Artist: Recycle Group
Focus artwork: “Blocked Content” (2017)
My friend Rob was the first person to note the overall lack of technology-driven work in this year’s biennial. It seemed like artists were more concerned with traditional material forms like sculpture, painting, and drawing.
“Maybe it’s because we’re already in a media-saturated technological world; why make art about what we’re already exposed to or forced to engage with technology on a daily basis. Maybe a lot of artists are working with non-technological material because it ISN’T technology,” I said.
“Touche,” he said, “but it’s still a sign of our times.”
Agreed. The exhibition was in fact really cool. I’ll skip describing the first floor because I didn’t get it. It was mostly little white figurines of what looked like space-soldiers. A central staircase led viewers downstairs. The lower level was where I was thoroughly impressed by Recycle Group’s digital installation.
A 360 degree panoramic sculpture, all-white human figures are partially submerged in geometric and angular same-white 3-D shapes. The sculpture on its own is beautiful. A calf is decipherable, looking like a lost limb, in other places, a hand, a knee, is seen. However, the work doesn’t end there. A woman approached us with an Ipad in her hand. Holding it up to the calibration squares I hadn’t even noticed (I was distracted pinpointing the human anatomy I could), she showed us how the figures could appear to us fully as colorful neon digitally rendered forms, with the help of a downloadable app through our smart-phones (or the Ipad she provided). With complete visibility of the bodies, the viewer can see that some of the figures are grasping each other by hand and sometimes by head. It looks like punishment. After seeing the digital human forms, I realized that next to the calibration squares were brief identifications: “ /female/age 24/activity: high/reason: inappropriate content/status:blocked”. Words like “activity,” “inappropriate content” and “blocked” immediately conjured a larger overlying phenomena - social media, the very things that taint our 21st century.
“In Blocked Content, Recycle Group create an absurdist image of artificial intelligence as an authority on ethical standards to play with the phenomenon of virtual reality and social media. In an exploration of immortality in contemporary society, ‘saints’ of the web are granted eternal life and ‘sinners’ – including spammers, virus retailers and fake-celebrities – are punished.
An epiphany about life and death in the virtual realm, the installation takes inspiration from Dante's 9th Circle of Hell. Featuring scenes of Hell, the installation shows profiles frozen in a vacuum, without likes and reposts and unable to return to life, only fully on view through a virtual reality app that will be downloaded to visitors’ mobile devices.” - http://recycleartgroup.com/exhibitions/blocked_content/
Photograph by Robert Battersby