Konrad Wyrebek’s Corrupted Paintings Explore Digital Culture and Dire Climate Change

Apr 25, 2016 5:58PM

Climate change and our increasingly digital culture—there are hardly two bigger issues in the modern age. For his new solo show at Galerie Ron Mandos in Amsterdam, Konrad Wyrebek explores both topics, tying them together in a beguiling series of paintings.

Konrad Wyrebek’s “2°C above acCLI-­M8 X.” Image courtesy of Galerie Ron Mandos.

The show’s title, “2°C above acCLI-­M8 X,” looks unpronounceable, at least until you sound it out. It functions on several levels. As the global average temperature rises above the long-term average, scientists see a 2° deviation as an alarming, calamitous milestone. Meanwhile, “acCLI-­M8” is a play on words, containing “acclimate” and “climate” as well as the word “mate.” For London-based Wyrebek, “mate” signifies a normal person, someone who’s more concerned with his or her day-to-day life than with global issues; nevertheless, climate change affects them and, indeed, all of us. “acCLI-­M8 X” also suggests the word “climax”—a breaking point.

The title sets the tone for a series of large-format paintings, stark and abstract, based partly on images sourced from television, film, and print publications—not that you’ll be able to pick out many familiar figures or forms. The pixelated, overexposed works look more like ultrasounds or X-rays. Yet they’re effects Wyrebek intentionally creates. By implementing a succession of digital compressions and manipulations, he forces data corruption between device and software. However, though he controls the technique, he doesn’t control the final product. In fact, he’s inspired by imperfection and deformation.

“I know what I am interested in and I am trying to make that happen,” Wyrebek has said. “When you are watching a video online, you can see that sometimes pixelation happens for a second, but I am trying to set the condition to make it happen a bit longer.”

That push-pull between technology and humanity, between hard data and an individual’s experience of it—and an ability to corrupt it—is crucial to “2°C above acCLI-­M8 X” and the larger themes it tackles. How far can humans delve into a digital world before we lose control of it? And, perhaps more importantly, how far can we push our natural environment before we reach a climax—or have we already passed the point of no return?

Bridget Gleeson

2°C  above  acCLI-­M8  X” is on view at Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam, Apr. 9–May 14, 2016.

Follow Galerie Ron Mandos on Artsy.