artist Joey Holder for a solo exhibition titled Proteus, launching on July 10.

Holder, who was a recent finalist for the Converse/Dazed Emerging Artist Award, follows in the footsteps of a series of solo digital exhibitions launched by Channel Normal, including recent ones with Viktor Timofeev, Sterling Crispin, and Lawrence Lek.

With Proteus, Holder is exploring environmental “metagenomics”, or the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples, as well as, according to the exhibition’s press release, “microbiome analysis, ecological remediation, self-monitoring, self-sensing, sense tracking, DNA molecular replacement for silicon microchips”.

See the Channel Normal website on July 10 to view the exhibition. **

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Lawrence Lek @ Royal Academy of Arts, Apr 24

22 April 2015

London-based artist Lawrence Lek is giving a special performance titled Unreal Estate at the Senate Room of the Royal Academy of Arts on April 24.

Commissioned for the Dazed Emerging Artist Award, the performance uses video game software to create a future world in which the Royal Academy of Arts now stands as a privately owned luxury estate. Helicopters loom above the penthouse helipad, Anish Kapoor sculptures hover around a luxuriously lit swimming pool, and Corinthian columns stand testament to the deliberate neo-classical opulence of the place.

Lek’s version of a dystopian capitalism is set against the backdrop of London’s current housing crisis, blending hardware, software, installation and performance into a full-body interactive environment. The striking installation is accompanied by music from cellist Oliver Coates and a voiceover of a found text from Russian Tatler magazine, translated into Mandarin by curator and translator Joni Zhu.

See the FB event page for details. **

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Andi Schmied’s Jing Jin City reviewed

20 March 2015

Jing Jin City is empty. It’s a large-scale luxury development that stopped, left to weather and dissolve along with its brochure promises of an “ideal life” in the “super garden with the area of thousand square metres” [sic]. That’s a rough translation from Chinese of the equally obscene opulence of this gated community trapped, along with its employees, in a limbo of incompletion. That’s where artist Andi Schmied and collaborator Lawrence Lek came across Jing Jin City in January last year, a development an hour outside of Beijing that boasts a five-star hotel, 3,000 villas and hardly any occupants.

Andi Schmied, 'Jing Jin City' (2015). Courtesy the artist.
Andi Schmied, Jing Jin City (2015). Courtesy the artist.

The outcome of this shared visit in summer was a return by Schmied eight months later in the winter and the Jing Jin City book to follow –with its collection of haunting photos of unfinished mansions, collapsed advertising billboards, bricks and stone sculptures –published in January 2015. It’s a part of an ongoing project relating to the fated venture that still stands zombie-like and half inhabited by its employees as it slowly dissolves.

“A stage set of an abandoned future” is what Schmied evocatively calls this new terrain in writing written in vignettes, glimpses into the lives and landscapes that make up a Jing Jin City that’s been emptied of its original intention and repurposed into this Utopian no-place that “resists authorship”. Except that it doesn’t. It’s just that the authors of this new world are not the property developers and their postcards promising “the caress of the Hot Spring” and “an atmosphere of international business opportunity” (“everybody is having a great time”). Instead it’s the people left behind –gardeners, builders, guards, caretakers –that now populate the vast grounds of Jing Jin City and become a part of Schmied’s narrative drawn from observations and occasional conversations with the workers themselves via Baidu Online Translation.

Andi Schmied, 'Jing Jin City' (2015). Courtesy the artist.
Andi Schmied, Jing Jin City (2015). Courtesy the artist.

“It is more exciting when the colleagues have their bikes in the south car park,” says a security guard in the opening chapter titled ‘On the Absence of Use’. It’s one of three that detail the breathtaking decay and slow cycle of change across seasons in analogue photographs of lonely golden statues, frozen moats and empty, unfitted buildings. Mostly presented in matte, the images show up in glossy pages for chapter II titled ‘On the Sense of Ownership’ with its installations by Lek and Schmied presented on the concrete floors and staircases of these uninhabited mansions. It’s like a catalogue that comes accompanied by materials descriptions like, “23 groups of counter balanced glass window panes”.

“Constructions fell, materials weathered, vegetation grew”, Schmied writes about her return to Jing Jin City in the winter, as she notes the worker’s sense of boredom and sleeping patterns become attuned to the sunlight because there’s no electricity. The pages in the book aren’t numbered, in the same way that time as we know it no longer exists. **

More photos, top right.

Andi Schmied’s Jing Jin City was published in January, 2015.

 Header image: Andi Schmied, Jing Jin City (2015). Courtesy the artist.

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Lawrence Lek @ The White Building, Oct 2 – 5

1 October 2014

Lawrence Lek is adding a new chapter to this ongoing project, Bonus Levels, with Sky Line, showing at London’s The White Building as part of Art Licks Weekend from October 2 to October 5.

With Sky Line as with the larger project, Lek uses video-made virtual worlds to interrogate the notion and construction of a utopian fiction, and with each chapter – Sky Line being the sixth – he attempts to reconcile a new conflict.

Wavering “between systems of control and forces of change, between reality and its representation, between the individual and collective”, these conflicts are rendered visible to the viewer as video tours and playable games, and Sky Line takes on the scanty infrastructure for London’s independent art spaces, modelling a floating version of the Circle Line with a vision of the city as not just made of financial skyscrapers but of “infinite access”.

The installation’s opening night kicks off with a live audio-visual performance by Patchfinder at 8:30pm, and will feature a critical discussion with Lek and White Building curator Rachel Falconer on Saturday at 3pm.

See The White Building exhibition page for details. **

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