Oct 9th 2015 – Jan 31st 2016. Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
by Kahina Le Louvier
Towards the end of the exhibition, a man with white hair and a desperate look came to me and asked:
“So, you who are young, how do you understand all of this?”.
This man’s total despair in front of the installations The Island (KEN) and The Whet Bar seemed to prove that the curators achieved their goal: creating a hyper-contemporary exhibition that showcases the works of over thirty-five artists and collectives trained in the 2000s. Co-Workers - Network as Artist indeed is an exhibition made by and for a specific generation, the generation which grew up with the internet and the ceaseless connectivity of the digital world. The artworks’ display reflects this statement. To mount the show, the New York collective DIS took its inspiration from functional modern spaces through which one passes smoothly, such as the open space, the airport or the shopping centre. The room where the man’s incomprehension suddenly came out epitomises this aesthetic: big, bright and clean with, in its centre, a connected kitchen-bathroom and along its walls, rows of computers topped by a digital representation of connected toilets with smartphone-holder included. The central piece questions the relation between humans and objects in the era of the “internet of things”, when all the objects with which we interact will be connected and intelligent. The screens that surround it show videos by artists and researchers who examine the various questions tackled in the exhibition: individuality and connectivity, rematerialisation of the digital, biotechnosphere, ambient intelligence… The question therefore is: did the man’s frustration come from the fact that these topics are only relevant to the internet generation, or was this room just too unreadable? The goal of the Whet Bar indeed seems to be to offer visitors a way to push their reflection further. However, it is very instructive and comes late in the exhibition. Visitors might therefore not have the patience to give it their full attention when earlier, other pieces questioned these topics in a more “artistic” way.
For example, with FX Tridacna, Aude Pariset presents a very poetical interpretation of the opposition between the material and the immaterial. She first prints pictures found on the internet on huge pieces of photographic paper and asks the painter Juliette Bonneviot to intervene on them. Then, she plunges them into aquariums like wrecks under waters. What remains of these ruins when time passes and the images start decomposing? Only the organic, the stroke of painting. The digital picture has been erased forever.
The most hilarious work of the exhibition is Ryan Trecartin’s video series I-be Area in which he (indirectly) explores the concept of “extimity”. This term, initially coined by Lacan to define the relationship between analysts and analysed, is now used to characterise the way in which individuals put their intimacy on performance on the internet. He thus interprets a series of stereotypical and hysterical characters that remind us of many YouTube vloggers and delivers some priceless quotes (“Sometimes I feel like I am the prequel of a terrible person”).
The digital era might lead to the end of boundaries and antagonisms, real and virtual worlds contaminating each other until finally merging into a single one. Rachel Rose thus confronts the spectators to these redefinitions through a video in which she juxtaposes images of robots, humans and animals via a very sharp editing that highlights their resemblance. The result is as fascinating as it is uncanny.
This is only a small selection of a show that might suffer from its density. Visitors walk across the exhibition as they surf on the internet, going from a window to another without even realising it, picking up data, learning, liking or disliking, and eventually loosing themselves under the mass of information. They could continue surfing on and on but sooner or later, their attention fades. Once arrived in front of The Island (KEN) and The Whet Bar, we are already saturated with information and quickly jump between the thirty-five videos displayed on the screens. For a generation that is not used to this kind of navigation, the journey might indeed be confusing, and it surely would have been to the exhibition’s advantage to focus on one topic only, thus giving everybody time for a deeper reflection.
As for me, my only deception came from the fact that, after reading the title, I was expecting a focus on collaborative arts, generated by online and offline communities, while very few works were actually the product of “the network as artist”. Yet, this is overall a rich and fascinating exhibition that shows us how young artists understand the present and predict the future with an exaltation that manage to be critical without falling into the dystopia.
Guest artists : Sarah Abu Abdallah & Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Aids-3D, Ed Atkins, Trisha Baga, Darja Bajagić, Douglas Coupland, DIS, David Douard, Cécile B.Evans, Valia Fetisov, GCC, Parker Ito, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Clémence de La Tour du Pin & Dorota Gaweda & Egle Kulbokaite, Shawn Maximo, Nøne Futbol Club, Aude Pariset & Juliette Bonneviot, Pin-Up, Bunny Rogers, Rachel Rose, Bogosi Sekhukhuni & Tabita Rezaire, Ryan Trecartin, Timur Si-Qin, Jasper Spicero.
With the participation for The Whet Bar space of : AUJIK, Josh Bitelli, Brace Brace, Ian Cheng, Cuss Group, Future Brown, Max Hawkins, Saemundur Thor Helgason, Nicholas Korody, K-Rizz, Oliver Laric, Mark Leckey, Daniel Steeegmann Mangrané, Felix Melia, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Wyattt Niehaus, Yuri Pattison, Puppies Puppies, Fatima al Qadiri, Monira al Qadiri, Jon Rafman, Celebrite Seaborn, Emily Segal, Shanzhai Biennial, Fred Spencer, Hito Steyerl, Telfar, Amalia Ulman, Juani VN, Santiago Villanueva & Mariela Scafati, Andrew Norman Wilson, Yemenwed, Zou Zaho…
Exhibition curators :
Angeline Scherf, Toke Lykkeberg, Jessica Castex
Mise en scène : DIS
Participation 89plus : Simon Castets, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Julie Boukobza, Katherine Dionysiu
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, From 9 October 2015 to 31 January 2016
More images: The professional photographer, Pierre Antoine made beautiful pictures of the exhibition.
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