‘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.

‘Interchange Junctions’

HS Projects curated its first major group exhibition, ‘Interchange Junctions’, at 5 Howick Place. The exhibition examines contested cultural and political histories, which carry special resonance at Howick Place, named after Viscount Howick (later 2nd Earl Grey) one of the main architects of the Reform Act 1832, Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

‘Interchange Junctions’ follows on from Yinka Shonibare’s permanent commission ‘Wind Sculpture’, a site specific response to the history of the area and continues Shonibare’s focus on themes of colonialism, trade, and race, employing the artist’s signature use of batik Dutch wax fabric designs which have become synonymous with African identity.

The artists in the exhibition have been invited to create a dialogue with Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Wind Sculpture’, with the multi-cultural aspect of the exhibition paying homage to the enlightened actions carried out in the name of Howick. Through a range of media from film, animation, sculpture, collage, photography, drawing, painting and performance, the artists seek to explore cultural frameworks and issues of identity and how we negotiate these through the historical legacy of our collective past and our ever evolving multi-cultural global world.

‘Interchange Junctions’ offers the opportunity to experience a number of new works and site specific commissions as well as works that have not been shown in London before. Ideas of mobility, memory and transmission, migration, trade and colonial struggle are explored along with notions of social awareness and engagement. Misinterpretation and misplacement of accepted norms from one culture to another are part of a discourse on friction between cultures, identity and cultural belonging. Notions of power, success and failure run through the exhibition challenging long held assumptions.

Participating artists: Faisal Abdu’Allah, Larry Achiampong, Faig Ahmed, Alice Anderson, Shiraz Bayjoo, David Blandy, Phoebe Boswell, Jessie Brennan, Fiona Curran, Corinne Felgate, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Romuald Hazoumè, Rob Kesseler, Alex Lawler, Alan Magee, Jade Montserrat, Alida Rodrigues, Zineb Sedira, Shahzia Sikander, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Michelle Ussher, Andy Wicks and BA(Hons) Ceramic Design Central Saint Martins students (Lucy Anderson, Sarah Christie, Yung Cheuk Chung, Srabani Ghosh, Ziynet Hidiroglu, Ellis Hooson, Sun-a Kim, Friedrich Ly Thien Co, Jessica Martin, David McQuire, Megan Niell, Niamh Philips, Jose Salgrado De Lacerda, Harriet Sennett, Sandra Stallard, Akville Zukauskaite).

During the closing event of 19th June, there was a rap performance by David Blandy and Larry Achiampong who under the alias ‘Biters’, examined the possibility for truthful, authentic experience via the popular cultures that have influenced them. They investigated what identity might mean in the post-colonial and post-mass media age by crate-digging through history, recycling already-sampled beats and reciting stolen rhymes.

‘Interchange Junctions’ was funded by Invesco Real Estate (IRE) and Urban & Civic, the joint developer behind 5 Howick Place with Doughty Hanson & Co Real Estate.

‘Interchange Junctions’ was at 5 Howick Place, Victoria London, from 10 May – 21 June 2014.

‘Fragile Monuments’, Kendell Geers

HS Projects presented a series of works by internationally acclaimed artist Kendell Geers as part of the 5 Howick Place Exhibition Programme that also featured in the group exhibition ‘Paradigm Store’. Geers was born in South Africa and now lives and works in Brussels. At the 1993 Venice Biennial he officially changed his date of birth to May 1968, a momentous year in world history for human liberation and equality.

Geers creates work that aims to disrupt commonly accepted moral codes and principles. Employing a wide range of references— from the realms of history of art, iconography and kitsch— Geers questions artistic value and mocks the notion of originality. His work reveals razor-sharp humour that plays with the viewer’s repulsion and ridicules racial or religious stereotypes. Laden with complex and deep political implications, it is challenging and confrontational, while at the same time, Geers’ minimalist aesthetics generate a subtle poetic undertone. His use of language, ready-mades, neon, glass, icons, film, chevron tape and other objects confront the viewer head on. They often startle the eye and require a degree of interrogation from the spectator.

‘Obelisk’, 2008 is a unique and free-standing sculpture by Kendell Geers, seen here in the UK for the first time. Taking the form of this triumphal sculpture, the work is a quadrangular shaft made from cast cement embedded with broken green glass bottles. Monolithic and tapering, the elegant form is reminiscent of historic and public statuary. Here, however, the entire form and even its pyramidal apex is encrusted with shimmering fragments of glass lending the form both an alluring and menacing quality. Historically the Obelisk is a symbolic marker of exchange between Nation States, celebrating alliances between different cultures. By inserting green glass into the concrete obelisk, Geers transforms this gesture of benevolence into a complex and barbed realisation of exchange, suggesting an underlying truth about the difficulties and embedded prejudices between cultures.

In ‘Monument to the F-Word XI’, 2010, seen here in the UK for the first time, Geers reconfigures the provocative word into a three dimensional sculpture carved from one solid block of highly polished bronze. The work gently nods to the form of Constantin Brâncuși’s bronze ‘Bird in Flight’ which depicts the elegance of a swooping bird. The work also recalls Brâncuși’s ‘Endless Monument’ in reference to public monuments as cultural symbols of history and international relations. Here, Geers depicts the monument in the suggestive form of a bullet or a modern missile which alludes to notions of conflict and relates to displacement and immigration; a subject of tenacious relevance in world affairs and culture. The idea of flight and of movement is reinforced by the way the work balances freely upwards. Geers has purposefully kept the meaning of the ‘F’ word open as language becomes abstracted and transformed. Here, the ‘F Word’ hangs in flux suggesting a dialogue concerning the permanence and impermanence of meaning.

In ‘Brawl I’ 2009 and ‘Brawl II, 2009, Kendell Geers instigates a powerful and confrontational dialogue with ‘readymade’ icon and Dadaist great, Marcel Duchamp. The works form part of a series of sculptures consisting of sheets of bullet-proof glass that have been shot at with a rifle. In a contemporary renewal of Duchamp aesthetic, the beautiful delicacy of the shattered panes provides a rich juxtaposition with the violent act that created them. Here, the physical properties of the materials have been pushed to their very limit, creating a work that resonates with a powerful sense of the corporeal. Neither homage nor naïve appropriation, the ‘Brawl’ works demand that the viewer reassess pre-conceived notions of the ‘authentic’ – both in the art world and in wider political spheres.

Kendell Geers’ sculptural series ’T.O.T.I’, 2005 and ‘Twilight of the Idols’, 2009 are iconic found object figures wrapped in red and white hazard tape. Here Geers’ aims to alert us to the ways in which we consume images and the meanings of cultural icons and symbols. Iconic figures such as Christ and Buddha are bound in chevron tape, turning their aura on its head and transforming them into fallen heroes for the late capitalist era. Like many of Geers’ sculptures, these too function as embodiments of an ideological structure. Here bound, gagged and packaged, the traditional meaning of the holy icons seems to have collapsed. A question hangs in the air: what do these icons really mean today?

‘Fragile Monuments’ was at Howick Place from September 2014 – March 2015.