SAF 2022: An exhibition challenging how we see the image in the age of Web 3.0

Terra Nullius, presented at Serendipity Arts Festival 2022, is an exhibition about the heterogenous image form in the hyper-digital age, where technology acts as a mediator.

by Sukanya DebPublished on : Dec 24, 2022

Terra Nullius/ Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0 is being presented at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2022, with a set of propositions aligning human civilisational conquest over land with the development of the image-form, taking into account the contemporary global reckoning around Web 3.0. Curated by Pascal Beausse and Rahaab Allana, the exhibition was arrived at through an open call, bringing together a range of works that focus on the image-form and are supplemented and enhanced with technology. The overall exhibition space takes on the atmosphere of a black box, darkened rooms with only the artworks creating a scenographic output, a productive metaphor for the obscure origins of technological apparatuses and their opacity. Each constructed room in the exhibition venue is curtained apart from the other, to avoid bleeding of light and sound, apart from creating something to the effect of a magic show, where something is waiting to be revealed.

The exhibition begins with Exposure - The Burning Gaze, an interactive video installation by Paris-based, Japanese artist Hanako Murakami, that brings the viewer’s gaze at the forefront of image exploration. The background moving image consists of a craterous expanse resembling the moon’s surface, where the viewer’s gaze is replicated in the form of flying embers, using sensors. The viewer is to stand at a certain distance and based on the direction of their gaze, bursts of fire are produced along the moving surface. The viewer is automatically implicated in the production of the image, challenging the singular nature of authorship as made by the artist. The work also arrives from a historical understanding of sight as arising from the eye, as is now rejected by science. The fantasy of the optical is playful in this regard, where one creates as one sees, and the image is always in formation, never static.

Exposure - The Burning Image, 2021, Interactive video, Hanako Murakami | Terra Nullius / Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0 | Hanako Murakami | STIRworld
Exposure - The Burning Image, 2021, Interactive video, Hanako Murakami Image: Courtesy of Serendipity Arts Festival

A fascinating interactive video installation titled Neurosynchronia by Justine Emard, takes place through a wired headpiece that the viewer is to wear and experience. The headpiece was developed in collaboration with neuroscientists, and responds to the wearer’s visual cortex, as the viewer-participant is to concentrate on specific points on the screen to reveal a route within a trifurcated pathway. The work itself is largely cerebral in nature and creates neural environments that are affected by the wearer’s decisions on which point to concentrate on. The technological feat itself is impressive, but the imagery produced envisions a deep forest as one’s subconscious, as one trawls through a series of networked coloured dots, reminiscent of 20th century European impressionism and pointillism. It is the overall perception of the set of dots that creates the forest, creating rich meaning towards the understanding of how perception works. The work ends with an architectural overview of a ghostly mansion — the method of loci or what is commonly known as the ‘mind palace’, as the artist goes on to explain, a popular technique for memorisation that uses spatial forms in order to compartmentalise information. This particular visualisation is a hint towards what the artist speaks about in the exhibition note, specifically the neuroplasticity of the brain. The method of loci dates back to ancient Greek and Roman treatises, an insight into how the conquest to conquer land extended to the terrain of the mind as well.

Study on Immersion is a three-channel video installation with sound, by French visual artist Noémie Goudal, that acts as a comment on environmental degradation and the complicity of humankind. The work plays with metaphors of the image as well, as the illusion of nature is created through strategically placed prints that enact the background and foreground of a tropical forest, enhanced by the accompanying audio that transcribes bird and insect sounds in order to create a devolving mirage. The illusion of the forest is quite literally set on fire, as it is slowly revealed to be the artist’s studio over the course of the video relay, that the prints are forming a trompe l'oeil through enchanting images. The forest fire is revealed to be an impactful metaphor for the overwhelming destruction of natural environments, where one experiences the vortex of human creation, with the metaphor of the artist’s studio. The gradual nature of the work allows for a deep meditation on the passivity of the viewer, contrary to Murakami’s work that empowers, or perhaps ingratiates the viewer. The image is formed in the contradictoriness of the viewership, perception and (in)action.

Study on Immersion, 2021, 3-channel video installation with sound, Noémie Goudal | Terra Nullius / Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0 | Noémie Goudal | STIRworld
Study on Immersion, 2021, 3-channel video installation with sound, Noémie Goudal Image: Courtesy of Serendipity Arts Festival
Cybernetics, living and the city, 2021, video installation with sound and holographic projections, Donatien Aubert | Terra Nullius / Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0 | Donatien Aubert | STIRworld
Cybernetics, living and the city, 2021, video installation with sound and holographic projections, Donatien Aubert Image: Courtesy of Serendipity Arts Festival

Other works in the exhibition include contemplations with artificial intelligence, generated imagery, the agential within the image form, and the development of image enhancing technologies. Donatien Aubert’s Cybernetics, the Living and the City is 30-minute pseudo-documentary consisting entirely of generated imagery and additional holographic images, on the history of cybernetics and the foundational interest in 3D animation, networked cities, urban planning through artificial intelligence, and the development of constructed environments, that reveal Cold War paranoias and a embeddedness of control in society. Brodbeck and de Barbuat’s Thousand Lives of Isis presents images of a virtual character named Isis (referring to the Egyptian goddess), referencing classical styles of portraiture within western art history. Notably, the figure is a female and presented in nude portraits in a few pieces— too often passive, and with enough “imperfections” such as moles, freckles, asymmetricality added in order to disarm the human viewer. Isis is not fully nude within the still images, but a process video shows the making of the 3D model, where the model covers herself as soon as the breasts form, an eerie moment of virtual sentience.

A still from the Thousand Lives of Isis, 2021, Photographic series, Brodbeck and de Barbuat | Terra Nullius / Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0 | Brodbeck and de Barbuat | STIRworld
A still from the Thousand Lives of Isis, 2021, Photographic series, Brodbeck and de Barbuat Image: Courtesy of Serendipity Arts Festival
A still from aRZa~, 2021, Interactive video installation with sound, Mustapha Azeroual | Terra Nullius / Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0 | Mustapha Azeroual | STIRworld
A still from aRZa~, 2021, Interactive video installation with sound, Mustapha Azeroual Image: Courtesy of Serendipity Arts Festival

Also read: 'Who is Asleep Who is Awake' looks at the political realities that form in a liminal state

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