Mon-Aural is the latest exhibition series at Stereo Exchange, flipping the format to solo shows of emerging artists and late-career artists, juxtaposing past and future like a ball bouncing randomly on a linear timeline.
What does it mean to touch and be touched by something, someone? What lies in that touch? A feeling of connection, reciprocity, care, healing, forgiveness? Stigma is a branding, visible on the skin. But stigmatizing and marginalization happens invisibly. Does a soft touch remedy the burning shame? The “double sensation” of touch implies that it is impossible to touch yourself and feel that touching at once. When reaching out to touch someone, do you imagine the sensation of their skin to yours, or having in mind their feeling of your touch? Even if the person doesn’t recognize you, doesn’t even recognize themselves, will they feel your touch, and presence? The humming and clicking of devices and cells transmitting inside, between, around.
A malicious devil lingers at the heart of experience, doubting that what I perceive is the same as what you perceive; that our perceptions and ideas of the world correspond. We reach out towards the same object, but the sense and sensation of it, and how we attach ourselves to it, differ. And this devil is an even trickier one when it comes to self-perception and the blind spots to our own being illuminated through the eyes of others. Deflecting mirrors all around.
The video for the exhibition showing Diana entering the Versailles is a loop of that short flaring moment where she is lit up by the photographers’ flashing lights. What does the footage of Diana deliver to us? Does she even exist outside that flash? For long, the technique of the photograph held an indexical promise of truth: what is in the photograph was at some point present in front on the shutter. In times of AI this has turned into mere probability, or plausibility. AIs hallucinate information from noise, and we are presented with faces and happenings more real than reality. Nothing is left unretouched.
We are surrounded by and connected to images and technologies calculating and depicting, but also producing and manipulating, our perceived world. Our eyes are capable of processing 36,000 pieces of information per hour, sending electrical signals to the brain that processes and interprets as well as being formed and molded by the input. The notion of plasticity within neuroscience replaces the idea of the brain as machine with that of a brain-world. Some (silicon billionaires mainly) fantasize about the possibility to upload their brain to a digital infrastructure and are decapitated at death to have their brains frozen down. It will require a feedback system as complex as the human body to sustain those minds.
My intuitions – of my body, my perceptions, and my own person – are indeed pragmatic illusions sustaining my functioning among phenomena and other beings, a sort of scaffolding device, an exoskeleton of conventions, and agreements, bouncing me softly off surfaces without collision or unwanted friction. But what do I even know of this cohort of cells, transmitters, and neurons that I am? Medicine may explain to me the condition that I suffer from and its pathologies, but it fails to translate values and indications to the lived experience of dealing with symptoms on an everyday basis and the aspirations, or ambitions, I hold under my breath. In an institutional setting my body is laid out, monitored, supported, and manipulated through so many devices from sensory floors, mechanical, electronical, or digital prostheses, and (bio)-chemical substances. The internal rhythms of the body meet those of the surveilling apparatus of the institution. Does the good patient ever become impatient? Or does being a patient require to give over your body to the hands of others. Trusting their technological schema.
How to come to terms with our reality and the reality of what we are as physical, biological, and thinking beings in a time when we put great trust in technologies’ ability to enhance, interpret, and repair? This question lingers as the centre of Niels Christensen’s exhibition displaying examples of photographic and filmic techniques, audio- and visual effects connected to brain impairments and repairs, as well as healing touches, and a general curiosity towards relations between mind, body, world, and technologies. Presented in a down-played manner that reflects an educational or communal bulletin board aesthetics, the associative, networked posters leave space for the viewer to zoom in on details and nuances according to the movements of eyes and attention.
Text authored by Anne Kølbæk Iversen.
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