Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran is pleased to present the first instalment of a two-part collaboration with Montreal-based project space Vie d’ange. Our Thing brings together works from Aude Pariset, Jon Rafman and Christopher Kulendran Thomas which converge as visualized meditations on the crowd. Through three seemingly disparate ecologies, the artists express ways of navigation and survival within modern confines while imagining the organizational means of transcending them. The French psychotherapist Félix Guattari identifies the interdependence of ‘the environmental’, ‘the social’ and ‘the psychological’ as realms of human concern which must cooperate and warns us that at our current disequilibrium: ..there is at least a risk that there will be no more human history unless humanity undertakes a radical reconsideration of itself . Our Thing brings three different readings of our modern society into dialog while illuminating the complexities of their interdependence. The exhibition surveys the cognitive dissonance between our individual ethical aspirations and our collective group behaviour.
In Jon Rafman’s Poor Magic the existential anxiety of the individual is rendered palpable amongst the crowd. Through a first-person script assembled from confessional posts found on internet forums, Rafman creates an anonymous protagonist who, despite being one amongst many, is able to induce an empathetic attachment. Animated in synchronized groups, the crowds make a panicked, individualistic attempt at evacuation, or alternatively march in formation towards certain failure. Crowd simulation software is traditionally used to predict how people might behave in a crisis, yet Poor Magic allows us to reflect on the algorithmic transformations of society and how technologies are influencing the ways bodies move and shaping the ways in which groups think.
In turn, Aude Pariset’s work explores human intervention upon non-human crowds. In Pariset’s Sweeping Bird series, images of deceased birds who have mistakenly ingested plastic debris instead of food are laser transferred upon changing pads for infants. As birds find themselves at one end of this inadvertent food chain, mealworms – by way of scientific discovery – have found a new role in anthropic ecology: to consume the most insidious residues of human consumption – styrofoam waste. Pariset’s sculpture will remain in the gallery across both this and the subsequent exhibition as these worms continue to transform it. Just as worms become collaborators in waste removal, Pariset redeploys them to the front lines of luxury commodity production. Mealworms are released onto the bioplastic surfaces upon which the artist has transferred images parsed from high-end lifestyle advertisements. Pariset’s work explores how supply chains inflict food chains as she speculates on an eco-capitalist dream that can at once continue circulating images of desire while consuming the detritus left in its wake.
Like the systems-thinking demonstrated in Pariset’s work, Christopher Kulendran Thomas’ ongoing project When Platitudes Become Form engages the networks and political economies of circulation. With a personal attention to the ensuing economic liberalization of Sri Lanka that occurred at the end of a violent 30-year civil war, Thomas’ work explores the territorializing tendencies of this economic order and its means of recuperating images and capital into its fortified domain. Thomas’ film 60 Million Americans Can’t Be Wrong outlines the story of this conflict, while imagining the emancipatory ways technology can propel us beyond the traditional boundaries of nation-states. The film also outlines that a concurrent frontier of this ongoing conflict is the emergence of the first Sri Lankan white cube style art galleries in 2009, where the proliferation of contemporary art in Sri Lanka has reflected a new spirit of prosperity while concealing the violence upon which that prosperity was founded. Thomas engages with this dislocation by intervening in these distributed networks of images and capital. Purchasing artworks by some of Sri Lanka’s foremost young contemporary artists, Thomas proceeds to radically recontextualize them for international circulation as elements within his own compositions, forcing a contradiction between the work’s materials along the geopolitical vectors that propel their circulation .
Our Thing is akin to a picture of a moving crowd in that it attempts to capture a still moment despite the fact that its subjects are in motion. A picture of a crowd is not to be confused with a definitive representation of a group, as many who are implicated are left out beyond the croppings of an images frame.