For the final day of the exhibition I have a deep nostalgia for the future, artist Richard Alexandersson discusses his relationship with time-based media, the human condition, and being a tech-optimist. This interview was conducted via email between Kimi Kitada (Jedel Family Foundation Curatorial Fellow) and the artist.
KK: Working primarily with time-based media, how do you view time/duration/the seamless loop as a component of your work?
RA: I first started experimenting with digital animation and projections as elements in otherwise object-based installations. At some point I decided to try an all-digital cycle. It was logistically convenient at the time, and I was quickly drawn in by the possibilities of exploring three-dimensional compositions at any scale. I still tend to think that I approach this work more as a sculptor than a filmmaker. I spend most of the production time modeling, texturing and lighting, playing around with scale, material compositions and finding balance between sterile CGI surfaces and seemingly “lived-in” details. The slow pace and seamless loops are a result of me wanting to give these objects and places time to exist in the real world for a bit, before being submerged again into a computer’s memory.
KK: I’m curious about the 6-channel audio in domain(A Conglomeration of Spheres). Did you create the audio for this work, and what inspired the soundscape?
RA: The first time I exhibited “domain…” it consisted of three video channels, one in each of three connected spaces. In total there were 6 channel audio that I composed in layers to bleed between the rooms, creating a subtly changing soundscape as you moved through the exhibition. It was also with the hope of having the sound encourage the audience to move around and explore, and away from focusing on finding linearity. These soundscapes start growing in my mind already while modeling. It is like a naturally occurring artificial thing that is just part of the artificial worlds I am creating.
At Charlotte Street I am showing a dual channel version with stereo sound. It was a decision made to create a more contained experience for your tall open space and to give my colleagues’ work some more room to breathe.
KK: The extended wall label references the Swedish word hemmablindhet, or home blindness, which brings up memory, place, a comfortability with our surroundings, and how these can become distorted over time. Have you experienced this sense of hemmablindhet? Where do you consider home?
RA: I was just pondering a phenomenon that I would say is very much related. I have a hard time seeing in my children their younger version. Their personality is always just where they are right now, and it is mind bending to think that they really were quite different very recently. My home is wherever and whenever they are. I also get a very strong connection to the virtual spaces I create for my work when I am deep into it, to the point where I can feel a little disoriented outside of them.
In a broader sense, I believe that this “blindness” is a fundamental part of the human experience. Our conscious experience of the world is a simulation produced by our brain’s best attempts at making the most consistent and operable reality out of both external and internal phenomena. We can never truly step out of our frame of reference and catch all possible details, barely even with the strictest of scientific methodology. While that may sound like a cynical perspective, I find it an inspiration to keep exploring even the seemingly familiar.
KK: What kinds of thematic connections do you see with your practice, in relation to Pete Fleming’s work and Emmy Skensved’s work?
RA: I believe we all share an interest in the more timeless aspects of being human, yet in a highly technological age. I was quite new to Emmy’s work when we started, but I appreciate her renderings of the structures we build to connect as humans. They might at times look very non-human, threatening even, but for me they call back to something beautiful and fragile in being a social creature, whether we want to be or not. I have known Pete for many years, and his knowledge and playful intuition for materials, tools and their applications have always inspired me. In his work I particularly like the way he let the sophistication of the technology behind his production linger just out of sight while turning the microscopic imperfections left by human presence into something sophisticated. There is a materialistic strength, yet an ephemeral quality to both of my colleagues’ work. If I could place my own work somewhere in that landscape, I would be very happy.
KK: In light of the exhibition title I have a deep nostalgia for the future, do you have any nostalgic feelings toward a pre-Internet age, before we were hyperconnected?
RA: I was born in the pre-internet age but my family were quite early adopters of computers and the Internet. I am grateful that I was old enough to appreciate some of the meaningful changes it brought. I have spent most of my adult life being an unapologetic tech-optimist. Like the futurist and transhumanist FM-2030 quoted in the exhibition title, I have been an optimistic believer in a human future of global fairness and total freedom through technology, and eventually a posthuman utopia of consciousness upload, interstellar travel, immortality…
Throughout the years though, I have become more conflicted in this “nostalgia for the future.” In this current age of the tech billionaires, these ideas unfortunately start to sound more like part of a sales pitch for the latest dangerous scam. I still don’t romanticize the pre-internet age, though. I still must envision a healthier future for hyper-connectivity, and bright one for science and technology in general. But it is a landscape littered with bleak forecasts and overhyped, at best boring or otherwise planet-killing applications of our technological potential. My nostalgia is one of mourning a time of greater personal optimism for the future, but it is still also a lingering feeling of not accepting that we would be done right here on the threshold of something truly incredible.