Nueral review of Destroyer of Naivetés

Review by Aurelio Cianciotta in Nueral of Destroyer of Naivetés by Cave Bacchus: Joseph Nechvatal, Black Sifichi, Rhys Chatham

Joseph Nechvatal is a post-conceptual artist and also an art theorist. He usually creates unusual paintings and computer animations with the recurring use of computer viruses designed for these purposes. The lyrics of Destroyer of Naivetés: Computer Virus 1.0 have the shape of a muffled and passionate narration. It walks on a carpet of drones and sound overlaps of improvisatory origin, not far from some experimental and evocative jazz modulations. The sound background later evolves into sweeter and minimal breaks, some simple guitar chords. However, the voice always keeps a psalmody tone and some dissolute utterances inspire the lyrics. The work is reminiscent of erotic literature, but actually the main themes are the same as seven historical paintings by the author. The works date to 1993 and were part of HyperCard Computer Virus Project, a work where the AIDS virus epidemic and the increasing and predictable concern about the exponential growth of computer viruses were connected. The hacker culture unconscious and the background of these actions are still current for the audience even after 25 years; think of the huge success of the series Mr Robot. On the other hand, we hope that some artistic-philosophical waves inspired by Borrough (viral invasion) and Baudrillaud (international terrorism) might again create some relevant works following these steps. Joseph Nechvatal reminds us that “the virus is also the basis of a creative process” and creates some beauty and interest from the point of view of art history. Probably now this vision translated into an overlap of music and lyrics is an out of time action, with words replaced by automated procedures, which are complex and socially difficult to control. The final effect of the work is anyhow charming and brings us back to a tradition of experimental music and text, which we had lost track of.

About josephnechvatal

Joseph Nechvatal is an American post-conceptual artist who creates virus-modeled artificial life computer-assisted paintings and animations. Themes he has addressed in his art include the apocalyptic, communication excess, the virus, and gender fluidity. In 1975, he moved from Chicago to the downtown Tribeca area of New York City. He began studying at Columbia University with the philosopher Arthur Danto while working for the Dia Art Foundation as archivist to the minimalist composer La Monte Young. In 1980, he moved from Tribeca to the sordid Lower East Side where he found artistic camaraderie and politically inspired creative energy. There he became closely associated with Collaborative Projects (Colab), the influential post-punk artists’ group that included Kiki Smith and Jenny Holzer, among others. Those were glory days for the famous Colab projects, such as Just Another Asshole, The Real Estate Show and The Times Square Show. He also helped establish the non-profit cultural space ABC No Rio, where exhibitions were animated by political purpose. In the early 1980s, his art consisted of dense post-minimalist gray graphite drawings (that were sometimes photo-mechanically enlarged), of sculpture, of photographs, and of musique concrète audio collages. In 1983, he co-founded the famous avant-garde art music project Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine. In 1984, he created an opera called XS: The Opera Opus (1984-6) with the no wave musical composer Rhys Chatham that was presented in Boston and New York. In 1986, Nechvatal began using computer-robotics to make conceptual paintings. Some were exhibited at Documenta VIII in 1987. In 1992, when he was artist-in-residence at the Louis Pasteur Atelier in Arbois and at the Saline royale d’Arc-et-Senans, he created computer virus codes that he used as an artistic tool. This work was a reflection on his personal experiences of risk and loss with the AIDS epidemic. In 1999, he earned his doctorat in the philosophy of aesthetics and technology in England and soon wrote two art theory books: Towards an Immersive Intelligence and Immersion Into Noise. In 2001, he extended his initial experimentations into the virus as an artistic painterly tool in a series of artificial life works. These works include various series of paintings, animations, and a lengthy audio composition entitled viral symphOny. He has created a series of virus-based themed exhibitions of artificial life paintings and animation projections that explore the fragility and fluidity of the human body. You can follow him on Twitter at @twinkletwink Homepage:
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