John Hurrell – 21 April, 2021
The Kitty A1: Artificial Intelligence for Governance, 2016, features an amusing, highly articulate, loquacious cat. This squeaky voiced feline radiates charm and empathy, but you are still never certain if she is not speaking with irony. Her position is slippery and mischievous. Many of the global issues discussed, particularly in the region of AI, the posthuman body and the power of algorithms in mass consumerist manipulation, are also elaborated on by popular writers such as technology historian Yuval Noah Harari.
Wong Ping, Mark Schroder, Pinar Yoldas
Happiness is only real when shared
Curated by Lisa Beauchamp
13 February - 29 May 2021
Envisaged as a sort of We’re Not Too Big to Care, Part Two, Lisa Beauchamp’s selection of only three artists in Happiness is Only Real when Shared actually works better. It has much more focus and each of those three artists has a lot of space. Overall it is critical of the neoliberal corporate ethos and its customer manipulation via ‘fairy tales’, and much more physical in its impact on the visitor.
Mark Schroder’s Fortune Teller (a walk-through fake office / courtyard positioned under the central dome) is similar in its sprawling ‘messy’ nature to the project he did in RM a few years ago. That show was about corporate greed; this one is more about corporate manipulation and the teaching of business skills, and suckering gullible wannabe executives (via screens, banners, posters, whiteboards, cards and brochures) with dense layers of compelling language promising the attainment of future happiness via commercial success.
It is deliciously cynical, so it seems, for you are not so sure. Even though it is a skeletal admin ruin with leaves blown in from outside, and fake lunches abandoned in offices—as if discarded historical relics from the ancient annals of neoliberalism—part of it stridently walks along the borders of unabashed orthodox sincerity, espousing standard managerial values like ‘collaboration’, ‘rightness’, ‘excellence’, ‘integrity’, ‘creativity’, ‘innovation’ and ‘respect’.
Schroder’s PR hype for the Bureau of Happiness courses initially seems on the level but it soon becomes circular and highly repetitive. It transmutes into something unhinged through sheer density of text and a fetishization and barraging of indoctrinating language. It is like a fanatical fundamentalist religious organisation in its unrelenting sustained intensity.
Hong Kong’s Wong Ping is I think the star of this show. His cute but nasty urban Fables, 2018-2019, (five of them-all with lumpy animal protagonists) are like an even more trippy version of Yellow Submarine (1968) or perhaps the later work of Terry Gilliam. But Wong adds an awareness of pop (Beanolike) comix and formalist abstraction with his use of rectangular inserts, blended with saccharine computer graphics that casually embrace horror and throwaway violence. All this using delicate pastels mingled with gorgeous saturated colour. Within his exuberant organic sensuality and dottiness is an exuberant brattish humour cognisant of the deadpan cruelty of fate. It is totally addictive.
Inspired by the folk tales of the Grimm Brothers and Aesop’s Fables, Wong in these mapcap stories features the thoughts and actions of assorted actors such as three sibling rabbits, a cow, cockroach, elephant, electric eel, turtle, talking tree, chicken, ticket inspector and nun. Each story has a summing-up message, such as the aphorism that provides the title for this exhibition. Some are guides for living. Others might be oblique comments on the Hong Kong government.
Here are three:
To all righteous thinkers, perhaps it is worthwhile to spend more time considering how meaningless and powerless you are.
Striving for your own happiness by all means is already better than suffering together with your family.
The unhinged positivity is trying hard to control the malfunctioned muscle. Keep laughing even when you are surrounded by corpses.
The third artist, Pinar Yoldas, is a gifted Turkish animator who is a post-humanist researcher and designer. As with Schroder she is ambigous; there are times when we are not sure whether she is warning us about or enthusing over cybernetic / digital Orwellian takeovers.
The Kitty A1: Artificial Intelligence for Governance, 2016, features an amusing, highly articulate, loquacious cat. This squeaky voiced feline radiates charm and empathy, but you are still never certain if she is not speaking with irony. Her position is slippery and mischievous. Many of the global issues discussed, particularly in the region of AI, the posthuman body and the power of algorithms in mass consumerist manipulation, are also elaborated on by popular writers such as technology historian Yuval Noah Harari. Yoldas’s contribution is very much the flavour of our time, with so much debate going on around these themes.
Happiness is only real when shared is a wonderful Gus Fisher exhibition: sensual, provocative and thoughtful. Funny and scary at the same time. It is on till the end of May.
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