When looking for places that allow us to explore the digital technologies we use daily from a bit of a different perspective, the field of art enters the frame; admittedly this a bit boring as this is to be expected. Then it is also quite pleasant. For example, when you find yourself in a dark room in London’s ICA filled with joyfully disturbing tones which confidently drift from music to noise and back again in front of large screen on which a white grid and countless white sheep pass by not looking at you; then a landscape of green plush chairs; then a fast rotating lemon and a filmed Sebastian Lütgert playing to pretend playing the guitar he is not holding; all items (including the item Sebastian) coming as needle-sharp images to take some of the burden of seeing from you, while the amplified voices of the three present human performers Martin Ebner, Theresa Patzschke, Eleni Poulou ask: if there is really joy in repetition, if you can get them a shark, and to get tested; sentences that other people have written in this magazine here, Starship. Oh, and Theresa plays the flute a little.
The way the video band “Recycling Plastic Inevitable (RPI)” collaborates with tools and techniques to explore surfaces, sounds, and sentences can be read as defying the logic in which we usually find technology; a rare moment in which a space opened to calibrate technology differently. Not as efficient. Not as automatizing. Not as preconfigured. Not as pseudo-interactive. Also not as using media differently. Instead, technology, ideas, sounds, sights and surfaces have been gathered and are now collaborating.
At the beginning of the 21st century, this moment of collaboration is one worth holding on to. We usually do not collaborate with digital technology. We simply use it which always also means in this interactive world that we are being used – wrongly the flexible digital software-world is presented to us as something more fixed than any hardware or tool ever was. With not much persuasion on their end, we have somehow become confused enough to go along with this moment of sheer usage. For us here in the West, the internet is what colourful Apples, Googles and Amazons have been creating for us in California. Until recently.
China did not use art to reposition technology. Still, it managed to end the ideology that there is one internet only which we all need to use and are used by. Interestingly, this end of the global internet-monster from California did not come with the insight that nations such as China or Russia can control it – that they curb, filter, push or make content disappear is something we have known for years, and more often than not Californian services such as Facebook went along with that. The myth of the global Californian internet-reign ended rather when next to their services, Chinese apps such as WeChat or TikTok became unique products with inventive interfaces that were in a quirky way more supporting and playfully easier to use than ours. Of course, we know that Chinese services are subjected to Chinese politics, which might help us to understand the powerful ideology of software we are also subjected to in the West. And this is why places such as art, which allow us to step aside from this technology, are important although there needs to be an effort to make this less boring for art, which might not want to find itself confined again to an otherness-tradition just for our sake.
Recycling Plastic Inevitable: Opposition to the Commodity
ASP 5 – Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair: The 5th
ICA – Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
Sat, 07 Dec 2019
Written for the glorious Starship Magazine.