Shiraz Art House • Daralhokoomeh Project • May/June 2014
As part of Bitrates - an exhibition curated by Morehshin Allahyari and Mani Nilchiani at the Dar-ol-Hokoomeh Project, Shiraz, Iran – I asked 50 artists to create or curate an animated GIF with a short snippet of audio, to be looped together ad infinitum at GIFbites.com. For the opening of Bitrates on May 23rd a select version of this project will be displayed in the gallery, followed by a complete showcase of all the GIFs for the GIFbites exhibition, opening on May 30th in Shiraz Art House (Daralhokoomeh Project).
In an era of ubiquitous internet access and the extensive post-production of HD and 3D images, the animated GIF has an ironic status. Small in dimension and able to be squeezed through the slenderest of bandwidths, GIFs hark back to a World Wide Web designed for 640×480 pixel screens; a web of scrolling text, and not much else. Brought on – ironically – by their obsolescence the animated GIF has become a primary medium of communication on the contemporary net. The simplicity, freedom and openness of the medium allows even the most amateur web enthusiast to recuperate images plucked from TV, cinema, YouTube, CCTV footage, cartoons, videogames and elsewhere in their desire to communicate an idea or exclamation to the world. GIFbites is a mesmerising homage to brevity and the potential of poor, degraded images to speak beyond the apparent means of their bitrates. The results will hopefully navigate the web for many years to come, stimulating cut-and-paste conversations undefinable by Google’s search algorithms.
Featuring the work of 50+ artists:
Excerpt from the essay :
If linear perspective centred the World on the Earthly beholder – rendering the artist, viewer or owner of a painting as master of all they purveyed – then its replacement, a tumbling or “dynamic viewing space” imposes a kind of vertigo on the subject, causing us to misjudge the social and political ground of our perceptions. Henner’s 51 US Military Outposts places viewers in the position of Gods above a toy-like World, the fidelity of which is wholly reliant on the resolution of the sourced images. In line with his Feedlots and Oil Fields series, the resolution of the images – appropriated from Google Earth, and painstakingly stitched together – gives us a clue as to where their socio-political ground is located. Just as a pixel attains significance only within the context of the image grid, so the relatively plain surface of Earth is politically meaningless, is without form and void, until its geometries and textures, its biological traces and material densities, are caught and defined in the vast, inconceivable, territories of the database.
Internet of my dreams was Anthony Antonellis’ solo show at Transfer Gallery, in March 2014. At the conclusion of the exhibition, a digital panel convened around a series of topics that had informed the exhibition. Eleven panelists were invited to participate by moderators Anthony Antonellis and Arjun Ram Srivatsa.
The discussions took place online over the course of two days in the form of written submissions and video chats conducted from the gallery. Each panelist was able to address topics raised by previous panelists in a linear format similar to a comment thread.
I contributed a science fictional fabulation to proceedings, responding to the ideas generated by, and circling around, Anthony Antonellis’ exhibition. You can listen to the text below, but I urge you to go to Anthony’s website for the full digital panel and browse browse click dream browse.
Daniel Rourke: Your ongoing project, Dark Matter, was something of a revelation for me: a collection of objects forbidden or "unwelcome" in Iran, brought together through digital modelling, meshing, and 3D printing. The results are playful and surrealistic, with the same capacity to waken the subconscious as any Dali Lobster-Telephone or Hair-Lamp. For me Dark Matter resonates as subversive not just because the dog-dildo is an affront to conservative sexual values, or because the Barbie-VHS blurs cultural boundaries (a feature of a lot of your work). Rather I was taken by how the objects spoke to the here and now; that perhaps there is something about the collapse of all commodities, forms, and ideas into the digital that promotes blurred perspectives and subversive practices. I wondered whether you saw your work as particular to the digital tools and materials you choose, or are you "just" making use of things that happen to be available to you?
Morehshin Allahyari: I was particularly interested in choosing the most relevant tools and materials for creating a new body of work about forbidden/unwelcome objects. I found the idea of "3D printing/re-creating the forbidden" a very compelling prospect, which raised paradoxical issues of limitations and boundaries—social, cultural, and political. I was also very interested in the technology of 3D printing as this "poetic technology" for resistance, for reclaiming all the things that were taken from me during my life in Iran or are currently being taken away from my sister, and mother, and my friends. There is something very special about things that you can't have access to when they are forced by law out of your life. When there are many of those objects/things, and they are the most ordinary things (dog, sex toys, neck-tie, Barbie, satellite-dish, Bart Simpson, ham/pig, alcohol, etc.), then there is something meaningful and symbolic about using a technology like 3D printing to re-create them. The combination of the objects, I think, adds a sense of humor to the work that is very similar to the ridiculousness of having these objects banned when you look at the whole picture.Read the rest of this interview at Rhizome.org
Excerpt from my essay :
Alma Alloro’s machines reel and spin in homage to the kinds of correspondences and affects images can make. In the tradition of Oskar Fischinger’s An Optical Poem (1938), or Hans Richter’s Rhythmus series (1920s) Apophenia is ‘about’ the preponderance of images: about what takes place when images move, but also about the very substance of the static image — a thing we had no need to conceive of until motion had been thrust upon it. Her works are concerned with performing a net aesthetic apart from the rigidity of digital codes and databases, linking her machines through animated GIFs back to… the principal technologies of animation… The machines, devices and contrivances of Apophenia celebrate similar instances when the coming into being of an image traces a noticeable and long-lasting mark in physical space. To be truly confronted with an image is to become aware of one’s own construction as a thing — ‘Here where the world touches’ — something that high-bandwidth, high-resolution and optical speeds tends to camouflage in the clarity of simulation.
John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, is a claustrophobic sci-fi thriller, exhibiting many hallmarks of the horror genre. The film depicts a sinister turn for matter, where the chaos of the replicating, cancerous cell is expanded to the human scale and beyond. In The Thing we watch as an alien force terrorises an isolated Antarctic outpost. The creature exhibits an awesome ability to imitate, devouring any creature it comes across before giving birth to an exact copy in a burst of blood and protoplasm. The Thing copies cell by cell and its process is so perfect – at every level of replication – that the resultant simulacrum speaks, acts and even thinks like the original. The Thing is so relentless, its copies so perfect, that the outpost’s Doctor, Blair, is sent mad at the implications:
Blair: If a cell gets out it could imitate everything on the face of the Earth… and it’s not gonna stop!!!
Based on John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella, Who Goes There?, Carpenter’s film revisits a gothic trope, as numerous in its incarnations as are the forms it is capable of taking. In Campbell’s original novella, the biologically impure is co-inhabited by a different type of infection: an infection of the Antarctic inhabitants’ inner lives. Plucked from an icy grave, The Thing sits, frozen solid, in a dark corner of the outpost, drip dripping towards re-animation. Before its cells begin their interstitial jump from alien to earthly biology, it is the dreams of the men that become infected:
‘So far the only thing you have said this thing gave off that was catching was dreams. I’ll go so far as to admit that.’
An impish, slightly malignant grin crossed the little man’s seamed face.
‘I had some, too. So. It’s dream-infectious. No doubt an exceedingly dangerous malady.’ (Campbell)
The Thing’s voracious drive to consume and imitate living beings calls to mind Freud’s uncanny: the dreadful creeping horror that dwells between homely and unhomely. According to Ernst Jentsch, whose work Freud references in his study, the uncanny is kindled, ‘when there is intellectual uncertainty whether an object is alive or not, and when an inanimate object becomes too much like an animate one’ (Grenville 233).
A body in the act of becoming: John W. Campbell’s novella depicts The Thing as a monstrous body that “swallows the world and is itself swallowed by the world”