by Manu SharmaMay 11, 2021
Exploring the works of a materially versatile artist who is deeply steeped in research is an immersive process. Katja Novitskova is an artist whose individual installations tie into a larger cloud of her aesthetic lexicon, visibly built across her multiple images, video and sculptural-based installations.
Novitskova derives patterns from and expresses her works through her archives of online images, in a contemplation of our relationship with our screen based and environmental spaces. Her work is equal parts science, philosophy and an expanded approach to reading visual imagery. A perfect example of this lens is Pattern Of Activation, a series of more than five installations made by the artist over a span of six years. Her visual vocabulary is informed by her study of semiotics, culture, new media arts and graphic design in conversation with her philosophical interests. On the series Pattern Of Activation, Novitskova comments on her anthropologically and ecologically driven exploration, “I have always been interested in deep time loops. If you look at a contemporary object or emotion like an iPhone or our obsession with social media, I am always curious about the deep time origin of that activity and how it connects to our first tools of humanity or the evolutionary structures in our brains and our bodies that enable us to behave how we do today even though today’s world feels so far removed from the ancient times. We are actually really connected to the older generations, it’s not that long ago. I am always trying to be aware of this time thread and how we got here and of course the time scale of the Earth itself and our deep connection to other living creatures on it. From a jellyfish to bacteria, can be seen as a web of connections that is active today but also has this historical connection”.
She goes on to discuss the processes that drive this series, “Pattern of Activation is a series of installations I started six years ago. They are installations that try to activate human attention in a certain way. The elements in the installation are always a combination of images of animals or nature which I find on the internet. I print them out on these aluminum banners and they stand in space and almost look like a movie set. It’s a very simple translation of image into sculpture but it’s very effective because we would usually scroll past these images online but once they are isolated, enlarged and when they are standing in this very material way in front of you, they become almost like this visual Stonehenge”.
About her work at Migros Museum, Novitskova says, “It’s part of my interest for the past four years that has to do with animals which are used in laboratory research, specifically those which are genetically modified and constantly being experimented on. One of the most common laboratory species are the Caenorhabditis elegans, a kind of worm. It’s a very common animal but for me it is kind of an icon of the contemporary relationship between human industry and nature. It is a very controlling relationship, it is almost instrumentalised to become a technology. The C. elegans is the first animal whose whole genome was decoded and brain network was fully mapped. Although almost nobody in the general population knows about them, there’s thousands of images of them online and hundreds and hundreds of them across the world in labs. For me it’s this interesting relationship between the significance of something and the presence of images of it. I am interested in the narrative of bio ecology and bio technology. So, I wanted to make a monument to C. elegans, to take it out of this obscurity and give it a presence and a platform”. The installation on display is one of three parts of Pattern Of Activation, which focuses on the expansive systems and practices that surround the tiny roundworm.
Novitskova’s aesthetics are influenced by “Everything synthetic and contemporary and everything ancient and fossilised, visual representations of animals and biological structures and visual representations of data and abstraction” locating her work at the crossroads of these interests. Her work looks to bring to general attention the conversations left behind and ignored in favour of mainstream cultural dialogue. While I slowly grew fonder of her mysterious and myriad visual lexicon, I find her work relatively less accessible when viewed in isolation compared to conceptual familiarity with her entire body of work. This is not to say that her works do not intrigue and excite the viewer’s gaze, but rather to note the importance of viewing each work in her series as exactly that - a part of a series. A viewpoint from where you stay for a while to look at the landscape, a single stop in the continuous exploration of the narrative.
Her work will be on display at the Potential Worlds 1: Planetary Memories at Migros Museum until October 11, 2020 (schedule might be disrupted due to the ongoing pandemic).