Blowup: Speculative Realities – Concept, list of works and descriptions
Concept, list of works and descriptions of the Blowup: Speculative Realities exhibition, as published in the ebook.
This edition of V2_’s Blowup series of events and exhibitions will examine the how and the why of speculative realism, object-oriented ontology and artistic practice. Four new art commissions examine different aspects of Object-oriented ontology (OOO), such as a non-human-centered view of the world, and the limits of knowledge. An e-book of interviews with artists and thinkers, released with a short talk at the exhibition finissage, will round out the programme and provide insights into the relationship between this exciting turn in philosophy and contemporary art and design. Artists being commissioned include Tuur van Balen & Revital Cohen (BE/UK), Cheryl Field (UK), and Karolina Sobecka (US).
The term ‘speculative realism’ was coined at a conference at Goldsmiths in 2007 chaired by Alberto Toscano that included the philosophers Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman and Quentin Meillassoux. Since then the term has split into factions like object-oriented ontology (OOO), spawned a number of journals (Speculations and O-Zone), book series and several other conferences and debates. The theme can be taken as part of a current philosophical interest in rethinking correlationism (an act of division between human and world), and is broadly congruent with existing discussions of the nonhuman, more-than-human and other frameworks of new materialism. Many key points of these conceptual trends are also pertinent to current trends in artistic practice: a non-anthropocentric worldview; an interest in modes of ontological levelling (a democracy of things); a consideration of aggregate forces like climate through categories of autonomy.
About the works
Nephology 1: Cloud Maker (2012)
by Karolina Sobecka
Nephology 1: Cloud Maker attempts to construct knowledge of clouds through investigating how the clouds encounter the world around them. Making a cloud is a little like making a wave in the ocean -- a gesture that seems Sisyphian in its futility and its absurdity. But if we consider the cloud as an object-for-itself, apart from its utility or its meaning for us humans, then the effort gains a different dimension. To make a cloud one has to understand it, and understand the forces that shape it. One has to ask oneself ‘what does the world has to be like for the cloud to exist?’
Constructing knowledge is, as Levi Bryant writes ‘like what takes place in building a house. Part of building a house will involve conceptual elements such as ideas found in engineering and architecture, part will involve social and political elements such as laws and cultural traditions in architecture, part will be real materials used such as the tools, the wood, nails, etc., and part the techniques or practices that construction workers have learned.’Nephologies similarly attempts to weave together conceptual, social, material and phenomenological threads through a cloud’s particular point of view on the world.
Materials: custom misting system, styrofoam, weather balloon, video projection, C-print
The Others (2012)
by Tuur van Balen & Revital Cohen
A system for a hare to listen to the surface of the moon, supported and directed by the lunar movements of a moonflower. Based on the natural tendencies of the plant, an artificial symbiotic relationship is initiated between a nocturnal animal with mysterious behaviour, a psychedelic nightshade and Earth’s natural satellite.
By designing a poetic interaction between plant and animal, the idea of unmediated perception of nature is examined, where phenomena are perceived within the realms of miracle or spectacle. Once nature is interpreted and explained (by humans), the ‘filter’ of knowledge can no longer be removed, and fauna / flora behaviours are subsequently experienced through a factual mindset.
It is this interpretation or ‘attribution of meaning’ that takes the primal elation out of the physical perception of non-human-mediated phenomena. Rather than meaning, this contraption emulates presence - a moment in which biology is repositioned in the supernatural territories of the unknown, the enchanting and the unspoken.
Materials: Moonflower, aluminum, nylon, solar panels, electronics
(C8H8)n, CSi, KAl2(AlSi3O10)(F,OH)2, C, C, CaSO4, Fe3C, SiH3(OSiH2)nOSiH3 (2012)
by Cheryl Field
Cheryl Field writes about the work: ‘For me, there is something uncanny about sensory and sensual organs (i.e. fingers and tongues) being dislocated from the body. Both the finger and the tongue are also fundamental to our sense of humanness and to some extent they are symbolic of our evolution i.e. the opposable finger and thumb and the power of speech and language have given us the dominant position on this planet. I want to take that wholly anthropocentric or teleological position and play with it. Specifically, this work is an opposition of objects – a reclassification of ordered structures if you will. On one side it is a simulacrum of a human tongue, cast from life in pink rubber. On the other side is a miniature mountainscape crafted from elementary chemicals such as silicon carbide, carbon (in both its graphite and diamond states) and mica. What links this miniature geology and with - surely the most democratic position of all; we, the planet and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g come from stardust alone.’
Materials: EPS, Silicon carbide, Mica, Diamond powder, Graphite, Plaster, Steel, Silicone, Electric motor
Neither Ready Nor Present To Hand (2012)
by Cheryl Field
Part prop, part fictional-function, part biology, part whimsy; by dislocating something as human as a finger it shifts the Heideggerian tool-state of the object from being ‘present-to-hand’ to ‘ready-to-hand’ which for a finger is, frankly, next-to-useless. After all we’d need more fingers in order to activate (and wind-up) the tool-finger. It is a tool no more, but an object never-the-less. By liberating it, it withdraws from us and leads a life independent of our anthropocentric perception.
Materials: Jesmonite, Plaster, Brass, Clockwork, Graphite
Cohen Van Balen (UK) develops critical design works.
Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen run a London based experimental practice operating on the border between art and design. Inspired by designer species, composed wilderness and mechanical organs, they produce fictional objects, photographs and videos exploring the juxtaposition of the natural with the artificial. They often involve bioethicists, animal breeders and other scientists in the development of the work in order to push the boundaries of material and process.
Since graduating from the Design Interactions department at the Royal College of Art in 2008, they have been exhibiting and lecturing internationally. Recent exhibitions and talks took place at MoMa, Tate Britain, National Museum of China, Cooper-Hewitt, Z33 House for Contemporary Art, London Design Museum, FACT, V2 Institute for Unstable Media, Natural History Museum of Vienna and Design Indaba, amongst others.
Cohen Van Balen are the recipients of several awards and commissions, including the Science Museum’s Emerging Artist Commission, two Wellcome Trust Arts Awards and an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica.
Cheryl Field (UK) is an artist.
After forays into the realms of Molecular Biology, Parasitology and Management Consultancy, Cheryl Field studied BA (Hons) Sculpture & Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 2007. She went on to study for her Master of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, graduating in 2012.
Her first solo exhibition was in 2008 and she has continued to exhibit her work widely. Recent exhibitions include ‘Ten Days in Summer’ at The Queens Park Railway Club, Glasgow. ‘Resident 11’ The Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, Edinburgh. ‘Submit2Gravity’ at The Old Vic Tunnels, London and ‘Vestiges Park’ at Glasgow International 2010.
Karolina Sobecka (US) is a media artist, designer and animator.
Karolina Sobecka works with animation, design, interactivity, computer games and other media and formats. Her artwork often engages public space and explores the way we interact with the world we create and imagine. It often takes forms of interactive installations, urban interventions or design objects. It has been shown internationally, including at the V&A, MOMA, Beall Center for Art + Technology and ISEA, and has received several awards, including from Creative Capital, Rhizome, NYFA, Princess Grace Foundation, Vida Art and Artificial Life Awards and Japan Media Arts Festival.
Michelle Kasprzak is a Canadian curator and writer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She has appeared in Wired UK, on radio and TV broadcasts by the BBC and CBC, and lectured at PICNIC. She founded one of the world’s leading art curating blogs, Curating.info. She has written critical essays for Volume, C Magazine, Rhizome, CV Photo, Mute, Spacing, and many other media outlets.
In 2006, she was awarded a curatorial research residency at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland, in 2010 she attended the Summer Seminars for Art Curators in Yerevan, Armenia, and in 2011 was a guest of the BAM International Visitor’s Programme in Flanders. She has a BFA in New Media (Ryerson University, 2000) and MA in Visual and Media Arts (Université du Québec à Montréal, 2006).
The results of her curatorial work have appeared in venues worldwide. Most recently, she was part of the curatorial team for the 2012 ZER01 Biennial in San Jose, California. She is currently a Curator at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media.