Martin Mayorga & Vanessa Murrell
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. 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. In August 2019, it will culminate with an online show which intends to chart the year through aesthetic as well as social and political lenses.
Ade Adekola, Bob Bicknell-Knight, Stine Deja, Camila Gonzalez Corea, James Irwin, Thomas van Linge, Merle Luhaäär, Agnes Momirski, Jake Moore, Emma Stern, Josie Tucker, Puck Verkade, Thomas Yeomans.
World Wide Web
Cabaret Voltaire’s song from 1981, ‘Spread the Virus’, pioneered the birth of a new sound whilst declaring a “sixty-second wipe out” from viral infection. Named after this release, ‘Spread the Virus’, has followed in these radical footsteps through its ability to shift, grow, and evolve in unpredictable ways. Viruses spread in numerous manners; and as if in parallel, the online exhibition has encouraged multiplication through an on-going line-up of newly made artworks that encompass an unlimited exploration of digital practice. Displaying works by artists from across the globe who have never before been shown together in either physical or online settings, ‘Spread The Virus’ seeks to digitalise all aspects of our lives, translating our physical reality into binary code.
Curated by Vanessa Murrell, Martin Mayorga, and Bob Bicknell-Knight, ‘Spread The Virus’ has become an investigation into the digital realm, in a digital setting and without any commercial or physical confinements, allowing the ‘virus’ to take its own complex and unforeseeable course. Having culminated after a year of development, it is an exhibition that operates inversely, since its contextualisation is only considered once the show has formally ended. Jumbling the norms of exhibition protocol, ‘Spread the Virus’ is theoretically diverse yet unified through its focus on the digital medium, disrupting our senses to tune us into the virtually mediated reality they create. Digitalisation is a virus that we continue to, voluntarily, let in.
Artists Emma Stern and Camila Gonzalez Corea actively explore the relationship between the digital and physical. The latter artist also critiques social media’s sexist policies in her artwork, leading us to acknowledge the inability to freely express our identities online. Bob Bicknell-Knight questions humanity’s continued transition into the virtual sphere by emphasising its adverse effects in the form of headline news. Conversely, using layered graphics and intricate soundscapes; James Irwin and Agnes Momirski encourage a more balanced view of virtual platforms. Their artworks hint that there is a solution to us becoming digitally overwhelmed that is achieved through focusing ourselves and slowing our thinking. Jake Moore goes further by rejecting any flaw of digitalisation at all, and instead sheds light upon a utopian yet symbolically masculine future through his harmonious video work.
The theme of hybridity oscillates between artworks in ‘Spread the Virus’. Through their elegant yet bizarre structures, Stine Deja’s futuristic concoctions of technology and human form seduce the viewer into reflecting upon the possibilities of trans-humanism. Other artworks choose to consider the dystopian potential of human evolution. In fact, Thomas Yeomans video serves as a blunt foreshadowing of where humanity is leading its ‘sisters, sailors and comrades’.
Glitched, broken and seemingly unravelled, the artworks of Ade Adekola and Josie Tucker manipulate colour to digitally narrate social and historical contexts. Additionally, Thomas van Linge and Puck Verkade’s disorientating soundscape comparably recounts the distant past whilst relishing its fragmentation. Merle Luhaäär’s work expands on similar notions of disorientation by offering no narrative at all, leaving us, ironically, in the dark. – Laura Gosney
Typical Tarzanist Tales, Audio, 2018
‘Typical Tarzanist Tales’ is an abstract sound piece by Van Linge and Verkade. Their collaboration is a sonic attempt to bring together their shared interests in appropriation, alteration, and collage. As a starting point, they invited a documentary voice-over artist to narrate a text loosely based on the Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT); a hypothesis that challenges the common Hunter Hypothesis, that human evolution was primarily influenced by the activity of hunting from predominantly male apes, arguing that it was the smaller female apes who sought cover from predators in the water, which eventually over time caused to enlarge the brain, foregrounding the agency of women in human evolution. Similar to the AAT, Van Linge and Verkade take original data and ideas but arrive at different conclusions, processing the information separately and by alternative means. They take on the notion that the act of processing data defines how data is perceived. The sound-piece is made by feeding the vocal information into a granular sampler and digital audio workstation (DAW) to unhinge the qualities of the voice from the context of language and interpretation, leaving us with reverberating noise frequencies and fragmented sentences to tune into. The piece combines some of the research that Verkade has been undertaking for a new video work, as well as taking aspects from Van Linge’s musical practice, making Techno music under the moniker Randstad, combining them together to create a glitched, post-news/alt-facts way of seeing different sides of a study steeped in structural sexism and post-colonialism.
Antibodies, 2018, 3D Printing
‘Antibodies’ is a playful exercise in reimagining human figures. The 3D sculptures precariously balance while stood in a literal ‘grey zone’. Despite being pieced together with human organs and technological elements such as a power cable or an athletic prosthetic, they all fit seamlessly together because they are interpreted with the same futuristic aesthetic. There is an undeniable bizarreness to imagining the inner-workings of our biological bodies, but when cleaned up and stripped of the ‘mess’ a digestive tract earns the same elegance as a single unoccupied contact lens.
Nailing the Colours, 2018, Video with sound, 3 mins 52 sec
Don’t ask us for the word to frame our shapeless spirit on all sides, and proclaim it in letters of fire to shine like a lone crocus in a dusty field. Ah, the man who walks secure, a friend to others and himself, indifferent that high summer prints his shadow on a peeling wall! Don’t ask us for the phrase that can open worlds, just a few gnarled syllables, dry like a branch. Only this is what we can tell you today, that which we are not, that which we do not want.
The News, 2018, HD digital video with sound, 3 mins 12 sec
In this new video work Bicknell-Knight utilises footage from Dahir Insaat, a corporation and creative company that produces speculative animations as visual proposals to various governments and corporations around the world. The videos usually employ gravity and logic defying creations, from gyroscopic transportation devices to air dropped, drone activated, weaponry. The footage is foregrounded by an animated breaking news bar, supplying a continuous flow of ambiguous anti-capital texts, quoting various philosophers and writers. Sun bleached domes whisper into my field of view, slowly rendering into a small settlement of custom built living spaces baking in the light of a drooping, sad looking sun. The low hum of a nearby server farm, or perhaps a neighbourhood drone making its daily rounds, is abruptly permeated by the sharp notes of a singing bird. Later, I find myself passing a fully automated industrial unit, full of silicone based bodies producing other, higher quality variants of silicone based bodies. I press my own body up against the transparent, slightly frosted glass, watching my simulated breath settling on the surface. I smile, sadly, allowing the tips of my imitation fingers to make a tiny imprint on the moistened surface. One of the bodies sees, stretches, and begins to motion me inside. I close my eyes, selecting a different city, a disparate world, an abstracted scenario of what once was. New buildings begin to appear on the horizon, permanently positioned within the confines of my mind. A desert floor begins to materialise below my midriff, melting and transforming into untouched snow, followed by a dirt path and a flowing stream of unconscious data, all considered by the system, finally deciding on a concrete track, grey and bland. My gaze follows the urban trail, looking past the buildings to a solitary wind turbine, rusty and seemingly abandoned. Human beings used to frequently trip on the cracks in concrete paths, devolving past their hominid brethren and becoming too accustomed to the world being sculpted into a solid pebble of manufactured composites and thrown together elements. Fortunately, my modular form, a body made up of a selection of pre-fabricated parts, has no such evolutionary issues. Recycled rain, as fresh as it once was, begins to fall from a blank abyss, adding a thick layer of silky sheen to my surroundings. I lie back and open my air ducts, letting the glistening droplets infiltrate my inner workings, corrupting algorithms and flooding unknown ecosystems. This blissful abandon soon fades as my consciousness begins to be transported into another model, another biome, another modular form identical to the last. Farms, units and mines populate these vast expanses of dead space, intertwined by a network of unseen systems, structures and hidden bureaucracies. When this is your existence, a small smudge among other, similar sized smudges, autonomous transparency becomes increasingly important. This cycle is endless, doomed to delightfully repeat until the end of time, or until the crypto mines are depleted and their default path is deviated from, sending tremors through the artificial paradise of a neo-liberal bliss. White, iridescent light, floods my consciousness. A new body, loose and ill fitting, is slowly being brought to life. My lifeless form quickly tightens, stretching around a hollow, metallic rib cage. Already, I am exhausted.
LUXX and Good Morning, 2018, Oil on canvas, 34 x 24 in
In this new series of physical and digital artworks, Emma Stern continues to be interested in the relationship between the real and the virtual, the tangible and intangible. Three works are presented, all evolving and responding to a recent painting titled LUXX which continues her fascination with predominantly female 3D avatars, downloaded for free from the internet. These models, arguably resurrected by Stern, are then distorted and re-modelled, becoming paintings and 3D renders.
Eternal relics, 2018, Video
The cleansing waters rise against his flesh as he quests onward through the dark currents. He is met with the glacial heads of familiar mountains, the ruins of his construction in which he now seeks solace. Scattered are the tools of his mass-production; automated, robotic arms that stand rusted yet resilient to time. The phallic monuments are vast in number and rupture the untouched snowfall. Although relics of a bygone era, they continue to haunt him — a reminder of his inability to perform correctly in a heteronormative world. As he reaches the summit, he is transformed. After performing a final ritual of choreographed actions, exertions of hollowed masculinity by which he was once measured, he exhales. Utopia is here now, a chance for healing. Eternal Relics is the final part in a trilogy, continuing from Dreams in Ultraviolet and Beyond the Water’s Edge.
Irl, 2017, Digital Art
Focus, 2017, Digital Animatic
This work is inspired by the flood of mindfulness interfaces, and revisits the transcendental and spiritual context of our digitally mediated reality. The omnipresent movement towards a mind-spirit-technology symbiosis, teases the connection with the non-physical in us. The screen becomes a place of experiencing the intertwining of spiritual, dream, digital and virtual realms. It’s iridescent nature serves as a mirror to the organic and sentient world, showing a reflection of the inner self and the unraveling of the mind over our digital time-lines
Footballers, 2017, Colourfield
With an emphasis on colour, “Footballers” forms part of my colourfields series exploring different aspects of Nigerian contemporary Culture. These pieces have been created as vibrant abstract photographs, and are of fragmented snippets of life in Lagos converted into geometric shapes and infinite planes. The geometric shapes are used as building blocks, to devises multifaceted compositions. Multiple copies of compositional forms are created, generating repetitive shapes and chromatic patterns. Superimposing these shapes and geometric forms, on top of, beside, or inside each other the final piece is revealed. The final image is display in a light-box with programmed changing lights where colour as the fundamental ingredient is further enhanced.
Gamboyage, 2017, Digital Animatic
Gamboge paint is a highly toxic paint pigment, now disused but popular throughout history for it’s intense and unmatchable yellow colouring. It’s development process was long and dangerous (the pigment is highly toxic to humans) and it became so muddled in the horrific events of the 1975-1979 Cambodian massacres that it is no longer used commercially. Despite it’s lengthy process, Gamboge colour faded very quickly in light, and so there’s very little trace of it’s history in usage. Similar to the paint is the history of the victims of the genocide; no exact numbers exist, however it is known that the victims were pre-marked with a blue and white checkered scarf to signify themselves to their murderers. The video aims to tell the story of gamboge paint without ever depicting it; it only provides a fleeting glimpse through an optical illusion created by the inversion of the blue scarf tone. The illusion leaves a mark on the eyes in the pattern of the scarves worn by the victims, that fades quickly with light, just as the paint does.
Nightlight, 2017, Digital Art
‘Nightlight’ is reflecting the dual nature of light and humanity … good and evil, brains and Botox. The wave – particle duality as a concentration of energy is producing dual realities in space and time. Matrix is real and things don’t only appear but are different in nightlight.
(Slow Down) The Blame Game, 2017, 1080p HD video, 3mins 06secs
‘(Slow Down) The Blame Game’, 2017, is made from 3D rendered animation, ripped YouTube clips, real video camera footage and sampled audio. The work centres around a recording I made a few years ago of a vinyl cutter working in my studio. Within the clip, Kanye West’s ‘The Blame Game’ plays in the background. Taking this as a cue, the song becomes the soundtrack for the video. ‘The Blame Game’ fades in and out alongside the mechanical realtime footage of the vinyl cutter working, rips from Norwegian ‘slow tv’, and manic strobe filtered dancing. The opening bars of Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’ concludes the work; the original in place of Kanye’s sample. The video attempts to capture the energy of isolation and feverish anxiety that can result from being hyperconnected – a human node seeking a sense of calm within a complex network of ubiquitous technologies.