Continuing with our analysis of The Metaverse Hypothesis , after the bombastic realities, physical at times, digital at others, both together at times, we find ourselves facing the work that best reflects the man of the future immersed in digital space but still firmly anchored in the analogue one. It is a work we are all very familiar with: Forme uniche della continuità dello spazio by Umberto Boccioni, the contemporaneous union of matter and movement through the atmosphere, with the simultaneous blending of the human body into its environment, an environment that acquires substance, becomes part of the sculpture, is fluid, invisible but real, like digital space.
The contemporary era’s concept of speed and fluidity well understood by the brilliant Futurists at the beginning of the last century, fits perfectly with the concept of analogue-digital reality, from which the metaverse stems. With the latest novel technologies extensions of our bodies, we increasingly exist fluidly and heterodoxly in more than one reality at the same time, realities becoming absorbed, into us, flying, speeding storm-like bits, becoming an actual part of our reality, blending into one of our many numerical translations that constantly inhabit digital space, an imperfect form of the metaverse.
Precisely connected to the legendary Unique forms of continuity in space there is Memories of Passersby by Mario Klingemann. Two screens showing images of profoundly weird, ever-changing portraits to be contemplated while sitting comfortably in an armchair. The ‘unique forms of continuity in space’ lose their sense of movement becoming tangible, stable, digital essences driven by a never-tiring image-generating processor. The relationship between past and present, between the dawn of the electric age and the dawn of the purely digital age can be exemplified in these two interrelated works.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, father of Futurism and enlightened theorist, was well aware of the future that would await mankind, as the texts in the exhibition also remind us: “men will be able to know at every moment, from every point on earth, what their contemporaries are doing,” he hypothesised, and he imagined this by looking at the wonders of electricity and the internal combustion engine, purely technical wonders. What Klingemann’s work shows us, however, are the aesthetic wonders of the machine, its ability, through artificial intelligence, not only to be disruptive in itself, profoundly in its processes, but also to be able to express them with images that are familiar to us and yet non-existent, realistic and yet veiled by the incomprehensibility of forms.
Unlike most of the works in the exhibition, and more generally works that make use of artificial intelligence, Memories of Passersby has an AI that does not make use of the foundational element of digital space, the database, thus making the generative art created in this way aesthetically more akin to the human conception than the cyborg. As the texts in the exhibition read: “The outputs displayed on the screen are not random or programmed combinations of existing images, but unique works of art generated by artificial intelligence. The flow of images presented does not follow a predefined choreography but rather is the result of artificial intelligence interpreting its own output; the complex nature of this type of feedback means that no image will ever be repeated.”
Of course, the database does not disappear completely from the process, Klingemann used it to train his AI in image generation. The point is the fact that this database is the starting point (as it is in human and analogue artistic creation) of the work, but it does not debase it by also becoming the end of the process, as is the case, for example, in the works of Refik Anadol, which, to be honest, seem to be the very much works of effect (and little else) that influencers, cultural influencers, aspirants and, above all, those we believe to be such, are so fond of.
Little does it matter that at the same time as this exhibition, Anadol is exhibiting at the MoMA in New York, his ‘monumental’ yet insubstantial works, with their riot of colour, which are a simple colour palette of constant motion, a digital tautology of his fluidity, characterised by a certain conceptual emptiness. On one screen we see the unimaginable mass of photographs of the earth’s flora that artificial intelligence is constantly processing, and on the giant screen we simultaneously see these liquefiedimages, emptied of meaning, exemplified in fascinating unpretentious abstraction, spatial decoration that may seem meditative, but which, in the unveiling of the process (the screen showing us the photographs processed by the computer), betrays itself in the display of the machine’s banal computational capabilities. What is the metaverse hypothesis in this work? A lysergic space comprised of bits harking back to hippie culture? If this were the case, one need only think of how the counter-cultures of the 1970s managed to achieve the same cerebral result without even an electric cable.
… to be continued…
Ipotesi Metaverso, curated by Serena Tabacchi and Grabriele Simongini, Palazzo Cipolla, Rome, 05.04 – 23.07.2023
images: (cover 1) Refik Anadol, Palazzo Cipolla, detail, ph: Luca Perazzolo (2) Umberto Boccioni, «Forme uniche della continuità dello spazio», 1913, e Mario Klingemann, «Memories of Passersby», 2019, installation view at Palazzo Cipolla (2023), ph: Luca Perazzolo (3) Mario Klingemann, Memories of Passersby, 2019, installation view at Palazzo Cipolla (2023), ph: Luca Perazzolo
Previously on Arshake:
F. Giagnacovo, Ipotesi Metaverso, Palazzo Cipolla, Arshake, 16.06.2023