Probable, préférable, plausible, possible


Film, installation, performance, mixed media...

Probable, préférable, plausible, possible

Past: September 17 → October 29, 2011

In « How to build a world? »1, Stuart Candy (a.k.a. the skeptical futuryst) considers all possible ways to construct a universe. Candy is a futurologist: his research is about the building of future worlds. As a starting point, he reminds us that novelists, architects, engineers, industrial designers, craftsmen, film writers, directors, advertisers, storytellers (historians, politicians, journalists, psychoanalysts…) are all world builders. Their inventions help us envision and move towards the future.

The exhibition Probable, preferable, plausible, possible revolves around the figure of the artist as a futurist and as a world builder. It includes different images of the future: talking electronic objects, singing refrigerators, aliens that listen to music, futuristic but dated amusement parks being reduced to simple geometric shapes, screen backgrounds, Tetris abstractions, and a series of pictures from the science fiction universe. The exhibit takes the form of a high-tech bric-à-brac which outlines, as Erik Davis has termed it 2, “a secret history of mystical impulses that continue to spark and sustain the Western world’s obsession with technology, and especially with communication technology”3.

In the introduction to his work TechGnosis, Davis points out that it is no longer industrial technologies that prevail (and with them, the myth of the machine), but rather information technology — what in France, the land of the Minitel, is known by the already quite obsolete acronym TIC (Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication). Davis’s fascinating hypothesis is that religious imagination, magical thinking and the most fervent millenarism have, from the start, pervaded the history of technology and science, which come with many ambitious promises such as “freedom, prosperity and the end of all diseases.”4 Today computer science, the Internet and telecommunication generate their share of unlikely stories, mythologies, pseudo-sciences or technological fantasies. They have reshaped our relationship to the everyday world as well. Phones, shoes and cars have become intelligent. We treat electronic objects like we do human beings. We think magnetic waves are an invisible threat and fear them[v]. Ubiquitous computing and pervasive networks are making our world more magical, but also more frightening. Technology is a fount of irrationality, supernatural, beliefs and mysticism, Davis tells us. Thus, Shana Moulton’s New Age therapies, Mark Leckey’s enchanted household appliances, Frank Eon’s electronically assisted visions of the Futuroscope, Anthea Hamilton’s eccentric sculptures -the images of which mostly come from digital databases, and the objects from Ebay (this gigantic electronic flea market!), the appropriations Mathis Gasser draws from Swiss science-fiction or abstraction, or Sophia Ajdir’s Faraday cage… all of these works create new images of a world organized in all irrationality by information technology. For that matter, painting has a specific role to play in this story, as a pre-technological art being redefined today by digital pictures and computing practices.

Candy rightly notes that real life is often a mixture of utopias and dystopias, two representations that have nurtured the whole history of science fiction. But we are not interested in this now classical opposition: each image exists, as he further says, under different modalities of the probable, possible, preferable or plausible. Art has long tried to be forwards, at the most cutting edge of history. It could be that, being so avant-garde, art is now working at imagining the future (that is to say, at putting it in images); and that the blue- and greenscreens, the computered chroma key backgrounds, have become, after the blank page, the metaphor our times demand, the ultimate place where the new may appear.

1 Conference held in March 2011 as part of UC. Berkeley’s Design Futures Series

2 Erik Davis is an American writer who studies the history of societies and culture. He has also been described as a cyberguru. TechGnosis was published in 1998,

3 Erik Davis, « Crossed Wires », Introduction, in Techgnosis, Serpent’s Tail, 1999, p. 3

4 Erik Davis, « Crossed Wires », ibid, p. 4

5 See Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Design Noir : The Secret Life of Electronic Object, August/Birkhauser, 2005

Jill Gasparina
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