Exhibition

Christiane Peschek. The Girls Club

31 May 2024 – 27 Jul 2024

Regular hours

Friday
12:00 – 18:00
Saturday
12:00 – 18:00
Wednesday
12:00 – 18:00
Thursday
12:00 – 18:00

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Annka Kultys Gallery

London
Greater London, United Kingdom

Address

Travel Information

  • Bethnal Green
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At ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY in London, Austrian artist Christiane Peschek presents The Girls Club, a suite of digitally-manipulated selfies that reflect the uncanny powers of a femme face that refuses recognition.

About

Thirteen meticulously-crafted hand-dyed silk works mounted to aluminum frames are enshrined by a black vinyl wall installation that bears the phrase “The Girls Club”. The images, which are all characterised by deep-fried edits to a series of self-portraits taken on the artist’s iPhone, collapse the face into an abstract field of material data, one that can refuse the superstructures of capital and identity that augured it.

“Using silk as a carrier for my images is a reference to the human skin,” Peschek explains in an interview. “Its fragile and delicate characteristic is a beautiful contrast to the hard surface of the touchscreen.” With a background in advertising, the artist has a keen understanding of material driven affect, even while her work takes aim at larger social, cultural, and technological systems that underpin the consumption of images online. With The Girls Club, an ongoing project since 2019, Peschek focuses on the eternal quest for self-presentation within virtual social environments. Drawing on photo editing and retouching tools, Peschek merges her own selfies with an ever-expanding archive of imagery culled from various social media feeds.


Like many synthetic intelligence models including the generative adversarial networks (GANs) utilised to generate deepfakes—a digitally manipulated media that replaces one person with the likeness of another—Peschek’s girls are iterative, emerging from a source image that has been modified hundreds of times. The source image in question is the selfie; yet blurred beyond recognition, identity fractures and splits into multitudes.

In Peschek’s hands, the selfie becomes less a projection of the self than an abstracted “internet gaze” and a critique of the algorithmic beauty systems that undergird it. Aesthetically, Peschek’s work is something of a paradox: the soft and gauzy imagery belies the aggressive bordering on obsessive treatment of the image, often spawned from pushing an editing tool to its extreme by reapplying it up to a hundred times. In this militant spiral, a popular blurring filter—typically used to conceal blemishes and other imperfections—first enhances the beauty of the face before annihilating it altogether in a wash of abstraction. Here faces are atmospheres, split into their melted composite parts. Mouths appear as gargantuan grimacing slashes: Cheshire cat-like, sinister. Eyes are always shut and often flattened. Very rarely does a baseball hat or some other accessory enter the scene. The rest of the face evades perception, becoming landscape.


Enshrined by these digitally-rendered mutations and variations of the self, Peschek’s girls club is partially a series of self-portraits; equally depersonalised, the girl in question here is also all of us. This ideology echoes the argument of theorist Alex Quicho, whose essay “Everyone is a girl online” charts a new politics of “being girl”. Here, girl as collective consciousness (colloquially known as ‘girlswarm’) is both a recognition of the interlocking axes of power, desire, and capital laminated onto all of us (cis men, too, you’re also girls), and a polyvocal war cry for something beyond.


Within her practice, Peschek talks about the phenomenon of “becoming image”—this notion follows Quicho’s girlstack, where one may sub for the techno-armageddon in order to collapse the system from inside it. Returning to Olsson’s peak face, the author suggests that perhaps “defacing” the world may be a chance to rescue ourselves from the financialized weapon suite of the facial platform. Likewise, with the infinitely expanding swarm intelligence of Peschek’s The Girls Club—flattened icons who evade their own humanness as much as they reject the financialisation of e-femininity—we see a similar spirit of refusal.


“Soon, we might be able to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, earnestly, ‘Do we really need this?” Olsson proclaims his vision of a post-facial future. Peschek’s girls critically anticipate that mirror stage; these “supra-individual” portraits refuse the notion of the bounded self as much as they reject the genre of portraiture, ultimately delivering an exit strategy from the superstructures that got us here in the first place. To become unrecognizable is also to become ungovernable; to become girl, in Peschek’s distorted photographic image, is to become an edgeless swarm that critiques its confines while imagining worlds beyond representation.

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Christiane Peschek

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