Ned Vena (presented by Project Native Informant), Shen Xin (presented by MadeIn Company) and Tobias Zielony (presented by KOW) regard the current concern for the image, technology and their relation to the self. Discovery becomes a form of masking, or even worse, reactionary discrimination and violence. Deception may lead to forms of intimacy and community. Blurring can be a kind of truth.
In the three channel video installation Forerunners, London-based Shen uncovers the contemporary revival of eugenics via DNA testing platforms like 23&Me, which link genetics with racial identity and health. The current fashion purports to reveal the “true self” but by doing so, plays into the logic of Neo-liberal capital’s subject as pure consumer. DNA is today’s “cult, it builds on data and network that only prove to be effective when more people pay for it”. Produced in the context of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the film enacts a Socratic dialogue between a Buddhist teacher and her student who works as a manager in a DNA testing company. Originally part of a live performance, they are motion captured as abstract animations, hand-drawn over shots of dark concert hall, like actors on an empty stage.
Berlin-Based Zielony‘s new work produced in Ukraine between 2016-2017 focuses on the underground queer and techno scene in Kyiv in the aftermath of Euromaidan and the 2014 Revolution. The series is titled Maskirovka, describing a Russian military doctrine, developed from the start of the twentieth century, covering a broad range of measures for military deception, from camouflage to imitation with decoys and dummies. In the advent of social and political instability and increasing reactionary movements against marginalized communities, deception, denial and disinformation become essential tactics of survival. The images convey scenes of radical intimacy and eroticism as in Lybid (2017). Tattoos, garments and bodily postures enclose secret selves revealed in their hiding. Everything is possible but nothing seems to be real.
The paintings of Vena similarly camouflage: they depict blurred images of the artist’s tattoos taken with his iPhone. As in his previous paintings, which apply the “stencils” of other artists and collaborators, the tattoos are the commissioned work of others. Each tattoo could be read as a marking of the self at a moment of time, but via a process of extraction, enlargement and masking and through repeated printing and over-painting simultaneously, the resulting images present less a portrait of the artist and more what David Joselit phrases as an image “beside itself”. As soaked, smudgy and crumbled palimpsest of images, the paintings do not represent the artist as a true self, much as DNA testing does not provide the key to one’s identity; instead they act to provoke a futurity that has yet to be revealed, which remains secret.