UBERMORGEN, Perpetrator i (2008) detail. Pigment Print on Paper, 220 x 146 cm.
Edward Snowden, MMO gamming sweatshops in China, torture as participatory art, madness, and the troubled life of a Guantanamo Bay prison guard. The diverse research-based practice of Swiss-Austro-American duo UBERMORGEN makes a sustained assault on the notion that individual autonomy, liberty, privacy, and agency remain intact in advanced capitalist societies. Birthed in the mid-'90s heyday of highly politicized net.art, their project shatters the myth that democratic freedoms are being facilitated or enhanced by modern network technologies. Userunfriendly is Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx's first major solo exhibition in the UK as UBERMORGEN. Ambitious and impeccably installed, the duo has assembled a collection of shocks and reveals: projects that expose the surreptitious methods of coercion, and the subtle mechanisms of control prevalent in institutions of authority, from hospitals to supermax prisons.
Jeremy Bailey will participate in Rhizome's Seven On Seven Conference on Saturday, April 20th, paired with technologist Julie Uhrman. A new project by Bailey, Famous New Media Art Patent Office, also went live today as part of the New Museum's First Look online exhibition series.
Anyone with a passing interest in the current status of the Internet and World Wide Web will have noticed a curious thing: the tide of popular opinion is changing, and net-skepticism is on the rise.
Chimera Q.T.E at London’s Cell Project Space draws its curatorial theme from a collagist interpretation of the Internet – a view that sees the web as a collection of orphaned, mashed and re-mashed digital fragments, or a kind of infinite patchwork quilt. For inspiration and the exhibition title, London based curator Attilia Fattori Franchini nudged aside contemporary similes to pull a monster from Greek mythology. The chimera, like that other Grecian mashup the griffin, is a beast composed of several animals, and both its status as an organic mishmash, and the common use of its name to denote fanciful pipe dreams, provided Franchini with a comparative reference for what the web is like.
Luckily the beast’s double status as a hybrid creature and linguistic unit is also a useful tool for interpreting the show. For while the fragmented web model (i.e. the body of the beast) is popular and necessary for those who see contemporary artists as nomadic remixers and postproducers (see Mark Amerika’s recent remixthebook), it is an idea built on fragile conceptual foundations that tumble down beyond the aggregated world of Tumblr and BuzzFeed. Hence the idea that today’s artists are cut-and-pasting their way towards a liberatory new praxis could be mere chimera. What Chimera Q.T.E captures then is not a mediation of the Internet as it is – because nobody really knows. It captures an aesthetic sensibility informed by the fragmented web model and its proposed utopic possibilities. When formalised this sensibility, shared by the eight international artists on display, becomes a hybrid mix of lurid color palettes, errant geometry, and vivid, startlingly flat, digital precision. What the viewer sees in each work is essentially a dispatch from an abstract digital territory, an ambient landscape of the hyperreal.
Chimera Q ...
When visionary engineer J.C.R Licklider published Man-Computer Symbiosis in 1960 — a paper outlining how man’s intellectual productivity can, and should be significantly increased when partnered with a computer — the creative problems of contemporary artists were perhaps furthest from his mind. But during the 1960s, a digital fever struck the art world. Large numbers of enthused European and North American artists, curators, and theorists focussed their attention on the creative potential of computing. Software, systems, and concepts were tried and tested, and a decade’s worth of activity culminated in two landmark exhibitions: Jasia Reichardt’s Cybernetic Serendipity at London’s ICA and Jack Burnham's Software: Information Technology at New York’s Jewish Museum.
Two artists with retrospectives currently showing in the UK caught that initial wave of innovation: German born and New York-based Manfred Mohr, and British born, and still UK-based Ernest Edmonds.
Originally a painter with Constructivist sympathies, Edmonds turned to computer-aided algorithmic painting in 1968. Light Logic, his career-long retrospective at Site Gallery Sheffield, UK, combined early ‘70s works and original punch cards with a new motion sensitive installation and later video pieces. Edmonds’ essential project is an investigation into the variant formal possibilities of a two-dimensional square. In each work the internal bounds of that shape are divided into sectors made visible by the distribution of colour, or the placement of a line. This is a process facilitated by programs designed to filter through combinatorial permutations, defined by Edmonds, until a suitable variation is found and then rendered by hand. A collection of numbered ink drawings from 1974 and 1975 capture the result of this procedure in the exhibition’s only monochrome (black and white) works.
Shaping Forms, Ernest Edmonds, 2007
The late ‘80s saw Edmonds move from canvas and paper to video ...
Constant Screen (2012) limited edition poster to accompany 'Constant Screen' video installation
Much has been made of our networked present’s utopic possibilities, but it feels like a wave of anxiety and skepticism is emerging to counter the web optimism of individuals like Clay Shirkey. Is it right to read your work as an investigation into how usage of the Internet may not be altering how we think, feel, and interact for the better?
At the heart of my practice there is tension between fascination and wariness with new technologies, specifically the meshing of mobile telecommunications devices and the Internet. It is not an ambivalent position but it is conflicted. So yes - in part.
On the one hand I am intensely excited by the simultaneous nature of display, consumption and production that these interfaces encourage. I also understand the conditions of the digital (binary code that can be endlessly replicated) as fundamentally supporting information overload and excess, but see so many possibilities in embracing the torrent of information rather than attempting to oppose it.
At exactly the same time, I am wary and perhaps even frightened at moments. I can be a bit of a conspiracy theorist and as Internet space becomes ever-more commodified and our online lives are increasingly channeled through multi-national companies I do worry. I don’t, for example, like the feeling of being locatable through the GPS facility on my phone. I am a bit of a McLuhanite (I keep returning to, and re-turning ‘the Gutenberg Galaxy’) and when he states “any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment”, my response is to question what type of human environment is now being created and what type of human? Are these rapidly mutating environments ones that are conducive to human beings – or at least the human ...