Millennium Court Arts Centre is delighted to present ‘Exhuming the Archive’ a new solo exhibition by Belfast based artist Jiann Hughes. An ode to the digital memories we’d rather forget, this new body of work considers the earth as planetary memory storage, containing the haunting remains of dead new media. The installations that Hughes has created memorialise the unstable materials relied upon for today’s memory making. They are kinetic and living monuments to the invisible labours and persistent materials that support our remembering: to the stuff that resists decay, refuses to be forgotten, and refuses to let us forget.
This exhibition follows recent work in which she exploited computer code to address the ubiquitous data mining processes of our biocapitalist sensor society. Through these new works Jiann continues to open up the black-boxes of digital technologies to reveal the structures, practices, and materials within our contemporary media ecologies. She strips away the rhetoric that claims a dematerialisation of digital archives to reconfigure the matter of our electronically-aided memories.
Drawing from the earth’s archive as the great bank of relics defying dissolution, Hughes imagines herself as part sculptor, part future archaeologist. She practices a geology of media; just as sculptors draw their material from the earth to study processes of changes and archaeologists may eventually unearth the residue of contemporary culture. Through this practice she explores how media history conflates with earth history: how materials get deterritorialised from their geological strata to be reterritorialised in machines before being returned to the earth marked obsolete. The exhibition toys with the temporal scales of digitality, Jurassic times are re-membered while contemporary times expand across future temporalities. This folding of geological time onto itself is defined by the mineral deposits of our ancestors, the growing piles of networked digital devices that have been made to break, and the plastiglomerates and other new materials that are emerging. These new works suggest new relationships, responsibilities, and materialities, offering up potential future epochs now in the making.
The installations make use of accumulated excess, the materials residue from an over developed world. Using the processes of poaching and gleaning Jiann works with these remains to awaken ghosts of the past. Her approach is collaborative; the work is shaped by the material practices of many bodies, from human hoarders to copper cabling to earthworms. The work is executed with characteristic humour and uses methods of interference to gently but firmly expose slits of (im)possibility, otherwise obscured by accounts of technological progress or doom. It is a timely reflection on what comes to matter within the fantasy of the total archive.
Jiann Hughes has been supported by ACES funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. MCAC is supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Funding and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council funding.
A newly commissioned essay by Dublin based writer Michael O’Rourke will accompany the exhibition.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Born in Belfast, 1969, Jiann has a versatile practice that often takes shape through video, sound and performance and tends towards an exploration of what comes to matter in our knowledge making practices and entanglements with technology. Her artworks are often interactive or participatory, mostly relying on the materiality of digital technologies. A graduate from the Sydney Film School, Jiann has recently completed a PhD exploring her artworks at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia: titled ‘Speculative Fabulations for our Sensor Society’, her thesis draws attention to how biosensing and biometric technologies are shifting our experience of bodily boundaries, manifesting the contemporary human body as increasingly quantifiable, surveillable and controllable. She has received awards for her work including most recently; Artists Career Enhancement Schemes, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (2015); Individual Artist's Award, (2014). Her work has been exhibited in Australia, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK.