Lawrence Lek

Golubka Fundraiser for Ukraine to take place at London’s HQI, with Lawrence Lek, Aircode, Ewa Awe, Xquisite Releases and more, May 14

4 May 2022

Golubka Fundraiser for Ukraine is taking place at HQI, London, on May 14, 2022.

With all proceeds going towards the organisations Biblioteka Kyiv, Livyj Bereh, Bridges Over Borders, and Come Back Alive, the event will raise funds through donated artworks, objects and fashion for sale. Participating contributors include Lawrence Lek, New Noveta, Bora Akinciturk, Claire Barrow, Daniel Swan, Xquisite Releases, Mainline RUS/Fr.CA/DE, Bog, and many more. DJ sets will run through evening featuring Aircode, Ewa Awe, Manuka Honey, Cold, LC, among others.

Golubka Fundraiser for Ukraine is taking place at HQI, London, on May 14, 2022.
Book tickets now via Resident Advisor.**

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Lawrence Lek for New Mystics: posthuman creativity & weirded climates in a new text collaboration between writer, artist & AI

22 September 2021

Launched with the Autumn equinox, New Mystics has released its final collaboratively authored artist texts, with a contribution from London based artist Lawrence Lek co-published today with AQNB. 

Lawrence Lek, Geomancer (2017). Video still. Image courtesy the artist + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Organized by artist and writer Alice Bucknell, New Mystics is a project investigating the practices of 12 artists that explore mysticism, ritual and their expression through technologies such as artificial intelligence. With writing made in collaborative processes between participating artists, Bucknell and the language AI software GPT-3, the project creates moments of magic, serendipity and weirdness, revealing the mystical cultural frameworks that underlie our thinking around technology. The final texts feature responses from GPT-3 — a language AI trained on information published on the internet — delineated in italics, yet resulting in a polyphonic blurring of the voices between artist, writer and AI.

This is the last in the series of texts AQNB has co-published with the experimental platform, with this month featuring Lek, whose Sinofuturist Trilogy of speculative fiction video works explore authenticity, AI, and future ecologies. Lek has shown work for Sadie Coles HQ, London, transmediale, Berlin, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York among others, and the artist discussed his cinematic universe last year for AQNB’s Artist Statement podcast

Also released today on the New Mystics platform are contributions from Zach Blas and Saya Woolfalk, with future and past texts including participating artists Jenna Sutela, Zadie Xa, Joey Holder, Lawrence Lek, Haroon Mirza, Tabita Rezaire, and more.**

Lawrence Lek, Sinofuturism 1839-2046 AD (2016). Installation view. Image courtesy the artist, Corsica Studios + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Read Lawrence Lek x New Mystics text below and see the New Mystics platform for more information.

Can artificial intelligence fall in love with a pop star? Why does everything have to be so sad and strange? That’s a real vulnerable thing — as a performer you’re pretending to be someone else, you’re not actually yourself, or at least not 100% of the time. It should be liberating to be able to do that. In a way, the Sinofuturist Trilogy is a sci-fi series about a Singaporean AI satellite, but it’s also about a lonely person falling in love with someone they can’t have – to me, that’s a pretty universal thing.

I’m also interested in the way love has changed in an era when almost everybody is connected and there are countless algorithms designed to stop people being lonely. Diva, the main character in AIDOL, is a forgotten pop star who wants to be remembered for her music rather than for her celebrity status, and another character in the film, the AI satellite, is also completely interested in being alone, but the two share a tender connection. It’s completely irrational, and that to me is what a good love story is. 

Lawrence Lek, Sinofuturism 1839-2046 AD (2016). Video still. Image courtesy the artist + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Lawrence Lek collages video and electronic music to build narrative environments that explore entanglements of pop idolatry and posthuman creativity, autonomy and artificial intelligence, and machine-human relationships within a weirded climate. These stories play out in parafictional worlds crisis-managed by fake corporations, where geopolitical strains and post-apocalyptic ecologies speak to both a past and near-future that’s rife with technological and existential conflict. With a background in architecture, Lek worlds at a macrocosmic scale, weaving together multiple temporalities, spaces, and cultures. Each iteration of Lek’s Sinofuturist TrilogySinofuturism (1839-2046 AD) (2016), Geomancer (2017), and AIDOL (2019) – overlays and exists inside of the others in a state of continual narrative ongoingness. 

Taking 2065 — the centenary of Singapore’s independence from Malaysia — as its anchor date, the series follows two main characters. First: Diva, a fading pop-star riding the ebbs and flows of fame, as she works towards an epic comeback performance for the 2065 eSports Olympics final — here an equivalent to the Superbowl halftime show, the most broadcast music event in the world. Then there’s Geo, an AI songwriter encased in the body of a weather satellite with dreams of becoming an artist. The two develop a conflicted working relationship in AIDOL — itself a portmanteau of AI and idol, and set to a 13-track album developed by Lek — in a bid to collaboratively recuperate Diva’s celebrity status. Hovering between extended music video and feature-length CGI sci-fi film, AIDOL transcends easy categorization. Within its dreamy rendered environment, Geo and Diva become foils to explore larger technological and existential questions in an era where the title of ‘creative genius’ no longer exists as an exclusively anthropocentric ideal, or on the atomized scale of the individual. 

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

“The trilogy is about the relationship between a nation-state, postcolonial independence, and the search for independence from the digital subject,” suggests Lek. “But it’s also about this whole idea of authorship or stardom, the connection between folk music and songwriters and electronic music and pop stars. Both kinds of music also offer a type of ritualized time: every new performance of the song is a kind of recapitulation, and a kind of intimacy, with the evolution of bedroom pop today. It’s probably the most successful kind of ritualized performance we have ever known because it’s so ingrained into our understanding of culture.” 

I don’t think they’re two different things, pop stars and artificial intelligence, pop music and magic. Pop music started as a fan-driven phenomenon, and pop-stars today exist through social media first and foremost. At a concert, people in the audience might be intimidated and nervous about approaching the musician, so sometimes they might want to have a protective shield or ritual for them to keep their distance. But if you’re close enough you’ll feel that the performer is more human than the medium they are creating. Maybe this is why pop music in particular provides so much emotional release. 

The idea of like intimacy, of ecstasy — um. I don’t want to overdo it. But to me, the idea of the lyric and the way the lyrics are delivered and the way they’re written in every level of the songs, in the vocal melody and also the way the singer is singing it, and whatever the song is doing musically, those kind of sensory details are very informed by intimacy.

Lawrence Lek, Geomancer (2017). Video still. Image courtesy the artist + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Lek’s near-future narrative unfurls around a battle of the Bios (short for ‘bio-supremacists’) who seek to ban AI productions from cultural domains, and Synths — the AI creatives in question. As the series migrates across Singapore and Malaysia, it stitches together geopolitical lines and (post)colonial conflict, enmeshed within and explored through the cultural status of the pop star. In this simultaneously ancient and ultra-futuristic world, the jungle — often fetishized as a site of pure nature, a utopia set apart from the commercial trappings of the city — here morphs into a tacky, neon-soaked, Vegas-like entertainment resort. (Inspired by Genting Highlands, a hilltop casino resort close to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, Lek’s speculative visions are never too far from what we already know).

Architectural spaces, because of their very nature, need to be calculated pretty rationally,” suggests Lek, “even if it’s a space for a spiritual awakening or ritual. But to me, the wild thing that happens inside game engines [like Unreal Engine] is that you can create these moments of intimacy, or beauty, or the sublime, whatever the word is, from all these rationally composed elements. If you can create actual moments of connection with these glitchy pixel renders on the screen, that are incredibly laborious and un-magical to work with, that crash and glitch and take up like 200gb on your hard drive, that’s magic to me.”

The word magic comes from the word magus, which means priest. It has this historical face of someone who does rituals, who communicates with some other realm and brings elements to the present. If we are talking about pop music, it’s maybe not magic in that way, but it happens again and again that pop music brings magic into our daily lives. It changes the way we feel for the better. 

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

I was just talking about this with Carol Lim about how kind of like not necessarily the individual performance of the songwriter, or even the lyrics they’re singing, but these moments where you have a crowd of people that know all the words to the song and they’re all singing together. To me that’s magic. 

Lek’s videos embrace a kind of postmodern storytelling where the game engine used in their creation is turned back on itself. AIDOL presents a game within a film — the Call of Beauty eSports Championship between the bios, here called Clan Ultra, and the Synths, called Clan Sino — and moderated by Farsight, to ensure a fair fight between humans and AI. Clan Sino, which has seen everything on the internet (and therefore, Lek’s Sinofuturism) develops a philosophical argument for the hive mind of AI. Completely disinterested by western myths of the individual genius or the outdated concept of originality, Clan Sino argues that copying is an equally valid form of intelligence. Within Sinofuturism (1839 – 2046 AD), the first installment of the trilogy, Lek draws a parallel between Chinese technological development, labor automation, and artificial intelligence. In Geomancer and AIDOL, this relationship becomes embedded within and told through the eyes of its more-than-human protagonists. 

Lawrence Lek, AIDOL 爱道 (2019). Installation view. Photo by Kristin Stoylen. Image courtesy the artist, Art Museum KUBE, Ålesund + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

When I first started this project, I was thinking about how everyone has these moments where they connect with their phone, they connect with their computer, they connect with whatever gadget, and they feel like the gadget is alive, that they’ve got a connection with the digital life. And I was thinking about how there are these various types of connections. There’s a romantic connection for sure, which is why we love our phones and hold them next to our head when we’re falling asleep and talk to them. But it’s also very much a maternal connection, like when your laptop crashes you feel like it’s sick or like you have to take care of it. But in the end I discovered that it’s kind of sterile to want to develop an AI, or to want to relate to an AI more than you want to relate to another human being. It’s kind of a pitfall.

Within The Sinofuturist Trilogy, the humanness of AI systems, and the artificiality of the popstar becomes an increasingly hazy border, eventually coagulating into a state of entanglement where making these distinctions is hardly worthwhile, or even relevant. In some instances, the intentions of the AI characters are more explicit and in line with how we already understand the algorithmic production of celebrities’ digital avatars: as AIDOL opens with Diva singing alone in the jungle, Thiel, Farsight’s drone-embodied producer, floats overhead and records her every move and wandering thoughts, as a kind of automated content creator. In others, not so much. Watching Geomancer, we learn the exuberant satellite has a penchant for betting – they crave the ecstasy of unknowability before the dice are rolled or the roulette wheel stops – contradicting the idea that AI knows everything already, anyway. 

Lawrence Lek, Sinofuturism 1839-2046 AD (2016). Video still. Image courtesy the artist + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

In Lek’s trilogy, AIs crave human feelings, and humans fall in love with AI-generated pop songs. Tweenage AI satellites and even nefarious corporate drones undergo character development, expressing transformative desires, longings, and dreams. Humans develop mechanized tendencies — perhaps epitomized in pop star lore, when a singer spends their whole career haunted by a hit single from their salad days. For Diva, that’s ‘Deep Blue Monday’ – conceived with Geo in Geomancer, its name a direct reference to Deep Blue, the computer chess player that beat a reigning human champion for the first time in 1997. 

Geo and Diva are constantly orbiting one another, each the other’s own satellite. This becomes more explicit in AIDOL when, in track seven, ‘Apocalypse’, Geo enters SoMA — the School of Machine Art — after hearing Diva practice her new song in the jungle. “I heard a voice singing outside,” confesses Geo, exasperated, as black and white pixels pulsate around her. “But the song was not in my database… I wanted to find the source but could not.” These inflections of emotional attachment in Lek’s videos, when synced up with Lek’s own score and the glitchy dream-world of Unreal Engine 4, create a kind of cosmic melancholia. In a particularly beautiful scene in AIDOL, Geo, hoisted aloft by four drones, passes Diva by chance on a cable car careening over the jungle in a star-stung night. They catch each others’ eyes on this post-apocalyptic piece of infrastructure built to manage Malaysia’s decade-long snowstorm in a post-apocalyptic climate. Though they don’t exchange words, there’s a moment of mutual recognition that transcends the boundary of human and machine feeling.

“Even though all the films in The Sinofuturist Trilogy are all completely synthetic constructs,” shares Lek, “Like, written by me as if I was an AI, rendered in a video game engine with two million pixels on a screen with sound and music, which is electronically generated, there’s not much human gesture there — but the work still hits some emotional high-notes. It makes you empathize with the characters.”

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

 I’ve been thinking about the word virtuoso, which used to be a muso who is both highly technical and highly creative. Now it seems to have gone back to its root, and refers to someone who is just highly technical. But my encounter with game engines contrasts all that. Unreal Engine is one of the most intimate machines I’ve ever worked with, in that it can simulate like really primal or fundamental systems in our being. It’s like a futuristic portal to a very fundamental way of knowing, that’s based on like a very old, much simpler iteration of ourselves. Like that’s the weirdest feeling of all to me.

Despite UE4’s impressive realtime graphics, it’s not a perfect simulation — no game engine is, yet (though UE5, to be released in full later this year, promises to blur the line between render and reality for good). In The Sinofuturist Trilogy, momentary glitches in the game world space and the grainy pixelated textures of a souped-up future city, pitch-perfect half-time performance, apocalyptic jungle, or a moody satellite floating down a river beneath a star-studded sky collide with Lek’s dreamy score to conjure something almost sublime. As a kind of shared ritual space, this glitched environment opens an affective register that paradoxically makes you feel more attached to these conflicted characters — both human and not — that are together woven into a world whose operating system extends far beyond their control. After all, it’s not so different from our own. 

Lawrence Lek, Geomancer (2017). Installation view. Photo by Anna Arca. Image courtesy the artist, Jerwood/FVU Awards + Sadie Coles HQ, London.

I made a project called Cloud-Seeder that was a video game. Everything in the game was made out of glitched pop imagery, with an audio track by Mac DeMarco. On the first day anyone could play it, I woke up and I had 40,000 games played, all in the span of about three hours. Someone in Norway beat the entire game in just a few minutes. I only made it available to a very small audience online. The game looks beautiful and kind of unsettling, and the audio and the game feel so connected to Mac DeMarco’s music. It was really interesting that people were connected with the work on this level that wasn’t a form of sharing and digesting the imagery from my work. The way I see it is pop work has a lot of texture that comprises a project. People are sleeping on the idea of texture in pop music — the textures of pop music.

What interests me about pop music is that it’s completely composed of a few elements that are masterfully layered together. But slowly over the course of an album, you have all these layers changing and the same three notes won’t sound the same toward the end of the album. They don’t exist in the same way anymore. I’m interested in pop music being a kind of ghost or writing the shadow of itself. 

New Mystics has released its final collaboratively authored artist texts, with a contribution from London based artist Lawrence Lek co-published with AQNB on September 22, 2021.

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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:

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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