Headlong into digital space
Les Abattoirs brings together nine artists who use animation as their tool to defy our conceptions of reality. This exhibition shows works from Ed Atkins, Antoine Catala, Ian Cheng, Kate Cooper, Josh Kline, Helen Marten, Jon Rafman, Avery Singer and Agnieszka Polska - all of whom explore our information-loaded era and our place within it. The exhibition raises many questions such as the impact that all these virtual worlds have on our real physical experience
Over the last few years, the increase in computer-generated images has had a huge impact on our lives, and the way in which contemporary artists have brought them into digital animation and art reflects this change.
The exhibition shows a range of prominent artists whose work explores the new realities of our era of non-stop information and virtuality from a humanist perspective. How does the virtual world affect our real, physical experience? What consequences will the digitalisation of identity bring? Are these virtual beings even more real than us?
The exhibition offers answers to such questions through various works from international artists who have chosen these tricky issues as their subject. The first floor of Les Abattoirs will be transformed -becoming an immersive environment where our perception of this new virtual human condition is challenged.
The term "Suspended Animation" is used in science fiction and medicine to refer to the slowing down or stopping of life processes in order to conserve life, like pushing “pause”. Applied to computer generated animation, the notion rather refers to replacing the physical body with that of a virtual one. A huge part of our lives now takes place in front of a screen; a phenomenon which has lead the artists to rethink the body in relation to technology. Rather than mimicking the real, the works look at how reality can be shown in a digital world. Animation brings new ways of studying the relation between fiction and reality, what is real and what is simulated, human beings and their avatars. Throughout the exhibition, you will meet intriguing characters who reflect the mutations of this new technology-generated human, and be confronted with the idea of the virtual human marking the end of the real, or being reincarnated in a new form.
There have been several exhibitions which have delved into the impact of new technologies in recent years in Europe - CO-WORKERS, Network as Artist (2015-2016) at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the 9th Berlin Biennale, both mounted by the New York collective DIS, are just two examples.
Put together by Gianni Jetzer for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with Les Abattoirs, Musée– Frac Occitanie, Toulouse, Suspended Animation, looks at the subject from a humanist perspective.
Partner Museum: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington is dedicated to Modern and Contemporary art. With a collection of over 12,000 works from prominent artists from the 20th and 21st Century, the museum opened to the public in 1974.
The Suspended Animation exhibition is organised by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, in collaboration with Les Abattoirs - Frac Occitanie Toulouse.
Special thanks to Canadian Cultural Center in Paris and to Fluxus Art Projects
(British, born in 1982 in Oxford, lives and works in Berlin)
Using digital technology, Ed Atkins has developed a hyperrealist and poetic body of work. His videos are built on a framework of poetic texts which are delivered by the melancholic characters looking out at us, often using Atkins’ voice. He has had several international shows - including at the MoMA PS1 (New York), the Serpentine Gallery and Tate Britain (London), and MMK in Frankfurt (Germany).
(French, born in Toulouse in 1975, lives and works in New York)
Sourcing his inspiration from the television and internet, Antoine Catala plays on technological accidents and the imperfections of language, often associating animation with sculpture and holograms. His work on show at Les Abattoirs allows malfunctioning men to cry again in a world where sadness has been banned. Two solo exhibitions of his work where held recently at the Contemporary Art museum in Lyon (France), and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh).
(American, born in 1984 in Los Angeles, lives and works in New York)
Ian Cheng studied Cognitive science at Berkeley University, and with this knowledge, creates a dialogue between new technology and neurosciences within his artistic practice. In programming digital simulations, he creates works which generate their own story, and their own lives. He’s had two major exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and la Fondation Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin).
(British, born in 1984 in Liverpool, lives and works in London)
Kate Cooper uses CGI technology in a subtle yet powerful way. She creates models rather than images, using ‘the language of hypercapitalism’ to make glossy computer-generated female models to tackle issues of capitalist aesthetics and the relation those have on our notion of gender. Cooper was the winner of the Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award 2014, which granted her a solo show at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin.
(American, born in 1979 in Philadelphia, lives and works in New York)
Kline is heavily inspired by advertising, social media and the latest advances in technology. He questions the struggle for power, utopia, and the realities of them both. In ‘Freedom’, his avatar of Barack Obama showed how he uses his art to confront us with a truth on another plane. He’s had recent shows at Modern Art Oxford, the Portland Art Museum and la Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin).
(British, born in 1985 in Macclesfield, lives and works in London)
Winner of the Turner Prize in 2016, Helen Marten has been highly acclaimed for both her arresting sculptural arrangements made of disconcerting materials, and her videos. She creates playful and strange journeys, which visitors have been taking from the Venice Biennale 2015, to Paris at the Palais de Tokyo, via the Kunsthalle in Zürich, over to CCS Bard-Hessel Museum in New York, and back to the Fridericianum in Kassel.
(Polish, born in 1985 in Lublin, lives and works in Berlin)
Agnieszka Polska creates dreamlike, hallucinatory animations within which she explores history and forgotten stories, seeing archives as living organisms that are “alive and subject to incessant change.” Her work has been widely exhibited, with a solo show at the Nottingham Contemporary, the Kunstverein in Salzburg, and The Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw. She has been shortlisted for the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2017 (Berlin).
(Canadian, born in 1981 in Montréal, where he lives and works)
Jon Rafman’s main focus is on the impact which technology has on our consciousness and perception today. He’s especially known for his work with Google Street View, Second Life, and videos found on the Internet. He participated in the Lyon Biennale in 2015 and has had solo shows at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Zabludowicz collection in London, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
(American, born in 1987 à New York, where she lives and works)
Avery Singer questions and explores painting in the digital age, composing her works using a 3D programme and projecting it onto the canvas where she reproduces it as a painting. Singer has had four recent shows at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin), la Kunsthalle Zürich, the New Museum (New York), and the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles).
Gianni Jetzer is an independent curator and critic based in New York as well as Curator-at-large at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC.
He was the director of the Kunsthalle St-Gall (2001-2006) and of the Switch Institute in New York (2006-2013). He is currently the curator of Unlimited, Art Basel's pioneering exhibition platform for large scale projects that transcend the limitations of a classical art-show.