Technologies for the celebration of multiple ends
If you are in Barcelona, you can go to the Santa Monica arts center from June 9 to August 21 to see the exhibition “La irrupció” (free admission) curated by Marta Gracia, Jara Rocha, and Enric Puig Punyet. More than twenty international and local works will open a dialogue about the complex circumstances we are living on the planet after the disruption of the pandemic.
Jara Rocha <3 also invited us to think about an itinerary, which you can do in person from now until August 21, 2022. Curiously, as many of these works are digital, you can also do the itinerary remotely, completing the pieces from your imagination, ghosts, and desires. You can find it right here.
What is it that is dying during this climate and ecological crisis? Our past, certainly, in those landscapes that we no longer recognise. Extractive capitalism is breathing its last or, perhaps, only becoming more extremist in its ‘green’ and ‘smart’ version. The White Liberal Man is dying, we fancy. Bolivian feminist, María Galindo, ridiculing the tears shed by the rich world about feeling apocalyptic, points out that those in the “arse-end of the world” live in a perpetual state of crisis, weathered by inventing tools from their surrounding environment and dicing with death on a daily basis: “the days have turned into colourful end-of-the-world celebrations.”
This itinerary takes us on a tour of exhibits that explore the role attributed to technologies in these times of beginnings and endings: from those atavistic fears about the power technology holds over us, to their potential to represent and support us in this political and chaotic transition towards the colourful, jumbled celebration of our multiple ends.
In Tally Saves the Internet, the web is a space that oscillates between wonder and darkness, but does it? Tally – a program that you can use in your browser – informs us that the internet has become a space where online marketing trackers capture our personal data and use it to convince us what to buy, how to feel and even how to vote: we are a data mine, says Tally and, as inert beings, we are prey to predictable inputs and outputs: are we perhaps machines? Tally is a few small lines of code that, as a type of gamification, portrays the powerful idea of an entertainment industry made up of heroes and monsters: technology as an individual expression establishes itself as the saviour of another technology, the internet, and celebrates its victory from the top of a pile of electronic scrap.
The internet loves a health metaphor, as if the healthy/sick binarism wasn’t already responsible for creating enough problems for society: between the anti-vaccine libertarians and hybrid hate bots running amok on social media, false and misleading information – as the World Health Organization confirms – has the potential to harm people’s physical and mental health. Playing on the conveniently forgotten grayscale between truth and falsehood, Infodemic is a video that presents misinformation about the infodemic: it takes the most popular figures from the worlds of entertainment and social media, who, in blurred and glitchy images, deliver the words of academics, making you feel as though you’ve woken up in the middle of the night with a Covid-induced fever. Would TV viewers of the 1950s have been kept awake at night by the communications theorists saying that mass media would have an overwhelming and unidirectional power over people?
An eternal Zoom meeting: one that lasts a lifetime. Unreal Window is not necessarily about how work encroaches on our private spaces, but about the production of the self: Where do I exist? This is one of the few works in the exhibition in which a representation of the hybrid human is brought to life, although not in terms of how it relates to the community, but in terms of the self. Technology, like an eye constantly watching you, as if you were the most interesting creature in the universe. And a ‘self’ that, furtively, stares abstractedly at the screen to see how they are portrayed. Authors such as Ruha Benjamin say that artificial intelligence (AI) creates people; others, at times, believe, alternatively, that it recreates them and, perhaps, Unreal Window invites us to think of AI as a window in which we are trying to reflect ourselves from the best angle.
The pandemic globe and the planet in climatic and ecological crisis brought a new way of looking at our relationship with the minutiae of everyday life and the role of technology in that space in which capitalism has us producing even when we are relaxing in our room. At the end of the piece, a female robotic voice says that she misses her work… who is speaking? What are they saying they miss? In a certain sense, this piece is profoundly melancholic: in the solitude of the person not at home, its stylised images could be the gardens that we did not see, the sea in which we did not bathe, the sky we no longer wonder at. Are we talking about the new climatic conditions of our own environment as the Earth no longer seems to be our home? Are these idle gardens – without any material depiction of the human species – a possible digital terraforming of the planet?
What if the role of technology in climate adaptation was like an Éric Rohmer movie? It would, perhaps, be a perfect blend of chance, charmingly giddy searches and a mellow taste of summer. Like Imaginary Sunset, which shows us fictional sunsets, generated by artificial intelligence and learned from photographs uploaded on social media during lockdown. Beautiful images, maybe sentimental, maybe emotional or just captured to generate a like. How are we going to search for our own green ray in the summer when the heat outside is impossible to bear?
Interpreting Dipesh Chakrabarty on the climate crisis and the discussion about the term 'Anthropocene', it could be said that in terms of our planetary timeline (on the scale of millions of years by which, ultimately, it will outlive us as a species), it is the humans who have turned into a geological force and the planet, a political actor. Spectral Landscapes could be the spectral communication that the European West establishes with this other – the planet – that makes it more distant today than ever before but that is crucial to its politics. Who interprets what we cannot see? The sensors. Technology, like a shaman or a poet who, paraphrasing a famous verse by Pablo Neruda, comes to “speak through your dead mouths”.
Rosi Braidotti says that, in overcoming human patriarchal supremacy, posthuman subjects do not think of themselves as unitary or autonomous, but rather as collaborative, integrated and embodied, affective and relational entities. Syndemic Sublime is about being closer to the tangle of species and the representation of the end of that binary and fanciful separation between nature and culture. But when we watch Syndemic Sublime, who is it that is watching? Us or the computer that interprets data and generates images and opens up new possibilities for us? Technology can be seen as something that is instrumental, but that comes at the cost of locking us into the domination/liberation binary. Or, perhaps, we can embrace a sustainable present and a positive future and think of a kind of technology that is intimately enmeshed with the social fabric and with ourselves: a kind of technology that aids our adaptation to multiple ends.