Somewhere in America, year 2025. The government’s corporate interests have led to an annihilation of state-run infrastructures. Private service providers registered on faceless digital platforms have replaced all social services. A few years before, drastic austerity measures resulted in the dissolution of the Environment Protection Agency. Unregulated carbon emissions and the rapid melting of the ice caps have led to a sea level rise of over
20 feet. The US’s former coastal cultural hubs have their feet underwater: no roads, no public transportation, and no social spaces. The most fortunate residents now move about by UberCHOPPER, the others use makeshift rafts – if they have the ability to leave their pods at all.
In this new reality, most people – including the central character in Citarella’s SWIM A Few Years From Now (2017) – hardly go out. A freelance worker on a zero-hour contract, SWIM (Someone Who Isn’t Me), an acronym developed to avoid self-incrimination on Internet message boards) constantly waits at home to be pinged for the next job. The division between labor and leisure, workplace and accommodation, has collapsed. Like
millions of others, this worker is constantly “on call,” ready to offer his services in whichever time zone he might be needed.
Inspired in part by the online communities of survivalists and homesteaders, who champion a frugal, “off-grid lifestyle” while they prepare for impending doom, SWIM strives for self-sufficiency. In his interior – represented in the aggrandizing dimensions of history painting – every inch of space is maximized, from the desk/cooker, to the wet room which doubles as an hydroponic garden. Retails have long been relocated miles from residential areas. Supplies may be delivered by canoe or drone, but cash is short, delays are frequent, and the stockpiling of dry goods has become a necessity. Paranoia reigns supreme, and ownership is the only value. Those like SWIM, who are lucky enough to have a place to call home, live under the constant fear of being invaded. Five alarms wire the room, and a crossbow is always at arm’s reach.
By outlining an all-too-plausible future scenario, SWIM A Few Years From Now probes into a disconcerting new phenomenon. It touches on contemporary culture’s fascination with survivalism, which seems to both present itself as a backlash against unchecked global capitalism (planning for societal collapse due to economic or environmental
disaster) but also the worship of private property rights under the libertarian ideals of individual freedom. The trend skyrocketed in public interest and financial investment after the presidential elections. People are preparing for the worst. The inherent ideological contradictions of the survivalist community seem to echo the very dynamic
that pushed disenfranchised droves of the former American middle class to elect a president who so perfectly embodies the system which led to their demise. Today, Americans distrust the establishment and the state, so they choose to embrace deregulation and privatization. SWIM embodies a future wherein the state has fully
eroded under the might of the private sector, an ultra-efficient and unsympathetic anarcho-capitalist utopia.
Positioned at the crossroad between speculative theory and more traditional artistic concerns to do with representation and image making, Citeralla’s work tackles urgent contemporary issues. In the series Multiplied Coltan, the artist looks at coltan, a metallic ore mostly mined in Central Africa and linked to wars in the region, as well as countless cases of human rights abuse. Indispensable to the making of capacitors found in most
electronic devices, from mobile phones to computers to modems to washing machines, it’s one of the most controversial and essential resources of our times.
While generations of photographers have undermined the conceit of photographic truth, Citarella – who trained in photography – unpicks the digital image’s component parts in an attempt to dispose of the virtual immateriality myth. There's no such thing as bundles
of ethereal pixels, tamable at the click of a mouse: a flow of information comes with a
flow of material. Digital images demand metals, minerals, oils; mines and wells; hard cash
and hard labor. Coltan is dug out of the depths it usually occupies, and with it some unpalatable truths of the contemporary condition.
Made of superimposed planes, each piece clearly bears a Photoshopped image, although in this instance the usual viewpoint has been reversed. Instead of suggesting an eye looking at a monitor, Citarella invites viewers to contemplate the works’ layers as if from underneath, peering out from a computer core.
The gaze is forced through a grey slab of coltan before it gives way to a screen's dazzling hues. And these colors are not incidental. They reference ‘Lab’ colour space, a colour model subtending all others, and whose gamut far exceeds what is perceptible to the human eye. Multiplied Coltan thus encapsulates the friction between the digital palette’s endless, seductive colors and coltan’s blunt materiality and finite supply.