The Polygon Gallery’s Ghosts of the Machine dismantles binaries to unlock the true potential of the metaverse
Immersive multimedia exhibition features avatars, video, installation, and a carefully tended garden to reflect on the use of technology in our everyday lives
APRIL 28, 2022 (VANCOUVER, CANADA) — The Polygon Gallery presents Ghosts of the Machine from June 3– August 14, 2022, a new group exhibition by curator Elliott Ramsey that looks at the relationships between humans, technology, and ecology. Ghosts of the Machine features a new commission by Cease Wyss (Skwxwú7mesh), in addition to works by Ho Tzu Nyen, Juliana Huxtable, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Lu Yang, Skawennati, and Santiago Tamayo Soler.
“The term ‘ghost in the machine’ refers to the mind-body duality: the idea of the ‘mind’ as software inhabiting the ‘body’ as hardware,” says Ramsey, who curated Interior Infinite at The Polygon last summer. “Such binaries aren’t real. The mind doesn’t exist without the body. The same can be said about technology. We try to split the ‘virtual world’ from the ‘real world,’ but virtual spaces rely on material hardware — with ecological implications — and are experienced physically. Similarly, we have real social and political interactions on digital platforms. We can’t constrain reality into ‘real’ and ‘virtual;’ we end up sliding across these boundaries like ghosts through walls.”
The exhibition features artists who use technology to push the limits of the medium and speak to their lived and embodied experiences. Ramsey challenges the escapist ethos of digital technology in order to the highlight the ways it can offer insights about our material, social, and environmental conditions.
Cease Wyss’s new commission is a garden project inside the gallery. Wyss will tend to the plants throughout the exhibition as a durational performance and installation. Featured prominently in the garden will be an augmented reality experience by the artist and award-winning producer Tracey Kim Bonneau (Syilx). Wyss and Bonneau are both members of Indigenous Matriarchs 4 (IM4), a lab dedicated to helping Indigenous communities incorporate virtual and augmented reality into educational, cultural, and commercial applications.
Singapore’s Ho Tzu Nyen’s No Man II is an installation work that features a projection on a two-way mirror with multi-channel surround sound, bringing the viewer into close proximity with dozens of avatars — human, beast, and hybrid — who quote John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island,” reminding us of the interconnectedness of all things.
New York-based artist, poet, and DJ Juliana Huxtable bridges internet subcultures and performance through her
self-portraiture, posing in her work ARI 1 as a trans-species entity to embody the fluidity and instability of our contemporary online spheres.
Berlin-based Anne Duk Hee Jordan’s Ziggy and the Starfish will feature an interactive sculpture that is modelled after cresting waves and is covered in blue shag carpet. Furnished with bean bags and pillows, the structure creates a small theatre where visitors can watch otherworldly sea animals seduce one another.
Lu Yang’s Doku: Digital Alaya series speaks to how avatars embody slippage, signalling the relationships between human, nonhuman, and cyborg life. The Shanghai-based, rising international art star’s work was last seen at The Polygon’s fall 2020 exhibition Third Realm.
Skawennati’s bold, bright machinimagraphs — images captured in virtual scenarios — showcase her dimension- defying avatar created in Second Life. The Montreal-based artist uses virtual environments as a tool to make work that addresses history, the future, and change from an Indigenous perspective.
Santiago Tamayo Soler creates pixelated universes home to Latin American, immigrant, queer stories of a radical futuristic fantasy. The Montreal-based artist’s work Retornar weaves together a parable of queer avatars and an earth in crisis.
Public programming related to the exhibition will take place on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Two short film programs will be screened, in addition to VR experiences curated and programmed by IM4. Wyss and her daughter, Senaqwila Wyss, will host talks and nature walks in Harmony Gardens, their community gardens located on unceded Skwxwú7mesh lands.
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Banner image: Santiago Tamayo Soler, Retornar, 2021, created as part of the PHI Montreal 2021 Residency