FINE MOON, POOR TUNING
DAVID ED COOPER, CLAUDIA DUNES, RAINER WESTON, JAMES WYLIE
4 JULY - 21 JULY 2018
When a machine runs efficiently, when a matter of fact is settled, one need focus only on its inputs and outputs and not on its internal complexity. Thus, paradoxically, the more science and technology succeed, the more opaque and obscure they become.
- Bruno Latour
fine moon, poor tuning interrogates technology, language, and the material remains of information flow between people and machines. Playing upon the relationship between machines, social control, the contestation of territory and expansion of capital, the works in the exhibition, in varying ways, demonstrate how technologies manufacture our world, and speculate upon how, by repurposing machines, alternate paths can manifest.
Dunes’ sculptural works, Contour I and Contour II, trace the shifting perimeters of space, giving form to that which is otherwise invisible. Contour II takes the form of a Faraday Cage constructed from tent poles and aluminised film. A Faraday Cage consists of a continuous covering of conductive material which serves to cancel out electromagnetic waves. Here, the cages are constructed from materials associated with the visual lexicon of science fiction and doomsday prepping. The gesture is both defensive and aggressive; it’s an act of territorializing, of claiming space by repelling invisible matter, as well as proposing an opportunity for escape.
Alongside the cages, Dunes and Weston present an interactive installation of multiple wifi routers, each with a unique Switchword combination. Switchwords were developed by self-help author James T. Mangan (who famously claimed private ownership of outer space in 1958) as a tool for self-actualisation and materialising desire. Switchwords are affirmation-like phrases, designed to channel energy from the subconscious. Together, the Switchwords attached to Dunes and Weston’s routers form a poem, the order, tone, and legibility of which shifts depending upon the viewer’s physical location, and interference from other wifi routers in the area. Again, the work gives form to immaterial forces, taking up a linguistic mode which, in most circumstances, is purely functional, and imbuing it with a poetics at once haphazard and unpredictable.
Drawing parallels between capital, technological mastery, and colonial expansion, Rainer Weston’s video Gap Generator depicts a fictional weapon, a Gap Generator, lushly rendered in 3D and perpetually circulating Mars. The Gap Generator is a radar jamming device, which appears in the strategy video game Command & Conquer, originally released in 1996. Compositionally, the video recalls the fanfare of SpaceX’s launch of a Tesla Roadster into space in February 2018. Once more the gesture of jamming, scrambling, and refusing information is present, but here it takes on an explicitly militaristic tone. The work blurs science fiction and fact, heroism and failure, casting the heady optimism of Elon Musk’s rhetoric of progress and expansion as intimately entangled with historic projects of colonial expansion, and capitalism’s hunger for new sources of exploitation.
The works exhibited by Cooper deride functionality. They posit questions of use and application – a technological disobedience – offering the potential of "new" materials and products to the dull, ever present reality of the counter-intuitive. In Reanimator: Who never mentions hell to ears polite, Cooper has altered the centrifugal forces enacting upon a common household fan, in effect; personifying the object by allowing it to skip and shuffle across the floor. A kind of autonomy limited only by the revolution of the fan itself and the length of its cable, an irreverent insubordination towards usefulness. This sentiment sits in confluence with Cooper's paintings, Stock, Potpourri which he describes as: "naive assumptions of production, somewhere between formalist sculpture and abstract painting”. They are paintings, sure – being wholly concerned with colour, movement, gesture, and surface, yet they are also objects; cast blanks of material, fabricated through a process of colouring and compressing glue, cedar, and pine shavings, lentils, grass seed, and freeze dried peas. The tenuous gap between a material’s potential and its application opens when one considers what crude purpose these composites are suggested to fulfill; a substitute for a flag, a misplaced elegy, a failed monument, ordnance, a superfood – all fed into the tenuous loop of decision making. History matters for decisions made now and therefore strongly influences strategic planning. These objects evoke use beyond the limitations of their substance – they are accessible and wholly inadequate.
In his work Giovanni, James Wylie has collated close ups from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel according to St. Matthew), considered by the Vatican to be the greatest rendition of Christ on film. A digital character has been mapped to mimic the actors on screen. The digital character continuously fails to emulate the expressions of the actors – contorting its face and body, looking in the wrong direction, grimacing where the actor on screen appears neutral. The work demonstrates a misreading of the source material, a representation of the gaps in translation between humans and intelligent machines.
Wylie’s untitled is a rhythmic, disorienting montage made up of found footage, home movies, and animated 3D images. The work’s soundtrack, which includes classical music, disembodied conversations between unseen participants, and clips from Hollywood movies further throws its viewer off. Here, any narrative which appears is the coincidental result of information thrown together, relations between objects and images are awkward, and allow themselves to be read in multiple ways.
Each of the artists in fine moon, poor tuning deploy varying strategies to intervene in everyday technologies. It’s a slowing down, a reconfiguring, or a halting of technological progress and its excitable rhetoric to reveal the ideological mechanisms at play in the technologies that surround us, and to think through their potential to be used otherwise.
David Ed Cooper Graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with First Class Honors from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland (2013). Selected exhibitions include: “We didn’t feel like ourselves”, Window, University of Auckland, Auckland, March 2016; Double Negative, LOFT JERVOIS, Auckland, February 2015; RE:400. (With James Wylie), Pilot, Hamilton, April 2014; International Artists Initiated (with James Wylie), David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, 2013;
Claudia Dunes graduated from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design with an BFA (2015). Selected exhibitions include: Moving Forward, Into, Under and Behind, Window Gallery, Auckland, 2017; The Tomorrow People at Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 2017; Soft Architecture, Malcolm Smith Gallery, Auckland, 2016; The forest smells like my shampoo, Whitecliffe Graduate Show, Auckland, 2015.
Rainer Weston graduated from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design with an BFA (2015). Selected exhibitions include: The Tomorrow People at Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 2017; The Devil’s Blindspot, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, 2016; Being Tween, Rockies, Auckland, 2016; HOTEL DEVON ISLAND, DEMO, Auckland, 2016.
James Wylie has recently completed his MFA at Elam School of Fine Arts (2018). Selected exhibitions include: Porgies, Ramp Gallery, Hamilton, 2016; International Artists Initiated (with David Ed Cooper), David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, 2013; Three Mile Island (with David Ed Cooper), Snake Pit, Auckland, 2012.