This show comes with little information, typical to the impressive programming of Paddington space, dedicated to “non-institutional modes of practice.” It has notably shown millennially-numbered group shows — featuring international artists Keith J Varadi, Adriana Ramić, Quintessa Matranga, Anna Solal and others — like 2021 in May and 2024 Part 2 last year.
“Okay, Proxyah is dead, gotta move on…,” writes artist Viktor Timofeev in an email about what instigated the end to a project and exhibition series that has been running since 2013. “On the one hand, its liberating to allow yourself to have a deep shelf of lived-with material to work with, but on the other, sometimes that same material can feel like a burden, and it’s nice to have an idea or a work just stay behind.” Following its final iteration in a joint exhibition with Joey Holder, called Lament of Ur, a corrupted hard drive and its subsequently lost project files meant the interactive exhibition, video game and performance project steeped in complex logics came to an end Sazarus was born.
Marking a social, conceptual and geographical shift, as Timofeev moved from his base in London to The Netherlands’ Rotterdam, the new series follows advanced themes of “alien planets, estranged relationships, foreign logic, new experiments.” Begun in 2015 and now in it’s fourth volume, realised as the If I could go to sleep, would you count the hours? (SAZARUS IV) exhibition at Leicester’s Two Queens, running March 3 to May 23, the show takes its title from emo rock band AFI’s song ‘At A Glance‘ and follows previous versions shown at Vienna’s Jupiter Woods, and Glasgow’s Voidoid Archive, among others. The ongoing project consists of exhibitions, videos, performances and texts. They expand from a computer-game developed by the artist, and materializes in the English city as an installation that includes a reproduction of a mural from Riga in Latvia and an interactive virtual reality animation of a desolate scene populated only by cockroaches and patrolling drones. .
In light of the new show, Timofeev talks to us about the evolution of the work and how it grew out of a one-off performance and an encounter with the work of performance artist Simone Forti. It was also inspired by “the idea of an obscured logic generating the work, like a hidden or false god, and an audience witnessing this process from within” that happened while watching people interact with his previous project Proxyahcomputer game project.
** Can you talk us through the project a little bit as a whole?
Viktor Timofeev: At first it was a title for a one-off performance, then was the title of an installation, then a performed computer game and now another installation, so it gradually grew into this iterating work I have been occupied with for the last year. One of its main themes was sparked when I watched people interact with the Proxyah game – or actually when I watched other people watching other people who were interacting with it. The idea of an obscured logic generating the work, like a hidden or false god, and an audience witnessing this process from within became really interesting and clicked into place when I visited the Yvonne Rainer exhibition at Raven Row. Her and Simone Forti’s generative choreography and dance construction pieces blew my mind.
Maybe it seems obvious but it was a very precious moment that I think happens only once in a while — I felt productively shattered in the face of discovering something totally new but totally relevant, and ashamed that I hadn’t found it sooner. So the first iteration of Sazarus was a take on this and was a performance: two performers (at first myself and a friend, and afterwards instructed to strangers) took turns interacting with a specifically-designed game and making semi-automatic drawings, within a closed bracket of time.
** What attracts you to video games as an artistic medium?
VT: There’s lots of territory to explore. Though it does already have a substantial history, I definitely feel free to define what the medium means to myself in a broad way. And even though I‘ve frequently used game engines, the resulting work isn’t always a game in a traditional sense; it’s a way for me to assemble some programming or think about behaviour without a definitive end result… kind of like sketching in real-time. As a result, I’ve made generative works and videos using game engines, which I don’t consider game-related at all. Though can see how that is inextricably linked to it, which is also fine.
** In terms of art-making and story-telling, what do you think is a strength when it comes to gaming?
VT: In terms of strength, I think games give anyone a chance to remodel or re-stage a world in any way they desire. Accessibility of game engines make it easy to draft up a space with non-realistic physics, scripted behaviour or a rich narrative following an idiosyncratic logic entirely of one’s own making. It is an opportunity to speculate on the outside world, run away from it, criticize it, reflect it, etc. It is a space to make a wrong right, or a right, wrong. This aspect of it is something I find really exciting and empowering.
** All you work feels quite intricately connected, following a very complex logic of symbols and signifiers, is it one that you fully understand yourself?
VT: I definitely have a strong interest in pictograms, characters, isotypes; generally methods of communication that attempt to have a scope beyond the standard written language, and particularly the ambiguities and problems that arise when systems of communication are streamlined, or ‘optimized’ in an attempt a find a base, universal common ground.
In past work I’ve made my own symbols and modified existing ones, considering different kinds of notation and how they might look cross-pollinated — math, logic, public signage, fictional, Unicode, etcetera. What attracts me the most to using a closed vocabulary of symbols within a work, is the ability to craft somewhat of an ecology — a space where symbols can have a relationship to each other and to nothing else external (such as the written language). These symbols are also often broken-down within the work itself (or an accompanying guide), their elements dissected and ‘charted.’ So I really try not to preserve this kind of secret knowledge of a fictional alphabet when using it within a work. But it has grown into somewhat of a fallback for me in terms of a recurring visual language.
Recently, I made a randomizing algorithm that scrambles the Latin alphabet – it cuts every letter into four quadrants, cycles through combinations of these quadrants, while preserving some symmetry and occasionally swaps tops and bottoms of these ‘letters.’ This resulted in an alphabet that was changing in real-time, growing progressively more randomized the longer the program was left running. This was kind of my attempt at trying to get rid of myself from the equation — at the mercy of a random function, just like anyone from an audience. I used this alphabet system in the Sazarus II installation at Voidoid Archive, Glasgow as part of the Vaporents group exhibition. It involved a two-hour performance in which multiple-choice questions that were assembled using said alphabet were being ‘decrypted’ and attempted to be answered by two performers, over the duration of the performance. The questions and the alphabet (which worked as the ‘key’) were displayed on two screens located at opposite ends of a room. The pace of the alphabet’s decay (or the speed at which is scrambled) was faster than the performers’ pace of ‘decryption’ (their walking speed from one display to the other) rendering the whole process kind of futile.
** In what I’ve seen of your work, there’s often been an undercurrent of violence, that’s perhaps not so explicitly referred to but its presence is keenly felt. Much like the excerpt you’ve shared with us here, where the perspective of the frame could be as likely that of an insect or a drone — not mentioning the contemporary folklore that cockroaches, as featured in Sazarus IV, could survive a nuclear apocalypse — is the use of these themes and motifs a conscious decision?
VT: It is absolutely conscious. But I hope that this intensity can transcend beyond a ‘violent’ scenario and connect to viewers on another plane, in which it’s possible to pick out base themes, such as relationships and communication failures. For example, in the excerpted video, a barren landscape is populated by a group of cockroaches and patrolling drones. The video cuts between first-person shots from each group – from the ground and from the sky, looking at each other’s movement. A relationship between the two entities is formed that implies an existence of a symbiotic relationship, one of constant observation and mutual interest. There is nothing violent that happens between the two groups outside of observing each other, but nevertheless there is a sinister thread that runs through the video, setting up a tension isn’t really alleviated.**
“The transversal experience of negotiating the dynamic gamespaces of post-digital culture demands a user-erotics of speculation, simulation, puzzle-solving, ceaseless intuition of occult algorithms…” Accordingly, the Vaporents exhibition, running from June 25 until July 3 at Glasgow’s VoidoidARCHIVE, presents new commissions by HKE, Rosen, Viktor Timofeev, and video game designer Porpentine Charity Heartscape, navigating “the mannerisms of intimacy that bind and connect us, to the subsequent capacity to dream, design, and enter into projects of collective rationality through digitally altered states.”
Curated by Dane Sutherland, the exhibition is described as “a multi-reality biome; a post-digital swampscape of bacterial gameworlds, ambient trans-architectures, genetic dreampunk fictions, labyrinthine nanobot industrial-complexes, dirty wifi, and interfaces-interfaces-interfaces-interfaces…”. A press release begins with the question: “A dank enlightenment is gaming your bones. What do you do?” The inquiry resembles the beginning of Rosen’s PORTALS project, a transmedia narrative that zigzags between game and literature —the latest instalment of which constitutes part of Vaporents itself.
Here, however, inquisition extends equally over the “dream-music of HKE, the crypto-logics and nanobot anxieties of Viktor Timofeev’s complex gameworlds… and Porpentine Charity Heartscape’s negotiation of private space and intimate encounters revised by liquid-wifi connectivity and internet lossiness”. Collectively, Vaporents deals with “the pathogenic inter-evolution of post-human experience and multi-reality network environments”, exploring the “speculative navigational resources required of digital natives immersed in the hyper contextual virtualities of a post-continuous present”.
Viktor Timofeev – Pan Humanna / Nick Land – Meltdown E▲ ▓F D▓G§ – Imagine Cerberus as a Giant Mermaid Magic Fades & Soul Ipsum – Dropcrotch Causality Magic Fades & Soul Ipsum – Circadian Riddim Cru Servers – ATTIC JAM (MEGALITHIC INMATE) 15:7:15 Black Zone Myth Chant – My Glory Will Be to Sing Eternal Law DJ Yo-Yo Dieting – Dormant Mirrors II Arca – Anaesthetic recsund – STING GOOSE Rosen – P_OST_Mem チェスマスター – デメテル Windows 98の – スレノディ 建物が落ちる HKE – Spiral **
Karst, a contemporary art space in Plymouth, presented a two-person exhibition featuring works by Joey Holderand Viktor Timofeevtitled Lament of Ur, which ran from November 18 until December 12, 2015. The two separate practices came together to create a dystopian environment that transforms the white-cube space into a dark organism that caves in on itself. Combining sculpture, prints, video, a mural painting and other appropriations like computer games and industrial fencing, the space becomes an urban territory that meditates on themes of the post-human, entrapment and conspiracy.
Without drawing attention to the artists’ individual practices, the show favours the synergy that happens through collaboration, welcoming a cross-contamination of authorship. The press release focuses on this aspect of the show:
“The complexity of their differences called to question the current assumption that they evolved from a similar point of origin. There was suspicion that something else was at work, which involved a highly specialized and self-assembled alchemy.”
Timofeev’s practice is invested in utopia/dystopia fictional worlds and the blueprints that create them, and Holder explores the natural and biological within digital fields.**
The exhibition will be the third at the Austrian-based extension of the artist-run space, first founded in London, and it will comprise two distinct components. In the main gallery space will be Timofeev’s site-specific installation, which —like his earlier Proxyah series of exhibitions —will most likely evolve into different iterations in the future.
Timofeev’s practice spans across vinyls, zines, cassettes, self-published graphic books and has contributed to publications like The Limited Collection and B-Pigs Berlin. He is also currently showing work in the Jupiter Woods-organised Longshore Driftgroup exhibition in Helsinki that looks at geological processes and sediment transportation, project as a bridge.
In addition to Timofeev’s solo show there will also be a film installation featuring a collaborative video work by Georgie Nettell and Morag Keilshowing called ‘The Facism of Everyday Life’.
There is limited information given with Dunmore Caves, apart from a poster that the gallery have posted in the Facebook event, which outlines a conversation between Darth Vader and a canteen worker -as imagined in Eddie Izzard’s mind.
On February 20 at the opening event, Backes and Timofeev performed in the space and this coming Saturday 27, Hindi and Shanken will perform. It will be interesting to see how these artists, not all of whom necessarily have performance-based practices, will be brought together in live pairings and moments across the event.
“They said we’d perfected a second skin”, reads the press release written by Dylan Aiello for Emmy Skensved and Grégoire Blunt‘s 2nd Skin exhibition, which ran between June 25 to July 5 at 8eleven in Toronto. Aeillo writes as though taking a shower with a second skin. The steam and the water “bead off”‘ the “‘epidermal envelope” –it is self-cleaning: “self-regenerating” instead. The end of the words comes with a heavenly moment – thoughts in the shower –when the person with the second skin says they ‘never, ever’ expected to react so well to the anti-rejection drugs. Ahh.
The whole room is bright white, its atmosphere “2.22 μg/m³ nicotine and 0.71 μg/m³ caffeine”.
Skvensed and Blunt presented a digital animation work called ‘eStamina’ (2015), related to the February exhibition of the same name, andsurrounded by the aforementioned caffeine-infused fog and nicotine. You can barely make people out in the space from 8eleven’s Facebook photos, sat within the atmosphere: a mix that straight away floats into your head as something intensely addictive, although nicotine does also come in antidote form. The video is comprised of different chapters –like “Chapter Y: YAG LASER”–that go with subtitled texts from several writers and artists such as Bixy Knocks, Antoine Renard, Emma Siemens-Adolphe and Viktor Timofeev. One moment Knocks’ text describes, “a distant call to revert to a far earlier reptoid state”. The second skin is the skin we have now, and there is no antidote.
French artist, Clemence de La Tour du Pin made a new fragrance of rubber, metal and Red Bull (‘Untitled’, 2015). The little vials were held onto the walls and windows with see-through bath/shower rubber suckers. Visualise->Actualise made a work called ‘2nd Skin eBook’ (2015), a series of silicone and USB packaging pieces that line up along the wall, all their insides vacuum-packed up against their outside. **
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”.
Turf Projects opens up a massive exhibition exploring how artists network and market themselves with Business As Usual, running at the South London space from July 9 to July 30.
Looking at self-marketing, often thought to be a dirty practice in the art world and one at odds with the romantic vision of the “authentic” impoverished artist, Business As Usual invites one hundred of them to explore this “almost performatory element of their practices” in the second of a series of exhibitions traveling throughout the UK.
The final downloadable version of Viktor Timofeev‘sProxyah game will be ready to be played in your own home, released through the online exhibition space www.channelnormal.com, from May 12 to May 28.
Timofeev’s game was previously installed at Riga’s kim?Contemporary Art Centre while it’s second version was appeared at London’s Jupiter Woods (which we reviewed here). The third and final edition of the game was finalized during Timofeev’s artist residency at Vilnius’s Rupertthis April.
This game’s final iteration, built in Unity 4, contains an original soundtrack composed by recsund, as well as a text by Monika Lipšic, and a complete guide (PDF).
“You are in this three-dimensional room”, says the exhibition sheet of Viktor Timofeev’s Proxyah v2 running at London’s Jupiter Woods from January 9 to February 8. It’s the first line of some rather complicated instructions outlining how its user should navigate the unstable CGI setting of the ‘Proxyah v2’ (2015) video game, screening on the left of a two-channel installation in the far-left corner of the Bermondsey space. The blue darkened room gives off the aura of being underwater, the staircase to the right and the sheet of fabric blocking the back kitchen effects an eerie sense of the parasitic. It’s as though this highly complex contraption shouldn’t be there, but it is and it’s sucking the life out of a building that’s falling away around it.
The real infrastructure is on the screen, except that it’s a construction that’s equally as precarious. The sense of groundlessness is literal as the computer-generated water-level rises with every step inside the screen, those steps being complicated by the fact they’re being led by a joystick, shaped like an egg and nestled in a square of astroturf. It’s disorienting in the fact that the compass of the onscreen HUD (ie: heads-up display) changes depending on its colour and the alignment of the room. The ‘room’ itself is a thing made of animated walls, floor, a ceiling, that shift and change within a uniquely terraformed landscape generated by the user’s own movements – those movements being determined by the ever-changing space and the focus of its user. The user’s energy expenditure is constantly being counted.
I’m not going to try to explain the rules of ‘Proxyah v2’, but I also don’t think they’re exactly the point. Coded by computer science course drop-out Timofeev and inspired in part by his experience of an insurmountable set of directions determining the movements of Yvonne Rainer’s ‘Diagonal’ (1963), performed at Raven Row last year, I will say that there’s a powerful sense of helplessness that endures. As one tries to navigate their way through the codes, symbols and invisible systems of Proxyah, the multiple speakers scattered across the room and engulfing its user detect and announce your every move with a blast. A second screen shows an unsettlingly smooth (and silent) perspective of an autonomous object as it hovers above an ocean of stock sea water taken from the Unity game engine on which ‘Proxyah v2’ was built.
As a user, you’re likely to have combat flight on the mind, as one of two snakes of the aerial map – resembling a regular default phone setting Snake game – on the interactive screen is called “drone”, as opposed to the randomly moving “rogue”. The drone’s path is predetermined and the user’s ability to control this omniscient viewpoint is non-existent as it scans a sea engulfing the same white orbs of energy integral to the gameplay. The interactive screen of Proxyah feels like chaos in contrast to this vision of peace that sways lightly beside it, except it’s not you, the user, that controls it. **