A new show at Sprüth Magers in Berlin brings together the work of 13 key contemporary artists, including Oliver Laric, Jon Rafman, Sara VanDerBeek and Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, to explore the role of screens and the conscious and unconscious mind in the modern world. We talked to the show’s curator, Johannes Fricke Waldthausen.
Where did the idea for the show come from?
The exhibition develops around notions of the screen as interface for both the conscious and the subconscious mind as well as a surface for projections of communications and technological abstractions. In our culture, screens have become interfaces between the inside (the feeling of something) and the outside (the representation of something), like a gate or a bridge from one state of perception into another.
Within a cultural condition of too many fakes and simulations around us, I became more interested in the intuitive mind and the subconscious, the unconscious, ‘the Authentic Self’. I read many of the works of C.G. Jung, Roberto Assagioli and other precursors of spiritual psychology; in parallel, I reread much of Ray Kurzweil and Jorge Luis Borges last year on ‘the Internet of things’ and new evolutions in synthetic biology and empathic technology, on the one hand, and magical surrealism, shamanism and rituals, on the other. What feelings does technology actually trigger inside us, within us?
You quote Jean Baudrillard: ‘we used to live in the imaginary world of the mirror and the stage. Today, we live in the imaginary world of the screen, the interface and networks. We too have become screens.’ How does this relate to the work included in the show?
The exhibition addresses the intuitive mind, with screens as doorways to lucid states of both the rational and the dreamlike or the subconscious. Some of the key questions are: What happens to our sense of belonging, social relationships and the ‘Self’ if the intuitive mind becomes increasingly transformed by technology and removed from natural experiences and the body? How do screens feel? Some things don’t have to be explained but are more of a sensory, energetic experience, like rhythm, an electric field or a space of resonance.
What would André Breton make of the exhibition?
Reconsider his Manifesto from 1924, which said that ‘Surrealism was a means to reunite conscious and unconscious realms of experience in a way that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality”’. Surrealism grew out of Dada as a literary and artistic movement between World Wars I and II.
Poetry as an intuitive, creative human quality played an important role here. How creative or poetic can a machine be? Or can a machine be empathic? These may be the questions in the surreal context of today. We live in a time where technology and computational storage capacity are changing society so profoundly that another, perhaps more relevant question is: How can technology help us to become more human again?
Dreaming Mirrors Dreaming Screens runs until 2 April. All images: Installation view, DREAMING MIRRORS DREAMING SCREENS, curated by Johannes Fricke Waldthausen / Goodroom, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, January 29 – April 02, 2016