08.06 - 02.07.2023
08.06 - 15.06 Katya Quel
16.06 - 22.06 Katharine Tyndall
23.06 - 02.07 Charlie Stein
By WM, June 2023
From the exhibition text:
The word “fluid” connotes liquidity as much as borderlessness—a kind of perpetual dynamism that verges on statelessness. The term "fluid world" can also be associated with the concept of "liquid modernity," as coined by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who characterizes contemporary society as fluid, unstable, and lacking fixed structures or long-lasting commitments. In the context of Kultur Kiosk’s exhibition series featuring, respectively, Katharine Tyndall, Charlie Stein, and Katya Quel, “fluid” comes to imply something that almost approximates drowning. Across the three exhibitions, each artist gestures toward a mystery in broad daylight—a dessicated world where the embers of a moribund society strive to express the very forces which brought it to the verge of collapse.
For all three artists, the threat of desuetude becomes a recurring theme. The works on view project scenarios where the cultural signifiers in terms of which we come to understand ourselves, and through which we come into an awareness of others, might succumb to oblivion, neglect, or dehumanization. While each artist commands her own vision, there’s a unitary theme in that the three exhibitions featured here (or rather, the realities they portray) show how our industrialized society could readily fold under the weight of some tidal cataclysm: a slow-approaching tsunami which is as inevitable as it is unavoidable.
Katharine Tyndall’s intergalactic relics are storied accounts derived from otherworldly timelines. As sculptural pieces, they reframe earthen, biological elements—not limited to soil and wood—in such a way that they invoke narratives about lost or undiscovered civilizations. Titled Nearly As Fast As Light, the unknown cultures implied by Tyndall’s museum-like displays point to a world that was never quite sophisticated enough to tip the Kardashev scale. Instead, like the skeleton of a fallen angel, the objects she constructs carry the implication that they’ve been brought to our world through methods simultaneously magical and technological—as though her artifacts channeled some undiscovered realm of awareness, an occupied ether which environs our planetary condition.
Nevertheless, the talismanic, ritualistic overtones of Tyndall’s sculptures derive from their relationship to our world. The otherworldly, sci-fi narratives she builds around each assemblage, the storied potential underpinning each artifact, can’t help but resemble our own encounters with nature here on earth. Yet by defamiliarizing what is nearest to us, she highlights the organizational role of the imagination. Rather than shielding us from unwelcome contingencies, our human capacity for telling stories might actually anticipate—and thereby create—our demise as a species.
Charlie Stein’s exhibition, Memories like Hurricanes, alludes to the image of a hurricane as a metaphor for Artificial Super Intelligence. The humanoid women she depicts are equally terrifying and fetishistic. However misshapen and tortuous they look, Stein recreates them almost lovingly—as though the presence of the artist’s hand could stave back the rising tide of transhumanism. To the extent that Stein's robots evince all the cultural signifiers of femininity, Stein's AI robots are wayward. Their physiques, the ideal of sexuality they incarnate, should be in every way superior to human reality; and yet, in their extreme remove from biological life, they’re monsters. In many respects, this kind of violence, the alienating unreality which undercuts Stein's portraits, perfectly mirrors her authentic subject-matter: the expressive capacities of of AI, which are also featured in a poem on view that was composed by Chat GPT. Stein's algorithmically generated works recreate rather than transcend the conscious life of human beings. The perceptual flaws constructed into their appearance are expressive of a radical cleavage between human and artificial intelligence, which can never fully experience what it means to be human, yet still attempts to do so by way of suggestive mimicry.
Finally, Katya Quel’s exhibition, Burn Slippy, congeals around melted toy castles. Dissolving these consumerist items in atmospheric heat nods to the impossibility of finding any assured safety in the teeth of climate change, and also comments against the gendered biases built into the manufacture of toys generally. Melting these structures, Quel transmogrifies them into a sort of slumped over sadness. Similar to Stein’s robots, or Tyndall’s artifacts, dissolution gives way to an awareness of the limits of human ingenuity. It’s more than intimated that the harsh realities of climate change will come with a bang rather than a whimper: a controlled disaster which offers yet another clue into the meaning of a “fluid world.” For Quel, our world is all too fluid, in the sense that imminent disaster might collectively overtake us at any moment. The best one can hope for is to reevaluate our relationship with the spectacle of the world absorbing us from all sides, which includes not only acculturated meanings as signifiers—toys as well as pronouns—but the protected status of the commodities we daily interact with, and which, by and by, come to define us as a species.
Fluid Worlds speaks to the archetypal warp and woof which composes the texture of awareness. As a series of dystopian narratives, the works by Tyndall, Stein, and Quel detail the encroaching sense of dread that technology and industrialization has manufactured for us. Taken all together, the three exhibitions form something of a mosaic; the fragments describe an image where the march of historical progress is only ever emulated, yet never fully lived. WM