Hand-held by David Rokeby, one of the pieces in Elastic Reality

A brief analysis of the work by David Rokeby in Elastic Reality and all its implications

Published: May 28, 2013
Hand-held by David Rokeby, one of the pieces in Elastic Reality

David Rokeby, Hand-held, 2012

By Semíramis González
(@semiramis_glez). Semíramis en Babilonia.

The exhibition “Elastic Reality", which opened at LABoral on 15 March, is undoubtedly one of the shows of the season; in it we can enjoy ten pieces produced at Le Fresnoy-Studio National des Arts Contemporains [France].

This blog has discussed with particular interest everything related to Elastic Reality, from its first entry to later ones, including an interview with the curator, Benjamin Weil, and with one of the resident artists, Maya Da-Rin.

This post, however, focuses on an art work, specifically that of David Rokeby, Hand-held.

Located at the entrance of the Galería de Exposiciones [Exhibition Gallery and Hall], the piece’s apparent innocence does not make it possible for us to really know how it works until the spectator is positioned on it and interacts. The space of the work is activated by human presence, generating a projection of hand images onto the body which multiply and perform different actions.

What we find interesting is playing with our own hands to see other ones which are superimposed, converting our bodies into a part of the piece. Also, at a certain height the images change, transform, and we have to move to be able to make out all of them.



This conjunction of technology and human intervention is very interesting and is the central theme of the entire exhibition which, as its name indicates, attempts to reflect on how technical and technological evolution condition our way of seeing the world, of how we interpret and experience it, and this is something that plastic arts also work with.

The body has been the object of artistic representation over the course of the history of art, but it wasn´t until the beginning of the 20th century that it also became the subject through different performances, many originating from the theatre.

At the time when digital media began to develop in art, especially in recent decades, it was predictable that this conjunction of technology and the body was given since scientific research in both fields has gone hand in hand for many years.  Isn’t technology ultimately a means of improving our place in the world? Isn’t it aimed at facilitating our existence in the space we occupy?

The work by Rokeby holds a part of all of this; it is about being changed into the subject and object: as an active agent that is located in a determined space that interacts with the piece, and as an object of the work, with the hands as the proposed theme which additionally move and change depending on height.

Benjamin Weil, Artistic Director of LABoral and Curator of Elastic Reality, said that this concept “is a state of reality combining all of these layers which describe the complexity and instability of the real”.

Reality, therefore, has become changeable, flexible… And art has been transformed with it. The information has been converted into an artistic piece. The conceptual, as reiterated by Kosuth’s Chairs, have won the battle, and the intangible seems to be the new protagonist of the reality. From smart phones to the internet, the constant flow of information continuously reaches us and, at times, even overwhelms us. It is necessary, therefore, to stop and try to find a proper sense of this new reality.

And this, in the end, is what art has always been about: seeking to be the medium that explains what we are doing in the world and how we interpret it according to the historic time.

We could say that we are living through an elastic historic moment and that this exhibition shows the complexity of this instant through its different pieces.

The sub-heading of Beyond the Exhibition: new interfaces for contemporary art in Europe reflects this idea once again - not only the progressive dematerialisation of art work but also the actual disappearance of the idea of exhibition in its more classical form. The exhibition is no longer a determined physical space but an idea, and as such may be placed anywhere (as an example of an innovative project we could mention La exposición expandida [the Expanded Exhibition], that turned blogs into spaces for exhibiting.

In additional entries in this blog other works have been analysed, such as the one by Maya Da-Rin, who again reminds us of the current reality, that of constant surveillance through mobile devices.

Elastic Reality is a complete exhibition, a labyrinth to be entered so as to find different interpretations of the present time through very accomplished pieces.

In my case, I have deliberately chosen the work by Rokeby for all of its metaphorical and imaginary content. The simple projection of some hands in different attitudes reflects a whole series of concepts as interesting as intervention, reality, corporality and action, among others.

Without a doubt, it is a piece to be enjoyed live, playing with our hands and those of the anonymous protagonists from the projection.




Collaborating Patron:

With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

European Union

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