Who Knows What Happened Here? • Placement Produit • Aubervilliers, France • 2019
I stepped into something strange
The two works exhibited here use a similar aesthetic to very different ends. La Tumba utilizes VR technology to crack open and re-examine, in a near-forensic way, a literal architecture of power known and feared in Venezuelan society: a prison where political dissidents are detained and tortured by agents of the government.
Meanwhile, Vin Dizen uses the ultra-seductive aesthetics of CGI to create a pseudo-ruin. Ancient fountains baring the noble profiles of lions overflow with contemporary iconography of Hot Wheels™ tires, converging inside a seemingly endless landscape. A permanently Instagrammable pixelated sunset and the low hum of something arcane disarms us, precluding any sense of skepticism. It comments on our obsession and ultimate deferral to “genuine” antiquity; how that desire has turned into its own highly lucrative industry in the age of hyper-capitalism, and has even flickered into the art world through “blockbuster” exhibitions like Damien Hirst’s Treasures from Wreck of the Unbelievable.
Both worlds are grounded in a contemporary desire stemming from the miraculous absence of knowledge - any question the demi-Gods of Siri or Google can’t solve. Where did these ruined objects come from? What really happens in the prison? Because we don’t know, we find ourselves subliminally manufacturing answers in order to satisfy our own need for an explanation.
When the viewer steps into these simulated worlds, she is confronted by these forces. Immediately her brain manufactures possible scenarios that led to the ruination in Porre’s piece, or empathize, in a bodily and affective way, with the fear and trauma of those disembodied witnesses who narrate Van Stenis’ simulated prison. The viewer’s emotional attachment to these digital worlds effectively continues their process of auto-mythologizing, as their power grows with every subsequent re-interpretation.
The title refers to these worlds as some ‘things’ and not some ‘wheres’ as these worlds are in fact immaterial fantasies, a digital alter-verse to be inhabited or gazed upon but never fully accessed. The viewer is held captive by this web of real and fake, hinging between feelings of fear and desire, the glut of visual data offered by seductive computer-generated imagery and the intense isolation of simulated torture chambers.
In a sense, the works are more concerned with the social and psychological response of the viewer than their own authenticity—a flex of power that makes their mythology all the more real. Held up by our desire for reason, they float above the viewer like gods, forever just slightly out of reach.
With: Miyo Van Stenis
Curation: Elliott Paquet
Text: Alice Bucknell
• Vin Dizen (2017-9)