OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2014
Civic TV Laboratories' inaugural event, October 31st 2014, presents the work of Domokos Benczedi; an installation of prints, videos, and sculptures entitled "FEKETE 31". Through the use of repeated imagery of bondage culture and references to cyber-punk themes and aesthetics, Benczedi has created an environment best viewed in the dark by black and neon light, reminiscent of a night club in Bladerunner the installation makes the technological physical, sexual, and at times perverse by shattering the line between body and data, blood and circuit.
A special music event The Halloween Horror Show follows the exhibition, with music environments by Pleasure 2, IOMAN, Future Blondes, Darktown Strutters, Paffengberger, and DJ Bad Bones & DJ Record Money.
ACCOMPANYING TEXT FOR EXHIBITION
DOMOKOS BENCZEDI - FEKETE 31
CIVIC TV LABORATORIES, OCTOBER, 2014
From the David Cronenberg film Cosmopolis, adapted from the Don DeLillo novel of the same name:
“People will not die. Isn't this the creed of the new culture? People will be absorbed in streams of information... Computers will die. They're dying in their present form. They're just about dead as distinct units. A box, a screen, a keyboard, are melting into the texture of everyday life. Is this not true?”
“Even the word computer.”
“Yes. Even the word computer sounds backward and dumb.”
Technology has always stood as a buffer between humanity and reality; distorting, contorting, conforming, and transforming it into our own image. But of course as the story goes, the first time a human being picked up a stick to manipulate it into a tool, that stick began to manipulate her too. So as this buffer grew between reality and humanity, it not only transformed reality into our image, it slowly began to also transform us into its. These are all fairly obvious observations in the digital age we live in in which handsets and headsets have become nearly as intimate parts of our physical beings as the pharmaceuticals we consume to transform our bodies and minds into radiant beings of new flesh capable of managing the demands of contemporary society. However, what’s only become more recently apparent, and highlighted in the conversation above, is the way in which technology, now compounded a thousand times over since the advent of the computer, has begun to reflect back upon itself transforming itself into its own image. This is akin to a kind of mutation, the moment the snake can longer eat anymore of its own tale, the moment when the computer’s proliferation has made its own existence obsolete. The moment when the computer, the pinnacle and harbinger of the digital age, dissolves into reality so completely that we can no longer perceive the difference between the two (as in the way all conversations about the brain these days lead back to the way in which our brains work or do not work like computers, as if they were appropriate comparable entities). Online interactions sparked from real events twist and turn into networks of diuretic virtual realities leaving behind little of what “really happened” in favor of the more fascinating geometries we call “spin”; which of course we must now admit have become more real and effecting than the real (as I write this the hacktivist group Anonymous just doxed leading members of the Missouri KKK after taking over their Twitter account in retaliation for fliers the white supremacist group dispersed threatening violent action against protestors in Ferguson. Though an interesting bit of digital politics, neither groups’ actions have much to do with the reality of the police shooting of an unarmed black youth. The viral “spin” off the situation becomes the all-consuming reality until nothing of the real is left. This is not to insinuate that “spin” as I am using the word here is a new activity, it is not, but it is a thing so transformed by the massive scale of technology that it threatens to obliterate the real completely; perhaps only matched in its ability to obliterate reality by the technology behind the atomic bomb).
The work in FEKETE 31 – EXHIBIT UULTRA brings to mind this narrative of the last 30 years of technological development in the way Benczedi’s prints, videos, and sculptures feel almost nostalgic in their use of patterns, colors, images, and interfaces that resemble technologies from the mid 1980’s (while still ironically remaining technically within the realm of “New Media Arts”. Perhaps there needs to be varying degrees of “New Media Art” today, “New Media”, “New New Media”, ad nauseam). Even the term mid 1980’s feels a digital epoch ago, and though Benczedi’s practices are technically fairly cutting edge in the way the images are processed and produced, they visually call to mind the glitches of outdated computer monitors and the stark collared patterns of pre-PC blue print plotters (both of which, though in digital terms are antiquated, are not any older than the artist himself). It is fascinating that something so new can already feel so old, that by its intense speed of development, and the huge ramifications those developments have on our lives, technology is so large it is now bending and shaping time itself into its own image. There has always been a lag in our perception of time, a lag that is between the relatively short life span of the human being and the enormous amount of time life has been on this planet, we rarely are able to truly comprehend it (a simple example; it is the strongest of temptations for every human being to make decisions based on what’s best for the next 40 years, not the next 400, or even 4000), we can’t wrap our minds around the enormity of time we now know it took our planet to develop into what it is, and yet in the last 200 years, through technology, we have done more to change it than simple planetary evolution could in millions of years (barring of course some cataclysmic event like a meteor strike). In this narrative three perceptions of time, or timelines, now lay in front of us today, the enormous evolutionary time, our own life span, and that of technological/digital progress. The last being a kind of reverse of evolutionary time in that it moves so much faster than our own life spans or anything else observable in nature. Both become harder and harder to grapple with as they defy our internal clocks. This technological/digital time is a perverse warping of time, time turning inward onto itself at increasingly break-neck speeds; in the future we will judge time by the minutest fractions of the second measurable (the way in which the stock market changed when trades began coming in via the internet comes to mind. The closer one’s physical server was to the stock market, the quicker by milliseconds one’s trades could come in, to correct this unfair gap between space and time created by the speed of technology the stock market now has an enormous server room that each online trade must come into first, and every trading company and trader essentially has the same exact length of cord linking the server their trades come in on to the main server equalizing the time it takes for a trade to go through between traders, for example, in New York and Houston).
So technological time is the perverse of evolutionary time, and an echo of this idea runs throughout the aesthetic of Benczedi’s installation, again one that is simultaneously cutting edge and nostalgic. Coincidentally Benczedi’s work’s contain subject matter dealing with the perverse as well—although in these works the perverse is something more relatable to the flesh than time in that it is primarily sexual in nature, or subjectively so. In large prints a suggestive image of lips is collaged against an image of hands bound by bondage gear which is repeated in various forms throughout the installation, in another print two fish-netted figures writhe together under the leather boot of an unseen dominate, while a tattered bondage dress hangs as a kind of soft sculpture next to this print. These sexually charged images, though sexy, seem to have more to do with the modification of the body than they do sex itself; references to suspension, binding attire, strands of what look to be grotesquely large anal beads, and other sexually modifying apparatuses appear throughout the installation culminating in a large sculpture made out of an altered massage table that now appears as an alien device of torture and pleasure; this sculpture also includes two videos on small TV’s that contain various images including footage of a Future Blondes’ concert in which S&M stylized performances where added to Benczedi’s musical performance. Perhaps these references to the modification of the body for sexual purposes is in these works a stand in and pointer to the incredibly intimate way technology has begun to modify our bodies over the last 30 years. The use of sex as a metaphor for the way in which technology must penetrate and become one with our flesh to carry out its true narrative is one used throughout sci-fi literature and film over the last 100 years; fittingly for our time here in Benczedi’s work that metaphor is brought to its extremes—the extremes of the body’s search for pleasure and sensation, matched now only by our search for information. Perhaps this why the sex industry always seems to pioneer whatever new technologies possible as in the way pornography was perhaps one of the first universal attractions to the lay internet user (the essays of Jean Bouldriard regarding online remote controlled dildos comes to mind). Benczedi’s prints invoke an inner turmoil; the amalgamation of human pathos, human frailty, and sexual frustration, blended with a welcoming charm and stirred with loud painfully pleasurable music they are a digital encapsulation of this moment, an imprint.
During the opening of FEKETE 31 – EXHIBIT UULTRA Benczedi’s installation of prints, videos, and sculptures had the addition of environmental elements as well in the form of colored and black lights and massive amounts of fog due to long running smoke machines. These nightclub-like environmental elements did give the show just that, a nightclub-like environment, perhaps a club out of Bladerunner, but a nightclub nonetheless. In this environment, especially during the portion of the show in which the bands played and patrons danced, I had a fleeting but reassuring thought amongst all the others I’ve been roaming through here regarding technology and its transforming effect on our bodies, the natural world, and even time, I thought in midst of all of this reshaping of the human being through technology, in the midst of the absorption of the real into the virtual, people still long for the simple joy of dancing together, body to body, flesh to flesh, no digital apparatuses needed. Then the next week I walked into my classroom and saw five of my youngest students dancing in a line, not touching or looking at each other, their eyes glued instead to a screen on which a videogame played out a throbbing beat while bursts of colored light and dancing avatars instructed my students to dance for higher and higher scores.