Curated by Marthe van de Grift
In this time of self-isolation, we are more online than ever. We seek to keep in contact with our loved ones through the internet. What would this time be like without being able to meet each other online? It's a great substitute, but something is missing. Our minds meet in cyberspace, but we forget our bodies. What is human contact without our bodies?
* Keep in mind: all the following works in this article are best experienced with your headphones on.
'WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD' is available online until November 1st 2020
One very important aspect of our body is that it is spatial. The first work I'd like to show you anticipates that. It makes use of fairly new techniques like 3D (binaural) sound to evoke bodily sensations. I am talking about the virtual vernissage of an ASMR exhibition by ArkDes. This may not be an artwork on its own, but just like an actual artwork, the form - on your screen with binaural sound - fits the content. The vernissage is an ASMR experience. ASMR stands for 'autonomous sensory meridian response'.
As an artist myself, I have been intrigued by the possibilities of ASMR for a while now, but I haven’t seen much of it reflected in the arts yet. So when I first came across this ASMR exhibition, I was head over heels and very curious about the approach of other artists.
This vernissage is fun to watch because the 3D sound makes it feel like you’re actually in the room with the curator. You’ll learn interesting things about the ASMR-community and the science behind it. You’ll also see some artworks on flatscreens. And that’s where I’m disappointed. Where are the experiments? It feels like the curator is telling me: ‘Hey look, this exists’ when I expected more than just being fed sugarcoated information. I was looking forward to artists taking the next step with ASMR and expected to experience more, both from the depiction of the movement and the virtual vernissage itself. Because that’s what it ASMR is about: experience. And that’s what’s good about the ASMR vernissage being virtual. The thing I remember most while watching the vernissage is when I was showed a video fragment and I accidentally heard the host and curator whispering in the background. I guess that sums it all up.
Despite my criticism, I do think it’s an interesting and important happening. There is so much potential in this technique: it speaks to both the mind and the body, it’s a copy of reality as we know it - a reality that one can bend to their will, and it can exist everywhere in cyberspace. It doesn’t need a white cube.
The other work in this theme is an ongoing, experimental video project by Julie Weitz (1979, Chicago), inspired by the writings and life of cyber-pioneer Carmen Hermosillo, aka HUMDOG. This work doesn’t anticipate the viewer's body as much as it gives flesh to the digital. Guided by the gender-neutral voice of Humdog you’ll wander off into the sinister cyberspace. A mesmerising, virtual universe filled with palpable body parts.There’s a strong feeling of contradiction in this video. The images are drenched in a highly sensualised aesthetic that evokes the desire for touch - a human need. But it is clear that nothing you see is really human, everything is artificial. The body parts, although they move and touch, are lifeless, made of plaster. One would expect their movement to compensate for the inanimate material, but it seems to make us even more painfully aware of the lifelessness in it.
Naked body parts, wet substances, bright neon lights. The images are alluring, but the story about Humdog’s experience in cyberspace is rather haunting. It tells us about how cyberspace is not a place like any other, and that human interaction in this place isn’t like any other. What is refreshing, is the fact that the dissolution of gender categories and misogynist behaviour on the internet, which are key subjects in the work, are not literally mentioned by the protagonist. Better yet, it radiates through every aspect of this video.
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