It’s the same story in many countries around the globe: people wake up, dust the sleep from their eyes, and grab their smartphones, scrolling into infinity—checking email, Facebook, Instagram, and a host of other sites and apps, engaged in some sort of thoroughly modern trance. In this moment they are the perfect vessels for receiving pure, uninterrupted messages from the divine, argue Russian artist duo Recycle Group, whose solo show “Keep Me Updated Your Holiness” recently opened at Gazelli Art House in London.
For the exhibition, Recycle (Andrey Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetsov) return to themes covered in much of their work: creating physical traces of digital culture for posterity, and taking a satirical look at parallels between religion and the Information Age. “You cannot touch the spiritual world and you also cannot touch Wi-Fi,” Blokhin recently told Artsy. “If the divine does really exist, why can’t it communicate with all people at one time? But not talking through other people, like Jesus, Muhammad or Buddha, who can manipulate things. It’s more clear to say the same information to everyone at one time directly, without any errors.”
One of the first pieces visible when entering the gallery is Loading (2015). Comprised of what appears to be a piece of ancient stone, it has a “throbber” (the symbol that comes up when a website is loading content) carved into its surface. And only after reading about the sculpture does it become clear that it is made of rubber. Stepping on a corner of it emits a huge plume of smoke from a fog machine rigged inside. Nearby, a collection of “Basalt Rocks” (2015), also made from polyurethane rubber and emblazoned with recognizable symbols like the LinkedIn, Skype, and Google+ logos, are transformed into an eerie pile of ruins and relics that Recycle have consciously crafted for future generations. “I think the next generation will maybe have lost the meaning of these applications. It’s just graphic symbols. Like an Egyptian manuscript, the next generation will look on the internet and not understand and think ‘What is the meaning of this G+?’,” says Kuznetsov.
In an upstairs room, Photo Booth 1 and Photo Booth 3 (both 2015) hang opposite each other. The first piece depicts a repeating circular male bust while the second shows a similar quartet of females, all gracefully adopting the familiar poses of talking on or staring at smartphones. They recall classic Greek and Roman sculpture with their stately postures rendered in what appears to be marble, but are actually cast plastic (another instance where the artists use impeccably fabricated trickery). “Keep Me Updated Your Holiness” leaves the viewer wondering whether our collective reliance on and relationship to technology is positive or negative—Recycle Group choose not to give us the answer.
“Keep Me Updated Your Holiness” is on view at Gazelli Art House, London, Nov. 20, 2015–Jan. 10, 2016.
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Idee di Pietra in Gstaad, Switzerland