impossible material

As the line between digital and physical space becomes blurred, and the dialogue between the virtual and the actual heightens in intensity, what does it mean to exist simultaneously online and in the physical world? What does it mean for the artist as creator of the physical art-object when the digital dimension redefines our notion of space, form and surface? Are the practices and tools of the renaissance artist rendered obsolete in a post-media age, or does a culture of ‘open-source’ and the ‘user-interface’ call for a re-emergence of traditional techniques in convergence with other media? And how do we describe the materiality of this hybridisation as digital media moves offline and into the physical realm? This exhibition seeks to examine the increasingly grey area that lies between simulated and tangible dimensions.

“The simulacrum is never what hides the truth -- it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.”[1]

The opening quotation from Jean Baudrillard’s seminal essay on hyperrealism, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, is something of a simulation of the truth within itself. The quote is attributed to Ecclesiastes, although on closer inspection there appears to be no such passage within the Old Testament. Does Baudrillard’s illustration imply that a fabrication of reality can act as a surrogate for actual reality? Or can this apocryphal statement be explained by the problems that occur between translation from the original Hebrew text into the author’s own language and ultimately to that of the reader’s? It is true that Baudrillard’s interpretation captures something of the spirit of Ecclesiastes, which speaks of the transitory nature of existence, and how we are left with a shadow of the original, an unfaithful copy, a simulacrum.

We could view the ideas that Baudrillard lays out in much of his writing on cultural theory as an accurate depiction of our contemporary state of networked existence, which can be said to be in constant dialogue, or translation, between the simulated and the actual. As with Baudrillard’s analogies of Disneyland as a vision of a true America or Jorge Luis Borges’ tale of the cartographers’ map which replaces the land that it represents, the virtuality of the digital realm acts as a secondary layer to the physical world as we know it. As a result, we frequently find ourselves caught between the two, in a digital-analogue limbo. The miniaturisation of technology and the devices that allow us to immerse ourselves within these virtual spaces have become increasingly covert and sentient to the degree that we casually occupy multiple environments and spaces at once. We have arrived at a state where we live in a constant flux between actual reality and a digitally enriched, augmented version of reality, a hyperreality. We are at once connected to everyone, everywhere, and everything whilst simultaneously being in a perpetual state of isolation and stasis. This heightened layer of inter-dimensionality, whilst being charged with cultural and social implications, holds many possibilities and avenues of exploration for the artist. This exhibition, Impossible Material, attempts to place the art-object within this middle-ground between these separate realities.

“The internet is not everywhere. Even nowadays when networks seem to multiply exponentially, many people have no access to the internet or don’t use it at all. And yet, it is expanding in another direction. It has started moving offline. But how does this work?”[2]

Impossible Material is an exhibition of mixed media work by two Welsh artists, Geraint Edwards and Dewi Williams. The separate work of these two artists shares a common ground that explores this inter-dimensional flux and seeks to emphasise the cultural, social and philosophical aspects that arise from this present-day post-dimensional condition. Much of the work in this exhibition explores processes and elements indicative of both physical and simulated realities to arrive at artefacts that reflect our own cross-dimensional engagement and experience. Ultimately, this collection of work is an exploration of the art-object in an age of the non-object. The exhibition comprises multi-disciplined work that fuses painting, video, CGI, sculptural installation and web-based art.

DEWI WILLIAMS

I work through a variety of media that attempt to occupy multiple levels of dimensionality at once, where digital forms are rendered as analogue objects before being re-visioned in virtual format then re-printed once more. Through creating this flux between digital and analogue ephemera, artifacts become charged with the signification of inter-dimensional dialogue, they become hybrid objects that sit somewhere between the actual and the virtual reflecting our digitally enhanced view of reality. I aim to explore the formal, spatial and material properties of this new hybrid media, and look at what happens when these virtual forms and images are manifest in the real world. I am primarily interested in how the digital has become so integrated within our present day sense of ’normality’ that the distinction between where the physical environment ends and the virtual begins has been blurred into a single unit, and how this creates new spaces and environments for us to engage with. Through using the practices of the renaissance artist, which primarily concerns itself with capturing the beauty of nature in oil painting on canvas or sculptural forms carved from stone, the shifting of the artist’s gaze towards the virtual space gives the digital version of reality a higher significance than actual reality. This opens new avenues of exploration for the artist where traditional materials are replaced with unknown virtual substances and environments that defy all notions of physicality.


DEWIWILLIAMS.NET

GERAINT EDWARDS

My practice explores the relationship between our physical and virtual worlds and interrogates our experience and behaviour within and between them, considering themes of space, objectivity, erasure and connection. I am someone who believes in art as a tool to uncover truths, something which I attempt to do through constructing metaphors for the evolving behaviours, relationships and experiences which we encounter in our increasingly hybridised lives. I maintain that this is the best way to provide the distance and change of perspective needed to achieve objectivity. My core approach is translation between the virtual and physical worlds (intermedial translation), as I have found it the most effective way to reveal the hidden functionality of our digital tools and environments, at a time when humanity is increasingly shifting from being the subject to the object of activity. My approach has criticality as a central concern, not from a Luddite perspective, but rather one that sees it as a duty of the artist to investigate and question where we are as a species. There are rich theoretical seams to be mined in the work, but there is also an undoubtable thread of humour that runs through it, and it is often joyful, and I would argue, magical. My goal is to communicate big ideas of universal relevance in an engaging, accessible way.


GERAINTEDWARDS.COM

[1] Ecclesiastes (…or Baudrillard?)
[2] Hito Steyerl, Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead? e-flux journal #49, November 2013