Mass surveillance and transnational terrorism, climate change and conspiracy theories, anti-social media and rapacious capitalism. As the scale and complexity of our societies grow ever vaster, individuals feel ever more disempowered and hopeless. Our vision is increasingly universal, but our agency continues to be reduced. We know more and more about the world, while being less and less able to do anything about it. In an age of planetary-scale networks and opaque, remote systems of governance, how do individuals retain the capability for creative thought, meaningful action – and a sense of humour?
The artists gathered together for AGENCY all concern themselves with the present state of the world while refusing, reassessing, and rewriting the narratives of despair and powerlessness that are thrust upon us. They critically engage with the most technologically complex and politically pressing issues of our times while asserting the ongoing importance of storytelling and myth-making, and the value of artistic expression, imagination, and intervention.
The practices of the artists in AGENCY work with a range of techniques and materials to interrogate and enchant present conditions. Morehshin Allahyari uses 3D scanning and printing to reappropriate ancient mythologies for new objectives, while Anna Ridler unearths hidden stories buried within leaked archives. Suzanne Treister and Navine G. Khan-Dossos reconfigure contentious technological and political icons in search of alternative, competing realities. Ingrid Burrington literally deconstructs technological apparatuses, while Constant Dullaart builds spirit armies from mass-produced identities, and Sophia Al Maria conducts a call and response across deep time. In these artists’ work, magic, poetic, and material speculations form new narratives and calls to action, and fashion powerful expressions of agency from the tools we all have to hand.