Joseph Nechvatal's nOise anusmOs
by Yuting Zou
Art Review published at on-verge.org
NYArts Magazine June Issue
Galerie Richard 514 West 24th Street NYC
APRIL 12 – MAY 26, 2012
"Given the expansive, ecstatic, non-hierarchical impression of the work, the unity of the microscopic and the macroscopic culminates in one’s mindscape as that of the infinitely small and the infinitely large, reflecting essentially the Leibnizian fractal view of the infinite"
“The task of perception entails pulverizing the world, but also one of spiritualizing its dust.”
- G. Deleuze
Black is immanent to itself; it is the color of undivided nothingness that has yet to be penetrated by light. Upon entering Galerie Richard, black was my instant impression of Joseph Nechvatal's "nOise anusmOs," for most of his new paintings are unified by a black background. Against the black backdrop are intricate and complex webs of red and white, suggestive of provocative corporeal surfaces. Here, sfumato plays a role in reducing the contrast of colors by adding a smoky and subtle layer to the otherwise pixelated images. The entire room is filled with immersive noise, from the visual noise (digital virus) inside the pictorial frame to its audial extension into the ambient space through the “viral symphony.” Bathed in a continuity of noise, it seemed that overall, the composition of this body of work was more sparse than before, and more speculative.
On the black canvases, the potencies of color start to unfold. Each painting is an autonomy of the inside, and it records the life of the tiny automata – artificial viruses. Those automata are equipped with sensory systems that allow them to perceive their local environment, detect enemies, and react accordingly. While, in most of the artist's previous works, the macroscopic corporeality is deconstructed by the microscopic into visible or invisible traces, the majority of this new series reverse the scheme; the microscopic is used to generate the macroscopic, the cosmological. The artificial viruses are creative agents that resemble Leibnizian monads – simple substances that are living mirrors of the entire universe, projections of a phantasmagorical phenomenon, and each an indivisible autonomous enclosure of infinite minute perceptions. A cluster of viruses start from an indiscernibly close vicinity, with almost indistinguishable perceptions, then form infinitesimal differential relations, and unfold the color pixels underneath their paths. As time goes by, the integration of minuscule differentials gives way to a perceivable image: the human anus (or retina) and the black hole (or wormhole). As such, through the viruses’ own mild (confused) perceptions, their vibrating trajectories become a filter for a distinct perception towards a threshold of consciousness. This process is captured into an actualized work of art.
Under dim lighting, the gallery room simulates a universal theater, where various media coexist to form an assemblage of many art forms – the electronic “viral symphOny,” computer-robotic assisted acrylic on canvas, video animations, and a projection. Nonetheless, the mixed-media unity is a mind-boggling one, a mixture of mystery and indecency.
The typical strategy of Nechvatal’s art works is to invoke “an infliction of a pleasant frustration that can lead to creative visualization,” which can also be observed from the audience’s reaction. Unlike his previous style that is characterized by overlapping two incomparable strata of the actual and the virtual, this time, the actual human retina, anus, or cosmological singularities, are progressively weaved into the fabric of the virtual noise, resulting in an emergent “viractual” (a term coined by the artist). It is a pleasure to see how these strands of virtual particles move on to unfold the tapestries that depict the moment of creation. However, they diverge quickly, lose their way in the labyrinth of the black chaosmos, and have only a brief existence from the undifferentiated black, back to black. Perhaps, all this echoes with what Francois Laurelle says, “(t)he World is the endless confusion of man and Universe.”
Given the expansive, ecstatic, non-hierarchical impression of the work, the unity of the microscopic and the macroscopic culminates in one’s mindscape as that of the infinitely small and the infinitely large, reflecting essentially the Leibnizian fractal view of the infinite:
I did not definitely assert that there are infinitely many degrees of infinities; I merely made certain conjectures, by virtue of which I deemed this to be possible, and indeed probable. My main reason was that there is no reason why God should have willed the existence only of this degree of infinity or order of magnitude, which constitutes our objects, proportioned to our intellects. I can easily conceive that, in the smallest particle of dust, there can exist a world, in which all things have the same relative proportions as in this large world; and, on the other hand, that our world might be nothing but a particle of dust in another, infinitely larger world. This way of conceiving things can be continued upwards and downwards indefinitely.