Signs O’ the Times:
“The Sigularity : prepare to be unprepared …
“… In technology, things get faster. It’s called hyper-exponential acceleration and it has profound implications. Soon, there will be a concatenation of globalization, biotech, climate change, AI, robotics, discovery of life elsewhere, nuclear fusion, maglev trains and carbon nanotubes, all technologically enabled. The hyper-exponential curve that we’ve been riding is going vertical. More change will happen in the next generation’s first years than in all of human history including the Stone Age.
The speed of history is tied to the pace of innovation, so society has a problem. No-one is going to be able to to keep up with their own history or with the succession of technologies. Science fiction writers won’t be able to imagine the future fast enough to stay ahead of it.
The point in time when the rate of change exceeds our collective ability to deal with it is named after the bit of a black hole where nothing makes sense anymore; the Singularity.”
– Alexander Cartwright, p. 7 in Garageland magazine, issue 10.
Published by Transition Editions. www.transitiongallery.co.uk
Paul Virilio: The Futurism of the Instant – Stop-Eject
“Actually, what we are now seeing, as the third millennium gets under way, is the emergence of an absolutely unknown form of ex-territorialization of human potential that is soon likely to rule out all possibility of any kind of urban potential. This will lead to a new form of eccentricity, whereby the quest for an exoplanet, an ultraworld, as a replacement for the old one, now too polluted, will double up … and the revolution in transmission will land us in the interactive planisphere that will, they say, be capable of supplementing the overly cramped biosphere and its five continents. It will do this thanks to the feats in information technology of a virtual continent, the great colony of cyberspace taking over from the empires of yore.
… Emergency exit: If the major event for anthropologists of the moment is demographic growth over the past century or so – from one and a half billion individuals in 1900 to six billion in the year 2000 – when this is coupled with the boom in instantaneous transmission and supersonic transport, the result will be one billion displaced persons tomorrow, deportees everywhere you look. We’ll need to somehow rehouse these people and we’ll need to do so in less than half a century. …”
– Quote from p. 6-7 in the English edition, Polity Press 2010
“Art in an Age of Complexity…
“We have never been more fully able to describe the world, yet its foundations have never been less certain. Reality is revealed as multiple, polyvalent and contingent; we view our age through a prism of complexity. …”
– Damian Griffiths, p.19 in Garageland magazine, issue 10.
Published by Transition Editions. www.transitiongallery.co.uk
A selection of artist texts for In Case We Don’t Die :
(English. Lives and works in London)
Alex Hudson is a young British painter whose practice was developed at a time when he and his contemporary students were grappling to process momentous events occurring in the world around them. Growing out of seminal works that Hudson made from photographs of the ‘ground zero’ site in the aftermath of the World Trade Center’s destruction, he sought to make a concerted effort to approach the subject matter in a way that was neither naïve nor ironic. The work -and the subsequent body of works he has been producing since then- uses the language of quasi-representational painting of the last three decades. Yet, dark and brooding as they may be, there is something else going on within them. Any impression of ‘the gothic’ soon reveals itself to be somewhat misplaced. For, Hudson’s works attempt to engage with the contemporary psychological and spiritual landscape with a certain optimism; a desire to cast off skepticism and cynicism in the hope that some epiphany beyond mundane humanity might occur.
Using imagery that is uncannily similar to other movements in which the need for a new hope was essential – from British modernism in the Post World War II period to German visionary architectural drawings immediately following the apocalypse of the First World War- Hudson’s works similarly appropriate an almost religious vernacular as churches appear or things that don’t really look like churches are equated with altars. Cynicism is cast off as the dark and depressive atmospheres that abound simultaneously offer painted light sources that might indicate some form of renewal or rebirth. At a time when it is far cooler to be pessimistic, cynical or, at the very least, to sit on the fence when any question of human destiny arises, Hudson is producing work that steadfastly indicates a desire -perhaps even a need- to believe in some possibility of hope or redemption. Like Bauhaus architects envisioning a new world that needed building in the aftermath of societal and psychological destruction, there is a certain fragility or perhaps even illogical denial in the visions that are offered up.
Alex Hudson Artist text
An excerpt from: River Crossing, bark comes off in pieces. By Ralph Dorey 2010
In the film Signs of Life by Werner Herzog, life is dissolved and allowed to settle in strata. Three German soldiers and the local woman whom one of them marries attempt to divert themselves while on assignment guarding a fortress in occupied Crete. The building is not so much in ruins as in a cyclical act of ruin. The walls are worn with age but have been shorn up with parts of statues. The captured munitions the men guard are useless for their German equipment but are readily fashioned into fireworks. The men lose their training and readiness to the sun and boredom, but gain something else through translating the engraved stones that make up the fortifications and through their relationship with the local people, the animals, the landscape.
The men are caretakers of this space, and like layers of sediment they settle into a relationship with it that is at once discrete and complimentary.
In these paintings, in both the depth of image and language and the breadth of form and paint, space is in the act of cyclical ruin and of renewal. Lines are described that are not simply bathed in shadow or cut with light but are corporeally dissolved by these. Hudson’s depicted bays and glens and hollows are sites of absence themselves (this is geography defined by that which is not present), but in each form that exists as both spar and branch, there is a near catastrophic sucking of volume. These lines are failing, the paint is failing. A failing line meets a falling form. Paint and image prop one another up.
MONOCHROME II: Oily light like the dawn blue or rural starlight, this is also something we recognise. The thickened sepia of the darker paintings is the palette of eyes straining to the point of a breaking down of comprehension, it is skylighted trees and the bumping flexing proto-forms in our peripheral vision that are the only alternative to the simple void that is directly in front.
“Outro”, 2010, 35 x 45 cm, Oil on linen.
“Switcher”, 2010, 35 x 45 cm, Oil on linen.
(English. Lives and works in London)
‘…we need a different type of illusionist to recreate the emptiness where the pure event of form can take place’ – Baudrillard
The apocalypse foretold in IN CASE WE DON’T DIE is a blessing. It pre-constructs Baudrillard’s necessary void, creating the conditions where possibilities of newness can begin to be tested. What once was perceived as post-modern complexity is now revealed instead, as a cancellation and painting can begin again, without the shackles of modernist preconception and expectation. Finally, the failure of painting is matched by the breakdown of society and painting is free…
Bradford’s first proposal for IN CASE WE DON’T DIE involved the reworking of a large-scale painting on paper in response to its new situation in Berlin, and later Copenhagen, thus embodying recent experiments in the area of failure, context and aesthetics. The painting, no longer a didactic and static whole, is nothing but a marker; a constant in a time-space experiment.
Notorious for his paint ‘dipping’ process, Shane Bradford’s practice encompasses large-scale oil painting, 3 dimensional objects and project work. A challenging balance of socio-political narrative and creative wanderlust underpins an intrinsic humour in the work.
“Cold Fire”, dipped object, mix media, 2010.
On the recent work of Theis Wendt
By Carl Martin Faurby
Theis Wendt reminds me of an entomologist, but contrary to the insect catcher’s expeditions to distant regions, Wendt installs his nets among people. He sets them up in the densest areas where we behave strangely alike and the spaces we build are visible only in our mind’s eye.
The frozen Now
Wendt’s digital prints don’t reveal what we don’t know, but the already known is shown from impossible angles. Furthermore the images in his works are not just reflections – they seem to turn the spaces we inhabit, inside out. In Frozen Reflection (2011) he photographed the facade window’s reflection and installed the picture, inside the space in a 1:1 scale, hovering between the floor and ceiling. The work was created for NLH Space, a project space that remains locked, and therefore always seen through the large facade window facing the sidewalk. Instead of looking through the window you both look through and at the reflection and the “Now” that the reflection constitutes. The moment of viewing is divided into layers of time, in several “Nows”, that both contain and exclude one’s own presence.
The “Now” is the temporality of contemporaneity with its subjective feedback and closed historical loops. Jan Verwoert calls this “the contemporary hell” and it’s the returns from this hell, that stick to the surfaces of Wendts installations.
When the image disappeared
My story about the recent works of Theis Wendt begins around 2010, where he’s staring at his pictures to the point where his own reflection, the wooden frame and all that constitutes the image for the gaze becomes apparent. If you ask the old timers in Copenhagen, they’ll still say that Theis Wendt makes drawings – fantastic drawings, but with time the drawings have disappeared from his practice. The drawings that grew out of a sense of discharge and overload – chaos and hell fire – have evaporated. First the motif, then the paper, then the transparency of the glass fell victim to his investigations. In Among the Hallucinations of Delirium Tremens (2010) at the bar Byens Kro, the drawings were completely gone. What remained was only scratched plates of glass, like echoes from the picture frame’s autonomy. The glass plates were placed on the walls all around the room, but with increasingly scratched surfaces. The deeper one moved into the space, the more the reflection would disappear.
Gallery Christopher Egelund, Copenhagen shortly after. Gray Trampled Grass. Grey Snow (2011): The gallery’s front room is encompassed by glass plates, their scratched lower parts creating a horizon on the black gallery walls. The ghostlike reflection obtains an eerie materiality because of the scratches that both removes and attracts attention to the reflection. Moving into the gallery’s back room one’s reflection acquires a body through the bodies of others printed onto wall sized transparent prints hung from the ceiling. The prints show photographs from the Copenhagen climate fiasco COP 152, where nothing was decided and more than 100.000 demonstrated without tangible effect. There you are, feeling strangely claustrophobic after the frame’s scratched horizon. You look at the demonstrating bodies, whose political slogans and faces have been erased in Theis Wendt’s computer; now nothing more than empty political vessels in a space of scratched image containers.
In the work Swarm from 2012, the frame and reflection as pictorial surface is reduced to the point of spatial collapse. Down the stairs and through the basement door you encounter an overwhelming 3-d mirroring of the room you are standing in. The prints fill the opposite walls from floor to ceiling and in the corner of the room, where the prints join, another space is created by the reflections, mirroring each other. On the floor lies a roll of mirroring film that blurrily reflect the actual space and you in it. With a generous investment in an otherwise modest basement space, where the exhibition series Object This Picture, was held, Wendt transformed the space into a reflection, and the reflection into space. The entire room has become a container where picture and viewer, space and virtuality exchange meanings and roles.
For Wendt Swarm came out of a desire to show a space already represented in all its facets. The work’s starting point is the contemporary pictorial situation, where the image acts as a prosthetic for navigation, more than representation. In Swarm orientation is aided by the computer-built walls and lines. One navigates in the same way the masses of the internet does, or swarms, as theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call them. In their book “Multitudes” they point towards a political potential in the term “swarm intelligence”, but a subsequent critique shows that this potential is double edged. The swarm has the possibility of global political impact, but only by surrendering to the controlling logics of the network.
In Swarm, Wendt offers a spatial rendering of the swarm’s unique aesthetic and cognitive spaces. In this work he points toward the swarms ability to see the space it moves around in, but not itself as a swarm.
Work and romance
After 2 years at the Carlsberg grounds, where the Danish industrial giant had invited the creative class to make use of the production facilities, Wendt showed the work Phantasm (2011). On semi-transparent prints hanging from the ceiling he had transferred photographs of his atelier in the former brewery in a 1:1 scale. The prints made out a cube inside the gallery space’s white cube and made it possible to visually inhabit the workspace while being outside. The work didn’t only orbit around notions of the contemporary artist’s workplace as a prototype for the workplace of immaterial labour, but also its participation in the experience economy strategies of Carlsberg, and maybe most of all, Theis Wendt’s own role in it.
In Extended Landscape (2012) Wendt coated standard plywood boards with smudged digital prints of the board’s own surface and dispersed 5000 copies of fallen fall leaves throughout the gallery space. Instead of turning towards the unreflective mental space of nostalgia and authenticity, he finds a role for digital technologies as bearer of the romantic through their chameleonic properties.
The virtual world of the new image technologies is a central theme in the works of Wendt, but still, it is always within the spaces of the real, that the experience is grounded. It’s always through our bodies that we come into contact with the works. Wendt’s cool reduction seems critical towards contemporaneity’s streams of codes, where anything heavier than ones and zeroes seems to sink, but in the works, one also understands that disillusion and romance coexist.
1. Jan Verwoert: Standing on the Gates of Hell, My services Are Found Wanting. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/standing-on-the-gates-of-hell-my-services-are-found-wanting/
2. United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, held in Copenhagen and broadly criticized for not having any impact on the climate challenge what so ever.
3. Billedeterenprotese(interview in Danish). http://kopenhagen.dk/magasin/magazine-single/article/billedet- er-en-protese/
4. Franco Bifo Berardi: ”Theprinciplegoverningtheswarmisinternalization:living organisms follow psychical and behavioural automatisms because this is their way of relating to the environment. The components of a swarm (…) are not fully conscious that their behaviours are driven by inbuilt automatism” in After The Future (2011).
Gray Trampled Grass. Gray Snow
Installation view. Gallery Christoffer Egelund, Copenhagen DK, 2011
(English. Lives and works in London)
Painted on the inside of drumheads the ongoing collection of works entitled “Drumskins” use graphic and vernacular visual references to support a perverse and addictive form of rant/chant based sloganeering. Installed in large groups they create a matrix of visual indulgence and conflicting trajectories where symptom, rather than message, reigns supreme.
Since 1999 Strutton’s practice has taken the form of drawing, installation, video/animation and performance. The work often uses the strategy of accrual to deal with a visual form of veneration and cultural reclamation. The resulting installations, of paintings, drawings and objects become a kind of makeshift memorial, an ex voto offering where nostalgia becomes a form of revenge. The sedimentary process creates a convoluted cosmos of effigies, mandalas, portraits and trophies, a graveyard whose architecture is sustained by anxiety. Sometimes brutal, often absurd, his approach to figuration is fractured, automatic and schizophrenic. He shares a preoccupation with ritualistic process, debased iconographies and compulsive aesthetics with the likes of Austin Osman Spare and Antonin Artaud.
In Case We Don’t Die
’To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!
There are far worse things awaiting man than death.’
– Béla Lugosi in Tod Browning’s 1931 film Dracula
I recently found a drawing I made when I was about 5 in a small notebook with the words “John’s book of things” scrawled on the front. On one page there is a rudimentary figure with the words “my dad in clothes” and on the opposite side there is a figure in a cape with a pronounced widow’s peak and the words “but really”. Born of my love for all games in which my father pretended to be a vampire, the drawing could be seen as a notational wish (or suspicion) that my Dad might actually be Dracula!
This childhood exuberance for games that provoked anxiety has stayed with me and I am still drawn to images and objects that have this symptomatic inscription or quality in their form. Drawings that are absurd or brutal, where the figuration is fractured, automatic or seemingly schizophrenic hold endless fascination for me. They site themselves both in the world and beyond. Time is compressed and nostalgia becomes a form of revenge. I sometimes wonder if the hours I spend in the studio are nothing more than a return to the tomb, a chance to spend time with the dead (who always have more to say than the living). The walls are covered in all kinds of attempts at communication like a makeshift memorial near the scene of some terrible disaster. Whether it’s visual veneration or cultural reclamation it all fails to satisfy the need and Beckett’s “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” is never far away. Maybe this compulsion differs little from the undead’s constant craving. “The blood is the life” my dad used to screech in a cod Transylvanian accent from the top of the stairs. But it never stopped Dracula and it’s never stopped me.
Installation view, “Donderslag”, Domo Baal, 2009.
(English. Lives and works in London)
In Case We Don’t Die
Project Statement 3
18th February 2010
My work deals with improvisation and a philosophy of readiness.
The exploration is into both the implied trajectory and the substance of the work. The material and the concept and so the making must be part of this and the making must happen in real time as close to the moment of thinking as possible.
I once told a group of students about my love of a certain kind of design which show such an economy that with meagre means they could conjure very ideal of Modernism. I used the example of the Kohte with its adaptable modular design and relationship with its context and use. The fact that it was born out of and existed within such a explicitly Romantic realm up until and including its eventual banning by fascists out of fear of its symbolism simply reenforces the Kohte as an example of the potential synergetic effect of context, conception and construction.
My proposed work for the exhibition In Case We Don’t Die is a continuation of the exploration into and reporting on, a search for such an ideal.
In Case We Donʼt Die
Project Statement 4
19th January 2011
i) The Mountain Summit is a roadside forum holding forth that all ﬁres are signal ﬁres.
ii)The actions could suffer collective description as; the research into modes of existence relating to objects as a means of coming to terms with the lost spirit we most readily identify with Modernism.
iii)I am concerned with the act as a means of both uncovering and documenting, identifying the moment as the site of most consequence.
iv) In the summer of last year I stayed in a tent in the once orderly but now wild arboretum
of a country estate. Under the tree canopy I stored possessions out of sight so that they would not need be carried once I stuck camp each morning. The bag of food kept safe and
cool in the lee of a tree had a deﬁned end of consumption. Other things became less and less attached to a speciﬁc use-destiny, objects of purpose but writhing free from the hold of
this purpose. I kept things safe and marked out. Some were base things like rocks or soil to which I could not help but assign formal potential for these things were to be pressed
with hands or they were to hold on to the ground. Some things were of a more Gordian resonance and more unstable to consider, for they grew or could grow and they rhymed and could rhyme and all the while they were looked at and thought of by myself and by
Field work, mix media, 2010.
(Swedish. Lives and works in Copenhagen)
After mankind’s failed quest for order and control in life, and subsequent tragic fall, the need to challenge what is and what is not seems inevitable. In a series of large drawings in blue pen Andreas Emenius explores the scientific laws and the possibility that they are not actually what they appear to be, set against the idea of the imagination being as real as ‘the outside world’.
The exhibition title ‘In case we don’t die‘ hints at an inevitable end. But in Andreas Emenius’ work this end unfolds as a temporary destination, a void to crawl up from, as from Plato’s cave, seeing life in 4-D for the first time. Or simply as a possibility, escaping what is now, like a space capsule catapulted off a burning vessel… 4, 3, 2, 1!
Andreas Emenius makes unclear but densely organized images, objects and physical installations. Often he creates the illusion of rationality and logic, but like a broken geometry there is always an under-laying motion, complexity and irrationality at play in his work.
“The Fringe Projects. Project 5”, Andreas Emenius / Henrik Vibskov, mix media installation, 2008.
(English. Lives and works in Dublin)
Stephen Dunne’s current work stems from a playful approach at image making, beginning with inkblots and random chaotic marks which are subsequently manipulated into complex chaotic paintings that seek to tap into the collective unconscious.
According to the writer Kurt Vonnegut an epiphany or moment of true realization occurs not when we apprehend God (reality, society, capitalism…) but during those very rare moments when it lets go of it’s almost permanent grip. Through these ruptures in the blank canvas a generative space emerges where the artist can summon strange gods and monsters, crystallized enunciations and progressive mutant subjectivities.
A world of phantasms occupying and transmitting from the state of dream, the strangeness of being, of dissolved time and energy trapped in paint. These works attempt to locate those precious moments of anti-epiphany, in all your favorite colours…..
Currently the focus of Dunne’s work has been informed by Gilles Deleuze’s 1990 text on Foucault “Society of Control” within this text Deleuze identifies that as a society we are shifting from a system of discipline to one of limitless postponement “Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt”.
By visualizing and identifying this dilemma through a process of sublimation the act of expression becomes a vital site of resistance.
“Institutional Tendencies”, ink on paper, 14 inches x 10 x 16 (drawings) 2010.