How can we fight for sexual autonomy in a pornocratic society, if the stake of capitalism today is the pharmacopornographic control of subjectivity? Sidsel Meineche Hansen has created a techno-somatic variant of institutional critique through a universe filled with cybersexual avatars that explore the limits and freedom of our bodies in virtual reality. The visitors can interact with these avatars through immersive Oculus Rift installations. One of the main protagonists is EVA v3.0, a posthuman archetype, with breasts, luminous skin, and a large phallus that seems to be driven by electromagnetic waves, while she’s penetrating an amorphous brown mass that is constantly shifting shape. The Dick-girl not only breaks the binary of sexual opposition but opens a utopian vision of a postidentity that troubles the gender-normative aspects of cyber-pornography.
Made by freelance 3D designer Nikola Dechev, EVA v3.0 is a royalty-free product sold online by TurboSquid, a company that supplies stock 3D models for computer games and adult entertainment. EVA v3.0 features as a central character and object of research in several of Meineche Hansen’s recent works, which explore the overlap between subjects in real life and objects in virtual reality and their engagement with the second sex war.
According to the Spanish pornosophical post-gender theorist Paul B. Preciado, Sex is the corollary of capitalism and war, a mirror of production and the principal resource of post-Fordist capitalism. The industries of cars and objects have been taken over by a pharmacopornographic industry of pleasure and fears, where Viagra and birth control pills, cybernetic prostheses, serotonin, techno-blood, testosterone, antacids, cortisone, techno-sperm, antibiotics, estradiol and human eggs have become the ultimate products. “The pharmacopornographic industry is white and viscous gold, the crystalline powder of biopolitical capitalism”. Sidsel Meineche Hansen engages with the naked techno life of cybersexual spaces by attacking and reinventing our time’s gender bioterrorism.
For University of Disaster, Sidsel Meineche Hansen is presenting a new version of her ongoing project, SECOND SEX WAR, including a pornographic CGI animation and print work called Pro choice (Not my pill, not my precedent). Her contribution explores the commodity status of 3D bodies in X-rated digital image production and its relation to the reproduction of dominated matrixes of desire and power, in the light of the contemporary biopolitical sex-wars.
In January 2017, Pateh Sabally, a 22-year-old refugee from Gambia, threw himself into the waters of Venice’s Grand Canal. No one jumped into the water to help him, and some people even screamed insults as the man drowned. Lamin Fofana, who is an electronic producer and sound artist, was so moved by this event, so determined to see this act as a strike against human indifference, and therefore a political act, that he decided to create a psycho-geographic soundmap that explores the possible spaces of empathy in the city of Venice. Wandering from one place to another, the visitor can follow the silent, serpentine back roads to crowded and busy squares, and all the strange secret passageways in between, listening to the sounds and voices of a world where the distance between homeless refugees and Prosecco-drinking art tourists has never been bigger and more difficult to bridge.
Is art denouncing or contributing to the tragedies of our time? In Fofana’s case, he helps us think of the possibilities of this world and what lies beyond it, since sounds travel much easier between us than images, texts and theories. Sounds can also hypnotize, make us forget, dance, and laugh. Sound can easily become the ultimate opium for the people. Not in Fofana’s case. Fofana knows exactly how to mix pleasure with pain, how to intertwine verfremdung- and enchantment mechanisms, that train our minds through our ears and our ears through our minds, leaving no path untaken.
Lamin Fofana’s obsession with geo-political tragedies, with questions like movement, migration, political engagement, exclusion and belonging, comes from his own experiences as a refugee. He had to flee Sierra Leone during the civil war at the age of 10. His music has ever since dealt with disruption, rapture, anxiety, with sounds that take us back to the real world, but there is also a dreamy, metaphysical dimension in some of his most abstract compositions that makes us oscillate between the world as it is, and the world as it could be. His dramatic sound art appears therefore as both abstract and narrative, both cold and compassionate, creating a meditative space, a revolutionary space, a trip through a jungle of flamboyant darkness, signaling that we’re never alone, not even when we merge in complete solitude. History, memories, geopolitical events will always hunt us down and oblige us to take action, if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.
In Gabriel Tarde’s satiric post-apocalyptic novella, Underground Man, the world has entered a new ice age because of a solar cataclysm. The survivors try to build a new utopic society underground based on the best parts of humankind – art, human relations and communication. In a way, Google is trying to do exactly that, especially if we consider the Google Cultural Institute that collects and categorizes art projects, historical moments and world wonders from all over the globe. Google is not only curating the world, it’s also defining what the world is. How can one colonize the colonizers? wonders Geraldine Juárez in her text, “A Pre-emptive History of the Google Cultural Institute”. Juárez doesn’t give any definitive answers, but her entire practice can be seen as a resistance to Google’s technological panopticon society. Instead of collecting images, Juarez is collecting contemporary fossils and souvenirs of a time that is already past, like last year’s computers, and even older, fragile things like tape-recorders and LPs, giving them new contexts and new forms of existence.
Technologies freeze human relations. If so, how can we produce a positive climate change? In the project Storage Geraldine Juàrez has produced a storing installation for some personal memories and amateur geologies, in collaboration with Joel Danielsson, that combines the aesthetic display of a freezer (which used to be a mundane symbol for stability and prosperity) with that of a galactic sky, a bookshelf and a grave. The fridge becomes an hourglass where the melting ice shortcuts the distance between the non-linear stories of media history and climate change, between humanity and the time after our finitude.
Commercial freezing technologies are the crystallization of the myth sustaining the promise of progress, storage devices that helped maintain the illusion needed to profit from the stability that ice sheets provided until the Great Acceleration began in the 1940s, pushing the refrigerator industry to the mass-market, which some decades later led to the depletion of the ozone. What does it mean to transform the fridge into a work of art? Every time we open it, we contribute to its disintegration. Seen from an artistic point of view, such a disaster can only have positive side effects. Who said that disasters weren’t beautiful to look at? And that the end of the world couldn’t imply the beginning of a new one?
Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena was born in a highly politicized Uruguayan family in the beginning of the 70s and had to quickly learn how to deal with secrecies and false information, but also with anxiety. Not knowing what will happen is sometimes even worse than knowing. His mother was a member of the militant group, Tupamaros, that later inspired the Baader-Meinhof gang. She gave him very early on a manual for resistance, that not only gave a new meaning to his existence, but also the wish, later on, to do art that would both reveal, trouble and rewrite the narratives and fantasies we have in relation to our contemporary political conflicts.
The war on terror, Hollywood films, sex, humor and sentimental journeys to the past are just some of ingredients in Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena’s ongoing aesthetic war machine. And what is he fighting against? For one, identity politics that freeze people and human relations. On huge camouflage covered banners, one can read, “IN THIS WAR YOUR UNIFORM WILL BE YOUR SKIN AND YOU CANNOT TAKE IT OFF” or “YANKEE GO HOME! but please take me with you”. Another is our fractured vision of the world that has difficulties in seeing the relationship between the military world that kills people and the techno-pornographic world that consumes them. In Black Madonnas, he camouflages pornographic images of women, except for the eyes and mouth, which gives us the impression that they are watching us, rather than the other way around.
Another antagonist in Juan Pedro’s wunderkammer world, is the confidence that people have in their capacity to control their knowledge, morals or tastes. In his Ballistic sculptures, that look like exploded Brancusi sculptures, he brings the world of art and war together by producing castings of the cavities produced by bullets. One can also see these wounding and wounded sculptures as photography, since you have to develop them in order to see and understand.
Juan Pedro’s work opens up for a psychological twilight zone where one drifts like an aesthetic refugee, caught between repulsion, fascination and oblivion towards the horrors of our time. If Boris Groys is right when he writes in Art Power that terrorists are using art, cynically calling Ben Laden just another video artist, why shouldn’t artists use terrorizing images? The gaze is not innocent. Kant was wrong. There is no such thing as disinterested knowledge. The sublime is only the abyss of our conscience, and we fall in it, again and again. The only thing we can do is laugh, cry, turn our backs or hope that if the world is a disaster, art will be the safety boat that will permit us to drift towards new horizons.
The best thing that we can do in a liquid, consumerist society where everything is exchangeable and therefore forgettable, is to fall in love. Love can almost become a political act, a form of resistance to the disasters and absurdities of our world. But once we fall in love, we are caught between our need for safety and our need for adventure. How can we stay in love without getting schizophrenic, and what is true love when it comes down to it? The artist and singer Nils Bech is using love and the uncanny fragility of human relations as his ultimate working material. He sings about the moments of excitement and superhuman powers we get when we fall in love but also the less luminous aspects like jealousy, anger and shame. In Trip Abroad he sings: “The morning comes / And I miss you so, I miss you so / Are you seeing him again?”, but the questioning transforms into self-questioning, into a joyful sadness where there are always glimpses of hope, “There are scars between us two / In the way we speak, in the way we breathe / Now it’s up to me, now it’s up to me to / Figure out my insecurities / To mend this duality / Even now that we’re apart”. Bech’s saddest songs are for him a constant reminder of the place that he doesn’t want to go back to, a form of emotional exorcism.
In his artworld-oriented practice, Bech is often working with thematically and site-specific performance-concerts where he uses sculptures as emotional catalysts. In “Echo” Bech is singing accompanied by a musician with sculptures made by Ida Ekblad that can be seen as the placeholder for the storyteller, the lover, a conversation partner or as a stand-in for the person for whom the song was written for.
Ekblad’s sculptures are inspired by the Czech puppetry of the 70s, tv puppet shows, ancient eastern and Egyptian antiquities and Dutch golden age painting. Bech’s play with these totemistic, ersatz devices, vary a lot from a performance to another. Sometimes he undresses and uses the sculptures as costumes or protections, sometimes he becomes overdramatic, barbaric, and can go as far as breaking them. Some sculptures argue, some long for each other, some get to cradle him like a blanket. When Bech puts his arms into a sculpture and ‘dresses’ in it, he is psychologically transforming himself into the object, thus escaping the ideology of the ‘puppet-master’ that has everything under control. If love makes us sad, why not love objects, or become an object? After all, all that is solid will eventually melt into air.
We live in the time of storytelling, a time which is more and more determined by the stories we tell about each other and the state of the world. The people that are trying to rule or change our world, for better or worse, from politicians, to activists to terrorists, are more than ever using narrative strategies. Loulou Cherinet is a storyteller, but a storyteller who collects stories while at the same time creating the conditions for storytelling and retelling, in relation to questions like cultural background, language, nationality and mobility.
In her works, that often include films, film installations or performances, we often encounter people that are travelling through their memories, that tell us about their lives, their hopes and fears, and most of all, their desires to transcend cultural and spiritual borders. Sometimes, the way we look upon things can be an act in itself, that’s why there is always an optical shift in most of the stories she collects or re-enacts. Further, time and space are important entities in Cherinet’s films. In White Women (2002), 8 black African men are sitting around a table and talking about white women, without any internal censorship or political correctness. In Personal politics (2003), (she let) 7 Arab women talk about their love-hate relationship to men. In The allegory of the cock (2008), the story about a blind man allows us see how we actually look at things.
In other works she questions the relation between religious, secular and academic power-relations, the rituals that we engage with, in order to find meaning in our lives. In 2003, Loulou also began a very long and fruitful collaboration with Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena and Michele Massucci called Good TV, a public access TV channel, where they televised exhibitions, performances and videos. In one of their collective works, This Image is No More (2010), they asked a number of actors to infiltrate different kinds of public spheres, such as libraries and lobbies, etc. and tell a story about a specific image to the passersby. The images related to all kinds of objects, artworks, and places that no longer exist in physical form, erased, manipulated or simply lost images. Some images were imagined, a dream or a vision that could be materialized in the future, a form of alternative “Tele-vision”. The project thus became a kind of non-visual, real-time television, where the distance between the TV-image and the beholder gets abolished in favor of a true human encounter. For University of Disaster Cherinet is embarking the visitors on a new storytelling odyssey that will approach the dark and luminous sides of our currents disasters.