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terra incOgnitO

cOncerning Abu GraibcOncerning Abu Graib
terra incOgnitO
Joseph Nechvatal
March 26th – April 25th
Wm Turner gallery, Atlanta

In the exhibition terra incOgnitO, computer viruses and computer-assisted paintings address a psychic departure from the shadow world connected to the abuses at Abu Graib.

In 1991, while working in France at the Louis Pasteur studio in Arbois and at the Royal Saltworks of Arc et Senans, Joseph Nechvatal and Jean-Philippe Massonie developed his unique artistic viral software. In 2001 Nechvatal and Stéphane Sikora combined this initial IT virus project with the principles of artificial life; creating systems of synthesis that reproduce the behavioral features of living systems.

Nechvatal’s recent work consists of artificial life viral attacks introduced into artistically composed digital images. Populations of active viruses reproduce and propagate within the picture. (This will be demonstrated in a live computer virus attack in the terra incOgnitO exhibition.) The artist then freezes a moment that he later turns into a painting. Were the artist not to interfere, the process of propagation would continue until the complete destruction of the original picture. Finally, Nechvatal sends these files to an industrial robot that paints the picture in acrylic on canvas.

Following the example of the great masters’ representations of the human body, a constant theme of Nechvatal’s work is death, or rather the process leading to death that we call life. By injecting viruses and organizing simulations, the philosopher-artist deconstructs our illusions, our longing for permanence and the very ideology of progress, while at the same time, and without any nostalgia, pronouncing the end of a world and of an order.

In this exhibit Nechvatal shows us altered, mutating shadow images that are, as such, pictures of our changing world. Yet he is still offering us solid painting, together with its history and sudden breaks, breaks that are often linked to technical and scientific advances.

The paintings in terra incOgnitO provides us with moments of silent and complex immobility that enables us to escape the tyranny of the world by offering us pause for contemplative and visionary thought. This interest in the contamination of the tradition of painting by digital technology creates a crossing point between the virtual and actual, what Nechvatal calls the viractual.

Joseph Nechvatal’s work, both at the technical and conceptual levels, has today become an inescapable reference in digital art. With a PhD in art and new technologies, he teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York and at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. His works have been exhibited in various museums in New York, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Art and the New Museum, as well as in other museums in America, Europe and Asia.

Wm Turner gallery is located at 112 Krog Street, Suite 9, Atlanta, 30307. The gallery is conveniently situated in The Stove Works building, next to Rathbun’s restaurant. Gallery hours are 12-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 12-5 p.m. Saturday, and closed Sunday and Monday. More information is available at or by calling 404-577-4500.

Photos of the show

CIA Crucified Captive In Abu Ghraib Prison

CIA Crucified Captive In Abu Ghraib Prison