When looking for places that allow us to explore the digital technologies we use daily from a bit of a different perspective, the field of art enters the frame; admittedly this sounds a bit boring as this is to be expected. But then, it is also quite pleasant. For example, when you find yourself in a dark room in London’s ICA filled with joyfully disturbing tones which confidently drift from music to noise and back again in front of a large screen on which a white grid and countless white sheep pass by never facing you; then a landscape of green plush chairs; then a fast rotating lemon and a filmed Sebastian Lütgert pretending to play the guitar he is not holding—all items (including the item Sebastian) appearing as needle-sharp imagesto lift some of the burden of vision off you, while the amplified voices of the three present human performers Martin Ebner, Theresa Patzschke, Eleni Poulou ask if there really is joy in repetition, if you can get them a shark, and if they could get tested—these being sentences that other people have written in Starship magazine previously. Oh, and Theresa plays the flute a little.
The way the video band Recycling Plastic Inevitable (RPI) collaborates with tools and techniques to explore surfaces, sounds, and sentences can be read as defying the logic in which we usually find technology; a rare moment in which a space opened to calibrate with technology differently. Not as efficient. Not as automatizing. Not as preconfigured. Not as pseudo-interactive. Also not as using media differently. Instead, technology, ideas, sounds, sights and surfaces have been gathered and are now collaborating.
This moment of collaboration is one worth holding on to. We usually do not collaborate with digital technology. We simply use it which always also means in this interactive world that we are being used—wrongly, the flexible digital software-world is presented to us as something more fixed than any hardware or tool ever was. With not much persuasion on their end, we have somehow become confused enough to go along with this moment of sheer usage. For us here in the West, the internet is what colourful Apples, Googles and Amazons have been creating for us in California. Until recently.
China did not use art to reposition technology. Still, it managed to end the ideology that there is one internet only which we all need to use and are used by. Interestingly, this end of the global internet-monster from California did not come with the insight that nations such as China or Russia could control it—that they curb, filter, push or make content disappear is something we have known for years, and more often than not Californian services such as Facebook went along with that. The myth of the global Californian internet-reign ended rather when next to their services, Chinese apps such as WeChat or TikTok became unique products with inventive interfaces that were in a quirky way more supporting and playfully easier to use than ours. Of course, we know that Chinese services are subjected to Chinese politics, which might help us to understand the powerful ideology of software we are also subjected to in the West. And this is why places such as art, which allow us to step aside from this technology, are important. There needs to be an effort to make this less boring for art though, which might not want to find itself confined again to an otherness-tradition just for our own sake.
– Recycling Plastic Inevitable, live at Opposition to the Commodity, ASP 5
ICA, London, Sat, 07 Dec 2019