Hito Steyerl states that in the 360 degree lens of VR bubble vision ‘…the viewer is at the centre of a sphere yet at the same time he or she is missing. To be eliminated means to be automated, and conversely, to be automated means to be eliminated’. She asks: ‘Are you already rehearsing how to be your own ghost?’
Embedded in this pixelated excess is a shadow economy. Behind the spectacle of the image is a virtual junk space of spam, conspiracy theories, fake news and surveillance stored in giant server farms. This is the debris of the failed and the repressed, a black economy of data and corrupted images, where agency is an illusion. Rage and fear are the new currency.
According to John Gray ‘In evolutionary pre-history, consciousness emerged as a side effect of language. Today it is a by-product of the media.’ BREAKING is a collaborative installation in response to this conundrum by artists Richard Ducker and Robert Good that immerses the viewer into this fraught disconnect and confronts a new self that is fractured to the point of annihilation.
Their practice has been distilling these concerns for sometime into the familiar language of film, installation and text. With the Covid19 situation it was an easy decision to migrate to an online only platform. The installation still exists, but can only be experienced as mediated through the various platforms of the virtual: the 360 gallery experience, the security camera, the online video and the website. All these aspects now constitute the work as it operates between the heat of the present and slowed down time of looking.
The gallery walls are lined with hundreds of collected Google News headlines, transforming the exhibition space into a claustrophobic and disorientating reverberation of claim and counter-claim. On an office desk a computer screen plays a looped hypnotic video of a train journey in which back gardens and private spaces roll past, while the two synthetic voices, one male, one female, seemingly engage in a conversation that reveals itself to be a rhythmically choreographed exchange of spam, news fragments, Facebook newsfeed, and spliced extracts from ‘Heaven’s Gate’ cult.
The gallery floor is carpeted in electric green Astroturf. This substrate becomes a substitute, replacing our grounding in the ‘real’ world with a fictional space, in which the artificial is privileged. Not the hyper-reality of online, but its over-heated anti-chamber: a paranoiac waiting room, its corporate foyer. The installation offers a glimpse into this overload, where the collapse of privacy, and its corollary, the conspiracy theory’s paranoid escapism dominates the landscape. BREAKING articulates this spectacle of fragmentation and disorientation, which can only be viewed online through a live feed camera. This final process of mediation is not into the augmented constructs of VR, but the banal voyeurism of the security camera.
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