“Those are nicer than my images” utters Lucas, while looking at the radiant X-rays of his ailing brain. Seconds later he receives a morbid announcement from his doctor: an unknown disease is deteriorating his ability to reason and speak. Reckless and self-involved, Lucas encounters Blanche at a bar. She is a mysterious and erratic nightclub performer possessing the obscure ability to foretell the future. While at the bar, an assistant fills Lucas in on the booming success of his recently invented computer program. “Europe is using your language” cries the friend, preparing Lucas for his awaiting fame and prosperity, unaware of his waning ability to comprehend. Upon this rapid entry into Andrzej Żuławski’s 1989 film My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days, viewers experience a potpourri of unparalleled dialogues, wayward acts and psychedelic ambiences blanketed by chaos and tumult. Stemming from the discordance of communication between Lucas and Blanche, this turmoil manifests the inherently warped harmony between the corporeal and the digital—between the animal and the artificial. In the beginning of the film Blanche’s sensuous and instinctive aura opposes the systematic and rationalist presence of Lucas’ machine self. Later in the film Blanche gradually adopts the role of thinking agent, while her disoriented lover suffers from declining memory and speech—two anchors of his identity as a computer genius.
The artists in this exhibition reflect on the aesthetics of chaos that prevail at the intersection of the corporeal—tactile, rampant and imperfect—and the machine that is precise, purist yet askew. Possibilities of communication, expression and benevolence are put to the test in a landscape where the potential of the machine dwarfs the heroic frailties of man and the essence of the body limits the rise of the mechanized. The urge to communicate and empathize between two parties still remains—as Lucas and Blanche strive to do—while the body fights with its failings and the machine defies its wryness and complexities. Aside from scientific advancement and creative incentive, such communication between man and machine often times bears chaos. Turning its focus on mayhem, this exhibition showcases the different paths artists take to illustrate the riotous stimuli prevalent when the reign of the rational abates, and the bizarre ascends.
Daniel Temkin embarks on a quest to adjust natural particularities through digital manipulation. Employing Photoshop tools and personally coded software, Temkin perfectly straightens and centers trees that were once bent and warped, thus causing the surrounding environment to stretch and deform equally in return. Now erect in perfect 90-degree angles, amidst optic disarray, the trees in their renewed forms seem demure, resilient and elegant.
Emily Greenberg appropriates the CIA’s Style Manual & Writer’s Guide to program her own spellchecker tool. Once downloaded, any text may be spellchecked based on the CIA’s criteria for wording, punctuation and grammar. Reflecting on the dictated impact of language on declarations of ideological standpoints, Greenberg’s undertaking scrutinizes the gnarly paths on which language and speech may err, while contemplating the raison d’être of words as arbitrating vessels. Exhibited here are poignant excerpts taken from Jorge Luis Borges’ The Library of Babel and George Orwell’s 1984 that have come in direct contact with and bristled against the CIA style manual.
Christopher K. Ho illustrates the inherent banality of communicative methods within the confines of daily conversations in Lesbian Mountains in Love. Pairing Mount Rainer and El Popo, two glorious yet distant peaks in North America, in a single channel split screen video, Ho humanizes his subject matter by assigning them the language of two drifted lovers. Pulled from various Nicholas Sparks novels, expressions of longing and anticipation are coupled with elements of kitsch and banality to adorn the 40-minute long highly reticent and serene video. Gathering source materials from popular romance novels, the ensuing dialogue showcases the chaos of miscommunication.
Allison L. Wade distorts elements taken from visual culture and its turbulent physical and virtual representations. Purchased from eBay, negatives of ‘80s workout photographs expand, stretch and corrugate after Wade manually distorts them during the scanning process. Poised between the chaos of abstraction and plastic representation of the era, the images Wade achieves are erratic, energetic and subliminal, reminiscent of Lucas’ crumbling recollection through the film’s final moments.
Jaehyun Kim and Jimin Song create turbulent and utterly ambitious video games. Left, a side-scroll video game, urges characters to move towards the left, as opposed to the right. The artists build a reversed narrative that offers no future gains but instead an abundance of past adventures. The paradox between the irreparability of past decisions and unpredictability of future aspirations is narrowed down to contemplative minimalism, while the meditative nature of the game promises a retreat from the complexities of everyday struggles.
Katie Cercone orchestrates performative rituals blending various cultural and spiritual references into buoyant juxtapositions of diverse contemporary representations of the female body. From shamanistic rituals to hip-hop culture, the artist dons a spectrum of cultural symbols through which femininity emerges and prevails in exuberance and fervor. The psychedelic colors, exaggerated gestures and uncompromising deliverance in Swagophilia’s $ong of Fleshy Wind channel Blanche’s tempestuous nature towards Lucas.
Jordan Bortner mines the vast sources of optic surplus that visual and audial data bear, digitally collaging and manipulating arbitrary components of the mundane. In thank you for your cooperation, Bortner blends footage of corrupted images, merging a New York subway surveillance camera showing a broken signal feed with looping found images from another surveillance camera that he manually manipulated to look like analog video. Both faulted, naturally or synthetically, the paired recordings project the uncanny lying beneath visual data.
Faith Holland ridicules the delirious conversation between sexuality and internet culture in her GIF based work, for which she appropriates found or submitted online imagery. In Ookie Canvases, Holland transforms animated semen shots submitted by strangers responding to her online open call. Achieving idiosyncratically oozing abstractions quivering in beaming colors, the artist satirizes the often times bizarre and twisted bond individuals form with cyberspace, that gradually expands from the virtual towards the physical. In Dirty Blingees, on the other hand, she collages images pulled from pornographic websites with glitter, cats and other elements of hyper visual meme culture.
Sean Capone’s A Word Heap devolves into a chaotic portrayal of a dystopian landscape, where two anonymous figures, lacking traces of any distinguishable features, strive to communicate, akin to the protagonists of the Żuławski film. The virtual capacities they maintain as avatars challenge their agency to interact with each other. The limitations of their conversation becomes evident as Capone gathered the source material for the dialogue from rants on social media, spam emails, chat room conversations and other surplus correspondence available online. Similar to Captcha tests computer users regularly encounter, these tragic figures have to endure inspection of their individual existence and compassion for one another. The artist decided to keep the Youtube generated subtitles despite their steady inaccuracy, implementing another layer of blur on the pandemonium. The limitations of the avatar’s ability to communicate with each other emerge throughout the 10 minute video.
Elizabeth Riley approaches the moving image as unspoiled source material to mangle, with the use of digital technology. In Dragons of Iceland the artist distorts footage filmed during her residency in Iceland. As a result, Riley reveals an anarchic realm filled with hallucinatory colors and mechanic gestures, in which the radiance of familiar and foreign elements prompt a dream-like ambiance, questioning the hierarchy of logic over the ridiculous.
The artists above chose different paths to depict the disorder embedded in the interaction between mankind and the mechanical. Portrayed in the form of radiant colors, arresting scenarios or meditative engagements, artists in this selection comprehend and embrace this duality—and the disarray it unabashedly brings to the forefront.
Osman Can Yerebakan
Osman Can Yerebakan is a curator and art writer based in New York City. Osman holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Istanbul Bilgi University and an MA in Art Management from Fashion Institute of Technology. His interests lie within the fluid states of audience interaction, kinship between literature and fine arts and the performance of identity as political declaration. His writings have appeared in Art Observed and filthy dreams. Yerebakan has upcoming curatorial projects with The Clemente Center, Radiator Arts and the Center for Book Arts.
The curator would like to thank all participating artists, AC Institute staff, Michael Clemow and Omer Ackerman.