For thousands of years nomadic tribes of Central Asia passed on their knowledge and culture through generations primarily using the oral tradition; little physical evidence or traces remain of the ancient culture. Archaeologists mainly rely on kurgans – burial mounds where elite members of the tribes were interred with their treasures and often with their horses. Literacy was developed in Kazakhstan only late in 19th century and, therefore, much of the lifestyle of ordinary nomads is still shrouded in mystery. Today we encounter a radically different phenomenon – there is an overabundance of information. In the digital world anyone can share and store their thoughts, events, footage of everyday life in social media and the so-called “cloud”. This has led to a fast-growing number of dead people on social media, whose lives endure virtually. Facebook alone had around 30 million accounts of the deceased in 2012. These “digital ghosts” live among us until “memorialised” by a family member or a friend. How reliable is this digitally curated personal information in contrast to the tangible artefacts of past generations? What will happen to our deeper connections to the past? Will our individual and collective memory and cultural depth crash with Facebook and the Cloud?
The Cloud is an ambiguous depiction of the digital cloud with its virtual ghosts and distorted avatars. The central piece is a large-schale cloud of sheep wool suspended from the ceiling.
The Memorial is an installation – a traditional Kazakh white dress with a very long neckless made of sheep bones and the projection of the artist’s personal photographs, randomly generating by Google cloud. Hanging 4m higher of the floor, above The Cloud, it resembles a digital ghost. The frills on the dress distort the images like all the digital information can be fragmented and manipulated.
Avatarless is a biomorphic felted sculpture – an arm coming out of the wall.
Psychopomp is a parody of a shamanic ritual to guide the souls of recently deceased from The Cloud. Accompanied by shamanic drumming, the audience will be invited to kneel around, place their mobile phones under The Cloud and receive them back after completing a cleansing cycle and celebration of realising of those who’ve passed away. It is aimed to question moral and ethical issues of online present and after life. Although what meant to be an intentional kitsch turned out to be a complete cliche, because I got very ill and totally lost my voice. I have tried to get around this problem in a creative way – I have tuned a text to speech using online resources, at some point I thought it will add some mystery and a digitised voice will serve the concept. However, the performance lacked spontaneity and spirituality because I guess digital can still not replace human, unless it is very well prepared. I am grateful to Greta Robbie Remeika and Celeste Chau da Luz for helping me documenting the performance.
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