‘Virtual Failure’, Troika

HS Projects presented an exhibition of recent work by Troika, the collaborative contemporary art group formed by Eva Rucki (b. 1976, Germany), Conny Freyer (b. 1976, Germany) and Sebastien Noel (b. 1977, France) in 2003.

Troika’s work deals with the ways in which the digital world informs and crosses over into the physical one and how technological advancement influences our relationship with the world and with each other. With a particular interest in the subjective and objective readings of reality and the various relationships we form with technology, they investigate the coalescence of seemingly irreconcilable opposites — nature and technology, the virtual and the real, the human and the non-human. Through drawing, sculpture and immersive installations, the artists merge digital, high-tech and natural processes and materials that range from high voltage electricity to evolutionary computer algorithms, industrial acid, optics, soot or 3D programs to form a coalition between the increasingly abstract landscape surrounding us and experiences on a human scale.

‘Virtual Failure’, 2017 is a tapestry-like construction made of tens of thousands of coloured dice generated, line by line, by manually emulating the rules of a simple computer binary program. The work originates from an interest in the human experience of digital production and the shift away from the material towards the virtual. ‘Virtual Failure’ is part of a recent series of works in which Troika adapt systems and methods, such as computer algorithms or mathematical sequences that are borrowed from the digital backbone of our physical world. Using everyday materials to simulate digital sequences, these works are physical reenactments of what is increasingly invisible. They merge a process of making – close to traditions of ‘handmade’ automatism – and a mathematical kind of chance, inspired by probability theory and protocols, more frequent in geometric abstraction.

Troika arrive at these logically-derived compositions by setting initial conditions – here the choice and order of the first row of coloured dice – and then by introducing an unpredictable element – here an evolutionary algorithm – from which the unexpected emerges. By pairing dice as a symbol for fate with a scientific computational system, ‘Virtual Failure’ is a homage to twentieth-century artistic recourses to chance and systems of order based on random decisions, including those of Marcel Duchamp mock-scientific procedures – ‘3 Standard Stoppages’ – that subverted scientific rationalism and questioned the status quo of the processes underlying a mechanistic worldview.

‘Compression Loss’, 2017 is part of a series of objects in which Troika take mythological figures and forms and deconstruct them into separate ‘slices’. The title references the process by which a digital file looses some computational information each time it is copied, as well as a method of rationalisation in which the whole is seemingly understood by its deconstruction into smaller, separate parts — a process which does not account for accumulative significance.

The works in this series are produced by industrial and traditional methods that fold in computational information. Mythological and ancient objects and figures associated with both technological mastery and the inconclusive or indeterminate character of knowledge, are cast in resin by using 3D digitised models of the originals taken from online libraries, or by recasting plaster reproductions of their originals.

The objects – Hebe, the goddess of eternal youth and Thoth, the ur-god of magic, are reproduced in individual slices of normed thickness. They are then re-assembled by re- appropriating logically and mathematically derived sequences, or according to prescribed variations such as doubling or compression. Each iteration then has an identity that cannot be confused with its original. Yet, intrinsically linked to their source, each iteration alludes to the coalescence of seemingly irreconcilable opposites: authenticity and artifice, model and copy, the virtual and the real, the logical application of science and the shifting nature of mythology and belief.

‘All Colours White’, 2016 explores the relationship between what is natural and artificial and the plurality of seemingly indivisible entities and experiences. It consists of a mechanism which projects red, blue and green light onto a canvas structure. The projection is a constant loop of 12 minutes. Initially distinct, the colours gradually bleed into each other, creating an intricate spectrum until their collective amalgamation results in pure white light.

In the installation, the natural and the digital collide. The specific combination of red, blue and green references the colours that mediate our digital experience, while the composite colour spectrum inherent in white light is intrinsically natural. With a particular interest in temporality, subjective experience and the frameworks through which we perceive the world, ‘All Colours White’ investigates that which coexists but cannot be experienced simultaneously.

‘Virtual Failure’ was at Howick Place from July to December 2018.