If you usually skip the introductory notes to the exhibitions, you may want to make an exception for New Nature, a new project that is on display in the Manege exhibition hall in St. Petersburg.
The works of the Recycling Group (artists Andrei Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetsov) of New Nature focus on Homo Virtualis, a kind of people who fully belong to the digital world and its reality. Blokhin and Kuznetsov use recycled material, fiber optic cable and a construction network to create dynamic installations and cutting-edge interactive sculptures. The works of art on display, some from the past, some created for this space, explore how the relationships between humans and technology are increasingly close and sophisticated.
Blokhin and Kuznetsov, who formed their artistic tandem in 2008 in Krasnodar, won the Kandinsky Prize in the Young Artist category in 2010 and represented Russia at the 2017 Venice Biennale. True to its name, the group began making art objects from recycled material, but eventually moved on to other forms of transformation to discover new meanings in familiar objects.
Before entering the exhibition, visitors are offered three options for interacting with the exhibitions and the space around them. The best option is to download the Recycle Group app, but you can also download the audio guide or explore the project website at recyclexmanege.com. You can disable them all, but if you do, you’ll miss a whole dimension of the program.
Walking through physical reality
The screen opens with a symbolic art object called Zero: an arc built from obsolete computers that form a perfect oval with its reflection on the metal surface below. This input art can represent a classical input or it can be the symbol of a new beginning, or the re-establishment of something that has survived itself. Or it may be a reference to the traditional Japanese torii gates found at the entrance to Shinto shrines and allude to the transition from worldly thought to the spiritual and sacred. Zero belongs to two different worlds at once, just as the arc and its reflection form a single piece of art.
“The arch is also a reference to the installation of closed systems on the Manege façade,” project curator Alyona Ageyeva told The Moscow Times. “The installation is a trio of zero-shaped objects that are human figures made from a construction network. Zero is the key symbol of exhibition in general, because in the digital world we all use and produce content and, therefore, the circle of consumption is complete ”.
Physical, augmented and spiritual: these three dimensions constitute the space of the New Nature. Nature reaches visitors to the forest of dead links and the garden of divergent stones, which occupy the entire second floor of the Manege. From the ground floor, the black forest with flashes of neon light above looks like a stone jungle, but up close you see a dense forest made of gigantic plastic feathers with thousands of dead links printed. The garden is a reference to traditional Japanese stone gardens, with the difference that the stones are moved by a technical algorithm.
This brain screen that fuses objects of physical art with augmented reality blurs the boundaries between the real and the digital, attracting visitors to a technological performance full of associations that cross time and cultures. A sarcophagus is in the form of a rubbish bin (container. Series of meditation art objects) and a monastery garden (Cloître) is created entirely from rolls of fiber optic cable. The tall black doors with a ray of bright light from behind the closed doors (The Gates installation), are decorated with whimsical sculptures made of fiber optic cable reminiscent of Gothic churches. However, unlike the images of saints and martyrs adorning the doors of ancient temples, these faceless guards show no sign of gender, origin, or any personal characteristic.
On the second floor, a group of sculptures of young people are desperately observed on the screens of their devices, posing as a prayer. Wanting to be loved, animated, or simply heard in the frustrating or disappointed “real” world, they are drawn to the icons on the screen.
Experience virtual reality
Although you exist in a dimension of physical reality, in the virtual reality of the downloaded application you can focus on the empty frames of the installation called Presence and they will be filled with images that make the dark space bloom suddenly with light and movement. The installation of blocked content reveals its own hidden drama through the app: visitors come across iceberg-shaped mountain dwellers. These are users whose content has been blocked and whose system has been blocked. A few steps further on the railroad, you can send your phone on a trip and download a wonderful trip log.
If you’re willing to share the content of your social media pages with digital intelligence, you can tell your luck. This fortune teller allows you to choose in advance an optimistic or pessimistic life scenario. The personal forecast is given to each visitor when they access one of the two fortune teller stands. The experience is strictly private: only one visitor is allowed at a stand at a time.
Blokhin and Kuznetsov said at the inauguration of the program that it took almost two years to complete the project. “We wanted to explore a connection between the human brain and digital intelligence,” Blokhin said. “In a way, we wanted to give the public the opportunity to put themselves in the place of the machines, to look at reality through the lens of a robot, an opportunity to test and analyze what they see with digital tools. provided by the machines. ”
For more information on the exhibit and tickets, check out the site here. It will run until September 15th.