May you live in interesting times. The 58th edition of the Venice Biennale curated by Ralph Rugoff is an autobiographical introspection into the globalized account of what the man is in the age of the internet. Through many different media’s we are seeing a shift in the way in which these living artists are tackling very serious social, political and metaphysical issues.
The hyper-real disenchantment with capitalist culture has become part o everyday fabric. We have invested machines with our ultimate desires- the desire to be efficient, attractive, and connected as possible. These conditions have developed rapidly altering the way human relationships are brokered, the manner in which global conflict is reported, and the way culture is produced and distributed. Much representation of the human relationship with technology in literature and cinema has tended to focus on the dystopian effects of hardware as opposed to software- the intangible sphere where so much of our lives have become increasingly mediated. The manner in which individuals populate, surf, negotiate and share the contents of the web’s endless stream of information has radically changed over the last decade. The turning point arguably occurred during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the rise of a pluralistic reporting culture. This subsequently transferred over to social media, leading to a much more confessional culture. The rise of the superego soon followed across different forms of networked culture. We have now become narcissistic ego sharing, intertwining, interlacing, and interfacing. The canon of art and art making is being reimagined in this free-flowing zone of constant renegotiation. The approach is innovative and notable of its attempt to at least lean towards an audience led ethos. We are in the midst of a single, all-encompassing culture which uniformly captures all cultural dividends. It has become ahistorical, post-critical and this has brought the viewership to change. Everything becomes about creating hype and momentum, divergent nomenclature to describe the same condition, and creating decontextualized intensities of meaning where there is none within the attention-competitive nature of hyper-mediation. So much of our thinking becomes caught up in trying to sort out the ‘now’ from the ‘then’. The result is an emphasis on differences from what’s come before, rather than similarities; on disjunctions over continuous developments. The market is always demanding more ‘content’ for its ever-expanding platforms, pushing technology in new directions under the imperative that everything that is logically possible to develop and the new aesthetic is not superficial. it is concerned with beauty or surface texture. It is deeply engaged with the politics and politicization of networked technology, the new aesthetic articulates the deep coherence and multiplicity of connections and influences of the network itself. Everyday individual the restless desire to surmount a holistic picture of art history becomes pressurizing when one can explicitly see the multitudes of creative practices that exist outside of institutional confines, albeit virtually. with the increased flow of instant information and with choices escalating, it came overwhelmingly; our patience for synthesizing information becomes reduce.
“When applied to body parts, basie compositional exercises, like up vs. down or in vs. out come off as cruelly toungue-in-cheek. These sample organizing gestures canot help but remind viewers of the actual morphology of the body- and of their living bodies in particular. Everyone knows how the body is organized and how many of each part he or she has; this is given and is never thought about. To become aware of these particulars, one must imagine oneself unwhole, cut into parts- deformed or dead” – Mike Kelly, Playing with dead things: On the Uncanny’ 1993
Tavares Strachan brings back to life the story of Robert Henry Lawrence jr, an astronaut that died while training on the moon as he was expelled from the back back seat horizontally. The artist, in collaboration with Space X was carrying out some research about the first African American to go to space and was surprised to find that the case was never exposed and remained unknown to the general public. This artwork tackles the issues related to our system of knowledge exposing the misrepresentation of truth and visibility. The neon installation represents the fluctuating skeleton of the astronaut that will forever be suspended in space.
This video installation reflects on the interaction between beliefs, the natural environment, and technological development. While military content is being shown, adjacent screens feature a performance artist dancing and evoking the Nāga, the guardian water snake of Thai Buddhism.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s installations involve the staging of visceral, intimidating spectacles. The act of looking on the part of the audience is a constructive element of their recent works. Like an exhibit in a history museum, Dear presents a white silicon chair behind a Plexiglas barrier; the object is loosely based on the imperial Roman chair featured as a component of the statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s installation, the chair is kept company by the rubber hose that violently whips around the surrounding space in response to blasts of highly pressurized air. In between these periodic eruptions of violence, the chair sits inert again, almost invitingly serene- until the assault recommences.
Data Verse 1, a large scale high-definition video projection, immerses the visitors in an ocean of aural and visual data. Utilizing massive scientific sets of data from such institutions as CERN, NASA, and The Human Genome Project, Ikeda has developed mathematical compositions to process and re- articulate these raw materials into digital “verses” that explore representations of space ranging from elementary particles to the infinite reaches of the universe. Accompanying the projection with a minimalist electronic soundtrack, he conjures an aesthetic and auditory sublime, allowing us to grasp the contours of the vast sum of matter and information that populates our environs as well as the human brain itself.
Liu Wei’s 2018 large-scale installations evoke the formality and splendor of modernist stage sets, filled with geometric shapes. Here the artist has fashioned an assortment of outsized curved forms and spheres out of highly polished aluminum pates- intended to involve magnified and glossy versions of molecules, elements, protons, and other microscopic particles. Liu Wei’s fictionalized portrait of the microscopic sphere is seductive and dramatic. It dwarfs the spectator and reminds us that the invisible is part of the order of a universe endless in its scope. The sense of awe-inspired distance is emphasized by the fact that we cannot enter the space, only view it through a giant window, as if looking at an exhibit in an oversized museum vitrine.
Aubale V is a tower based on the mental construction of Utopia. The artist, daughter of left-wing activists during South Korea’s military dictatorship collects debris from the border between North and South Korea in a way bringing the divided realities together. The led lights refer to earth’s axial tilt, the artist portrays the catastrophic climate upheaval with a tone of positivity.
Known within the Buddhist world as Dzongsar Jamyang Kyense Rinpoche, Kyentse Norbu is a Tibetan/Bhutanese lama, respected for his teaching and writing. As an artist and filmmaker, his work suggests that understanding and interpretation are always open to change. His photographs were shot around the city of Kathmandu in Nepal during the production of Norbu’s recently completed feature film Looking for a lady with fangs and a mustache. Elements of ritual and devotional practice and jumbled inseparably with elements of the global modern. This city is a space in which handmade textiles flutter in the breeze in front of decorative wooden shutters, and musicians practice according to centuries-old traditions; it’s also a space in which monks wear mirrored shades and carry camera phones and nightlife unfolds under the red glow of club signs.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster takes inspiration from the world of speculative fiction as a tool for imagining different futures, pasts, and presents, and she is drawn to notions of escape. Her environments explore how we conceive of and represent different species of spaces- from memory to the universe. Here, in her first work using virtual reality, she invites viewers into trans-like meditative encounters with 3d images and sounds conjuring novel forms of life or extra-terrestrial environments. Visitors are seated in a theatrical environment as if performing for other members of the audience while they immerse themselves in and escape to a series of otherworldly environments.
Avery Singer uses SketchUp, a 3D modeling software popular with architects and engineers, to create digital compositions that are then projected and airbrushed on canvas. Singer abbreviates facial features until they almost become renderings while preserving and even strengthening their discernable emotional expression. “Everything is constructed with the most basic building blocks of recognisability”, she has noted. “A brow line can be represented by a single rectangle, or breasts by an absurd asymmetrical extrusion from the body.” Singer’s approach to making ‘portraits’ also battles against reductive assumptions about gender. By depicting gender-neutral visages and non-sexualized body shapes in the form of lines, grids, and geometrical forms, the artist highlights the ambiguity of identity.
Jon Rafman invites us to reflect on the future of our world through an ironical portrayal of modern life in a bizarrely mesmerizing ammer. The artist has flung open the doors of the art world to a new kind of media art: the virtual world. The video is realized with a 3D software and narrated the absurd in its constant expansion. It is a journey through the dark technological road that is populated by peculiar hybrid creatures. The project is about the joy of exploring the endless possibilities of distant or virtual worlds created or enabled by the internet. The work invites us to reflect on our personal notions of reality and how they are being changed.
Ian Cheng uses techniques from computer programming to create living environments defined by their abilities to evolve. Cheng’s most recent creature BOB (Bag of Beliefs) (2018-2019), is a form of artificial intelligence whose personality and body are continually growing. BOB’s behavioral patterns and life script are fuelled by interactions with humans, who are able to influence BOB’s actions via an app. As in classic comics, the conflict between “angelic” and “demonic” selves generate new chapters of its story. Cheng considers stories our “emotional scaffolding” for making meaning out of an otherwise meaningless reality. Through the comic Life After BOB: First Tract, presented as a series of light boxes and a black and white fanzine, Cheng provides us with this sense of meaning while we “hang out with BOB”.
In this is the future a woman sets out to find a garden that she had to hide in the future in order to protect it. Through a system of elevated walkways that emulate those installed in Venice when it floods, we can walk among the digital flowers that bud, blossom, and wither-yet never come into existence. They cannot. The garden is lost in the future because the future is not written. If Hito Steryl’s question is whether artificial intelligence can predict the future, the answer is clear: no. It can only reverberate likely outcomes of the expectable. At a time when people marvel at the first “artworks” produced by AI and the art market legitimates their status, Steyerl questions about the role AI will play in our lives.
Global agreement presents a series of video interviews that Neil Beloufa conducted via Skype with young soldiers from different countries. He conducted “casting” for the work by wandering social media, a platform for self-staging and visual storytelling. In order to watch the videos, visitors sit on structures reminiscent of gym equipment, which are uncomfortable and restrict our movements- a situation intensified by the fact that Beloufa has altered the images to that the faces of the young soldiers are only visible if we sit directly before a screen. Meanwhile, the space has been configured so that we can observe everyone else observing others. Subverting the lure of the photogenic that drives social media, Beloufa invites us to reflect on how we use the systems of self-representation and to look askance to our customary images of our military forces.