October 14, 2019 - Serpentine Galleries - Digital Commissions 2019-20 by Jenna Sutela and Suzanne Treister
October 14, 2019

Serpentine Galleries

Jenna Sutela, I Magma & I Magma App. Co-commissioned by Moderna Museet and Serpentine Galleries, 2019. Photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet.

Digital Commissions 2019-20 by Jenna Sutela and Suzanne Treister

Serpentine Galleries
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA

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New commissions by Jenna Sutela and Suzanne Treister are the latest in the critically acclaimed digital programme at the Serpentine Galleries, which proposes interdisciplinary perspectives on the role of emerging technologies in order to challenge and reshape the role that technology can play in our culture and society.

I Magma by Jenna Sutela is a machine oracle dreaming our collective futures. Drawing a line between histories of mysticism, psychedelia and technology, the work places an emphasis on altered states of consciousness and the creation of artificially intelligent ‘deep-dreaming’ computational systems that mimic the brain. Influenced by divinatory practices such as the I Ching, I Magma builds a bridge between these ancient systems of knowledge and our contemporary attempts to divine the future. Sutela’s ‘psychedelic technology’ is an app through which a machine oracle delivers daily divinations borne out of a growing network of users. The work consists of two elements: an application for mobile devices developed in collaboration with Memo Akten, Allison Parrish and Black Shuck, and a community of head-shaped lava lamps on display at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The lava heads act as a "seed" in generating the app's visuals and language. Using live camera footage of the flowing lava in combination with the GPS locations of app users, it offers daily readings based on the collectively formed shapes. As each new additional user downloads the I Magma app, the network expands, contributing to a remoulding and shifting of our shared future.

Since the late 1980s, Suzanne Treister has consistently engaged with emerging technologies and the complex and often hidden networks of power that shape their creation and adoption through her expansive cross-media projects. Combining the world-building strategies of science fiction with large bodies of archival and historical research, she maps vast links between the occult, scientific, military and corporate through the lens of technological development. Treister's multi-part commission with the Serpentine comprises an artist’s book and a web-based augmented reality work. The book From SURVIVOR (F) to The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime) brings together two interconnected projects, SURVIVOR (F), a potential human/non-human survivor of human civilisation, and the newly commissioned The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime), which follows an interdimensional entity journeying through event horizons and spacetime. Together, these works reconsider established realities, knowledges and networks through psychedelic speculation. The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime) can be simultaneously accessed via a ring of AR portals located in the sky and is a navigation tool for both interdimensional travel and the archive of The Escapist, which is located in the Museum of Black Hole Spacetime somewhere in outer space. The work transforms numerous ways of knowing the world and organising intelligence, combining the ecstatic state of the mystical with the agnostic and iterative nature of the scientific. The black hole itself is the most enigmatic of cosmic entities; little understood in scientific research (only recently was it represented for the first time through a networked telescopic photographic image), it is perhaps the most mythologised. The inconceivable properties of black holes become the paranormal phenomenon through which Treister takes us on a beautiful journey through the possibilities of interdimensional time travel, consciousness and the singularity.

These commissions demonstrate the Serpentine’s commitment to new experiments in art and technology. This year's programme has also included an augmented reality tool for data visualisation concerned with extreme inequality in the UK by Hito Steyerl and a mixed reality ecological trail through the Serpentine’s local ecosystem to see and hear its species by artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, which is the first Serpentine Augmented Architecture commission in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture and Sir David Adjaye OBE. The foundation of the programme is located in a sophisticated R&D platform that explores, interrogates and experiments with the most advanced technologies of our day. Together with artists the Serpentine seeks to chart a course that tells an alternative story of the role of technologies in our collective future.

Serpentine Galleries
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