Datascape: A technological view on reality

An exhibition that explores how contemporary artists approach the complexity of the current world

Published: Mar 17, 2014
Datascape: A technological view on reality

Capture of the videoinstallation "Parallel" by Harun Farocki © Harun Farocki 2012

By Marta Lorenzo Jáudenes (@MartaLorenzoJ)My Art Diary

Today, due to the development of new technologies, such as the arrival of the graphic interface in the late 1970’s, we are exposed every day to a huge flow of data and information that, being inevitably consumers, we must process. With the advent of network and mobile computing, it is increasingly clear that we dwell in a constant virtual reality, or rather “information capitalism”. We may be located as beings in a physical place but our inner self is always in a state of “extended reality”. Those artistic practices carried out by artists like Brenda Laurel and Rachel Strickland in the early 1990’s are long gone, where they saw in virtual reality –at the time installations where the viewers, equipped with helmets and manual controls, should wander through a virtual space recreated ad-hoc – the embodiment of the contemporary perceptive mode.

Internet, the use of the mobile phone and social networks overwhelm us without us realising that we are continually generating alternative realities from one only reality or landscape. This exhibition is born as a result of the effort to put in order or map these multiple territories, and can be seen since last Friday at LABoral: Datascape o nuevos paisajes en la era tecnológica.

This exhibition, that was originally presented at the Borusan Contemporary (Istanbul) in 2013, offers the opportunity to see through the eyes of 13 contemporary artists that work with new media how we can map and break down our current ever-changing and capricious reality. Thanks to them we can learn from its uses in a continuous feedback process that we barely listenor  know how to dissect, as we are overwhelmed by so much available information.

The curator of the show, Benjamin Weil, has chosen its title, Datascape, which is a combination of the terms Data and Scape (a part of the term Landscape), to reflect the complexity of the world in its multiple layers, from the classical to the contemporary. All of it in a new space-time continuum.

LABlog invaded by the digital weeds of Enrique Radigales

Among the artists that take part –some are national, some international, a good balance -, I would like to point out the pieces by five of them. Starting with Enrique Radigales, who is an artist that, with a touch of romanticism, does not renounce the obsolescence of the traditional supports, combining them with digital tools. Thus, his piece Primer diagnóstico taxonómico uses an actual physical landscape as reference –a rainfed area in Huesca- which he transforms or translates to the virtual world through a specific software, and whose final result is a sculptural installation where the traditional, represented by clay columns, is balanced with the digital, CSS-language printings of weeds. The most interesting aspect of this piece is that it translates this ruderal plants into digital weeds that, during the exhibition, are invading the web site of LABoral – also in the mobile, taking into account the responsive web,- following the dictates of an algorithm that emulates real life, id est, the plant that is in season on each time of year.

The case of Googlegrama by the digital photographer Joan Fontcuberta shows us a work of processing images of universal impact –hence the title Googlegrama, taken from the famous search engine Google- which represent events of great media impact. The methodology is taking cutouts or pixels from web sites using a free IT programme and selecting them by key words, and reorganising them to generate a photo-mosaic which, in this case, is an image, known by all of us of an interrogation room in the US prison Guantanamo Bay. In particular, it is paradoxical to discover that two of the key words for this search were “chat gathering” and “wisdom”.

For this show, the German Karin Sander exhibits a piece from her series serie Source Code. This is because most of the 3D objects that we see in our computer screens conceal a code that is used by the operative system of our computers to make them visible. In other words, if we entered a code line in our computer, the image or architectural body would appear as a 3D image. In this case, Karen has shown as a fresco the exact code corresponding to the wall of the entrance hall of LABoral that hosts the piece. Clearly, this is a different way of becoming aware of the way in which the network /Internet constantly translates our reality and of becoming more aware of everything this implies.

Karin Sander. Código XML-SVG, 2014. Image: Marcos Morilla. Simulation: Studio Karin Sander

As for Harun Farocki, he is one of the most important documentary and essay films directors of today. His work has been exhibited in retrospective shows all around the world. In fact, until March 23 at Exposición 93, which celebrates the opening year and the twentieth anniversary of the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela, one of his pieces can be seen together with other pieces by great names of contemporary art at national and international level. His pieces study the way images and representation systems define the political space and social awareness. In Parallel he compares the history of computer–created videogames with their representation in art history. In summary, how the aesthetic created by computers has pervaded and marked completely the theories of image representation along the short life, surpassing other art disciplines, such as photography or even filmmaking.

Charles Sandison. Detail of Logos (Hagia Sophia), 2013

Last, Charles Sandison, a reference among artists that work with new media, he is known for his site-specific video projections that overwhelm the viewer. I remember the first time I saw his work in Galería Max Estrella in Madrid eight years ago. His leitmotiv are pieces carefully generated with a computer, where he merges literature and biology references. In the VIII Edition of the award Premio ARCOmadrid-BEEP de Arte Electrónico, an evocating  "vanitas" under the title Natura Morte was the winner. On this ocassion in Gijón, his pieces integrate again with architecture creating an incredible organic feeling.. Logos (Hagia Sophia), as its very name indicates, uses as architectural reference this emblematic building of Istanbul, formerly a religious building, and currently desacralised and turned into a mere touristic site. With this installation,  Sandison, makes us reconsider the notion of history and architecture, of how this building becomes a part of another building , the venue of LABoral. Another call to learn to watch again.

This last words are essential. Today when, thanks to new technologies we can be ubiquitous, more than ever, we need to be able to focus and remember with the view of a child how to watch things for the first time, carefully and letting ourselves be taken away. Do you dare to question reality guided by these artists?

    Logo LABoral
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