Post Lux Tenebras: The myth of transparency
The artist questions the unbridled liberties taken by social networks and other big data gatherers to build up their power. He has been collecting for years the terms and conditions to which he must periodically click "I agree" without having the time to "read them carefully (sic)". As a record, he printed the dozens of pages of the contracts to which he gave his consent, transparently, layer after layer, on resin. We can see the text, but the excess of information makes it unreadable. The format is that of tombstones, these souvenirs that participants in large financial transactions receive from the investment banker as a memory of their success. There is no significant transaction in appearance when "I agree", yet millions of distracted acquiescences make billionaires.
The convergence that the artist sees between the hippie dream of the 70s and the neo-liberalism, enabled by communication technology and increasingly akin to the Matrix, inspired these works. During a residency in Naples, he was impressed by the mastery of porcelain artisans making thousands of tiny decorative flowers. He chose for his theme to cast with them thousands of white and black daisies in Capodimonte porcelain. And like any social phenomenon, the daisies, in the course of an iterative creative process – from moulding to unmoulding and remoulding for different purposes – lost their precise form. They were incorporated into new masses and eventually disappeared, and the works contain no more porcelain and hardly flower shape. Some have been wetted by the water that passes under the bridges and brings daily happiness. Others have been stained by the suffering or the wars that distorted social communications cause or support. These processes, actually and metaphorically, have been enormously accelerated using soulless algorithms which observe us and constantly produce new realities.
Post tenebras lux?
"Light after darkness" is the motto of the Calvinist reform. The Protestantism that would awaken consciences thanks to the technique of printing would lead Western society to the Age of Enlightenment, to the Human Rights, the right to the pursuit of happiness and the inalienable property right. Following the industrial revolution, capitalism would appear, well-being would come to more and more people, democracy would establish itself, but also depletion of resources, an acute awareness of social injustices.
The brilliant Marxism led to totalitarianism and, through technology, to the Orwellian nightmare.
The Flower Power wanted to eliminate patriarchy and war to empower people and create a better world. It permeates the discourse of Western internet technologists. Finally, citizens can come together across borders and be heard to free themselves from oppression through social media. Still, capitalist logic would lead to the attention economy with devastating effects on society and democracy.
The information (the light) that Luther demanded floods us to the point that the supposedly liberating transparency has become a dogma. It became a goal instead of a means and finally became a myth; because too much light is blinding. The artist shows it with his transparent sculptures, printed layer after layer with the terms and conditions of all the applications that govern our time and that we are given the illusion of choosing freely. These seemingly insignificant contracts have become an immense instrument of power that let social networks censor the President of the United States, symbolically the most powerful person on earth.
E-mail and social networks have brought humans together. But without thinking about it, without realizing it, they have pitted them against each other, manipulated them, endangering democracy and human sanity. The flower-themed series is a metaphor for the unintentional transformation of a pretty porcelain daisy.