Tenderpixel’s ‘Feeling In The Eyes’ may be small but it is undoubtedly well-formed. It represents a serene alternative to the all-over sensory assault of London’s other current exhibition investigating the post-internet condition, the Whitechapel Gallery’s ‘Electronic Superhighway’. Where the larger gallery’s curation mimics the experience of navigating the web in all its mess – the uninvited audio-visual clutter of pop-ups, autoplaying videos, and vertiginous stacks of tabs – Tenderpixel’s approach is altogether calmer and more restrained. As an experience, the aspect of the internet it imitates is that which could be termed ‘lifestyle’. White walls and seductive consumer goods, sparsely arranged; laden with branding and aspiration, elegantly rendered.
Seth Price’s two works set the tone of the show. The eponymous video work ‘Feeling In The Eyes’ offers a fast-moving montage of late twentieth century interior design, each image displayed just long enough to register but not long enough to convey exact meaning. Specificity of meaning is sacrificed for an impression: of luxury, style and newness, all playing out with a monotonous and predictable regularity in an appeal to the tactile gaze of the consumer. Were we able to properly assess these goods, we’d surely notice the unappealing qualities of the plastic variants advertised so sleekly here. The work connects to the theme in Price’s practice of both ‘plasticity’ and plastic as a material more generally. Price’s essay ‘Dispersion’, originally written for the catalogue of the 2003 Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Art, sits alongside the clunky TV monitor. Presented here as a standalone work, the essay examines the relationship between distribution networks and the making of meaning in artist practices. A quote by Marcel Broodthaers succinctly paraphrases Price’s focus: that through their dispersion, art objects become ‘a situation, a system defined by objects, by inscriptions, by various activities’. This conceptual proposition can be seen underlying Stella Sideli’s curation of the exhibition.
Where Price emphasises the multiplicity (and mediocrity) of consumer choice, Nina Beier highlights the aesthetic narrowing caused by mass-production. ‘The Demonstrators (3 Hanging Receivers)’ combines a generic leather sofa with a poster purchased from a stock photography agency. They are both entirely familiar and entirely anonymous in their ubiquity. Similarly, Will Kendrick’s work mines and reconfigures the visual icons and grammar of consumer culture. The logos of Apple, Nike and other familiar symbols are combined with rotating 3D renders of Greco-Roman sculpture, drawing parallels between different strata of objects of visual desire. Kendrick’s video, titled ‘Nothing but make-believe will ever feel quite real again’, is displayed in a darkened, UV-lit room on a grid structure of black metal, mounted with two motion-sensor lights. The work carries sinister overtones of surveillance and militarism; one section borrows military footage used to disorient trainee soldiers. Situated in Tenderpixel’s basement space, this installation and two accompanying works in vinyl are literally and metaphorically the dark to the more aspirational lightness featured on the ground floor.
Physical elements – specifically fire and water – are frequently invoked as metaphor throughout the exhibition. ‘Fire Gazing’, a specially commissioned video by Rustan Söderling, features a digitally animated campfire in which a constantly mutating array of diverse objects (chairs, human figures, a corkscrew) appear. The work is soundtracked by the crackling of flames and a multi-lingual background murmuring of voices which name and describe these objects. The work acts as a kind of perpetual screensaver in both Tenderpixel’s physical and digital spaces; the piece also features on the gallery’s landing page. It creates an impression of the internet’s perpetual dialogues ranging ceaselessly across continents, as mutable as fire.
The elemental theme is particularly striking in David Ferrando Giraut’s work. The London-based artist’s two pieces, ‘2nd Nature’ and ‘The Sea and the Waves’, are distinct highlights of the show. A digital animation depicts vessels on a white ground scanning over ocean waves; they rotate, following the motion of thrown ceramics but their substance is water, not clay. Giraut sourced the ceramic shapes from the British Museum’s collection; the level to which each vessel fills with water corresponds to the length of time the source culture to which each form belongs thrived. The use of historical objects and the symbolic invocation of the elements is a recurring strategy of Giraut’s. It serves to invoke a sense of existing within both a historical and natural continuum, in the face of the perpetual present of the digital age. It is a far cry from the ambivalent dystopia of Kendrick’s vision of the present, and serves to illustrate the conceptual diversity of this diminutive yet rich exhibition.