The installation included a range of wall paint, sculpture, video and photography; an assortment of materials from snake venom paint, oyster mushrooms in shipping boxes to 3D printed polythene sculpture on washing machine and a Kirlian polaroid. Staging fabrications within conceptions of contemporary and ancient mysticism, the works brought together challenge the humanist experience and explore thresholds of self and other.
The works approach and seek to make poriferous, the limitations of ratio through the proposition of non-human subject positions — ‘natural’, technologically and digitally made, ancient and contemporary — produced in human, artistic practice.**
Abjects, a group exhibition at Berlin’s Import Projects, curated by Franziska Sophie Wildförster, brought together artists’ Eloïse Bonneviot,Emily Jones, Paul Kneale, Yuri Pattison andAndrew Norman Wilson,which ran from September 19 to October 25, 2015. Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject is summarised in the press release, acting as a foundation from which the works depart and expand on a contemporary experience of the vulnerable body. Shifting from a focus of disgust and revulsion at the raw corporeal materiality, the exhibition finds disturbance within the disparity between a disembodied, infinite connectedness of the immaterial and the opaque constraints produced by the digital economy. The works reflect on the hidden pathways that lurk under, above and in between a contemporary experience mediated within the age of technology and information.
The installation is clean and institutionalised. Pattison presents us with a makeshift desk made of steel shelving titled ‘productivity table’. Six Modafinil tablets (used for combatting fatigue and distraction) are laid out beside a Google prototype computer. The exposed aesthetic extends into ‘dust, scraper, fan .1-5′; a set of five rectangular acrylic boxes placed on the wall and floor of the gallery. Jones’ ‘The Draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq’ combines a picketing aesthetic with factual and instructional language within three separate sculptural assemblages. Sitting between a cenotaph and a memorial, a yellow sign that reads, “They were shouting and singing at the top of their lungs” is held up by bits of wood clumsily nailed together. Beside that lies another yellow sign quietly placed on the floor that announces, “The use of force may be necessary to protect life.”
Framed between the signs in the first room, Bonneviot’s tent sits in the doorway of the second. Titled ‘Thinking Like A Mountain—Limited’ the installation fills the small personal space with camping gear, energy bar wrappers, notes of paper and a laptop playing a video game. The recreation is unclear but the aesthetics combine the act of trekking, whether in camping, protesting or the passing of time in a ‘gaming hole’.
Also strongly focusing on material and its residue, Wilson’s ‘Global Mosquito City Proposal’ uses the hardware of a computer to create a sci-fi housing scenario. Two dolls are propped on top of each other in a sexual act. Computer parts, concrete, resin, oil paint, pepper, plastic, acrylic paint, foam and cotton are forced together into an abrasive dollhouse. Beside it, a proposition to Bill and Melinda Gates asks for a contribution of “their blood to malaria mosquito larvae that could potentially be nurtured in this computer-habitat to erase all human beings around the world.”
Outside the window, a bag of water hangs delicately. Titled ‘Insect Repellant’ it encases hydrochloric acid, liquified coins, and copper. In contrast to the sic-fi machine invested manifesto, Kneale’s ‘Aphasia Tags and Performative Empathy’ presents abstract images; the content barely recognisable. Light and hopeful, the images are layers of time made by using the ‘scan’ function of a printer, leaving the lid open. The mechanics replace the intent, and the painterly result is naturalistic in its use of space, daylight and floating particles.**
The talk by the US-based artist responsible for the Harun Farocki-inspired Workers Leaving the Googleplex (2009-2011) video essay, will follow current work around “organisms, mutation, and consciousness”.
Inspired by Julia Kristeva’s 1980 essay “Powers of the Horrors: An essay on Abjection”, the show explores her notion of the abject and its “psychic origins and mechanisms of revulsion and disgust” emerging out of a confrontation with death, with violence, with vulnerability of decay.
In the descriptor for the show, Varadi writes that he spoke with Norm (Andrew Norman Wilson’s nickname) who will do a set of his “lie down comedy” that has him telling jokes while lying down on the ground.
Varadi will join him for a reading of a new selection of poems, perhaps some of the ones listed from 2015 on his site, like ’86 Scripts’, ‘A Messy Trade’, ‘Steal Those Cuts’, ‘So Cosmopolitan’, or ‘Sling’.
The exhibition will run concurrently with Max Stocklosa’s permanent installation, ‘More World Material: Coyote’, seeking to reveal the “layers of disproportionality and invisibility that are made more complex through the use of technology”. In specific, the show concentrates on the use of drones and overhead surveillance: the hidden labour of fragmented technological production, as well as their ethical repercussions.
More so than a narrative presentation, Andrew Norman Wilson’s SONE at London’s Project Native Informant is an assemblage of protective materials, a critique and an actionable framework. It is also the title of the video and performance artist’s New York-based production company distributing its work through stock image sites Getty, Pond5 and iStock, as well as in the PNI space and New York’s Untitled Gallery. Dealing in methods of image appropriation and dissemination, the SONE exhibition presents the artist’s multifaceted practice while reveling in the ridiculous. Visitor’s are greeted with an engraved private aircraft windshield titled ‘Risk Prevention Investment Object 3’ and a series of other found objects and 3D video loops. The pieces, evenly spaced throughout the room and close to the floor despite their gaudy pink plinths, resemble an exalted scrapyard.
Presumably, SONE serves as protection against an onslaught of consumer culture. Most of the objects on show are forms of protective gear, across the aforementioned windshield, a paintball mask and a luxury automotive headlight protected by a glass casing. There’s the added emphasis beyond their intended use, while being presented on top of platforms made from anti-static packing foam embedded with rim cylinder locks. Once the works are purchased from the gallery, they are ‘unlocked’ and embedded directly into the foam packaging, much in the same way that a watermarked online stock image might be released from its milky white logo when ‘checking out’.
One of Wilson’s better known video works, ‘Workers Leaving the Googleplex’, adopted a journalistic approach to capitalist infrastructures. As a former employee at Google, the work examined and criticised the shady working conditions of underpaid labourers. The videos at SONE, however, are more open-ended forms of institutional critique. ‘Invisibility-cloaked hand gestures in offshore financial centre jungle’ (2014) narrates a business agreement gone awry through camouflaged handshakes and pseudo-sign-language pointing to the cryptic nature of non-descript offshore transactions. According to Wilson, the gesticulations are “professional-social, then coercive, then oratorical, then a nervous breakdown,” while apparent relief comes in the form of mindfulness meditation music (a practice Wilson explored before with his ‘Body Deselect’ mix) comes in the form of the ubiquitous simulated helicopter sounds filling the exhibition space.
A second video piece ‘Chase ATM emitting blue smoke, Bank of America ATM emitting red smoke, TD Bank ATM emitting green smoke’ (2014) features cash machines spitting out billows of smoke corresponding to the colours of the bank they belong to; indicating the confusion (or, literally, smokescreen) brought about by financial transactions. What is it we are really gettting from an ATM after all?
Aside form the objects and video installations scattered across the PNI floor, there’s a poster/edition of ‘Image Concept Proposals’ downloadable from the Project Native Informant website detailing a variety of instructive proposals for future images, leaving its viewer to realise their own equally absurd stock photos to rival the likes of SONE’s ‘Sobbing Drunk CEO’. Meanwhile sonics play a key role in not only evoking the futility of finding peace in the mechanised sounds of a helicopter rotor system, but in establishing the interrelatedness and ultimate nonsense of all the above elements via Wilson’s first love in music. Because, beyond the seemingly random ‘DJ Norm’ set list performed at the Lexington the night of the exhibition opening -including OMC’s ‘How Bizarre‘ -there’s a humour to SONE that might be lost among the banal products and sleek aesthetic of Wilson’s corporate critique. But on closer inspection, they reveal a complex set of signifiers essentially pointing to their inherent emptiness. **
“The unstable identity of the present begs for the return of power of the mask from ancient times, when it was used as a form of protection, disguise, performance, or just plain entertainment”, states curator and artist Bogomir Doringer in the catalogue for his newly opened exhibition Faceless II at the Freiraum Quartier21 International of MuseumsQuartier Wien.
The first of the exhibition series, Faceless I, was held with success last summer, working with the theme of ‘facelessness’ in a survey of the emergence of hiding, veiling or masking the face in art and fashion following 9/11. Faceless II continues with this theme in a more interactive way, where issues of the ubiquity of the internet, fame and identity are explored through lectures, performances and workshops in a group context featuring 45 artists.
Dividing the space across “digital masks”, “mirrors”, “icons” and “invisible people” the exhibition design is the first thing to arrest your attention. The wooden construction walls, which run through the exhibition, deliberately resemble a market hall or fair, with works displayed on both sides to include the large number of artworks. There’s one downside of what is otherwise an impressive design, an uneven dispersal of visibility to all artworks, some featured more prominently than others by virtue of said wooden construction.
From the outset, ‘masks’ are the most prominent. “Famous new media artist” Jeremy Bailey, generates digital masks for video chatting, while a workshop to follow, led by the artist himself, explores online survival with out “losing face”, at the same time as using it as a tool for resistance. On the opposite is a screen showing a fashion collection aimed to protect ones privacy. Adam Harvey’s ‘Stealth Wear’ (2013), made by the artist in collaboration with fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield, consists of burqa-like thermal image protective head wear made from a metallic fabric, and the ‘OFF Pocket’ phone container that blocks all outgoing and incoming phone signals. The poignant sound scape of William Basinski‘s video work, ‘Disintegration Loop 1.1’, shot on the evening of September 11, 2001, adds a more serious and dramatic outlook to the whole exhibition.
In the ‘invisible people’ category are works like Andrew Norman Wilson‘s installation ‘Workers Leaving the Googleplex’ (2010) tracking a personal account of discovering a fourth class of yellow-badge employees in the Google HQ hierarchy, who scan books for its digital library, when he himself worked for the major tech corporation. While Jill Magid‘s ‘Article 12/The Spy Project’ (2008), follows the commission and ultimate censorship of a work for the Netherlands secret service (AIVD). She was charged with “provid[ing] the AIVD with a human face” but after meeting agents and portraying them in her way, some of the final work was censored, even confiscated . That text-based work, both blocked and otherwise, are here to view, along with a red neon light threatening, “I Can Burn Your Face” -a reference to the phrase “to burn a face”, in terms of revealing a source’s identity.
An ongoing project by Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek exposes the invisible people of Paris with ‘Exactitudes’ (1994-), an ongoing project which collates photos of individuals from across social strata and presenting similarities in appearance and character. In this case it’s a series on the macho; men dressed in hoodies of varying shades of black to white -perhaps a reference to the recent Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida -with the implication being that everyone could find their ‘type’ in these images. That need to find one self is literally reflected in Mirko Lazovic‘s mirror-based work, fulfilling that desire and then demolishing it as the viewer bends over his sculptural work ‘Narciss’(2013). Here, they can see themselves but disfigured, becoming as invisible as the rest of the creatures of the Faceless II space. **
Featuring works by artists exploring labour, consumption and what propels them, works like Kevin Jerome Everson‘s ‘Quality Control’ observes the unremitting workload of workers in an Alabama dry-cleaning factory in real time, as well as a typically paradoxical commercial collusion by DIS with its ‘Watermarked I Kenzo Fall 2012’ commission for said fashion label’s menswear collection.
The work, created in the past five years, explores the influence and ubiquity of major tech corporations based in California’s Silicon Valley, from which the show draws its name. See the gallery for install images and read an interview with curator Lucy Chinen here.**