Galina Alferova, Semyon Koltsov (Russia), Karin Andersen (Germany), Anestis Anestis (Greece), Grigory Kirgizov (Russia), Alina Kugush (Russia), Jeremy Couillard (USA), Alexandra Lerman (USA–Russia), Nataliya Lyakh (France–Russia), Alexander Pogrebnyak, Anton Shchegolev (Russia), Danita Pushkareva (Russia), Miriam Simun (USA)
Elena Gubanova (Russia), Anna Frants (Russia-USA), Christiana Kazakou (Greece-UK), Victoria Ilyushkina (Russia)
Art-mediation tour by Alina Kugush. Photo: Mikhail Grigoriev
Miriam Simun (USA), Your Urge to Breathe Is a Lie, video, 2019
Who are you, and who am I?
Throughout 2021, CYLAND media laboratory held classes with students of two leading schools of modern art of Petersburg — the master’s program of Art & Science at the ITMO University, and participants of the “School of the Young Artist” program at the PRO ARTE. Three of these students were selected to present their projects at AIR gallery (Art.ITMO.Residency). This was an excellent collaboration experience and a unique opportunity to show the results of their study at an international multimedia art forum.
The theme of “Cosmos and Сhaos” offered numerous interpretations of classic concepts for the modern artist. As the outstanding scholar Aleksey Losev wrote in “The History of Ancient Aesthetics”, “the cosmos is wonderful, but this is the result not only of its universal reason, but also of its fateful purpose. Today it is wonderful, but tomorrow it collapses and becomes hideous. And all of this is also wonderful, lawful, self-evident and quite natural”. Will we be able to deal with the cosmos of the past that is collapsing before our eyes, and accept a new purpose and new concept of beauty?
The exhibition project “Who are you, and who am I?” features works that investigate problems of human self-definition in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. Primarily, these works take a critical view of events. Is everything programmed, following the logic of algorithms? The dominance of cliches and dependence on technology represent a new stage of unfreedom added to the old order.
An analysis of user experience and “model thinking” was given in the works of PRO ARTE school graduate Alina Kugush and computer game artist Jeremy Couillard. Anestis Anestis studies the possibility of defining life as a system that can reproduce itself independently. Miriam Simun and Karin Andersen investigate the concept of posthumanism, questioning prospects of human survival in the future. Danita Pushkareva shows how dreams of the future can become absurd, where an insane printer reproduces chaos. Alexander Pogrebnyak prepares the “sound of the ether” in a secret laboratory resembling a shady den of the Soviet era. Alexandra Lerman experiments with the real and virtual, changing their places by using Google Maps to lay routes through dreams.
Some of the works presented at the exhibition appeal to visual images and metaphors of the modern age, contemplating the mutual relation between the living and the non-living, emphasizing the beauty of dynamic structures and fractal systems. Natalya Lyakh creates her own aesthetics of perception and a model for organizing chaos. Galina Alferova, a graduate of the Art & Science master’s program, and the scientist Semyon Koltsov study the self-organization of complex dynamic systems. The student project by Grigory Kirgizov demonstrates the complexity of simple rules; in his hybrid sculpture form and pattern erase the boundary between the artificial and natural.
We expected to see new aesthetics and new beauty in the artists’ works. But the projects showed that the transitional period of implanting technologies into human beings is continuing, and that the harmonious cosmos of a new world is still a very long way off.
— Elena Gubanova, festival curator
CYFEST-13 | AIR — ITMO. Photo: Mikhail Grigoriev
Galina Alferova, Semyon Koltsov (Russia)
This work is a visualization of a mathematical model from chaos theory. It is the Lorenz system, which looks like a butterfly. Studying meteorological processes, Edward Lorenz concluded that insignificant differences in initial conditions give rise to enormous differences in the final phenomenon (the “butterfly effect”), and prediction becomes impossible. Where does chaos and unpredictability come from in a determined system? This is linked with high sensitivity in initial conditions. In the project by Alferova and Koltsov, bismuth crystals correspond to the position of system trajectories, which are also self-organized structures. An understanding of processes of self-organization and self-improvement of complex dynamic systems leads us as people to build a new dialogue with nature.
Karin Andersen (Germany–Italy)
digital prints, 2021
Courtesy of Traffic Gallery (Bergamo, Italy)
A study on interactions between microcosmos and macrocosmos, structure and entropy, intentional and random processes; and on life in extreme and weird habitats.
Anestis Anestis (Greece)
interactive installation, 2020
“Life Matter” is an interactive installation of the “Game of Life”, the most iconic cellular automata with a cult status in the history of computer science, mathematics, biology, digital physics and philosophy. It was created by the British mathematician John Conway in 1970 as he tried to emulate John von Neumann's definition of life as a system which can reproduce itself and simulate a Turing machine. The game displays how self-organization and complexity can emerge from the implementation of simple rules that describe the evolution of live or dead cells from an initial configuration. In this installation, a camera tracks real-time changes in the video stream and uses them as an input to insert new live cells into the current state of evolution projected onto a big screen.
John Conway died in 2020 from COVID-19, and this installation is a homage to his life and work.
Grigory Kirgizov (Russia)
The Source of Form
Natural forms – rose buds, colorings of animals and patterns of sea creatures – seem to be uniquely complex, and we see technology as alien to nature, and following an artificial principle of organization. This idea makes one think about the opposition of the natural and technological, but there are also zones of possible synthesis which reveal to us united principles of organizing living and non-living material.
Visible complexity is not necessarily complex in its source – it may also be formed by simple rules, as we can see in the physics of chaos theory, fractal geometry and certain families of mathematical models (for example cellular automata). The development of these theories leads to a prospect where the artificial and natural smoothly blend into one another. Can organic technologies and virtual life exist? Can they form from the “primordial soup” of the source code, as cellular automata are formed in simulations, bearing a strange resemblance to amoebae and bacterial colonies?
The sculpture “The Source of Form” is an attempt to materialize an answer to these questions. It is modelled from patterns created by one-dimensional cellular automata (so-called Rule 30) and bear a striking resemblance to the coloring on the shells of the Conus textile mollusk. The sculpture is printed with photopolymer resin on a high-resolution 3D-printer.
Alina Kugush (Russia)
video installation, 2021
Supported by Pro Arte Foundation and CYLAND Media Art Lab
Any conspiracy theory arises from the desire to explain the complexity of the world in a simplified way. As an artistic gesture, Alina Kugush takes this logic to an absurd conclusion, by “thinking in categories” – visual ones, in this case.
The project features several screens combined with a static collage. This “visual cloud” also includes a laboratory table with screens mounted in it. Several of the screen are placed at the bottom of glass tubes. The animation of the screens moves at different speeds – from 3 to 9 frames per minute. The visual refrain: domestic objects resembling microbes under a microscope replace one another. The unpredictability of elements that perform the role of “microbes” cause a comic effect.
Jeremy Couillard (USA)
Alien Afterlife: Let’s Play 2056
In the video a woman from the year 2056 has discovered the video game “Alien Afterlife” by Jeremy Couillard at a flea market. In this dystopian future, smart cars began speculating on real estate and bought all the property in the city, forcing humans to live in exile. The character in the video decides to record a playthrough of the mysterious video game in order to monetize it on YouTube to get a little extra money to survive. In the video she tells us what her life is like while commenting on her journey through the strange digital world.
Jeremy Couillard (USA)
This is a live recording of a video game stream and chat by well known streamer, Vinesauce, playing artist Jeremy Couillard’s game “JEF”. In the game, the character escapes to an alien colonized Earth where formerly wealthy citizens are forced into labor camps in Ikea stores where they have to put together furniture for regular people. The video captures a live moment of the “Art World” and “Video Game World” interacting. As things in the game get more overtly leftist and strange, the chat in the stream grows increasingly hostile toward Couillard and his game while the streamer tries to awkwardly navigate his playthrough.
Alexandra Lerman (USA–Russia)
Dream Documentary: Uzhhorod
experimental documentary, 2020
“Dream Documentary” is a collectively sourced film shot on mobile phones and made up of dreams and nightmares of multiple narrators. The film utilizes the mapping and navigation application Google Maps as an organizing principle to stitch together the sites of subconsciousness that emerged from the gathered dreams. Created collectively with Ukrainian artists, the film aggregated scenarios from the picturesque town of Lviv, the castle of Count Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains, the infamous disaster site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and the bowels of an intestinal plumbing system of the Budapest Opera House.
Nataliya Lyakh (France–Russia)
Chaos/Cosmos #1, 2, 3
video installation, 2020
According to the original concepts of Ancient Greek philosophy, cosmos is the idea of order in a closed, limited space, while chaos is the idea of disorder in an unlimited space. Therefore, artists are constantly forced to play with the idea of disorder in the sense of endlessness, and give it a final form.
Natalia Lyakh’s video triptych is the artist’s experiment with disordered images, which she gives a limit through editing — a harmony that is based either on fragments of cut movements, or on reverse playback. This is the transformation of chaotic reality into its inevitably limited form through aesthetic metamorphoses — perhaps this is the imagination that Oscar Wilde mentioned in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. “Actual life,” he wrote, “was chaos, but there was something terribly logical in the imagination.”
Alexander Pogrebnyak, Anton Shchegolev (Russia)
media installation, 2021
Engineers Alexey Grachev, Andrew Strokov
Supported by CYLAND Media Art Lab
This installation is a communications channel in the space of information chaos, which arose as a result of human activity and ultimately became a separate system with its own “thoughts” and behavior. The artists offer viewers to study this world through the main medium of the work – sound. The audio was assembled from various recordings: some were generated by neural networks, others from radio conversations – and so on. The physical part of the installation is a round table with analogue computing devices on it. The images and writing that appear on their screens are closely linked with the sound narrative of the work.
Danita Pushkareva (Russia)
The End of Eternity
media installation, 2020
Engineer Andrew Strokov
Supported by CYLAND Media Art Lab
This project is dedicated to attempts to depict the future – not to describe it, as philosophers and futurologists have done, but to display it in the form of a picture. The two parts of the work, spaced apart in time, comprise a story in the mockumentary genre. In the first part of the work, an artist who was allegedly a friend of Ossip Flechtheim – a German scientist who first used the term “futurology” during World War Two – draws illustrations for his book “Futurology: the battle for the future”. Created in 1970s, these drawings show the future as it was envisaged from the social and technocratic utopia of the time. The second part shows us Flechtheim’s book in the distant future: a robot bibliographer finds it in an enormous digital storage facility and also decides to illustrate it. New technologies are used, and the very process of drawing is transformed into sound. The robot’s processor malfunctions, however, so the illustrations emerge from a printer in the form of black and white lines in the exhibition hall. The sound of the printer that creates the pictures is also important here. Combined, the two attempts at visualization create a palimpsest of a “picture of the future”.
Miriam Simun (USA)
Your Urge to Breathe Is a Lie
A sensorial document of transhumanist cephalopodic evolution. A call to join the psycho-physical training regimen for human enhancement. In the face of rapid ecological and technological change, we train new sensitivities and capabilities, based on the model of the cephalopod. Miriam Simun’s work positions the non-mammalian ocean animal as an evolutionary role model; embraces the capacities residing in the existing biological human system, looks towards indigenous forms of deep ocean bodily labors; advocates for non-anthropocentric and embodied knowledges for the project of innovation; and embraces training as a technology, as an augmentation — one rooted in practice, development of internal abilities, and equity in access.
Art-mediation tour by Alina Kugush. Photo: Mikhail Grigoriev