POMA Museum, Republic of Korea, 2021, Solo exhibition
Art as a Response to the Software Society
New Adam and Eve or Art as a Last Resort
The great promise of industrial modernism and informatic postmodernism has failed, primarily due to the superficiality and banality of the sense they offered. The two basic determinants of such world, as Erich Fromm points it in his book To Have or To Be, are hapiness and egoism. Hapiness in that world is equal to maximum of satisfaction, defined as the satisfaction of any wish or subjective need that a person has/feels, while egoism, selfishness and greed are mechanisms that lead to harmony and peace. The spirit of such a society is focused on possession and greed. It is the world in which I am, as Fromm says, is equal to I possess and I am what I spend. Practically speaking, in such a soap opera paradise, art has remained a rare field in which the tendencies of doxa were revisited, and in which – although in a more and more difficult way – the originality of artist’s work retains the aura (Benjamin) that is a bridge with the unique and unrepeatable existence of a human being. Therefore, art that comes out of us is a link with ourselves as species, regardless of it being a vertical communication at the unconscious level that transcends the subject (Dorfles), or a horizontal criticism of society. In a way, that is the truth about us (Heidegger), but also the testimony of the uniqueness and unrepeatability of the moment of existence of living universe within the network of reproduction. It is the painting Momma and Poppa, displayed at this exhibition, as well as many other paintings belonging to the Kinder opus that refer to the time when Fromm wrote the book and when he noticed the basic postulates on which modern society is based. In the painting we can see a scene of a happy family whose happiness consists of satisfaction of the need for addiction, which is compared to the happiness of the family. In the central position of the painting there is a tobacco company that evokes memories of a happy childhood – it is merchandise that becomes a means for us to experience idealized memories through our egoism and greed. Mercandise motivates us, merchandise mobilizes us, and in the material sense it has done the equalization and standardization of demand, production and needs. In the 21st century, merchandise has directed us, already prepared as digital codes, to continue to build our perception of the world and ideological views based on merchandise, only this time, not material but virtual, because the effect is the same, while mobilization and profit are much higher. Of course, I see merchandise here not only as goods – products of work that we sell and buy – but also as ideological construct that forms values and general public opinion.
Art as the Last Field of Freedom
I see art as the last field of freedom in our world. It is no longer possible to – in the military, economic or cultural way – resist global dominance of the technological paradigm that is accompanied by digital capitalism and algorithmic thinking. Industrial modernism has merged into computer postmodernism and is creating foundations of a new world that is getting closer and closer – the world without people. In that sense, in the central position, paradoxically, one of my latest paintings appears – Adam and Eve. This painting sheds light on an idea that can be glimpsed within most of the paintings on display in this exhibition. In the painting Adam and Eve there are a man and a woman with their backs to each other and a QR code between them. Everything is done analogously, with the classic oil on canvas technique, but the picture is interactive. The QR code can be read with the reader and the image becomes interactive with the new virtual world. The message is absolutely critical and opens several levels of understanding of the world around us.
What is dominant in our world and has its roots in the 20th century is a negative ontology. It is the ontology in which singularity and originality represent a non-being, while mass replica and series represent a being. It is a world based on the industries of entertainment, health and comfort, but also a world of concentration camps, media destruction of cultural and military hegemony that we can see in the paintings Broadcast Yourself, The Chains of Evil, Happy War2… It is the world in which there are social networks for global communication and exchange of opinions, but paradoxically, the world in which the flow of information is censored if it is not in the function of improving control through artificial intelligence as a blind follower of the interests of capital, as can be seen in the painting Assange and Freedom. Software has taken over the command (Lev Manovich), shaping culture and social life. IT engineers, together with the owners of capital, shape and represent the world according to their will. While, on the one hand, profits are skyrocketing for IT companies, on the other hand, the permanent state of wars and conflicts in the poor parts of the world is becoming our daily routine. The 2017 painting The Chains of Evil deals with this problem in detail.
For me as an artist, despite the many theories of art that have emerged, mostly in the twentieth century, two basic principles apply: poesis (inspiration) and techne (skill). Inspiration (poesis) is a place of slipping out of ideological doxies, a place where we come out of the matrices that create us and we see those same matrices from a different angle. I get inspiration from a constantly changing world, which is evolving before our eyes, and I believe that today, an analog medium such as painting is more than ever needed to record the time we live in. The dynamism that I have – to present the metamorphosis and madness of our time through art – is best expressed through painting, which according to its ontology is a medium that lasts, a medium through which we can have contact with times far behind, but also ahead of us.
Techne is an act of performing a work of art and it has always been tied to the virtuosity of the artist. This virtuosity is not limited by canons, but is related to the amount of emotions that the artist can produce in the observer. Therefore, in this exhibition you will have the opportunity to see the techne of a human artist, as opposed to the techne of artificial intelligence, which is increasingly integrated into our understanding of reality, but unfortunately is increasingly penetrating art, endangering its artistic character. I would say that the second level of enkunstung (loss of the artistic character of art due to the activities of cultural industries) is on the scene today – Adorno wrote about it in the 20th century. It’s actually no longer a question of the cultural industry, but of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Today, the physical world is becoming more and more in tune with the virtual world we are creating. The border between the two is rapidly vanishing, and we have largely entered the third degree of simulacrum – Baudrillard wrote about it a long time ago. Even diseases have become similar to those of the digital world. The general pandemic is increasingly reminiscent of computer viruses, and vaccines are reminiscent of antivirus programs that will have to be updated annually. As Naomi Klein wrote in her book The Shock Doctrine, capital will use the newly created catastrophic situation to promote work in cyberspace, social distance of the changed conditions of production and services, all with the aim of greater profit and power. This is another subject of my work that can be especially noticed in the artworks created in 2020 and 2021. Within my paintings Connect Yourself, Lose Yourself and Stolen Reality, I am trying to clarify the narrative mentioned. In the painting Connect Yourself a man falls from the top of a skyscraper while words that promote virtual connection echo. The world of the analog man is collapsing, so is the physical reality, and the point of this scene continues in the painting Loose Yourself, where this connection – initially implicit and later explicit, as the fall becomes faster and faster – echoes a warning that we are on the path of losing ourselves and that we are becoming something that breaks the connection with the species we used to belong to. In the painting Stolen Reality, the tablet and the mobile device have replaced our reality, the hypnotized man is being more and more dragged into it – digital capitalism gains its full meaning. Control is being established rapidly; our thoughts, ideas and inclinations are becoming merchandise on the digital market, the sky networked with the Internet is becoming a new sky for a new man, and a viral pandemic is becoming an evolutionary link in the updating of a technologically integrated man – a cyborg.
And while we are using emoticons with our faces cold and our hearts emotionless, while we are applauding and liking without enthusiasm and excitement, while we are watching murders and catastrophes through the media without empathy and compassion, we are building a world in which, unfortunately, there are countless motives for my painting. It is not only the paintings such as Emotional Toys, Eat Fresh, Playground or NYC 2 – I am overall trying to present a realistic picture of our time from which the idealization of advertising campaigns and the world we should believe in is removed – affected by the idealistic mask of commercial messages and meaningless promises.
Virtual Reality vs Art
I will remind you that Portarit of Edmond Bellamy, which was painted by Artificial Intelligence (AI), was sold at Sothesby’s auction for $432,500 in 2018. Therefeore, the only aim is not to create a new world in which people who are integrated with machines can work, the aim is not to create fields of action, but to conquer art and integrate it into that world, replacing the idea of freedom with the matrix of perfection of such a world. Artificial intelligence produces easel paintings, even paints original artworks – in few years we will realize that artificial intelligence does it better than we do. This raises the question of what the purpose of artist and genuine artwork is… To make the position of an artist – a living beign of flesh and blood – ridiculous and senseless, slowly becomes common place in the world of hyperrealism (Baudrillard). That is reality much more realistic than physical reality, and we notice that reality only under high technology. In such reality, human perception becomes unneeded, as well as a human being in the sense in which it had existed before moving to this state, before full integration with the machine (let us consider whether life without a mobile phone or a computer is possible at all).
The environment described is not by its nature friendly towards individuality, towards original artwork as such, towards everything that is not a matrix, towards everything that is not derived from digital order. Painting in such a world can become so redundant and irrational that it can be treated as spiritual terrorism, because it sublimates and makes qualities that should disappear in new environment visible. Visual criticism of such a world, in my case, is a painting created by the artist’s manual work, a painting that reflects uniqueness, unrepeatability, longevity and a material body. I haven’t been taken in by the traps of modernity when it comes to art. And even that artistic freedom helped me oppose the globalist view of freedom which is conditioned by the reproduction of everything in the form in which it loses every trace of its material root. Such an appearance slowly but surely becomes a state of disappearance in the virtual world of images and information.
To conclude, the permanence of the medium I use is a significant form of subversion in relation to society in which one has to produce and spend to the point of insanity and be sucked into the whirlpool of nothingness. The oil painting is all the more significant because, due to its longevity, it remains a critical testimony of time, not a mimesis of time, while information – due to its multitude and intertwining, and thus lack of referentiality – nullifies its quality as a basis for interpreting and understanding time from which it originates. Hence, through such art that summarizes information while building an authentic image devoid of software combinations, it remains a rare source of freedom and critical thought that transcends the system created on virtual and false basis. The image with the material body (painting) becomes a kind of terrorism against the world of virtual images guided by the algorithms of artificial intelligence.