A New Prescription For Insomnia is built on the contemporary concepts of survivalism and escapism. GeoVanna Gonzalez’s latest curatorial project at HORSEANDPONY Fine Arts, Berlin interrogates how these ideas relate to current political issues including labor, desire and technology. Each of the ten artists in the show speculates new forms of tools and tactics that challenge or disrupt these ideas. The featured artist’s include Paul Barsch, Adam Chad Brody, Omsk Social Club, Julia Colavita, Michele Gabriele, Silas Parry, Zoë Claire Miller, Miller Robinson, Mark Stroemich, and Lorenzo Sandoval.
Over a live Google Doc Gonzalez invited three of the artists – Michele Gabriele, Omsk Social Club, and Lorenzo Sandoval – to offer insights on issues concerning our current political landscape, tools of resistances as a form of survival, in their art practice, society, and digital identity. The Google Doc format is connected to the concept of the exhibition: always being “on”, Gonzalez invited three artists to physically disconnect whilst engaging at the same time through the Doc. All three artists during this live conversation were communicating from different locations; Lorenzo Sandoval from Madrid Spain, Michele from Milan, Italy and Omsk Social Club from Berlin.
GeoVanna Gonzalez: Escapism is one of the key concepts of this group show. What does escapism mean to you; and what do you think are the benefits, and dangers, in creating art that explores this concept.
OSC: Isn’t the concept of escape, a departure point for survivalism now? 🙂
MG: Yes, I think so. Sometimes for me, escaping from reality is the only way to see things for what they truly are with all their possibilities, and accept them as that. This is for me the toughest thing. Getting far enough away from things sometimes means losing them.
LS: I think media is a permanent form of escapism. In a sense escapism is not at all something we can separate from anymore, but it has became reality itself. We have access to many realities which are mediated through a doppelgänger of technology. I mean, images or media narratives before were only an extension of experience, but now experience itself happens through different media, at least partially, i.e. this conversation. Facing the proposed idea of escapism, in my opinion the question I would like to think about is if there is still an outside, taking into account that anything that appears in the public realm is quickly absorbed in one way or another into processes of commodification. First we would need to know where to escape, and for that we’ll need to exercise a little bit more the imagination.
@Lorenzo: Can you explain what are some forms of mediation through “doppelgänger of technology”? And do you think this is beneficial or dangerous?
LS: As with any technology, it has different layers, and I don’t think it’s good or bad per se… it just changes and challenges previous cosmological models. This idea of the doppelgänger is easy to see when one thinks of how we navigate space with app-maps, or how much education or sports are done mediated in online channels, without presence, without bodies, without smells… there are some elements missing, or just different, in the lack of presence, and only seems to be a delay on the relationships… like a yoga teacher talking directly to you in a youtube video.
GG: Ok so Escapism is the idea of “survivalism”: the tools or tactics we use to deal with, or challenge, the status quo. Could this show physically enact a form of survivalism?
OSC: The work, inform_exform_reform_sample has literally been tried and tested in various survivalist modes, before it was exhibited. The vinyl form can be turned into a tent, thermo shower, shelter, bag, waterproof jacket etc. it also has an average life expectancy of 40 years with everyday use – so I guess one could say it’s a ready-made survivalist form.
LS: perhaps in the sense that my piece, Shadow Writing (Talbot / Babbage), is testing the limits of calculation, what can calculate, and then, if that is the best way of articulating the relationships between human and non-humans. For instance, are plants, or the ocean, doing calculations? I don’t think so, but the people linked to the technological singularity are proposing that model. If everything counts, then that mean there is nothing out of capital.
MG: It made me survive from self-destruction and from the ocean of inexorable delusions that I always have to deal with.
GG: One of things many people want to escape from, especially in the last couple of years, is a political world that seems distant and disconnected from reality. How does your work approach – or reject – the current political landscape.
OSC: The current political landscape is been built on terrain that is already crumbling, on foundational grids that are made up of digital chaos and algorithms. I personally feel the political world reflects exactly the reality we live in, perhaps the issue is that people can’t accept our present reality? We live in a world or life fasting, we consume to live, we live to consume – I try to produce work that doesn’t moralise our current status as limitless feeder’s but works around concepts of individuation, the ability to reflect on the personal and and collective unconscious – in the physical and meta narratives. Fiction, Facts and post-truths are all important plans of escape.
MG: I myself don’t know so much about the current political landscape. I’m more interested in civil rights and equality. In Respect and Honesty right now.
GG: Thanks to technological developments, it’s easier than ever to be “always on” – always connected to something, or someone. Do you find that, in your role as an artist, you have become increasingly reliant on online channels such as social media? And is participation in these channels a form of labor too?
MG: I think social media saved my career. I started working in a way that I consider reliant after people found me online. Italian curators before were not very interested in my work. I don’t spend much time on social media, but of course it is a part of my work, and anytime an art student writes that my work inspired them, bring them into the art world, it’s of course very satisfying and it give me the energy to continue to work in “my way”.
OSC: Digital labour is a huge part of my practice but I don’t see it as a negative notion, most of the contributors to the Survival Guide that accompanies my work was made possible via online platforms be it email or fb. Franco “Bifo” Berardi was in Italy during the edits, Ben Vickers in London, Kei Kreutler in Russia, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė were in Greece in fact thinking about it everyone was in a different country or time zone during print production.
LS: Participating online and in social media is a form of labor indeed. I think it is important to differentiate the use that one gives to social media (communication, information, promotion, socialization, etc), and what social media takes from you, and how these media can create paths of thinking through algorithmic organization: how info is organized in the wall of FB (who appears and who doesn’t), or how pics of IG follow a certain chain of images that are one after another because similar form or content; all mediated forms of narration, with different layers of ideology and profit making. The other question, I think is important to think about is the many shared economy channels in combination with social media, there is a collective valorization of the users by each other, and it has a direct influence on how relationships and architecture are shaped.
OSC: The fact we are “always on” is not the beast here it’s who we are on for, who are we performing for and who is profiting from us being “on” – this is something that we need to address, I’m definitely not into an anarcho-primitivist perspective of technology nor a accelerationist surge for universality via tech it is all about knowing what you eat and maintaining a balanced diet, so to speak.
GG: Does your work reflect this, do you challenge or explore these labor practices in your art?
MG: Maybe I can answer you by talking about some pieces of mine. The Artworks I exhibited in A New Prescription For Insomnia are part of the series: My Idea of Peter’s Idea of My Work. It all started in 2015, I was invited to participate in a group show; #vaporfolk #hollyvoodoo, Sponsored by Amazon Readymades, curated by artist Peter Moosgard and Bernhard Garnicnig, in Wien. My idea of Peter’s Idea of My Work are inspired by a conversation I had with Peter Moosgard during this exhibition, which resulted in a misunderstanding or an agreement. After a few months from the show, Peter, who runs a blog called Supercargo (cargoclub.tumblr.com), posted an image that appeared to be an engine of an airplane or something similar, which was discovered after many years in the middle of a forest, rusted, and full of moss and soil. Peter had hashtagged the image with my name and his name too, as if this image belonged to the both of us.That inspired me a lot. I have never understood how my work has led to be connected to that image. But the question became a trigger for me, and it has led to formally modifying my research to try to get a closer understanding to what my idea of Peter’s idea about my work would look like.
LS: I talk a little bit in the video actually, where it says labor is permanent when data is infinite. But perhaps, I’ve been working more with this idea another project of mine, a fictional institution called ‘The Institute for Endotic Research’, where I’ve been organizing encounters in ‘habitable sculpture’ I built in my own kitchen. The guest speakers I had were in one way or another (at least how I wanted to read their work) working with ideas related to everyday life, reproductive practices or institution-making in the domestic space.
GG: The nation state is an old idea, and maybe one that, post-internet, is becoming outdated. Do you consider yourself a citizen of a recognised nation state?
MG: People always tell me that I am Italian but I don’t look like an Italian Artist.
Damn. I live with my parents, I eat pizza almost every day, I’m very passionate in relationships, I sing pretty well.
I feel very Italian. Almost a caricature of an Italian guy sometimes.I just have a way of looking at things from long distances.
@Michele: Ha ha, interesting that you say that, as you and I have never met either. I must say that I do see you as an Italian artist, and we only talk to each other online and from long distances. Do you often think about what your works look like from long distance as well? And the difference between your works representation online vs its real presences?
MG: yes, I think a lot about what my works look like over long distances. The viewer that I have in my mind is far away and I try to increase the capacity of my works to communicate my ideas from long distances. At the same time, what my artworks often talk about, is something very close to me. My hometown and my everyday.
OSC: I’m the opposite I wouldn’t say I feel attached to a state nor do I identify with nationality but I think the internet is a point of departure from the traditional idea of Nation states. When Joseph Beuys boarded a flight to New York in 1974 to spend eight hours a day with a wild coyote for three days before flying home, he turned America as a Nation State into a symbolic gesture of mass. Beuys was on American land but he choose not to associate his mental or physically lived space with the country. Instead of experiencing the Nation State he perverted its discourse into a stylistic approach, representative only of his unique individual agenda. Beuys also submitted himself into a scenario of wild nature or queering nature as perhaps an act of survivalism, but not in the normalised way, he turned the safe gallery into a space of uncertainty. Bringing up the question of whether the urban contemporary dominates the ‘natural’ and to what merit or benefits does that have on culture.
@OSC: If this gesture today was re-enacted or created would it still be interesting?
OSC: maybe but the original reading is somewhat redundant as we are digital users constantly traveling through nations without touching or seeing their dominant societal culture. In a way we re-enact Beuys performance from the safety of our screen everyday, I guess that’s when we collectively de-centralise nation states.
@Michele, do you consciously make work ‘for’ or ‘of’ a particular place, or country?
MG: No. I like to think what aliens or people from the future, would think about my work.
GG: Lastly where do you think – or hope – your work, and this show as a whole, can take the viewer? Do you think art even has this potential: to give someone the opportunity, or at least a glimpse, of somewhere else, another reality, another way of living?
MG: I hope so.
I hope that it can help the view to step back and view reality in a different way or maybe reconsider the possibility of change.
LS: I’m not sure if it can give hints for another way of living. But in general, I think at least art, or culture in general, is a very good place to propose these questions. The labor of producing another way of living is only in the hands of the viewers.
OSC: At present, I’m very concerned with producing work that has various modes of functionality. Aesthetics can be functional, as can abstraction, but malleable modes of living, through art and theory is something of a fevered reality for me at present, especially through Real Game Play and larp – which is also what my work in the show could be see as, Real Game Play Survivalism….so yes.
A New Prescription For Insomnia finissage is this Sunday on May 21, from 6-10pm, with a four hour live set by Mark Stroemich, featuring tracks from various artists off his record label, Damp and Sloppy Records.
HORSEANDPONY Fine Arts, Altenbrakerstraße 18, 12053 Berlin.
HORSEANDPONY Fine Arts
A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR INSOMNIA
curated by GeoVanna Gonzalez
30 April – 21 May, 18-22h
w/ live set by Mark Stroemich