Following their 2014 run across seven European cities, including their November session at London’s ICA, and latest appearance with Life: Feminism at Stockholm’s Tensta konsthall in December, the Lunch Bytes discussion series is wrapping up with a booked-out conference in Berlin.
“If our bodies don’t end at the skin,” writes the press release, “but instead extend to and reconfigure themselves with the material environments they engage with, what kind of implications does this have for notions like representation, embodiment and gender?” Much like some of the other female-identified artists we’ve covered in the past, the conference begins with the body.
Moderated by Maria Lind, director Tensta konsthall, the conference invites artists Jesse Darling and Sofia Hultin, curator Rózsa Farkas, and editor and writer Elvia Wilk to discuss their work and how they “make use of, configure and create identities” through it. The discussion is also organised in conjunction with Hultin’s TK-comissioned project, ‘I Am Every Lesbian‘.
“I’m going for a deeply oceanic look today”, Holly Childs is reading from her upcoming book Danklands, to be published via Arcadia Missa on December 9. It’s an excerpt of what she calls, “a make-up tutorial that is also subliminally a climate change awareness campaign, or a self-defence for women pep talk”. It features a persona called ‘Augustine’ pointing at ephemeral hyperlinks from inside a computer screen, while recommending “slut shame” eye shadow or “urban decay & deathzone 4 Eva” liner to suit any lifestyle: “maybe you’re a scientist who’s just started dating again after a massive break up, or doing some whaling”. From here come the ideas of “dredging and resurfacing” that Childs actively explores in her work, a subject that is revisited in various forms across ideas and artistic practices expressed in conversation with several other writers and artists. They include Cally Spooner and David Jablonowski, as well as art historian Florian Cramer and panel moderator Elvia Wilk at Lunch Bytes exploring Life: Language. The film that should follow the ICA programme is being delayed as the last in the London editions of the Goethe-Institut‘s European series applies some interesting ideas to the computer generated future of communication via the internet.
“’Always scared amateur porn is going to turn out to be a snuff film”, Childs is quoting Australian artist Aurelia Guo in exploring the “rerouting of form” where a format meant to present one agenda exposes itself for harbouring another. Hence the post-presentation question time concerning Emoji and their relationship with the corporate interests of the companies that produce them – say, the myth of “John Appleseed” embedded in Apple’s tiny pictographs. It’s a technologised type of social interaction that started in emoticons and has since been colonised by corporate entities; Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! encoding them with their own ideologies. Spooner goes further with these “shared behaviours between labour and speech, and therefore politics” citing Hannah Arendt’s derailing of a political form of life through speech and actions in the “big musical collapse” of her ‘And You Were Wonderful, On Stage’ (2014) performance. It was inspired by the artist’s experiences working with an advertising agency in a campaign that would refill its employees’ real-life stories with a company’s brand and values, only to resell it to its staff.
“I was thinking about how people use Emoji when they’re sexting, like an eggplant is supposed to be a dick”, Childs deadpans about the subversive potential of recalibrating said characters’ intended corporate meaning via context. This is something Cramer also illustrates via the encoded language of early 4Chan image boards, where he draws parallels between the highly referential “visual linguistics” of 17th century allegorical art and something like ‘Y U NO?’ or the Anonymous meme-cum-hacktivist group-cum-global symbol of dissent. The latter’s famous Guy Fawkes mask signifier is, of course, an iconic image that draws from Alan Moore’s cult graphic novel, V for Vendetta – which in turn was inspired by the 16th century activist – resurfacing via a Japanese anime-inspired culture transfered to Western image boards and manifesting physically via the #occupy movement.
In his ‘Powerslave, Revolution Main (Signature Series)’ (2014), recently shown at BRANDS – CONCEPT/AFFECT/MODULARITY, David Jablonowski draws a link between political revolutions via his found object sculptural arrangement of Iron Maiden tour merchandise from 1984. The band are regarded as the first rock act to cross into the Eastern Bloc at the time, while the limited edition Vans shoes were discovered by the Netherlands-based artist during a visit to New York when the 2012 Arab Spring in Egypt had erupted.
That sort of layering of symbolic objects not only expresses a sort of density of information but also an emptying out of a self-contained object’s self-contained meaning, especially when presented in pairings as disparate as the plexiglass and lacquered bamboo boxes in Jablonowski’s ‘Alibaba (dot cn dot sa dot com)’ (2014) sculpture at To Satisfy Algorithms/ Still Life with Asparagus. It’s inspired by a Chinese-founded trade website (alibaba.com) with an Arabic reference that has no connection to the region’s history except for its global potential for brand recognition.
Illustrating language as highly coded and malleable to its context – whether corporate, political or personal (often all three) – it’s in a clash of cultures and concerns that makes contemporary communication and the Lunch Bytes Life: Language discussion such a dynamic one. Cramer references Heath Bunting’s 1998 “social sculpture” ‘_readme.html (Own, Be Owned or Remain Invisible)’, where an article written by the net artist for Wired magazine is entirely linked by words to a corresponding .com domain. Starting out with mostly dead links, in the almost two decades since, they’ve been almost entirely populated and commercialised – even the conjunctions like ‘at’, ‘and’ and ‘to’.
Meanwhile, Spooner’s ‘Damning Evidence Illicit Behaviour Seemingly Insurmountable Great Sadness Terminated In Any Manner’ (2014) opera takes its title from a public statement made by Nike after Lance Armstrong’s revelations of doping. The opera itself outsources its scores to comment threads reacting to public controversy like Beyonce’s lip-synced Obama inauguration performance (“if you can’t trust her, who can you trust?”). All this, while Cramer suggests, “a new kind of writing needs to be invented”. But when Childs shares her “cute and nice conversation” with a Microsoft Word spell check function via an error-box gesturing, “it didn’t have the exact language to convey what it was thinking or feeling”, I rather think it already has. **
The first of a two-part exhibition to culminate at London’s Evelyn Yard in January 2015, Paul Kneale‘s SEO and Co., running at tank.tv from October 13 to November 21, reclaims and reconstitutes the work of the speech-to-text transcription that’s applying Search Engine Optimisation to video. With the internet being essentially a text-based medium, the difficulties of uploading films online while making them accessible, or more appropriately, ‘rank-able’ by search engines means that Google and YouTube have developed a new approach to inscribing the ephemeral image through auto captioning software. That means some laughably off-point transcripts of recorded events to follow, including the highly theoretical Lunch Bytes Structures and Textures panel discussion in May this year – where Kneale spoke along with Ben Vickers, Wendy Chun and Boris Groys – only to be translated automatically into an absurd collation of phrases like, “nothing series your working, additional culture, %uh gutenberg!” and “sweetie what happened to you?”.
While the text doesn’t necessarily relate to content specifics, somehow it’s been interpreted into the right subject of art with a ‘Warhol’ dropping in from nowhere and leading nicely to becoming a piece of it (as in art) with Kneale’s resulting SEO and Co. exhibition. The artist transformed the transcript into a screenplay, split into four ‘scenes’ and read by five London-based creatives including himself, Harry Burke, Melika Ngombe Kolongo, Nina Cristante and Oscar Khan -as ‘FRAMER’, ‘INTERJECTOR’, ‘ELABORATOR’, ‘STUDENT’, ‘DISTURBER’ (not necessarily in that order). The performances were filmed inside and on the roof of Kneale’s current home and muse, the disused Rotherhithe Library (occassionally known as the Library + project space), before being projected on to parts pulled from the condemned building and reinstalled in the tank.tv downstairs space.
The result is various makeshift ‘screens’ made up of material crossing ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ space. A part of a flourescent light that undulates in the background of Kolongo’s reading on-screen is nailed to the back of the board where its showing. There’s a hole roughly cut through a perpendicular panel with a view to the metal framed tarp projecting an image of that same substance. Speakers playing the sound of the SEO mash-up hang in branded bags or the plastic that they came in. A microwave, brown from burnt CDs cooked inside it, is on the floor behind a suspended film of dazzling chameleon-coloured bubbles of polycarbonate plastic; their digital data lost with the melted material.
As was the SEO and Co. script, so too is said CD melting fetish directly inspired by nonsensical algorithmic associations. It’s from one of the recommendations following a viewing of the same YouTube upload of the Lynch Bytes #2 discussion video that inspired the screenplay. As an artist interested in the “rerouting and transference of meaning”, Kneale siezes on Harold Bloom’s idea of “poetic misprision” – where one wilfully misinterprets their inspiration in order to open up the imaginative space – and presents an exhibition that recognises the potential of technology’s ludicrous lack of intentionality in broadening our perspective. **
The ongoing Lunch Bytes Structures and Textures discussion series continues in Finland with The Status of the Object taking place at Helsinki’s Sinne on September 9, from 5 to 7pm.
Running as part of the European Edition discussion programme, The Status of the Object takes on hyper-interconnectivity and the buzz surrounding the “internet of things”, inviting four speakers from difference disciplines to discuss the repercussions of formerly (and formally) inanimate objects showing signs of agency.
Featuring talks with writer and artist Jenna Sutela, philosopher Marcus Steinweg, artist Cécile B. Evans, and media professor Lily Díaz, The Status of the Object uses Graham Harman’s “object-oriented ontology” as a starting point in its investigation of the inanimate object and our limited knowledge of its possibilities.
This segment of the discussion series focuses in on materiality in the digitised world and examines how living online has affected an artist’s understanding of substance. Featuring artists Dan Stockholm and Timur Si-Qin, as well as Berlin writer Ana Teixeira Pinto and Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts professor Mette Ramsgard Thomsen, the panel will be moderated by Copenhagen curator and critic Toke Lykkeberg and Lynch Bytes curator Melanie Bühler, in taking a close look at the digital tools used in contemporary art making, and how and why material and physical qualities are being replicated digitally.
Lunch Bytes presents an all-day event, titled Structures and Textures: Sound, at Helsinki’s Sinne on June 10.
Structures and Textures: Sound explores the changes to sound brought on by digitization, its increasing presence in the contemporary art world, and how these experimentations with sound are treated in art versus music.
Following up on the recent Medium: Formatat the space in March, Professors Wendy Chun and Boris Groys, as well as London-based artists Paul Kneale and Hannah Sawtell will examine how the invisible infrastructures of the digital world “compose and condition the platforms, devices and applications we use daily”, modifying our perception and engagement with information.
The next in a series of discussions across Europe as part of Lunch Bytes‘s European edition, the Structures and Textures: Data panel discussion is happening at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), May 9.
Previous topics included Medium: Photography in Amsterdam and Medium: Formatin London, while for anyone wondering what the current catch-all of ‘Big Data’ actually means, maybe this coming one can help elucidate.
As part of the European edition of Lunch Bytes discussions to happen across the region, Medium:Photography, is happening at Amsterdam’s Foam, March 30.
Following last week’s UK inauguration of the at London’s ICA with Inke Arns, Hito Steyerl, Huw Lemmey and Harry Sanderson, based around medium as format generally, the Amsterdam event gets more specific with its focus on photography.
In expanding its reach to a series currently being held at the ICA, and launched with last weekend’s Medium:Format talk event, the London to New York transplant is an apt bridge between these US and European editions.
An artist and writer behind Further Materials Towards the Theory of the Hot Babe, Black’s ‘My Bodies’ video translates via the sights and sounds of watery grottos and cavernous echo as pop RnB cut-up references to the body travel over a montage of white men’s mouths.
A karaoke instrumental of Ciara’s Body Party dominates, facilitating a poignant petition to pass through “this dead place” of “scrolling without end” to “keep hold of what it means to have hand eyes teeth”.
The first edition of Lunch Bytes, Medium:Format, is happening at London’s ICA on March 22.
One of of four annual public discussions led by Lunch Bytes‘ European edition and examining the repercussions of an increasingly ubiquitous digital world on artistic practices, the event will focus on how artistic output has been affected by changes to social and creative media and whether the distinctions between them are even relevant.