In one video, the protagonists are ushered into an apartment and begin to gradually appropriate its space. They seize bedlinen, saunter leisurely and stare at an iPhone which is recording the crowd. As a matter of fact, the protagonists of the Guests from the Riverside are crabs for which the space where they have found themselves means something entirely different than for us, humans. Let into Hirofumi Nakamoto’s lodgings, the crabs make autonomous decisions about how to move and colonize the area. As part of the 18th WRO Media Art Biennale CZYNNIK LUDZKI/HUMAN ASPECT, the ASPEKT! ASPEKT! exhibition explores the Biennale’s motto by focusing on factors which interrogate and undercut the entrenched model of being human and the relevance of human agency. To this end, the show highlights the multiplicity of elements which affect the perception of reality and seeks to give more prominence to non-human active agencies which fare quite well without us.
While the show’s programs are thematically arranged, the videos grouped in this way cross-correspond, and the final form of screenings is determined by the selection of techniques and subjects.
The first ASPECT primarily concerns self- fashioning, the flexibility of identity, and practices which far from being merely an outcome of one-directional self-management result from a complex interplay of action and the re-action of reality. Jędrzej Sierpiński plays at simulating being himself, wherein he manipulates a very popular gaming convention. In The Big Browser 3D, Akihiko Taniguchi produces a virtual representation of himself, traverses a map which replaces territory, and reveals how illusory the division into the social world and the virtual world is. For his part, Kim Kielhofner stages himself as a forever ongoing work in progress, a design of thousands of colorful components. Amidst them, Hui Ye’s Quick Code Service explores how much the capitalism of surveillance has catalogued our world, and Kuesti Fraun illuminates everyday events whose intensity impresses an indelible mark on our lives. The wide range of the first aspect video program implies that the dispersal of the human subject largely results from entanglements with the world of electronic media.
The second ASPECT investigates space, the world into which we have been hurled and which we perceive through our bodies and interpret from the position we take in it. We watch the shots of the monumental, modernist, but also post-apocalyptic Russia – Russia which literally stands on its head in Dimitri Venkov’s video. In Operation Jane Walk, Leonhard Müllner and Robin Klengel visit a virtual version of New York. We can observe the world from various perspectives, which is thematized in the videos by Rafał Żarski and Jacek Chamot, whose visions capture the mathematical patterns underlying reality, ad in Mirai Mizue’s Dreamland, where the vividly pulsating colorful animation, which corresponds to the project of London’s Crystal Palace, is a prelude to reflections on conquering and settling a planet. An inherently posthumanist approach is adopted by Daria Jelonek, whose Technological Nature argues that technology not so much supplants nature as rather is nature as such, because it relies on natural laws and is composed of chemical elements. There are no people in Jelonek’s video, but for all the envisioned catastrophe of our species, the world will all the same go on without humans.
Thematically most capacious, the third ASPECT can be divided into two groups. One of them addresses objects we use and the ways in which they affect our relationship with the world by domesticating this world, facilitating our daily lives, and also by shutting off other paths. The Nocturne by BlurBoyz redefines a clearly fixed mode of musical composition by introducing lamplight into darkness. In Ich bin der Übermensch, Joacelio Batista puts his protagonist in the situation where he is constrained by the surrounding objects which set the tone of human-thing relations. Children of a Turkish city are recorded by Hamza Kirbas while they are at play: as the cans which serve them as a platform become extensions of their bodies and make them taller, the children produce metallic sounds when moving and establish their status in the group by constantly re-casting the hierarchy of objects and people.
The other part of the program portrays the world in the age of the Anthropocene, i.e., a new form of humanism in which humans still play the essential role, with the potential of other active agencies being pushed out of awareness and underappreciated. In his My Body is My Laboratory, which seeks to crack the mystery of the communicative proto-source of the dolphin and the human, Gaetan Kubo showcases the scientific potential of art, whose intuitions convey the complexity of evolutionary processes in more compelling ways than the language of science. Tropics and the already mentioned Guests from the Riverside also explore the agency of non-human actors, specifically of the ghosts of ancestors in the video by Mathilde Lavenne and of the colonizing crabs, friends of Hirofumi Nakamoto, to conclude that our planet can do very well whether we are here or not: it did before humans appeared and it does now, with us around. The two thematic parts of the third program are cut across by Magdalena Łazarczyk and Zuza Golińska on scooters in their Nothing Twice. The strikingly similar figures ride scooters across the interior of a huge hall which houses a market filled with identical, mass-produced commodities. The sightseeing tour made by Łazarczyk and Golińska serves as a poignant commentary on the contemporary curiosities fair where our selves dissolve among a multitude of objects which are used by the artists as well. The video also offers a critique of architecture, whose monumental, warehouse-meets-the-military form is a means of customer manipulation. Concrete has indeed swamped the Earth, but there are still spaces to be filled.
Curator: Piotr Krajewski
Coordinator: Cezary Wicher
Production: WRO Team