Whoever said that the way we engage with Art is set in stone, has not seen the ‘Keep Me Updated your Holiness’ show at the Gazelli Art House.
‘Keep Me Updated your Holiness’ showcases the work of the Recycle Group - a collective formed by Andrey Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetov in 2006. The Russian duo explore the realm of ‘Virtual Reality’ and aim to bridge incompatible concepts such as the contemporary with the classic, using both recycled imagery and materials.
The solo show comprises of a summation of stone like sculptures - titled Basalt Rocks - with a set of digital mass communication symbols carved on them. The carvings range from icons of prominent social media such as Facebook and Twitter, to the universally known connectivity symbols of Wi-fi internet and Bluetooth.
Accompanying the Basalt Rocks, the Recycle Group has also exhibited a series of stone like statues of fragmented human figures, embedded with the set of symbols seen in the other works. Retaining a similar aesthetic with the Basalt Rocks, the Enlightener statues generate a dialogue between the human figure and mass communication technology.
More precisely, the two bodies of work make a comment on how interactive technology is an unchallenged cannon, shaping social interactions in this day and age; Digital technology has become a contemporary status quo, having obliterated any other forms of communication. The stone like appearance of the objects is also suggestive of the supremacy of digital technology in the communication arena.
However, looks are deceiving; Whilst seeing the show, the gallery staff encourage the audience to touch the objects - and with one touch the medium reveals its secrets. The harsh stone appearance is merely a masquerade as the objects are made from some kind of rubber. This stark antithesis between appearance and reality gives a different reading to the work: Perhaps these objects critique the contemporary status quo, asking whether information and communication technologies should remain unchallenged.
The Recycle Group do not just question the supremacy of contemporary technologies. They also question the cannons surrounding the interface between the audience and the artwork, by allowing the audience to touch the work. The spectator’s touch has been obsessively prohibited amongst the leading art institutions, but the Recycle Group seem to view it as an integral component in experiencing the show. This is also evident when engaging with one of the stone like objects titled Loading, which requires the audience to step on it, allowing it to release a cloud of vapour.
An alternative interpretation of the work revolves around the notion of immortalising 21st century technological symbols; As time moves forward, will these forms of technology become obsolete and inherently, will future generations be able to recognise these symbols? Or will they become the equivalent of hieroglyphics in future societies?
The Recycle Group have also presented some pieces from their Photo Booth series, which are white, wall mounted sculptures reminiscent of greco roman reliefs. The sculptures - comprised of fragmented upper human body parts which are reflected vertically and horizontally - sport the latest smart phone technologies and are depicted interacting with their devices by talking on the phone or taking selfies. Referencing notions of classical beauty and perfection, the sculptures paint an accurate portrait of 21st century digitalised human relations.
Overall, the thought-provoking work of the Recycle Group reflects upon the embedding of contemporary technologies within the realm of social interactions and I could not help but contextualise their work with the following quote by Marina Abramovic (2010):
‘We text each other without seeing each other and we just live around the corner from each other. So many tales of loneliness’.