Fake it till you make it. Notes on electric dreams at PrintScreen festival

Beautification, Johanna Pichlbauer and Maya Pindeus, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

Beautification, Johanna Pichlbauer and Maya Pindeus, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

Initiated by Dr. Lior Zalmanson, the digital arts and culture festival, PrintScreen, started eight years ago in Tel Aviv as a small festival, one can say, a type of conference event on technology and arts, which gathered art and technology enthusiasts and artists to discuss the most relevant issues related to the fields. Gradually, it has grown to become even more popular, to the point where this year the festival offered a broad programme of exhibitions, performances, screenings, computer games, talks and workshops for its visitors. The festival recently ran from October 31st till November 3rd and took place in various locations including the Holon Mediatheque, the Design Museum Holon, the Holon Cinematheque, the Israeli Centre for Digital Art and the library.  As advertised by the organisers, this year the festival invited one hundred artists from Israel and around the world to collaborate on more than 60 events examining the very nature of how artifice and creativity connect.

Taking a first glance at the festival, I noticed that PrintScreen was very much geared towards targeting a broad audience and being accessible – this being several of the main struggles of contemporary art institutions heatedly discussed around the world these days. The festival programme was skilfully tailored to address triggering themes that aroused suspicion and curiosity: connections between what is regarded as fake with the creative, technological illusions that surpass as reality, to comment on the deceptive state of the contemporary world in general that has become so strongly entangled with politics.

The organisers managed to join theory and practice through numerous crowd-pleasing events to analyse and comment on the needs and problems of the world in ways that, I must admit, felt very original.  In a delicate manner, the main theme of this year’s festival Fake it, make it suggested a diagnosis for the contemporary world and our digital reality, almost directly illustrated by the performance Electric Dreams by Lithuanian[1] artist Dr. Gora Parasit (Gintarė Minelgaitė), where faking becomes either a tool for creativity or just a simple cheat. Working with actors over a period of two weeks from Nissan Nativ Acting Studio (Noam Marom, Ran Oz, Boniel Ofri, Naama Manor) and professional Lithuanian actors (Ričardas Myka and Marijus Mažūnas), Dr. Gora Parasit orchestrated a visual show with a collage of re-enactments from historical films. Scenes from sci-fi movies like A Trip to the Moon (dir. Georges Méliès, 1902), The Matrix (dir. The Wachowski Brothers, 1999) and Stalker (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979) were re-enacted by actors looking like characters from Matthew Barney’s Cremaster series (1995-2002) dressed in black shorts and silicon gloves, fragments repeated with maximum precision using a bodily “lip-sync” technique which all the actors had skilfully acquired.

Electric Dreams, Dr. Gora Parasit, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

Electric Dreams, Dr. Gora Parasit, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

Electric Dreams, Dr. Gora Parasit, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

Electric Dreams, Dr. Gora Parasit, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

The description of the performance gave us very clear hints of the viewers experience: “To the amateur tourist who wonders to the depths of the net, the act of browsing in itself is an infinite journey of collecting and identifying audio-visual experiences by which he/she learns about the world and through which they recreate a sense of self and collective identity. Electric Dreams is a show where these shreds of cultural experiences are being gathered and accumulated in the creation of a continuous performative act.”[2]  The performance was exactly like a YouTube-browsing experience where you would go from one clip to another without going too deep into its content; you would recognise some things while other things would slip into the digital abyss without leaving traces. Similarly to Dr. Gora Parasit’s other works, Electric Dreams tends to combine performance, cinema and theatre. Its expressive aesthetical language is screaming for attention and is highly recognisable like huge advertising screens in New York or Shanghai. After all, we all are living in a visually overloaded digital reality.

Another performance at the festival entitled Robot Chef, by IT consultants Lloyd Henning and Pete Sutton, who go by the artistic name Foxdog, offered viewers a similarly entertaining experience. Like stand-up comedy professionals in an interactive show, they enticed and challenged audiences to use their smart phones to control a kitchen robot that would cook and serve a meal of beans and sausages (using a stove, sky tractor and firing a head-mounted sausage cannon).

While sci-fi aesthetics and robots cooking sausages with beans were hilariously funny, they were not the only part of festival’s programme. A performance entitled The Creative Guide to False Prophesies by Jerusalem-born, Berlin-based artist Gabriel S Moses analysed the ‘Post-truth mode’ of the current political climate. In order to explain online strategies such as trolling and fake news, Moses had mastered the art of lying, passionately explaining his methodology of lying by inventing new lies to the effect his lecture-performance ended with an explosion of false facts generating feelings of confusion and uncertainty in his audience regarding anything.

Fabrication, exhibition view, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

Fabrication, exhibition view, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

These feelings lead me to Fabrication, the main exhibition at the Design Museum Holon curated by Lior Zalmanson, Udi Edelman and Shimrit Gil, which analysed fabrication not only as the production of objects per se but as the phenomenon of producing half-truths, fakes, lies, and illusions. In the exhibition’s text, the curators stated that “thanks to our digital age, in which masses create content and virally spread word-of-mouth in a matter of seconds, fabrication of this kind has also become ubiquitous and the masses now take an active part in the creation of illusions and the spread of fake news.” The exhibition presented a group of artists creating objects, illusions, floored robotic systems designed to fail, and technology-based installations. For example in Miri Segal’s work called There’s smoke without fire she created David Bowie’s ghost by projecting video material on a smoke cloud. Yuval Kedem constructed A laboratory device exploring the ability to grow synthetic glaciers to help the environment which looked like a device producing glaciers, but in reality there wasn’t much happening: the machine produced nothing but a comment on global warming being a source for fake-news manipulations. The robot/installation The Fundamentalist Gunpowder Printer by Eitan Bartal and Jonathan Amit was constantly printing texts in Arabic and Hebrew, visually resembling arabesques. The texts were gathered from blogs written by Jewish and Muslim extremists all operating locally containing ideas that are central to Islam and Judaismused for propaganda mechanisms to encourage violence. Meanwhile, in Beautification created by Johanna Pichlbauer and Maya Pindeus, robots were struggling to apply makeup to visitor’s faces according to their innate logics.

Still from the Seasteaders by Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller 2018

Still from the Seasteaders by Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller 2018

A smart step of the festival was to invite curator, writer and filmmaker Joshua Simon to take a look at the history of cyber culture. Installed in a corridor, Simon’s exhibition entitled In the Liquid, symbolically overlapped the other exhibitions providing political context to a post-Internet world, as the exhibition text went on to explain that the show is “the history of software being licensed, of the internet as a military project, and it involves libertarian fantasies and misogyny, political manipulation and surveillance, commodification and Cold War paranoia”. In the form of a visual essay the exhibition illuminated a ‘forgotten’ history of cyber culture: from Steve Jobs’ first public presentation of Macintosh personal computer in 1984 where he expressed the need to challenge IBM’s market dominance, or Ronald Reagan’s speech at Moscow state university on information revolution in 1988, to Wired magazine’s cover from July 1997 depicting a smiley face with a flower in its mouth representing ‘California ideology’[3]and a meme by Charles Lutz ‘Don’t hate the Meme, hate the Algorithm’ published on Instagram on the 17th of August, 2017.  Shown in a talk/screening programme, the documentary film entitled Seasteaders (2018) by Daniel Keller and Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman could have been seen as a continuation of Joshua Simon’s exhibition. In the film, the artists had gained access to document The Seasteading Institute’s conference held on the Floating Island Project in French Polynesia, designed to allow ‘ex-Silicon Valley wolfs’ to create a floating aquatic utopia without taxes or any kind of governance. The Seasteading Institute agreed to open up for the cameras under the condition that their footage be made fully accessible and re-contextualised if needed. Earlier this year, Brendan C. Byrne wrote an explicit article[4] analysing the ‘Seasteaders’ case for ‘Rhizome’, and as Daniel Keller reiterated during his artist talk, as their film appeared to be criticising the libertarian political ideology behind the Floating Island Project, The Seasteading Institute decided to make its own movie using the very same material.

The content of their film and the story behind its creation is a good illustration of the variety of ways in which ‘the truth’ is being born. It is not a secret that in a lot of cases technology is being used to play mind trick and create illusions but also to encourage new ways of thinking about the current reality with all its flaws and disadvantages. In rounding up these short comments on PrintScreen, the festival did not always offer a pleasant view of the world today but it certainly made its message available for different audiences which, in my opinion, is a very big achievement because at the end of the day, festivals are made for people.

The Fundamentalist Gunpowder Printer, Eitan Bartal and Jonathan Amit, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

The Fundamentalist Gunpowder Printer, Eitan Bartal and Jonathan Amit, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

In The Liquid, exhibition view, Soylent Green, installation, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

In The Liquid, exhibition view, Soylent Green, installation, PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

PrintScreen festival, Tel Aviv, Holon, 2018

 

[1] It’s worth mentioning that the participation of Lithuanian artists in the festival has become tradition. Last year Viktorija Siaulyte and Paulius Vaitiekūnas organised the workshop ‘Zooetics: Mycomorph Laboratory’ and Julijonas Urbonas presented his installation ‘Talking doors’.

[2] https://www.english.printscreenfestival.com/electric-dreams

[3] ‘California ideology’ according to Richard Barbrook’s and Andy Cameron’s statement in 1995 has emerged from the unexpected collision of right-wing neo-liberalism, counter culture radicalism and technological determinism (exhibition material).

[4] http://rhizome.org/editorial/2018/jan/31/seasteading/

 

Author
November 24, 2018
Published in Detour
0 Comments
Social share
Share Button
Print friendly version Print friendly version