Up the river down the tide at Various Small Fires

Artists: DIS, Katja Novitskova, Christopher Kulendran Thomas

Exhibition title: Up the river down the tide

Venue: Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, US

Date: November 8, 2018 – January 12, 2019

Photography: images copyright and courtesy the artists and Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

The Aymara, an indigenous people native to the Andes mountains, maintain in their language a spatial conception of time distinct from the global mainstream. Whereas in most cultures the future is conceptualized as ahead of the ego, with the past behind it, for the Aymara the opposite is true – they believe that the past stands in front of us as we move through the world while the future trails behind us.[1]

The Aymara also speak of Pachakuti, an event roughly translated as “world reversal”: a wide-reaching state change akin to a cosmic polarity shift.[2] It seems increasingly plausible that we are in the midst of such a reversal today. The once-familiar cluster of ideologies and social assemblages constituting our liberal democratic order feels increasingly alien and divorced at base from our present reality, while the new appears to us in the skeuomorphic garb of the old (for now, at least). Just as the God of Abraham is said to have once coded the world into being, vast computational systems now terraform our world from the inside out – but in whose image?[3]

up the river down the tide models this emergent sensibility by interweaving three distinct artistic standpoints. DIS’s contribution to the exhibition confronts viewers with a system of photographic image production, the logic of which has been rewired for the age of SEO. Their series Image Life re-presents authentically generic incidents – image cultures that serve to soften reality and turn our economic, political, cultural, and emotional landscape into saleable products that are representational yet infinitely versatile.

Katja Novitskova takes a biotechnical approach for an encounter with non-human ecologies: banal monuments to ‘C. Elegans’ (a medically vital species of microscopic worms) are presented here in tandem with a robotic, crooning Mamaroo baby swing that’s been rendered unnervingly alien by her sculptural interventions, underlining the nascency of machine consciousness while also orchestrating an eerie prenatal environment inhabited by mutant forms.

New Eelam is a long-term artwork in the form of a startup – a real estate-technology company founded by artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas as a collaborative experiment to grow a new economic model out of the existing economic system rather than in opposition to it. Drawing its name from the once self-governed – but now non-existent – Tamil homeland from which Thomas’ family originates, the venture imagines the future of citizenship in an era of technologically accelerated dislocation.

– Nathan Everett Engel

1) http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~faucon/BEIJING/nunez-sweetser.pdf
2) Feeling Abolition Through Nonlinear Timescales, a lecture by Elysia Crampton at Private Eye, Houston, July 14th 2017.
3) https://punctumbooks.com/titles/divine-name-verification/

Up the river down the tide, 2018, exhibition view, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

Up the river down the tide, 2018, exhibition view, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

Christopher Kulendran Thomas, NE_LB_09, 2017, In collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, Backlit tension display, aluminum frame, 59h x 88.50w in

Up the river down the tide, 2018, exhibition view, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

Katja Novitskova, Approximation (C.Elegans Dendritte Endings: URX, URAV), 2017, Digital print on aluminum, cutout display, and plexiglass, 91.50h x 59.38w x 25d in

DIS, Image Life (Ada), 2017, Framed C-print, 48.38h x 64.13w in

Up the river down the tide, 2018, exhibition view, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

Up the river down the tide, 2018, exhibition view, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

DIS, Image Life, 2016, Framed C-print and Winbot W830, 65h x 50.38w x 2d in

Katja Novitskova, Mamaroo (Storm Time 3D Embryo), 2016, Electronic baby swing, polyurethane resin, epoxy foam clay, wall fixtures, robotic bugs, and 3D print, 31h x 28w x 33d in

Katja Novitskova, Mamaroo (Storm Time 3D Embryo), 2016, Electronic baby swing, polyurethane resin, epoxy foam clay, wall fixtures, robotic bugs, and 3D print, 31h x 28w x 33d in

DIS, Serenity Now, 2016, Framed C-print Winbot W830, 65h x 30.38w x 2d in

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