Dependent Places

Paweł Janicki about the exhibition

Dependent Places – the next chapter of the programme of the 19th Media Art Biennale WRO 2021 REVERSO – is a narrative node, the existence of which is made possible by the formula of the Biennale: events take place, sequentially, and do not mix in an only temporarily existing agglomerate. An arrow of time appears, and time intervals allow for more linear orderings: the perceptual and intellectual consequences of previous WRO Biennale events may influence how successive events are decoded; cause and effect chains are formed. The upcoming exhibition, therefore, builds upon the previous settlement, but also raises new elements and meanings, those that could not be introduced on the stage without restoring the awareness of the existence of causes, effects, and consequences.

Of course, the catalog of universal, art-transposable issues raised by almost all progressive subjects seems obvious – from the climate catastrophe, through the excesses of economy and politics, to a critical look at the shape of the communicative shell of culture. So what to do in order not to stop at just convincing the convinced and frightening those who are already intimidated? You should review your methodology, declared and operational goals, revise your habits.

To regain causes and effects is to regain agency, to obtain the speed of escape from the ahistorical perspective of the everlasting present time, with its disavowed phraseology convincing for further quasi-modernizations. Annie Jacobsen in her book The Pentagon’s Brain, the history of DARPA (apart from a series of literally deadly military innovations of the mother-agency for the Internet, location media, the progenitor of social media Lifelog, or drones – and therefore recognizable elements of the current, also for the world of art, the theater of the civilization game) brings the attention to the fact that perceiving DARPA through the prism of the collection of its historical triumphs leads astray: it refers to historical but long-standing patterns, allows setting long-abandoned or obvious directions of development. Jacobsen and Dependent Places are not about such a historical perspective: History, time (and consequently also the present day) should be unfrozen, made flexible, and able to perform work.

Two of the works presented at the exhibition – Ben Grosser’s The Endless Doomscroller and panGenerator’s Infinity – very literally, even haptic, reconstruct the perception of time (and at the same time the suspension of this perception) proposed by social media. Grosser and panGenerator do not extract from the limbo the eternal loop of the nervous systems of the victims of the absurdly reduced behavior of social media service, but they skillfully traverse its basic gesture. In the first case: cutting down a gloomy joke to the form of reduced ad absurdum; in the second: by encapsulating with references that allow the whole situation to flow out into broader semiotic waters.

Manual Do Zueiro Sem Noção by Joacélio Batista and Testfilm#1 by Telcosystems group consciously analyze the ethos mentioned above. By maintaining intellectual discipline and falsifying the hypotheses posed by practical, carefully designed experiments, and at the same time avoiding the trap of absolutizing their methodologies, the authors of the works fight against well-entrenched, still considered uncompromising, cultural strategies: romantic rebel activism and its political and social roots dating back to at least the second half of the nineteenth century (to recall, for example, the technoanarchist Johann Most, who postulated the bombing of the defenseless bourgeoisie from the airships), hacking, the once glorified altersystemic parasitism on the existing technosphere – showing the shortcomings of all these strategies, both in the clash with the contemporary hermetic systems and the banality of repetitions.

Applications of more or less effective strategies and the time needed to do so must anchor in the matter: both the faded visions of dematerialized information and the rediscovery of the physical infrastructure of communication networks (or any physical information carrier) seem, from a modern perspective, to two sides of the same – false – coin. In the work HiFi Wasteland I: 100 Year Old Quicksilver Cloud, Darsha Hewitt uses a specific alchemy of matter, information and time – she guides the audience along the silver paths of ancient technology, but does not force the parameterization and formatting of experiences derived from the journey. In turn, Matt Kenyon (Notepad) allows information to work in an almost literal, thermodynamic, but social context, microprinting the names of civilian victims of the Iraq war as lines in an empty notebook – reverso, at the end of the period of writing, the chronicle of the Battle of Kurukshetra described in Mahabharata: Nearly 5 million people died at Kurukshetra, none of them had their names written.
Hui Ye and Kasper Lecnim engage matter and materiality as a physical computational process that tests the cohesiveness and internal logic (or lack thereof) of the issues they study. The Serene Garden by Ye is a self-contradicting embodiment of oriental phantasms and myths, definitely worth abandoning (the artist herself also abandons successive safe harbors: from classical musical performance through the apparatus of contemporary electronic music to media art in general) – and, by the way, the author tosses an ironic pebble into – well – a garden of ideas about what nature should be like. New Normality. Old Habits. by Lecnim materializes other perceptions: spreadsheets and ‘rising curve’ charts.

Charlotte Eifler’s work Feminism is a Browser is a game between the historical perspective and a personalized narrative that allows you to tame a large body of facts – it is also a perfect proof that sometimes the aforementioned historical perspective requires a certain amount of literality, if only to restore the facts of consciousness (and if it is assumed that the past is not just a specific projection of the present). Amalia Foka approaches the problem of awareness differently: her Breaking the Silence is an attempt to bring to light the conceptual deficiencies and displacements existing in the infosphere: interestingly, the author mechanizes information processing for this purpose (an analogy to the new heavy industry in the field of economics is imposed here). and cryptocurrencies) – it turns out that you cannot cause a similar effect manually.

Pawns of Furthest East by Matteo Messina is a phantasmagorical journey through the legitimated by tradition of anticipating s-f and futurological predictions, a vision of the future, both well-known and turbocharged: the artist fills the empty spaces left by the excluded tech noir decorations with contemporary aesthetics of color saturation and conquests. This future is already known, so all the more disturbingly nonexistent. Finally, Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau and his The Performativity of Clapping – a work about the present, though undoubtedly troublesome, contemporary, in a slight contrast to the contemporary cognitive science involving the body within the framework of thought processes. De Kersaint Giraudeau proposes to break free of the conscious discursive mind for a while, and separates being a clapping person from being a clapper – Peter Sloterdijk, who claims the right to be unconscious, could be the perfect viewer for this work.