Emotional Supply Chains is a new exhibition at The Zabludowicz Collection which addresses the construction of identity in the digital age. Curated by Paul Luckraft, featuring 17 emerging international artists and including four new commissions, all works are drawn from the Zabludowicz Collection and produced since the year 2000.
The exhibiting artists are: Korakrit Arunanondchai (TH), Neïl Beloufa (FR), David Blandy (UK), David Raymond Conroy (UK), Andrea Crespo (US), Simon Denny (NZ), Aleksandra Domanović (YU), Ed Fornieles (UK), Michael Fullerton (UK), Guan Xiao (CN), Eloise Hawser (UK), Ann Hirsch (US), Pierre Huyghe (FR), Daniel Keller (US), Christopher Kulendran Thomas (UK), Seth Price (US), Frances Stark (US)
In 1938 Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel proposed the theory of ‘narcissistic supply’ to describe how an individual’s self-esteem is fuelled by their environment. Emotional Supply Chains explores how a fluid sense of self is fabricated in our digitally infused present via a supply chain of objects, ideas and experiences. Such freedoms are contradicted, however, by the extent to which online space is increasingly structured by capital and commerce. We disseminate our ‘chain-store selves’ across multiple platforms, sharing and reaffirming our preferences and networks.
The exhibiting artists reflect upon the multiple nature of the self, and the tensions between confinement and escape, happiness and anxiety, and play and addiction. Their projects operate as expanded portraits, with the artists at times highly visible as performer or narrator, and in other cases positioned as more distanced observer. Emotional Supply Chains reflects on our simultaneous presence and absence within digital space; a space dubbed ‘virtual’ but which is bound to tangible locations and circumstances.
The exhibition is structured into three parts, each exploring aspects of contemporary identity: the dualities of self, the performed and networked self, and origins and renewal. In the first section Simon Denny’s The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom (2013–) responds to the real life events surrounding the fall from grace of the titular larger-than-life, publicity obsessed internet entrepreneur through the physical reimagining and display of his seized possessions. Thai-born, New York-based artist Korakrit Arunanondchai explores dualities of East and West, pop cultural excess and spiritual depth. In his video Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3 (2015) the artist appears as the ‘denim painter’, an alter ego inspired in part by a 2012 controversy on TV programme Thailand’s Got Talent. David Raymond Conroy’s new commission emerged from time spent in Las Vegas as part of Zabludowicz Collection inaugural residency programme in November/December 2015. Conroy addresses questions of ethics in relation to the artist as tourist and anthropologist of the ‘other’, specifically the city’s highly visible homeless population. Conroy’s video asks, as an artist, what is the right thing to do, morally and artistically? And are these aims even compatible?
The section examining the performed and networked self maps the evolution of social media from AOL chat rooms to the Web 2.0 of Facebook and Instagram. In 2011, fascinated by how Facebook shapes the narratives of people’s lives, Ed Fornieles produced the ambitious Dorm Daze project. Enlisting 32 volunteers who were each assigned a ‘scalped’ profile, Fornieles orchestrated a three month long Facebook ‘sitcom’, the narrative of which navigates extremes of American college life. For this exhibition, the archive of the performance has been reconceived in a new installation and sound piece. Similarly, Frances Stark dives into the channels that technology opens up for storytelling. She uses Instagram to communicate beyond the confines of the art world, gaining and entertaining ‘followers ’ and interweaving the realities of life as artist, teacher and mother. In 2014 Stark began exhibiting images from her feed @therealstarkiller, creating a dialogue between her image production and the history of conceptual photography. Ann Hirsch examines the influence of technology on gender and identity through immersive research, which has included becoming a popular YouTube ‘camwhore’ and appearing as a contestant on a reality TV dating show. For this exhibition Hirsch has developed her script Twelve (2013) and two-person play Playground (2014), based on her adolescent experiences in a mid-1990s chat room, into a new video installation. The piece reflects on a loss of innocence both personally, and for the internet more widely, as it developed from unregulated chat rooms into branded and monitored platforms.
The final section, origins and renewal, features artists examining the intersection of place and personal history. David Blandy investigates what makes us who we are, often adopting the persona of a wandering pilgrim or minstrel. The installation Child of the Atom (2010) was inspired by a family myth connecting his late grandfather, a Japanese prisoner of war, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In the video Blandy travels with his young daughter to the now reconstructed city, in a touching meditation on guilt and the circumstantial nature of existence. Aleksandra Domanović’s biography and practice are marked by the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2003. Twin screen video work 19:30 (2010–11) brings together imagery from two models of shared experience central to identity in her home region: an anthology of news themes from state-owned broadcast stations, and original and found footage from rave parties. The human protagonists in Eloise Hawser new commission appear only briefly, silhouetted in the windows of a now demolished office block near Heathrow airport called Sunrise Plaza. Hawser attempts to recapture a chance ‘perfect encounter’ she had with the building in a video which plays across a sculptural back-lit grid of translucent LED screens. Pierre Huyghe’s video One Million Kingdoms (2001) forms part of a seminal project called No Ghost Just a Shell that was initiated with Philippe Parreno in 1999. Together they acquired the rights to a manga character called Annlee, with the intention of lifting a generic character out of anonymity and into the role of central protagonist in a series of international art projects. Relinquishing their rights to her in 2001, this vid eo shows Annlee on a journey into her own vanishing. As she walks, a computer-generated lunar landscape forms from the textures of her own voice; a voice synthesised from recordings of Neil Armstrong and extracts from Jules Verne’s 1864 novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Image: Korakrit Arunanondchai Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3, 2015. Video, 25:27 min. ©The artist, Carlos/Ishikawa London, Clearing New York