The Stable Object in Precarious Times

9 April - 8 May 2021

Claire Baily, Sarah Derat, Jean-Philippe Dordolo, Clark Keatley, Alan Magee, Amanda Moström, Nick Paton, Hamish Pearch, Grace Woodcock

As technological advancements in AI & Automation increasingly become the dominant mediators of human experiences and practices, our direct engagement with materiality inversely decreases. So, in a world that no longer distinguishes between on and offline, and which embeds and normalises the digital in almost every personal relation and labour condition (1), the Covid pandemic strategy was only another step in the dematerialisation of humanity.

....and yet.... access to learning and information is no longer limited by opening hours. Mastering a foreign language is just a duolingo course away; want food, need a job, do your banking, or order the latest pair of trainers/pasta machine/ book, there’s an app for it all.

In this constrained existence, pockets of time and space have bloomed as a new look version of freedom. Whether it was the call of the birds or a perfect moment of solitude. But it wasn’t the lockdown which took away our freedom, although its feels like that. Our freedom was lost long before.

Taylorism’s division of labour fed into a neoliberal era of immaterial labour and precarious working conditions. The physical no longer valued, gone with the digitalisation of your music collection, tick the box below to opt in, T&C’s apply. There are more data points on each of us than ever before, swipe your I.D card on entry, sit down, plug in, rinse and repeat.

So in this post digital world, artists and makers are the flag bearers for touch and physical experience - a foil to 24/7 capitalism and immaterial labour. Stability doesn’t have to mean safe and predictable but rather a reconnection to what it means to be human, a reset or centring of oneself. After all it is Homo Sapiens capacity to express thought in material symbols, that provides human society with the means of permanently preserving the fruits of individual and collective thought (2).  A form of worldmaking, without which, it could not be relied upon to house the unstable and mortal creature which is man (3).

There are certain spaces which aren’t supposed to be occupied - utilitarian, emergency access only. The sort of spaces which, once occupied, are simultaneously about freedom, rebellion and control. Open the hatch and climb on up. Breathe in the views whilst you can, todays rooftops are tomorrows penthouses.

Making, taking, forming, storming.

Small personal actions become minor politicised acts. Take back control even for a minute - ‘remember to return control once you’re done with it’.

1 - Barbara Cueto and Bas Hendrikx, eds., Authenticity? Observations and Artistic Strategies in the Post-Digital Age, Making Public (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2017).
2 - André Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1993).
3 - Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 2nd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).