Matteo Mottin: This exhibition took place “physically” over two days, and will then turn digital within a website. Could you tell me a little further about this project and how you conceived it?
Francesca Mangion: The exhibition title ‘we wanted to be better and ended up being happy’ is a form of reply to the promise of futurity as envisaged in mainstream sci-fi culture in the 1980s and 1990s. Departing from this reference point we observed that within contemporary culture presence has somehow substituted promise, favoring a view of the future as an abridged temporal phenomenon. That is to say that the methods of collecting and processing information and consequently the prediction of an eventual outcome has evolved at par with the technological tools that we have available. Keeping this in mind we conceived the physical show as a stable landscape, a sort of eco-system with its own set of rules and functions. Within a contained environment this configuration harbored signs and signals, generating narratives and interactions based on physical data. The introduction of synthetic and organic matter in the gallery space led to the creation of micro-systems and scenarios that can hypothetically evolve independently of human agency. For the online event we plan to export that data and reconfigure it within a different support, setting up a system for the creation of parallel narratives.
MM: Why did you decide to curate two exhibitions with such different opening periods?
FM: One of the conditioning factors relating to the collection and the processing of data is temporality. In this sense one of our aims is to highlight the difference between exhibition and event, believing that duration conditions the collection and processing of data and this in turn creates different modes of reading. The brevity of the events we present is reflective of our approach as they are not meant to be perceived as static or fixed positions but rather as an evolving practice.
MM: What will be the differences between the two exhibitions?
FM: The show at Galerie Joseph Tang and the online reconfiguration of that show scheduled for May on O Fluxo Blog differ primarily in terms of content and support. It is a continuation, a reconfiguration of the works and the framework that we developed.
MM: How did you arrange the “physical” display?
FM: For we wanted to be better & ended up being happy the gallery space allowed subtle interventions that are connected to the notion of inside and outside, interconnectivity and super-systems. The gallery windows for example were an important part of this dimension, thus the works were set up in a way that the whole gallery space was somehow inhabited, either by physical objects or by sound, thus metaphorically replicating the discourse on systems and micro-systems. Life outside of the gallery space, similarly to life within Hornig’s branch or within Cauchi’s organic matter on the gallery floor, functions independently of the wider spatial & architectural structures it inhabits.
MM: The title is a reference to 1980s and 1990s sci-fi culture. What fascinates you about this genre? How do you perceive it?
FM: Our main interest in sci-fi culture is related to the idea of futurity and the perception of the future as a form of exciting yet inevitably dangerous possibility. During the initial phase of this project we discussed how a humanist approach led to a rigid ethical position that polarized values. That is to say that within 1980s and 1990s sci-fi narratives there is, in the majority of cases, an overseeing totalitarian system, usually composed of an AI super system that imposes its control over everyday life reducing the human being to a form of slave race. This in turn gives rise to a human-centric resistance leading to a conflict between the two opposing forces. Sci-fi works from that period are of course for the most part humanist in approach, privileging human life forms and values over the values or lack of values of the machines and other non-human life forms. Departing from this basic observation we wanted to explore the possibility of a non human-centric sci-fi, a fictive scenario where human beings do not retain a privileged position.
MM: Could you introduce us to the artworks and to the artists’ practice? How did you select them?
FM: The artists were selected on the basis that each work and individual practice seemed to posess qualities that highlighted or that conflicted with our point of departure. Tilman Hornig’s work for example echoes a central contemporary concern related to form and content vis-a-vis hardware. The two hand-engraved routers, part of the ‘TXT on Devices’ series rest on a mossy branch, vigilant yet stable within a structure that regards organic matter and technological equipment equally. Dustin Cauchi’s sculpture composed mainly of tripod and organic matter unnaturally perched against the wall and the window, acts as main support, becoming an exoskeleton that binds whilst exposing its content. The gelatinous organic matter dripping from the work is a form of autonomous matter with its own set of rules related to eventual decay and evolution into a different form of parasitic life form.
Felicia Atkinson’s poem As an Argument is a 56mn sound piece dealing with silence, ruptures, infra basses and ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). Text is positioned in between analogue and digital tracks giving the sound piece an archival function that documents sedimentation of meaning that remains encrypted and not easily accessible. The notions of digital documentation and the organicity of the sound presented create a dichotomous work. Two tracks are playing simultaneously – a silent track, a blank transmission from a small speaker visible in the space. The other track is camouflaged within the office side of the space- thus opening up a discourse on physicality & presence. Pierre Clément’s work draws from technology whilst retaining a manual dimension that is consciously close to craftsmanship. Clément’s installation consisting of print on fabric and two laser pointers mounted on mic stands that point us at the paradoxical relationship between the fluid nature of the printed fabric and the technical precision of the laser pointers, which become redundant once the laser beam is reflected off the curved creases of the fabric.