Spread The Virus Vol 2
Martin Mayorga & Vanessa Murrell
In collaboration with Pita Arreola-Burns & Elliott Burns
Spread the Virus is a year long monthly curatorial project, co-organised with an invited guest curator, culminating in an online exhibition of 12 artists. As a result, the show evolves over 12 months, with one artist being announced each in response to the previous one, building over the course of the year into a group show which responds to unfolding events and reflects contemporary digital discourse. Like an uncontrollable pandemic, the exhibition integrates the functionality to shift, evolve, and re-direct its course, charting an unexpected course as it spreads itself chronically and through the internet rhizome. Consequently, in February 2020, it will culminate with an online show which intends to chart the year through aesthetic as well as social and political lenses.
Lanéya Billingsley, Juan Covelli, Olga Fedorova, Xia Han, Samantha Harvey, Gašper Kunšič, Hongxi Li, Suzannah Pettigrew, Libbi Ponce, Léa Porré, Aaron Scheer.
11.02.2019 — 11.02.2020
World Wide Web
A single island remains, surrounded in mystery and patrolled by 40 metre tall mech warriors. Iridescent sands rise out of the ocean, rhythmically cycling through gradients like candy coloured sugar. The natives live in the post-industrial ruins of extraction industries and the remains of fairgrounds, daily they convene at the centre of the island to worship the remaining Nyan Cat, a remnant of the old world’s fascination with all things feline, possibly the last artefact of the now deleted internet. Beyond the rollercoasters and smoke refinery smokestacks, over the dunes, roam feral swamp things, mutants who cling to their pre-collapse anti-pollution cycling masks. Every surface of this world is coated in the vibrant byproducts of 21st century industry, contaminated in tones of pink and yellow, infused with toxic greens and spray-tan oranges. Our protagonist must navigate this world alone, accompanied by the pot plant he guards in his clear plastic backpack and the plunger he uses to ward off antagonists. The world doesn’t end with a whimper, it ends with a highly-saturated fever dream.
Xia Han is a Chinese artist based between Shanghai and London, he is a recent MA Fine Art graduate from Chelsea College of Art and received his BA Fine Art from East China Normal University. Utilising video game engines as a medium Han’s practice focuses on technoethics, specifically regarding environmental disruption, organisms and information. Screening and group shows include Sympathetic Visage, 31-33 Church Street; and Wicked Game, Chelsea College of Art, London (2019); A4 Animation Season, A4 Art Museum, Chengdu; E Pluribus Unum, Chelsea College of Art, London; and The 6th Animamix Biennale: Ballade, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (2018); Energy Field, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (2017); The End of The World as We Know, Cospace Gallery; and Sentiment & Dynamic Inertia, Korean Cultural Center; and Future Prospect, TEDxCaohejingParkSalon, Shanghai; Wenzhou International Design Biennial, HOW Art Museum, Wenzhou (2016).
In a world defined by our ever increasing exposure to photography, artist-technologist Samantha Harvey uses portraiture, accessing the mind through an exploration of consciousness, emotions and new facets of oneself. An Eye Fell Through the Cracks (2019) follows Harvey’s inquiry into the ambiguous nature of the human psyche, questioning the various existent realities which fall in-between our own. Through the use of black and white photography, a familiar visual approach, she highlights how our consciousness exists within dimensional planes. By laying 3D formations atop imagery found on Harvey’s daily route to work, the artist occupies multi-dimensional spaces that exist at the wider spectrum of visibility. A lighthearted, yet bizarre, approach to a context which could almost be seen as eccentric, Harvey opens us up to ideas and questions surrounding technological advancement and what these mean for how ‘we see’ and the inevitable ‘fine-tuning’ of our means of seeing.
Samantha Harvey is an artist-technologist with a special interest in portraiture and self transformations. Taking a cross-disciplinary approach, with a focus on our brain-mind-body connection, she uses 3D technologies, video and photography to fuel her inquiry into the mysteries of the human psyche. She attended Kingston University in 2010 receiving a BA in Graphic Design and Photography, and MA Contemporary Photography; Practices and Philosophies at Central Saint Martins in 2016. Harvey’s work has been featured in exhibitions and screenings including Wandsworth Art Fringe, Art Lacuna; g_URL 2.0, Sluice Projects, London (2018); iSurrender, TN Contemporary, Chattanooga; Are We All Addicts Now, with Katriona Beales and Fiona MacDonald, Furtherfield Gallery, London (2017); Artists’ Film Biennial ‘Outside’, ICA, London; #TFW105 – What Happens When…, Powrplnt, New York (2016); and FreshFaced+WildEyed, The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2015). She has been featured in three editions of Athens Digital Arts Festival (2019, 2018, 2016); her work is featured in the The REFUGEE Film Collection; and has been featured in the Berlin based art magazine Flee Immediately (2016). Harvey taken part with residencies with isthisit? (2017); the NXT Residency, hosted by ELIA at Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (2017); and the Artel 2017 Residency at TIFA Working Studios in Pune, India (2017). She currently resides in London.
Model: Chris Powell, Natalie Nahyun Seo
FXS Makeup: Hannah O’Donnell
Hands Performance: Darius Ahmadian, GaEun Park
Soundtrack: Magnus Brandt
Voice Over: Melyssa Azevedo
Welcome to New Sky City. Life worth Living in the Early 22nd Century. Explicitly referencing Broad Group’s unrealised modular Sky City One building, planned to be the world’s tallest building constructed in a minimal seven month window, Hongxi Li’s NSC2.0 extrapolates the developers intentions into a distorted extreme forged by human lust and inevitable resource depletion. Envisioning an AI automated tower where living space is economised by storing humans in capsules, where desire is met by a simulated perfect world and the physical self becomes a constituent property of the machine, secondary to the digital self. NSC2.0 is experienced through a dialogue between two of the tower’s inhabitants, a long standing resident and one newly arrived, in which they debate aspiration, purpose and what life in this mediated reality offers. Watch NSC2.0 here.
Hongxi Li is a Chinese artist, model, creative director, set designer and stylist currently studying MA Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University of London, she graduated from BA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art in 2018. Her practice emerges the viewer into Sci-Fi realities, deducing near future predictions from contemporary case studies. Recent exhibitions include Early Work in Futurism, Innovator Plus Art-Space, Shanghai (2019); Producing Future Homes and Communities, Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, London (2018); Queer Exploring, Menier Gallery; and Temporary Airport, White City Petrol Station, London (2017). As a creative director, set designer and stylist she has worked with clients including 10 Magazine, ChinaTown Slalom, EJDER, Ninety7 and Reebok. She was as one of the first 100 creators to be featured on the Daisy App and shown in their inaugural Daisie 100: Growth exhibition.
Experimental film director, video artist and sound designer Lanéya Billingsley aka Billie0cean digs into an inward exploration of the mind, soul, body and the formative sludge of the past and present. Her otherworldly ‘My Distant Lover, Nothing Compares to you_XOXO, Your Wide Eye Womb’ is an internal visual depiction of feeling insecure, lost, stuck in one’s head with anxious thoughts, trying to escape and finding oneself all at once. It depicts the shadow self, who nurtures and festers one’s thoughts, seductively whispering to the audience from a wet womb, reminding the viewer to silence the loudness to be able to hear the whispers. Ethereal and intimate, Billingsley’s film explores our self worth, our ancestry, our blackness, our hearts, our love; a love not only of oneself but of others; while nudging towards a corrosive external world rampant with toxicity.
Lanéya Billingsley is a Californian artist currently living and working in the Bay area. A BFA graduate of Animation and Experimental Film at California College of the Arts, her works comment on the inner and outer selves, ones deepest feelings and desires and overall the journey towards and maintenance of self love. Solo shows include The Allegory Of The Self_I Dreamed I Saw Myself By A Lake, College Avenue Galleries, California College of the Arts (2017); How To Train Your Demons, Classic Cars West Gallery (2019). She has featured in group shows including: Zone, Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento (2019); End, New Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles (2019); Intentions Based On A Future Which Has Already Happened, Naming Gallery, Oakland (2018); Digitalia: Art and the Economy of Ideas, Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco (2018); Anatomy of Autonomy, Qulture Collective, Oakland (2018), Love U, Aggregate Space Gallery, Oakland (2018), amongst others. She has recently edited the music video Fear by Orrin (2019), as well as co-directed and edited Platinum by Saturn Risin9 (2019).
Apart from his homeland, separated from the sources of his Slovenian and Slavic identity, Vienna based artist Gašper Kunšič mines archives of architectural ruins, symbology and craft practices, resurfacing, repurposing and breathing new life into forgotten fragments of a national consciousness. Animated with heavily surrealistic overtones ‘AWKWARD SILENCE’ forms a sequential scenography, backdrops and props which are manoeuvred in and out of frame, a stage tinted by melancholy and framed by discordant chimes. Ornamental details float and fabrics descend, emerald tinted pools are peppered with droplets and our focus shifts over fields of wheat, architectural ruins and national monuments move into place, as if actors were due to orate from them, the entire scene is lit by an artificial moonlight. Theatrically staged Kunšič’s film suggests the manner in which we perform, play and remember our cultural identities and the possibility for them to become distorted and misshapen.
Gašper Kunšič is a Slovenian artist currently studying Object Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Media Art at University of Applied Arts Vienna, with a background in painting at Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana. His practice centres on a reflection upon, reappropriate and upcycling of Slovenian folk art and sculpture of the communist period. Solo shows include Enthusiastic Gaze, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana (2018); Moment of Uncertainty, Dobra Vaga, Ljubljana; and Pavilion of Hope, White Dwarf Projects, Vienna (2017). He has featured in group shows including: Our Way[s] of Life, The Austrian Cultural Forum London, London; and We Remember, Off Site Project, online (2019); Focus sur la Jeune Création, Atelier Vis-à- Vis, Marseille (2018); Tomorrow is cancelled, Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna (2018); and Joze, Plecnik House, Ljubljana (2017). He is a recipient of a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture, Republic of Slovenia.
In the 15th century, Party Next door is described by the artist as a “post-apocalyptic, Lynchian rendering of a vital scream into the ether. A Modern Surrealist horror short. ” But Despite Fedorova’s medium of choice – digital art – that is often filled up with demonstrative experimentation and surface-oriented, neo-kitsch aesthetics, she works on accurate depictions of her dreams and fantasies, by taking the shape of utopia and exposing its infinite dangers and absurdities. With Olga Fedorova, the distance between the conception and the elaboration of a work is nonexistent. Is it techno-shamanism? Is it a surreal reflexion on post humanity? A humorous world in which nothing is to be taken seriously? Science fiction? Dystopia? Probably all of these things and many more. A myriad worlds colliding, taking shapes that we will either fascinate, venerate, collect, ignore or just reject and run away from. By their very existence they show us the void of our own lives, our vanity. But they also show us another worldview, an alternate universe that is bring to us to warn us, that is showing us what we could become for the best and the worst. It is a digital redemption in a sense, for it redeems intelligence and the divine gesture of stepping beyond everything known. Text by Yannick Franck.
Olga Fedorova is a Russian artist working at the intersection of photography, painting, digital imaging and installation. Fedorova’s works, with their surreal, dystopian presentation, evoke uneasy, dreamlike states that feel both familiar and alien, comforting and disturbing. Her works and projects have been the subject of solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums across Europe. Most recently, her work has been included in the group exhibition Future Love at Haus der Elektronischen Künste in Basel, Switzerland; Escaping the Digital Unease (curated by Domenico Quaranta) at Kunsthaus Langenthal, Switzerland. In 2018, the artist presented a solo show, Short Term Memories, at Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2018); She Lives in You, Charlot Gallery, Paris, France (2018), Generic Jungle, at Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2016); The Inevitability of a Strange World, at Liebaert Projects in Kortrijk, Belgium (2016), as well as a virtual solo exhibition at offspace.xyz. Fedorova’s video works have also been included in virtual exhibitions for The Wrong Biennale, DaDa Club Online, Felt Zine, and Blockedart.com. She currently lives and works in Brussels, Belgium.
In the 15th century, European countries embarked on expeditions to foreign territories in the search of new resources and wealth. Including Christopher Columbus’s accidental arrival to America in 1492. These expeditions facilitated the establishment of Western Europe culture in other regions and the export of wealth, knowledge and cultural goods, including the flora and fauna, from these ‘new worlds’. The objects, living organisms and archives brought to these countries were used as the foundation to develop knowledge in Western Europe and were displayed to the public as a symbol of imperial power. Contained within new public spaces, botanical gardens, zoos and natural history museums, these items served a combined educational-recreational purpose. Since their inception, these venues have acted as a key factor to spread the notion of exoticism and otherness into the European subconscious. The cultural influence of these places remains relevant for science and society to the day. Since then, the use of new technologies have played a key role in facilitating the import of culture from new territories, including living organisms. And as new technologies develop, expeditions are back in vogue. We more increasingly see an arising interest from European countries and the U.S.A. in researching and exploring new space territories. Terra Incognita interrogates how these new worlds will be colonised in the 21st century.
Juan Covelli is a Colombian artist currently living and working in Bogatá. A graduate of MA Contemporary Photography; Practices and Philosophies at Central Saint Martins, London, his practice revolves around the technological potentials of 3D scanning, modelling and printing to readdress entrenched arguments of repatriation and colonial histories. Using video, modelling, data sets and coding he creates IRL and URL installation-based works which collapse historical practices with current models of display and digital aesthetics. Solo and duel shows include How to dust the surface, Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Warrington (2018); and Nexcuitilamatl, Galería ADM, Mexico City (2017). As well as group shows Roca Lunar, Planetario Distiral, Bogota (2019); INSIDE INTEL, Centre for Investigative Journalism; and New Materialities in the Digital Age, Harlesden High Street Gallery, London; The image of things, Guttormsgaard Archive, Oslo; and Neo Norte, Fundación Cultural de Providencia, Santiago De Chile (2018). He has presented his work at Universidad el Bosque, Bogota and the UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab, London and was an invited guest artist for the In-ruins residency programme. He is the curator the group show of Fake plastic forevers & détournement of digital colonialism, Internet Moon Gallery, online (2018).
‘You’re Searching for Something (I’m Searching for Something)’, although itself a digital work centred on the patterning of virtual echo chambers, arose from an analogue experiment. Enlisting actors Max Attard and Vicky Bakis to perform Meisner’s repetition exercise, which encourages the actor to “get out of their head” to effect intuitive responses to stimuli, Pettigrew supplanted intuition with influence by issuing the pair with self-written set texts to consciously shape parts of their encounter. The video’s script, borne from extracts of this conversation, is then performed by Pettigrew, who subverts the rules of role-play by reading both parts. Layering her non-diegetic, uninflected intonation over her on-screen, avatar-esque self, Pettigrew consciously constructs a recurring glitch. The video becomes exponentially repetitive and abstracted; Pettigrew’s dialogue with herself resembling a feedback loop, and her image infinitely duplicated and spliced through disorientating editing that jumps from split screens to close-ups of her glossed, narrating lips. Exploring the relationship between digital and physical spaces, Pettigrew’s work questions how our voyeuristic behaviour in the digital e-sphere affects our physical realities, dissects the dichotomy between algorithmic vs. intuitive responses, and considers where our evolution with technology might lead.
Suzannah Pettigrew is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in London, her practice explores the exchange between online and offline realities and how this influences collective and singular experiences in advancing post-human societies. Working across mediums including video, performance, text and installation she interrogates systems of imagery and language used to transmit and receive information in our contemporary media landscape. Recent exhibitions and performances include Honey, I’m Data with Keiken at Mira Festival, Barcelona, SPACE (Art + Technology), London and IMPAKT Festival, Utrecht; Care Stranding, Vorspiel Festival, Berlin; Intrapsychic Crisis, Guest Projects, London; Safety Glass, LUX, London (2018); Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled, Lewisham Arthouse, London; and out_of_body, isthisit?, online (2017).
Long live the King! In the wake of President Macron’s mismanagement of the gilets jaunes, dismall poll rating and unpopular reform policies Léa Porré announces her campaign to reinstate Louis Bourbon, otherwise known as Louis XX, as a digitally elected representative of God on earth, to reign over the Kingdom of France. Return to an era of French exceptionalism, undisputed as leaders of etiquette, representation and spectacle. Take back control by reinstating what made France the sovereign authority on all things, from lavish gold palaces to the finely trimmed Jardins à la Française. Become a good Royalist by signing up to the online email enrolment, listen out over the wireless for incoming pro-Louis XX radio announcements and fund the revolution by buying exclusive collectable merchandise. Louis XX For 2020, the King is Back.
Léa Porré is a French artist currently studying MA CAP Critical Practice at the Royal College of Art in London. Porré’s practice employs varied means of digital and physical fabrication delving into French history to create speculative contemporary scenarios exploring ritual, power and image of nationhood. Her current project investigates the hyperreal, what would France look like if the Monarchy was reinstated? Recent exhibitions include Who knows what happened here?, Placement Produit, Paris (2019); Total Immersion, State of the Art Berlin, Berlin (2018); and Fake Plastic Forever, Internet Moon Gallery, online (2018). She was one of four artists involved Ghosted a web residency hosted by Schlosspost and Akademie Solitude (2018) and took part in two editions of Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, London (2017 & 2018). This year she will debut her first solo exhibition taking over the 17th C. Chateau de Lantheuil in Normandy.
Artist Aaron Scheer’s Digital Aquarelles are one of his eponymous series of digital artworks consisting of four digital paintings in which the digital paints are made of rectangles edited with touchpad swipes. The artist has created these digital watercolour paintings through LED-backlit glossy widescreen display (Apple), FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display (Samsung), and 2160 x 1440, 200 PPI, touch enabled display (Huawei) devices. This series of works refer to both the medium and the resulting artwork. The use of LEDs produces great light intensity and gives the surface the appropriate texture to maximize visuality when illuminated fully. The artist’s digital watercolours appear luminous because the digital rectangles are laid down in a pure form, further edited with Light and Color tools. Once complete, these digital watercolours may be read as an abstracted version of contemporary digital activities, referencing Wallpapers made for Lock Screens and Home Screens, as well as traditional art historical watercolours.
Aaron Scheer is a German artist whose work utilises the digital realm to combine elements of collage, photography and painterly technique to expand what painting can be and mean today. The artist’s process involves using free form digital gestures, keyboard commands and touchscreen swipes to develop his works, which once complete may be read as an abstracted version of contemporary digital activities. He has recently had solo exhibitions with FINAL_007 (02) Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2019); Aaron Scheer, Contemporary Collective Gallery for Artsey, Berlin (2018); and Inside the Artists Studio with Aaron Scheer, Off Site Project as part of The Wrong Biennale, online (2017). Duo and group exhibitions have included Painting Inside the Matrix: Code and its Others, Painting at the End of the World at DOK Artist Space, Edinburgh; Cacotopia 03, Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2018), Identity as Continuum, Gothenburg International Art & Design Festival, Gothenburg; and The Choice of a New Generation, isthisit? at Muse Gallery, London (2017), amongst others. This year his work was shown by Annka Kultys Gallery at Salon ACME in Mexico City. Aaron currently lives and works in Berlin.
Filmed in 360°, Fernanda tells the everyday story of families split across borders, seen from the perspective of Ponce’s 9 year old cousin Fernanda. Taking place in Ecuador, over the new year period, Fernanda takes us through city streets as fireworks explode overhead, announcing herself and optimistically greeting everyone in the Estados Unidos. Later she tours us through her home, asking busy relatives to say hi to the camera as they help to prepare the holiday cena. Overlapping this backdrop Ponce introduces fragments of footage, showing ceremonial burnings of Disney icons and the 3d scanning of cultural artefacts, speaking to the post-colonial influence the United States has on Latin America and the status technological prowess grants one nation over another. These deeply complex conversations run parallel to the unbridled joy Fernanda takes in exploring the platform her cousin’s camera gives her to speak to the world. *Please note that the video is best viewed on a headset or smartphone screen.
Libbi Ponce is an Ecuadorian-American artist whose work explores Latinx-Futurism and modes of decolonisation. Drawing from her status as a first-generation immigrant, her family heritage and experience growing up digitally native, Ponce creates immersive video installations, remixes daily video documentation, has developed an interstellar alter-ego and carves Pre-Columbian puppies. Solo exhibitions include Then We’re Out of Danger, Lector Social Club, Tampa; bili’s house, Off Site Project, online; (2018) and i want a nice german girl, Centre Gallery, Tampa (2017). She has exhibited in duo and group shows Nola Film Shorts Festival, The Front, New Orleans; Memetic Geometry, Gallery 501; You Have A Beautiful Home, Quaid Gallery, Tampa (2018); and The Mix Show, Lemin Space, Los Angeles (2017). Recently she took part in the Ox-Bow School of Art & Artists Residency, attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Currents Undergraduate Summer Residency as a Dina Wind scholarship awardee, and co-founded the curatorial project Migrant Mothers. She currently works as an art instructor at the Tampa Museum of Art.