리좀적 주문 Rhizomatic Spell

Morehshin Allahyari, Tauba Auerbach, Metahaven, Boris Ondreička a Suzanne Treister

Feb. 12th – Apr. 24th, 2020

Curator: Eva Skopalová


The exhibition Rhizomatic Spell focuses on the notion of xeno-magic which is not produced by a human, but an algorithm. Digital technologies are tools for extending and improving the ability of the human brain. We used to think that they had “dis-enchanted” our daily life, but on the other hand, because of them, the world has become even more symbolic than before. By keeping the title in Korean, 리좀적 주문,  I am turning towards the East and further to Asia, where in medieval times humanity situated the origin of the world and where the center of the globalized world is now. Asian cultures today have inherited diverse and mysterious cosmologies, symbolism and traditions which are alive even today. At the same time, these countries are leaders in technology development.

In 2013, Timothy Morton published the book Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality where he discussed a new materialism and speculative thinking from a non-human perspective (an object-oriented ontology /OOO/). Morton argued that causality is not mechanical nor linear, but rather a “secretive affair” – an open secret. Realist Magic, respectively a causality, is purely aesthetic. The magic is in our perception, how things interact between themselves and humans – and how machines behave towards humans and among themselves. Technology produced magic is therefore xeno-magic (the prefix “xeno” comes from Greek, meaning alien or strange, other than human) which we experience in our everyday life. Magic, or Greek mageia, is creating a cause from a distance (or action at a distance) – where the causality is not linear as Morton says but, in my opinion, rhizomatic. Its agent of globalization is the internet and cloud which can be labeled as seno-magic. We experience xeno-magic from the moment we open our eyes in the morning thanks to the alarm set up in our iPhone (which already knows when to wake us, because the algorithm has observed us), when withdrawing from an ATM machine, gazing at any advertisement delivered in front of our eyes or heading to the date we have because of the Tinder app. All of it is a spell cast by algorithms on our human and deeply profane life. Xeno-magic straightens and empowers our daily rituals to the point that is not clear if we are its initiators – or puppets on a stage.

The core of the exhibition is the short movie Information Skies (2016) by the Dutch collective Metahaven followed by Suzanne Treister’s works from the project Hexen 2.0 (2009-11), a series of tarot cards depicted in a capitalist and technocratic mirror. The exhibition will introduce the meditative Ligature Drawings (2020) by Tauba Auerbach who poses the question whether the artist is an industrial machine of its own kind. The New York based artist of Iranian origin, Morehshin Allahyari, will present her 3D modeling of mythologies from the project She Who Sees the Unknown (2016-2018) and Boris Ondreička in his Chant of Forest (2019-2020) opens the wilderness of the woods through the aesthetics of black metal.

Morehshin Allahyari (*1985) is an artist of Iranian origin currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her work is situated within a current political and socio-cultural framework predominantly focusing on the relationship between technology and artistic activism. Formally, her work moves across media from 3D printing, video, experimental animation, web art and authorial publications. Her most well-known contemporary work is Material Speculation: ISIS (2016) wherein a variety of ancient monuments destroyed by ISIS between 2015-2016 are reconstructed using 3D printing. Allahyari has exhibited in, for example, the New Museum (NY), The Whitney Museum of American Art (NY), Centre Pompidou (FR), Tate Modern (UK), or the Museum für Angewandte Kunst (GR). 

Tauba Auerbach (*1981) engages with the geometry of ornaments, working with them across a variety of artistic mediums. In this way she studies the possibilities and limits of verbal communication and the meaning words convey. For the artist the process of creating an artwork is a spatial meditation on letters and shapes. Auerbach studied at Stanford University in California. In addition to her work on the art scene, she runs her own publishing house Diagonal Press where she publishes her own, albeit unauthorized, authorial books and prints. Her work has been show at MoMa in New York and San Francisco where she was most recently included in the exhibition New Order: Art and Technology in the Twenty First Century (2019) along with the work of Anicka Yi, Louise Bourgeois, Haruna Farocki, Sam Lewitt and many others. At the moment she’s preparing her first retrospective for MoMA in San Francisco. She currently lives and works in New York.

Boris Ondreička (*1969) is an artist and curator working in Prague, Bratislava and Vienna. He has worked as a curator at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna since 2012. In his artistic practice he works with encyclopedic, archival material. For example, in the project Propast (2015-16, Moravian Gallery in Brno), through the use of the Google search online archive, he acquired information about the development of material culture which he categorized according to his own taxonomy. Ondreička works with a poetic archive which is quasi-scientific and quasi-poetic. 

Metahaven is an artistic collective focusing on video production, theory (they publish in e-flux journal) and design. Their filmography includes the works: The Sprawl: Propaganda about Propaganda (2015), Information Skies (2016), Hometown (2018) and Eurasia (Questions on Happiness) (2018). Independently they’ve also shown work in London’s ICA with the exhibition Version History (2018) and Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum (2018). Their last exhibition Turnarounds occured via the New York platform for contemporary art e-flux. It is important to note PSYPOP (2018, Karen Archey ed.) and Digital Tarkovsky (2018) among their publications. 

Suzanne Treister (*1958) is a British visual artist working in London. Her work is concerned with metaphysical new technology, that is the relationship between technology, society and alternative systems of faith. In 1995 she created her own alter-ego, Rosalin Bordsky, an androgynous time traveler and a scientist in The Institute of Militronics and Advanced Time Interventionality. One of her more recent exhibitions, HEXEN 2.0 (2013, PPOW Gallery, NY), resonated strongly with viewers. In the exhibition Treister presented her own series of tarot cards. The artist is represented in collections in Tate Britain in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna. Her exhibition From SURVIVOR (F) to The Escapist is currently ongoing at the Serpentine Gallery, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. 

Eva Skopalová (*1991) studied art history at the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University, as well as the history of contemporary and modern art at UMPRUM. She also completed a study internship at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris under the direction of Georges Didi-Huberman. Her work is concerned with the problematic of time in art and, above all, the perspective of anachronism and its effect in art history. Skopalová worked under Alexandra Nagel in 2018/19 having been awarded theFulbright Scholarship. She is currently dedicated to independent curatorship and art critique which comes out of her research concerning the methodology of art history. She also collaborated on the project Médium výstavy 1957-1989 VVP AVU and lectured at ÚDU FF UK in the course Anachronologies (Autumn 2019).