Nomadic Cells in Stationary Silos

April 29, 2011

Networks – Cells and Silos @ MUMA

Networks are a common metaphor for describing our post-industrial form of society. Through the computer online networks now dominate our social interaction to the extent that we refer to it less and less as a virtual environment, and more and more as an extension of the real.

So why is it that ‘digital architectures’ often seems so detached and out of step?

Unlike digital architectures that are characteristically produced within the parameters of an abstract modelling software with data from the real world input Kuji Ryui in his Extended network towards the happy end of the universe constructs cellular forms out of an everyday material, straws, which are connected as found objects forming larger three-dimensional patterns ironically reminiscent of the digital forms. These patterns are imperfect, drooping around the room like loitering teens, yet they still manage to prop themselves up, each with their own personality. This reminds me of the work of Olafur Elliason who similarly has created sculptures that link natural seemingly isolated processes to our everyday experience of space, in one case dripping water from a network of pipes during the northern European winter to make a naturally freezing (and melting) seasonal shelter. The better accessibilty of these works over some architectural projects that attempt to explore similar themes through software is that they use the medium of production to find it’s own shape in the physical world.

Natalie Bookchin’s Mass Ornament showing amateur choreographed dance routines self uploaded onto YouTube explores how our private spaces typified as suburban bedrooms have been transformed into portals of mass communication through advancing media. The honest domestic spaces in which the dancers perform contrasted against the dull facts and figures of mass global viewing plays on the irony inherent in this new condition. It describes a world where you can be somewhere specific and everywhere at the same time, a nomadic cell contained by a stationary silo, something that as Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter note in their essay accompanying the exhibition, has implications on the organisation of society: ‘What we need to understand is how today’s networks are (dis)organizing us’.

This relationship between networks and a nomadic existence is strengthened in the exhibition through the inclusion of Tjaduwa Woods, an Indigenous Australian artist who employs traditional dot-painting techniques to communicate forms of community. The painting Ilkurlka is composed of overlapping webs of circles painted in different colours that merge an pulsate across the canvass. Whilst the nomad within the network is similar to the other works in the exhibition it is difficult to detect the same sense of isolation that we see in Natalie Bookchin’s work.

The great effectiveness of the participating artists and the MUMA exhibition as a whole is the way they related an abstract theory of a social condition to everyday experience. We physically see in different ways how cells and silos manifest in our day-to-day lives as the framework for the networks of social interaction. You can be just about anywhere in the world and tap into the network, even on the toilet with your smart phone.

AV.

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