When Facts Don't Matter

Alan Butler, Constant Dullaart, Eva & Franco Mattes, Trevor Paglen and Suzanne Treister

St Carthage Hall

27 May - 08 Jul, 2018

27 May - 08 Jul, 2018

St Carthage Hall, Lismore Co. Waterford

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In 2018, Lismore Castle Arts presented When Facts Don’t Matter, a group exhibition that explored how artists are responding to internet surveillance and data capture, which opened on May 27th and continued until July 8th, 2018.

The exhibition looked at various aspects of online data capture – highlighted in recent times by Facebook data controversies, we are now more aware than ever of how our personal data can be shared, used, manipulated or deleted. We have assumed in the past that our subscription to social media platforms, or indeed any other form of data capture online, from banking to shopping, means companies will respect our rights to privacy or secrecy, however this is becoming less certain as news stories gather of data compromises.

In his book Psycho-politics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power, Byung-Chul Han writes: Today, we are entering the age of digital psychopolitics. It means passing from passive surveillance to active steering. As such, it is precipitating a further crisis of freedom: now, free will is at stake. Big Data is a highly efficient psychopolitical instrument that makes it possible to achieve comprehensive knowledge of the dynamics of social communication. This knowledge is knowledge for the sake of domination and control…. For human beings to be able to act freely, the future must be open. However, Big Data is making it possible to predict human behavior. This means the future is becoming calculable and controllable.

The exhibition seeks to ask what takes place online and what is the nature of the exchange between the user and the other side of the screen – and in the process looks to the bigger picture – who controls data, who controls information, and ultimately, who controls the digital versions of ourselves. Are we offering up our own autonomy in the new virtual world we inhabit, and are we enslaving ourselves in a neo-liberal virtual reality?

Alan Butler (born 1981) conceptually reflects and refracts the inner-workings of the internet, the implications of new media technology, and the politics of appropriation. Butler’s work is such that you are made to question your grasp of the world around you, itself in the grip of systems of knowledge and coding that is never far away from the override or delete button. He is an artist concerned at the most fundamental level with the art of mimesis, holding up a mirror by examining the interdependence of idealised digital realities and our actual reality. He has extensively studied the seemingly fictional landscapes in the Grand Theft Auto V computer game, searching out specific elements within the game environment, which he then isolated and transformed into artworks of various media, on occasion referencing the pioneering work of the English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins (1799–1871). For Lismore Castle Arts, he showed Surprise Party Breath, the collection of the contents of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Amazon.com Wish-list, the elder of the Boston bombers. A seemingly benign stack of books that were ‘curated’ through the online browsing habits of Tsarnaev, meditating upon the relationships between the corporate web and surveillance. Alan Butler studied Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and at the LaSalle College of the Arts in Singapore.

Constant Dullaart (born 1979) is a Dutch conceptual artist whose work is deeply connected to the Internet. He is known for his work series Jennifer in Paradise, which seeks to expose the technological structures that inform modern visual culture. He is also known for distributing 2.5 million bought Instagram followers amongst a personal selection of active art-world Instagram accounts. He was awarded the Prix Net Art late 2015 with the following jury statement; The fluidity of boundaries between artist and tech communities and questions of authorship, virtuosity, and the performativity of art in a mediated environment are an important aspect of the work of the winner of the 2015 Prix Net Art, Constant Dullaart. Dullaart’s work stays firmly yet defiantly within the realm of contemporary art, but from a position profoundly informed by the conditions of new media networks—technical as well as cultural, social, economical, and political networks. Dullaart strives for an honest, respectful, yet unembellished approach to the materials and conditions of the network. At the same time his work is full of humor, wit, and critical commentary. A 4 month long durational performance commissioned by Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt got the attention of several media outlets when Dullaart raised a virtual army of thousands of fake Facebook profiles, using the names of Hessian (soldier)s from the Hetrina archive of the Landesgeschichtliches Informations system Hessen. For Lismore Dullaart showed one of his sim card works, a work referencing minimalist modern artwork made up of sim cards originally used to create fake accounts on social media.

Eva and Franco Mattes (both born 1976) are a duo of artists based in New York City. Since meeting in Berlin in 1994, they have never separated. Operating under the pseudonym 0100101110101101.org, they are counted among the pioneers of the Net Art movement and are renowned for their subversion of public media.

They produce art involving the ethical and political issues arising from the inception of the Internet. The work investigates the fabrication of situations, where fact and fiction merge into one. Their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, forthcoming); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, forthcoming); Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie (2017); Yokohama Triennale (2017); Biennale of Sydney (2016); Whitechapel Gallery (London, 2016); Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, 2016); Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2013); MoMA PS1 (New York, 2009); Performa (New York, 2009-2007); National Art Museum of China (Beijing, 2008); The New Museum (New York, 2005); Manifesta 4 (Frankfurt, 2002) and the Venice Biennale (2001). Mattes work is frequently in the media and has been written about in Artforum, Frieze Magazine, e-flux journal, The New York Times, Washington Post and The Guardian. They are founders and co-directors of the international festival The Influencers, held annually at the CCCB, Barcelona, Spain (2004-present) and part of the collective Don't Follow the Wind a collaborative project that organized an inaccessible exhibition inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone.

The Mattes have received grants and commissions from the Whitney Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; New York Foundation for the Arts; and were awarded the New York Prize 2006 from the Italian Academy at Columbia University. They are recipients of the Creative Capital Award (2016), and won Rhizome's Prix Net Art (2017).
 For Lismore they showed Dark Content (2015), A series of video installations about internet content moderators. Contrary to popular belief, the removal of offensive material from the Internet is not carried out by sophisticated algorithms. It is the nerve-wracking, demanding job of thousands of anonymous human beings: people disguised as algorithms.

Trevor Paglen (born 1974) is an artist whose work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. Among his chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures. Paglen’s work has had one-person exhibitions at Vienna Secession, Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, Van Abbe Museum, Frankfurter Kunstverein, and Protocinema Istanbul, and participated in group exhibitions the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and numerous other venues. He has launched an artwork into distant orbit around Earth in collaboration with Creative Time and MIT, contributed research and cinematography to the Academy Award-winning film Citizenfour, and created a radioactive public sculpture for the exclusion zone in Fukushima, Japan. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. Paglen’s work has been profiled in the New York Times, Vice Magazine, the New Yorker, and Art Forum. In 2014, he received the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award for his work as a “groundbreaking investigative artist.” At St Carthage Hall, Paglen displayed two key photographs – Keyhole Improved Crystal from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 186), 2008, which documents satellites circulating the earth’s orbit, while They Watch the Moon, 2010 depicts a classified ‘listening station’ in West Virginia. The listening station, which forms part of the global ECHELON system, was designed in part to take advantage of a phenomenon called “moonbounce.” Moonbounce involves capturing communications and telemetry signals from around the world as they escape into space, hit the moon, and are reflected back towards Earth.

The photograph is a long exposure under the full moon light.

Suzanne Treister (born 1958) is a British artist based in London, where she studied at Saint Martin's School of Art (1978-1981) and Chelsea College of Art and Design (1981-1982). Initially known in the 1980s as a painter, she became a pioneer in digital/new media art from the beginning of the 1990s, creating work about emerging technologies, developing fictional worlds and international collaborative organizations. Using various media, including video, the internet, interactive technologies, photography, drawing and watercolor, Treister has evolved a large body of work which engages with eccentric narratives and unconventional bodies of research to reveal structures that bind power, identity and knowledge. Her projects, which often span several years, reinterpret given taxonomies and histories to examine the existence of covert, unseen forces at work in the world, whether corporate, military or paranormal. For Lismore, Treister displayed a selection of 18 prints from the series Hexen 2.0 Tarot, alchemical drawings depicting interconnected histories of the computer and the Internet, cybernetics and the counterculture, science-fiction and scientific projections of the future, government and military research programmes, social engineering and ideas of the control society; alongside diverse philosophical, literary and political responses to the advance of technology including the claims of anarchoprimitivism, technogaianism, and transhumanism. Through representing and re-examining these subjects and histories through the lens of occult belief systems and ideas of the supernatural, the 'HEXEN 2.0 Tarot' takes us to a hypnotic, mesmerising space from where one may imagine and construct possible alternative futures. Acknowledging precedents such as the traditional tarot deck, The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck and Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot Deck, Suzanne Treister had produced a new Tarot, that allows a reader, or a group of readers working collaboratively, to use the cards to reconfigure history and/or map out hypothetical future narratives.

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Lismore Castle Arts
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March – October

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