"Heedful Sight" is the second appointment of TALEA, a series of projects curated by Like A Little Disaster focused on the practices of international curators. TALEA (in Italian) is a piece of a plant used for vegetative (asexual) propagation. It is generally placed in soil or water – if the conditions are suitable, the plant piece will begin to grow as a new form of life independent of the parent.
In the digital automated society we all live in today, we on the one hand feel as though we are watched, violated or spied on by government agencies and corporations, and on the other we ourselves are prying into other people’s lives through the constant stream of social media feeds. Two recent examples of this condition are GCHQ, one of the UK’s intelligence agencies, that intends to increase its large-scale data hacking, and Google, that is helping military and intelligence agencies to spy on us with its Google Earth service*. This omnipresent dichotomy, this on-going experience of being watched and watching, is a key contradiction of current human behaviour caused by our dependence on computational and technological structure, especially on a cognitive and ecological level. In Heedful Sight, Joachim Coucke and Maurizio Viceré bring together different elements of their contrasting work to explore the causes and effects of this collision. Looking at their work within this exhibition, you can see how the two opposites act like divergent forces, like two different battery poles that complement each other at the same time.
Maurizio Viceré’s on-going work series, kh, produced between 2017 and 2018, is spread in all three rooms of the art space. The five paintings present themselves with different meanings and by looking at the digitally modified landscapes, many questions and recollections arise. These black and blue, dark-toned images show us unclear, foggy, pixelated landscapes. On the surface they can be seen as the distorted images of the screensavers you get by default every time you buy a new computer or laptop. But at second glance, they can be understood both as an exhausted ecological environment out of which raw materials have been extracted to produce the technological gadgets we all use nowadays, and as a post-apocalyptic version of the sky, with sky clouds that allude to the digital cloud we all store our data in. Notice that the Google logo is present in all his paintings. Every logo is almost camouflaged within the paintings, making them hard to see. However, having them positioned in all of the three rooms of the space, it makes the logo’s slightly more noticeable. It’s a clear association between the digital environment created through technology and the omnipresence of Google inside it. Computation today is becoming culture and with regards to Google: it is the index and arbiter of all human knowledge. Inevitably, whatever is found on Google becomes what people think.
How do these circumstances, in which our knowlegde is almost imposed on us, effect our vision and perception of the world, especially with regards to the future? Joachim Coucke’s seven mixed media works, all part of the series Dwellers, explore those issues. These sculptures, installed in the rooms at different heights, are an assemblage of different kinds of technological and plastic waste. Some of them are placed on the floor, while others are hung on the wall or are hidden above you. The care and attention to detail stands out. In their related simplicity, they are complex and rich of visible detail which go unnoticed at first. Hard-drive vents, small LED monitors, cables, tablet screen frames are just a few of the technological waste items produced by nowadays digital capitalism. Observing the space, it seems like these conglomerates are travelling and/or discovered in Viceré’s landscape works.
These sculptures represent a new type of digital fossils, showing how futile technological waste is considered to be, and at the same time it exposes how disruptive these parts actually are. Together with these materials that re-enter the ecological realm in a different form compared to when they were extracted as raw material, human face masks are present too. These emotion-less and un-expressive masks allude to a loss of human consciousness parallel to and dependent on technological advancements, as if we’re losing pieces of our agencies and critical thought.
A new collaborative video piece between the artists called On Hiatus, closes the journey within the show. The video combines a Viceré’s landscape with sentences from Coucke like ‘Covered in Data Like a New Skin’, ‘Dwell in a Never Ending Present’ or ‘Autocorrected viral Flavors’, and a background noise like the sound of server rooms. This first video of the ongoing series gives us a few suggestions and clues on the transformation that is happening - and that will continue to happen - to human activities, with a central role that is given to the noise to accentuate the confusion and uncertainty of the present moment. In Heedful Sight extension of ourselves, ecological elements, feeling trapped within a thin limbo of being the observer and the observed, an in-depth approach of the inability of finding solution of how to solve this situation seems lost. Within this delicate connection and balance between the two artistic practices, uncertainty about the future is key, leaving the interpretation to different solutions open, if these want to be found.