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XPO Gallery
On the web at
and physically at 17, rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth 75003 Paris (appointment only)
Closed November 26th, 2014
Published at

I was generally sympathetic to the examination of remote machinic vision on display at XPO
Gallery, with their presentation of a Brooklyn heavy group show that is weirdly shut to the
public: HIKE, HACK, HIC et NUNC. Interestingly, it coincided with the punch of learning that a
Russia-based website now offers the world peeks into private homes and businesses around the
world via live feeds from web-cam baby monitors and security cameras.
Curated by Alexis Jakubowicz and Jean-Brice Moutout, it is a show intended to be seen virtually
on a screen by the world online, and/or in actuality when accessed privately by appointment only.
This mixing of the two experiences is what gives the show its merit and viractual impact, saving
it from mere camp theatrics. It draws us into the question of how technical apparatus shapes what
can be perceived and conceived by constructing an intertwining pretend (fairy-like) space, ideal
for floating between modes of knowing.

HIKE, HACK, HIC et NUNC installation view with nonfunctioning web-cams

It would be unproblematic to criticize the exhibitions technological incompetence when
compared to earlier telematic masters like Wolfgang Staehle, Paul Sermon and Ken Goldberg (or
the recent political exactitude of !Mediengruppe Bitnik, artists who use distant hacking as an
artistic strategy) - as the web-cameras used in the show (that make for the broad intellectual point
of remote perspective) amusingly do not work. In that way it is an elaborate mannerist farce.
The on-line component that feigns live web-cam feeds is actually a combination of non-streaming
gif animations and vimeo-hosted videos. I encountered in the show a rather tawdry (simulations
of simulations of simulations) techno Arte Povera post-internet version of the high-tech aesthetics
of technoromanticism. Regardless of said tawdriness, the encounter still managed to shift my
attention from the realism of the object to the realism of the means of production of perception.
Thus, though somewhat lost in transmition, it still participates in the examination of the net as the
major ideology of our age, whether one approves of its diffusion or condemns and struggles
against it.
It is a fun collection of art that configures a pluralist understanding of our networked world by
refusing to treat machinic vision as an ontology. Rather, it insists on machinic visions

constructivist and provisional make-up, thus serving again the poetic function for art that began
with the displacement techniques of the early Surrealists.
A fairyland feeling is established throughout the gallery by Madrid artist Manuel Fernandezs
short video soundtrack of Provisional Landscape (2013), generated from audiovisual stock
material. It provides a pixie-like audio reverberation that embraces the space.

Partial installation view, Manuel Fernandez & Hunter Jonakin (right)

Guillaume Collignon, From Earth to Mars: 9 layers of space exploration (2014)

Guillaume Collignons work provides a key to the telematic-landscape theme, while also hinting
at the meaty world of now (nunc in French). Nowhere is this more apparent (even as it too was

not working) than in Jill Magids alluring Legoland (2000) video, as it was cheekily hidden
behind a black velvet curtain. As seen on the online show, it is a rather sexy video the artist made
with an infrared security camera mounted on her shoe, shooting between her apparently pantiless
legs at night amongst tall buildings, that include, I think, the World Trade Towers. At 28 seconds
in, there is a pivotal moment where a sliver of gleaming moisture between her legs glints.
Obviously the play of hiding/revealing in and of this work behind the black curtain suggests a
parallel with the painting L'Origine du monde (1866) by Gustave Courbet when it was in the
collection of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, as it, for a time, was hidden behind a black curtain
in his bureau, only viewable by request or private invitation.
But a post-internet landscape motif dominated the show, with attention-grabbing works that used
gorgeous digital prints (Penelope Umbrico), floppy digital painting based on google maps
(Clement Valla) or a combination of digital imaging technology and traditional painting
technique as with Kevin Zuckers stunning and visually noisy Claustra (blue) (2014).

Kevin Zucker, Claustra (blue) (2014)

Kevin Zucker, Claustra (blue) (2014) installation view with nonfunctioning web-cams

Clement Valla, The Universal Texture Recreated (4642'3.50"N 12026'28.59"W) (2014)

installation view with nonfunctioning web-cams

Penelope Umbrico, Mountains, Moving (2012)

Penelope Umbrico, Mountains, Moving (2012) installation view

There were three robust sculptural combines as well, the hysterically funny vibrating Terrain
Vague (2014) by Paul Souviron, the elegant screen-meets-fishing-pole combine of Pierre
Clment and the slow-time ice-melt composition Mran: Modular Moraine Maker - Conceptual
Art for the Masses (2014) by Hunter Jonakin.

Paul Souviron, Terrain Vague (2014)

Pierre Clment, Off the hook (2014) installation shot

Hunter Jonakin, Mran: Modular Moraine Maker - Conceptual Art for the Masses (2014)

Hunter Jonakin, Mran: Modular Moraine Maker - Conceptual Art for the Masses (2014) detail

As noted above, I utterly took pleasure in the fairy camp send-up of high-tech surveillance in our
post-Snowden era here. Its ominous mannerist aesthetic, perhaps oddly, reminded me of the
school of British fairy painting that stemmed from the late-18th century works of Henry Fuseli,
the artist that, by using William Shakespeares fairy play Midsummer Night's Dream as subject,
established the basic vocabulary of the dainty fairy/nymph genre in painting. During the epoch of
Romanticism the artists Henry Singleton, Henry Howard, Frank Howard, and Joshua Cristall all
carried on the tradition in small-scaled fairy works. This pixie approach to the land is most
enticing for the shows portentous concerns with ephemeral perception and I was reminded of
Daniel Maclises dark nymph painting The Disenchantment of Bottom (1832) with its depiction
of an ominous but frisky fairy ring of sprites, circuitously and torturously opening the eyes and
ears of the central figure.
But, and even given the limitations of the gallery, the curators could have thought about modes of
net art inquiry a bit more historically, rather than simply tongue-in-cheek sociologically. Perhaps

they could have put a bit more stress on artistic responses to the ominous anthropocene context of
our network of perceptual apparatus (and its social organization of modes of knowledge) even as
Claire Colebrook has suggested that we have always been post-anthropocene.

Joseph Nechvatal