Internet of Things: Another World is Possible @ Darat al Funun


Emoji summary: 💻 🕳 ✨

Mars retrograde in Aries squaring Pluto, Jupiter, and Saturn in Capricorn; Mars energy will recede into itself and ourselves, and I, myself have been in retrograde since March, I can feel myself itching to slip away. All I want to do is review pasta and books; and maybe I’m in the mood to read theory, bc it might be distant but that’s a distance I can appreciate rn, when twitter and the news feels too close. Nothing can hold my attention, I just scroll through it all: twitter, ig, tiktok, tumblr - it all just merges together on this flat, singular plane of screen time and blur.

Monday night I had a dream about an earthquake, then woke up to find news on twitter that there was an earthquake across the southeast of england. It might not have reached all the way up to North London, and there probably wasn’t a sinkhole like in my dream, and there was definitely no chance that the cat next door, the cat that died last month, came to warn me that there was a gaping chasm splitting the football fields near the church graveyard in two; but it still felt heavy and spooky. I don’t know what it is, but I want to leak out of my own shoes and expand out into the night like a vapour. I want to be spontaneous and I don’t want to finish my sentences or thoughts, let alone commit them to words and writing. I don’t know why we decided to publish a text every week, but cancelling that schedule now feels impossible, even though it’s a pace that’s like whiplash sometimes. I want to go Out out, be on the tube and on my way to somewhere, I want to write about something I have felt in my skin and my body /// - but there’s also this feeling of dread. I don’t want to write about real life, because real life doesn’t feel nice and so I just don’t think that art is entirely real to me at the moment. I don’t see the point of it, at least not as a public pursuit. I don’t know if art should exist in public yet, because the terms of its display in real life are so dependent on very specific things that feel so stacked and loaded. But, though the online is and always has been valid as a Real Space for Art to Exist; i’ve hit a block. I can’t really contain the desire to be Out There Experiencing Things; I can’t just spirit it away from my writing or sit on it away from what I’m meant to be considering, and I can’t change the terms of what’s holding me back from going Out and Experiencing. It’s all just leaking into each other and I am very viscerally hungry for ~something~, but I have no idea what that is or how I can get a hold of it.

I say all of this because what I’m reviewing this week feels like something I’d dismiss at any other time. All of this tingling restlessness is building up in my feet and my face; I actually noticed my taste shifting. I think, I ~feel~ like I have to justify that. I stumbled across <Internet Of Things: Another World Is Possible> through Stephanie Bailey’s review in Art Monthly. Stephanie’s review didn’t tie itself up into a finite conclusion, so I went hunting for some closure. <Internet Of Things: Another World Is Possible> is a website, hosted by Darat al Funun, as part of their pandemic-era online program. It’s a weird thing; the homepage is dressed up to look like a desktop, all these lil icons that take you out and deeper. Where I think I’d dismiss it all as gimmick and facade, dated and formal compared to the wild wild west of 2010 tumblr and pre-instagram e-girl aesthetics; now I am finding some weird comfort in it as throwback and repeated format. There’s a youtube playlist, a lil statement, 2 publications; but go on the folder icon, it’s named <Open Studios> and there’s a list of works that are like rabbit holes for you to just disappear down into for hours at a time.

Bayan Kiwan & Juliana Fadil’s <Drawing in the Chaos> is a stacked and rigged astrological birth chart; planets run across the bottom, networked parts run up the side. Mercury in Surveillance // Venus in Glitter // Mars in Body // Saturn in Screen. The chart is marked by little images that take you to other places, little portals; a watercolour of two bodies cut by a window, a close up scan of collaged hand drawn helicopters, a sapphire blue sky all split open like a kaleidoscope and tessellating behind a whirring drone, a flashing gif, a poem about clutter. Ahmad Isam Aldin’s <Resistance of Rhizome> is this tense and cerebral linear history; a 1895 film of workers leaving the Lumiere factory, the definition of a Luddite, a diagram illustrating Behavioural Surplus and explaining the surveillance economy. At the bottom of the page, there are two folders that lead out further, <game file> takes you to a page titled <RHIZOME AT THE CITY OF DESIRE>; screenshots of gameplay and 4 videos of fictional renders. I have no idea what’s actually going on, this page feels like when you eavesdrop into a conversation at a party, you miss the beginning and the end and the context, but it’s so much more fucking fascinating because of that murky confusion. Areej Huniti’s <Silent Spring> is a crunchy dark narrative; conversations between anonymous users and an AI that’s been fed data so it can mimic the artist’s writing. It reads like disparate poetry, non-sequitur, interrupted by image, Soundcloud link and excerpt. At the end it just disintegrates into what reads like a reflection from the artist, but it’s unclear and I don’t trust it. It explains just enough to let you understand the content of what you’re reading, but any hint at the context and connection is too far away; halfway through, at the error message, I realised I don’t really care about the context or connection anyway. I’m just willing to trust-fall back into it as narrative, suspend my disbelief and expectation.

My fav work is Sulaïman Majali’s <assembly of the dispersed>, this glossy and distant timeline, sprawling and formless, but back-boned. The first page is a sapphire blue fossil/rendered metallic lump > click thru > a video of the wind blowing through trees > click thru > three perfect oranges. One: takes you to a phone screenshot of an instagram post, a picture of three oranges on a plain white surface. Three: takes you to a twitter video of Ash Sarkar talking about ~internet conspiracies~ & ‘when Twitter trolls accused her of supporting the Reading attack’ bc she’d posted a photo in a park with the caption ‘🍊🍊🍊’. She shrugs, ‘People believe the things that they want to believe… it’s not the technology that’s the problem’. Two: is the most satisfying, the tab I’ve had open for the longest - at this point, I think that feels like rave review in & of itself. It begins with a track by Bonaventure, <Both (ft Hannah Black)>, squealing bass and wet heavy slaps like snares. Hannah’s voice rushes the words, ‘both apocalypse and utopia are already here, they are lived every day already, this is the only life, and life has always been only itself’; like a mantra, in one breath, like there are no full stops in the entire thing, only commas. Underneath there’s a lil cactus flatlay, click thru and it opens a screen recording of Felix Gonzalez Torres talking about virus as a liquid state, a parasitic model for survival within institutional mechanisms. His words remind me of <Virus>, that book by Linda Stupart; Louise Shelley using the word parasite as a verb, to describe a tactic or movement, and how that j grabbed me; and then mid-week slump, recovering with this article about ‘the para-sitic condition as a potential coordinated political struggle’ n how that made a solid kinda sense to me in the moment. Back on the page before, scroll down down down to a pdf reader, a scan of Taylor Le Melle’s introduction to <Sad Sack> by Sofia al Maria. The writing is small so I zoom on in n slide thru the lines: ‘geography dissolving the digital’, Claudia Rankine and how criticism & poetry can hold hands, swap sweat from their palms pressed tight together. Scroll further, past a pair of gold handcuffs laid out sweetly, to another pdf; Abbas Zahedi’s <Sermon of the Technical Image>. The text is proselytism as sincere (but useful) position; ‘and the structure of images involved a specific way of looking at the world, which is the mythical way. Now when the alphabet was invented, mythical thought gave way to historical critical thought. Because the structure of linear writing is a uni-dimensional, uni-directed line. So that by and by, people started to think historically in a causal way, and in a critical way.’

These perfect little moments, these tiny and delicious bits; like jelly dots, or shell pasta. It’s the kind of art that I enjoy by itself, without worrying about institution as receptacle or format as backdrop; that’s a level I just bypass uncritically here, in this moment and in this way. I remember Abbas Zahedi’s show @ South London Gallery was the last exhibition I went to irl, all the way back in March. It was meditative and slow and leaking lament, and I think this feels like a similar thing, but at a completely different speed. Where Abbas’ work was sparse and careful, <Internet of Things> finds a good rhythm in a dramatic kinda overload. It’s a bursting thing, I am enveloped and consumed by the content, complicit in its terms from the jump. I am in the middle of so many encounters with Things at the moment, I just want to stick to the surface of one of them. I want to be enthralled by the thing in front of me, gripped tightly by it in its complexity, I want a chewy kind of engagement that can startle me from that flattened plane, screen-time blur. Like NewHive, just reams and reams of the unintelligible workings of a process and system all peeling in synchronicity. Sense and taste and intuition all just circulating in the same room, like they’re on the same gust, the same current of a massive fucking air conditioner.