Morphing, as referred to in the exhibition title, is a digital post-production effect, allowing the smooth transformation of one form to another. The artists in ‘Morphing Overnight’ practise a soft transformation, exploring multiple positions, merging marketing, technology, entertainment and corporate aesthetics to investigate social and economic systems whilst simultaneously being part of them.
In 1994, Josh Harris founded Pseudo Networks, a website for live audio and video webcasting, featuring shows on science, music, fashion and art. As with many enterprises investing in technology at the time, particularly in the recently born World Wide Web, Pseudo grew rapidly to 50 separate channels transmitting 200 hours of original programming per month. By January 1999 using funds generated by Pseudo.com, Harris had leased two adjacent buildings on Lower Broadway, Manhattan, transforming them into a social experiment known as ‘Quiet: We Live In Public’. The site, replete with 150 living pods, an 80-foot dining table and a gun range, hosted 100 people for a month filmed by over 100 surveillance cameras, allowing each of the residents to have their own channel through which to watch each other.
On the 1st January 2000, the police evacuated the site and all its residents, classifying the project as cult. On the 11th March 2000, the dot-com bubble burst, the Nasdaq Composite lost 78% of its value as it fell from 5046.86 to 1114.11 and with it many newly born dot-com businesses closed. The market was not ready yet to absorb the new technology.
Central to ‘Morphing Overnight’ are two films narrating Josh Harris enterprises, a short documentary ‘Pseudo EPK’ and ‘Quiet People Watching’, two hours of uncut archival material recorded by surveillance cameras during the project. The figure of Josh Harris is a paradigm reflecting a moment in recent history when the intersection between economic fluctuations and information technology had started determining a new and more complex sensitivity and aesthetic language, defined by Shaviro as a “project of affective and cognitive mapping”.
With ‘What Right?’, Julieta Aranda investigates ideas of circulation and collectivity whilst Debora Delmar Corp. tests the possibilities allowed by mass production, networks and online distribution. Artist Dora Budor exploits technical processes behind the visual effects industry, using skin prosthetics and injury make-up from Hollywood productions as tools to form sculptural objects.
An FTP site installed on a repurposed HP ProLiant server has been placed between the two exhibition spaces. This work by Yuri Pattison holds research contributions by all the exhibition’s artists, accessible only for the shows duration on the public IP (ftp://126.96.36.199/ ). Along with it, a Dell PowerEdge server, the same model as the one chosen by Wikileaks to host information, lays opened on the floor. Its hardware is exposed and used to hold a 1989 Goddess of Democracy statue, a set of lock picks and other sets of information, resonating questions about information democratisation and data access.
The gallery office has been transformed by the AIRBNB Pavilion, with an installation reinforcing overlaps between spaces of work, domesticity, leisure and display, superimposing a work by Emanuel Röhss on a formal arrangement of domestic potpourri.
The prevalence in the entertainment sector of new editing and post-production methods, mirrors the information technology of contemporary neoliberal society, which has transformed collective aspirations, becoming simultaneously symptomatic and productive of new and complex social processes.
The exhibition mimics this complexity, leaking into the gallery website and the gallery office space, using both as additional display platforms.
Olivia Erlanger: Meat Eater
TL: How should it begin?
MH: It should begin with ‘do you remember’.
TL: Okay, yeah.
Do you remember what they call this type of space? Look how the symbols fall in line across and down the surface, until the base. And then look back to the left, again at the top. See how it begins.
(MH notices that it begins with the beginning. For MH, this is a blunt realization.)
MH: It’s some kind of record, right? I know each symbol has its own meaning. Yeah, I think it’s a record.
TL: Each symbol changes meaning depending on what falls on either side of it. So, like, this one here doesn’t mean the same thing as it does over there. What is it recording?
(TL and MH pause. Side by side, they each meditate on their own subjective experience of the passing of time. First in Days. Then Hours. Then Minutes. Then Seconds. Perplexed, they privately dread the parting conclusion they know is coming in the bottom line.)
TL: It’s an architecture for a history.
MH: A narrative.
TL: Yeah, a story.
(TL flashes a painful smile.)
MH: But it’s kind of also a way of looking back to see what’s next.
TL: A crystal ball.
MH: Maybe the pieces of one. This is just a description of a moment.
TL: The whole thing?
MH: Yeah. But don’t you think its awkward placed here like this? It’s completely out of context. What is it about societies and their compulsive need to self-document?
(TL silently agrees. TL now sees an artefact broken from its intended purpose; a song and dance man perpetually performing in the prison of a former self.)
TL: It’s endemic…
MH: To a society? Is it?
TL: Yeah. Or I think it’s at least endemic to the organization of time. Which is- wow look… we’ve walked through a few thousand years in an hour and a half. How is that possible?
MH: It’s because they flatten it out like this. Sure, we ‘feel’ the dual satisfaction of having lived and died in every room, but in reality all we’ve done is tippy-toed the perimeter of a mostly absent building. But maybe we missed something? Should we go back? Where did we begin?
(Dazed, TL slowly looks up at an illuminated exit sign. TL doesn’t remember.)
TL: I don’t remember.
Joel Dean, 2015