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In light of shifting economic and political currents and dramatic changes in our global climate, Floating Islands examines humanity’s growing fascination with the potential of emerging technologies and their role in reshaping, if not transcending, the physical limitations of our planet, our bodies, and our understanding of society.
Paralleling the development of new ventures from billionaire tech magnates—including Elon Musk’s SpaceX program and recent Falcon Heavy rocket launch, PayPal Founder Peter Thiel’s ongoing seasteading nation-state project in French Polynesia, and Asgardia, the first prototype for an independent nation in space—Floating Islands proposes an alternate look into the proselytization of these proposed utopias and the futures they postulate. In exploring the aesthetics of these speculative societies, artists Erin Mitchell and Olivia Lennon suggest new perspectives into these brave new worlds and offer an opportunity to reexamine these abstract propositions for the future.
Working within the idealized natural imagery of preloaded computer desktop wallpaper, Erin Mitchell uses scale and 3D-rendering technologies to create immersive installations that allow us to physically enter the virtual environments of our desktop backgrounds. Drawing directly from the aesthetics of stock photography and digital representations of nature, Mitchell uses rendering software to digitally recreate these images to human scale and return them into a physical context in the gallery space. In reintroducing this digital imagery back into physical space, Mitchell designs an environment that is simultaneously digital and actual, calling into question the remaining boundaries between our coinciding experiences in both the virtual and tangible worlds.
Olivia Lennon presents two works critiquing the economic rationale of our future moments into outer space. ’Space invaders (space wear for the intergalactic immigrant of tomorrow)’ is constructed from space blankets, which were first invented for the nationalist utopian exploration of outer space, but are now most commonly employed in survival situations. ‘Trillion$ Await (ASTEROID/SPACE acts)’ critiques the tech-utopian promise of unlimited wealth to be mined from asteroids, and the new legal framework supporting commercial property rights in outer space.
Mitchell and Lennon, both international citizens floating far from the borders of their own respective nations of origin, reconstruct the gallery space itself as its own floating island and independent satellite for the duration of the exhibition. Accessible via its physical entry point at Holsteinische Str. 18 in Berlin, Germany (52°27’53.424”N, 13°19’51.815”E), visitors are encouraged to enter into this fabricated future environment as new potential citizens and to reimagine their own potential and future identities within its intangible borders.
‘Space Invaders’ (space wear for the intergalactic immigrants of tomorrow) was made with the indispensable assistance of Nuria Heyck