Cover image of the review
NGV Triennial 2020 installation view of Refik Anadol (designer); Refik Anadol Studio, Los Angeles (design studio) *Quantum memories* 2020. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Proposed acquisition with funds donated by Loti & Victor Smorgon Fund and Barry Janes and Paul Cross, 2020 © Refik Anadol. Photo: Tom Ross

Refik Anadol, Quantum Memories

31 Jul 2021

One of the worst things about the COVID-19 pandemic (apart from even typing those words) is the empowerment so many people felt in commenting on their baptismal dip into that great ontological swamp of representation: screen culture. Streamed gigs with visuals on par with watching a special indie section of Rage music videos in 1999. Opening paragraphs pithily pointing out the uncanny connectivity of a Zoom call—on par with your grandparents opening a YouTube link for the first time. And maybe the worst: galleries keeping the flame of art alive by porting their agitating discontents online—to be viewed by art-types who have Instagram accounts but couldn’t tell you the difference between CSS and HTML-5.

This voiding nexus of visual art professionals and their grasp of the broader techno-cultural spread of screen culture is not all that new. Post-Conceptual art (date that where you want: j’accuse Fluxus!) welcomed the amateur, the provocateur, the disturber, the anarchist, the clown and the rebel to commandeer the “white cube” (typed with inflated perspicacity) and conduct a form of “squatter research”. He or she could analyse, denounce and transform the outside world with poetic impunity due to having been invited into the gallery space in the first place. The presentism of Art is congested by this legacy of immaterial commentary born of the empowerment of ignoring the specificity not only of one’s materials but also of the very subjects being addressed by their handling. I’m not concerned with how painting, sculpture and installation continue to theatricalise this legacy for the sake of contemporaneity in art. Even when they completely contradict themselves or even when they display profound ignorance in what they’re doing, the resulting art can still be fascinating (hence the ongoing need for amoral critical re-orientation, which can only be a good thing).

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