Participating artists: Amalie Smith, Andreas Refsgaard, Diana Velasco, Ida Kvetny, Helene Nymann, Kristoffer Ørum, Louise Alenius & Uffe Isolotto.
Text by: Ida Schyum. For an extended version of the exhibition text, click here
Curated by: Radar Contemporary
Through an online group exhibition, the new artist-driven platform Radar Contemporary puts the Danish digital art scene under the microscope. Made even more relevant by the corona lockdown, the exhibition Extensions vol. 1 takes the measure of what happens when our lives and art get extended into the digital field. And precisely by focusing on technologies as extensions of ourselves, the artworks stage the ways we embody the digital.
Colliding the body with the digital
While the analog body is in quarantine during the corona crisis, we are searching for intimacy more than ever on digital platforms. However, as meeting up for an after-work beer on Skype can feel like drowning in a sea of pixels breathing desperately for intimacy, it becomes evident that we need art to investigate, expand, and critically question our digital platforms and interfaces. Just so, Amalie Smith's work Michanikos questions what sequelae will follow our digital paradigm, by mediating the history of how Greek divers lost the control of their bodies due to new technology. Michanikos literally means 'mechanical', and is the name of the Greek 'Sponge Diver Dance'. The dancer shakes as if he is suffering from decompression sickness, which sponge divers experienced when they were the first to use industrial diving suits in the mid-19th century. In Smith’s work we see the dancer Sophia Mage interpreting the dance while wearing a motion capture suit. By transferring her movements onto an animated diver standing on a virtual seabed, the diseases of the industrial revolution is compared with the ones of our contemporary technologies.
While Smith collides the movements of the dancer with animations on the screen, Kristoffer Ørum's work Vladimir´s Tongue breathes independent digital life into world-famous flesh. More specifically, Ørum distributes Putin's face online by adding it onto the viewers' bodies through their own webcam. However, as a digital rendering of Putin's body part, the face no longer seems like an extension of him. Instead, the face acts like an isolated entity similar to the function of orthodox religious icons. As Putin's face speaks of Russian identity in the viewer's place, the work gives a visual impression of how digital images today do not just document reality but instead form identity and power relations.
Tripping through the virtual
In motion capture technology lingo, the term drifting refers to when the limbs or the whole corpus is moving out of place, somewhat akin to the idea of tripping. In his video work The Drift, Uffe Isolotto thus compares the encounter of the digital with the experience of a psychedelic trip. Recorded with a motion capture suit and transmitted into a virtual universe, we follow a day-long mescaline trip from the ingestion of the juice through the various conditions of awareness it brings along. At first, we meet a naked écorché-like man, but as we sink deeper into the trip, characters with lesser skin and muscles appear until we are left with a meditating skeleton. The body plays the main role but is slowly losing itself into both the spiritual and virtual world.
A similar hallucinogenic vibe is imminent in Ida Kvetny's Virtual Reality work Lithodendrum. Dancing figurines and deep techno grottoes make up for all the closed adventure parks and shopping malls during the quarantine. Definitely, you could party in Kvetny's work for days, drifting away into a subconscious cosmography of Medusa-like avatars on saturated coral red cliffs with deep blue trees swaying in the wind. But Kvetny's reckless visual language and color fetichism make this escapist experience close to an overdose. Thus, the work ends up questioning the very nature of Virtual Reality: What kind of Disneyland are we immersing ourselves into?
Research has shown that access to endless information through the diffusion of technology is changing how our memory works. We forget information when it is too easily accessible on Internet search engines. In Selva of Selves (S.O.S), Helene Nymann presents other ways of remembering by introducing us to the sea-slug Aplysia Californica creating and storing memories through its nervous system. In fact, its neurons are the largest found in any species, which is why it has been a test-subject in neuro-scientific experiments proving the possibility of memory-transfer. Arriving deep inside its pulsating nervous system, her video opens our minds towards the notion of the slug's embodied knowledge.
While the digital impacts our mnemonic capacities, historical archives are also digitized affecting how we collectively remember the past. Together with a StyleGAN model, Andreas Refsgaard re-writes our history in the video work Aagaards Glasplader. A generative adversarial network (GAN) is a machine-learning system that can produce an image from a preexisting visual database. From this database, it intercepts patterns and information, after which it can demonstrate its own reverie of the world. Refsgaard has run portrait photos from the mid-19th century through the model, generating new portraits of a non-existing past accompanied by likewise generated historical biographies. It is just plain math, and yet this maneuver can be described as a symbiotic creative process between machine and human.
Turning the head inside out
Machine learning technology is also implied in music streaming platforms, using billions of people's inputs to create stereotypical categorizations of music to be mass consumed. In response to this development, composer Louise Alenius has created a scenography for ten études improvised by her. Taking back control of the musical experience, she has 3D scanned her own head and reproduced it into a tall wooden sculpture. As the inside of the head functions as a miniature concert hall for the études, the work brings about a radical imagination of alternative interfaces and music platforms. In the exhibition, we see a video with Alenius moving around the wooden head performing an étude for a listener, allowing both him and us to devote our undivided attention to the musical idea as it's blossoming inside the artist's head.
Like Alenius, Diana Velasco has 3D-scanned her face underlining the inside. But this time by displaying the scans inside out. Thereby, they become distorted and deliberately incomplete, turning the portrait upside down in a time when selfie filters flourish alongside perfected botox ideals on social media. The two 3D scans are printed on textiles, referring to how algorithms were developed from the punched card technique in weaving. Thus, the work insists that the digital is material and related to the history of women in opposition to the typical descriptions of the digital consisting of immaterial "clouds" programmed by men.
Bringing along new imaginaries
Nevertheless, the materiality of the digital is not just reducible to software and hardware, but is a massively distributed condition affecting our perceptual and bodily realities. The exhibited works enhance, enact, and bend our experiences and actions in relation to the digital constituting new realities. However, they do not just look critically at these new realities. The works also bring along new imaginaries, adding a potential post to the digital.
Radar Contemporary is an artist-driven exhibition platform focusing on contemporary artists working in the field of art and new tech. Radar Contemporary was founded by artists Ida Kvetny and Diana Velasco.
Press images can be downloaded here
For further information about the exhibition, please visit the website or contact Radar Contemporary at firstname.lastname@example.org and +45 26964993
The exhibition is kindly supported by: