Katja Novitskova: Invasion Curves
Whitechapel Gallery, London
27 June – 2 September, 2018
Review by Fiorella Lanni
Entering Katja Novitskova’s ‘Invasion Curves’ at Whitechapel Gallery is like stepping into the set of a science fiction film. Metallic wires, flashing lights, giant eggs and a human brain occupy the gallery space. Surrounding this landscape, floating sheets of Perspex and resin hang from the ceiling and display phrases such as ‘the right to harvest resources’, ‘we are at an inflection point’, and the title ‘invasion curves’. Taken from corporate Power Point presentations, these inscriptions, which resemble giant snakes or worms, seem to speculate on the effects of global data and advanced technology on our lives. What is it that we are looking at? Suddenly we realise that we are presented with a cold, harsh vision on the future of humanity.
In this agglomeration of obscure forms, which include snake-like creatures hatching from eggs, the only missing presence is the human body. It seems that humans have been replaced by machines and deformed animals, whose function is to provide a deceitful idea of security in the hands of technology. As the title, ‘Invasion Curves’ suggests, the world has been invaded and is inhabited by living machines, two-dimensional sculptures that resemble animals trapped in the body of genetically modified beings and synthetic materials. This dystopian realm is accompanied by a mysterious music, which contributes to the creation of an unsettling atmosphere. The landscape that the artist presents seems to be undergoing a ‘biotic crisis’ caused by technological advancement. In this new world, hostile to humans, it’s unclear where they have gone – perhaps they have been made extinct by the hybrid monsters they created.
Reflecting on ecological realities connected to the reliance of technology in the function of our everyday lives, ‘Invasion Curves’ displays a sci-fi-cum-horror infused world, which seems to be built on ‘If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes’, an installation the artist presented at the Estonian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017. The title takes inspiration from ‘Blade Runner’ (1982), a post-apocalyptic film, in which a robot named Roy Batty is in search of the man who created him and along the way he meets the creator of his eyes. Roy tells him ‘if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes’. Just like Roy we are puzzled by what we are seeing in the gallery: alien lifeforms in unsettling scenarios, surrounded by tentacles and supercharged microbes. It’s almost as if our vision has been altered by digital filters. Do we still possess human eyes or are we gradually turning into cyborgs? Roy acknowledges the creator of his eyes and claims authorship for himself based on what he has witnessed; in ‘Invasion Curves’ Novitskova aims to establish a symbolic relationship between the viewers and the creators of this new world. However, we soon realise that the viewer and the creator are the same entity, responsible for the creation of a terrifying reality that has gone beyond what was originally intended and there is no way out.