viral pastOral pleasures

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Joseph Nechvatal

viral pastOral pleasures

October 6 – 30, 2018

vernissages October 5 & 6 at 6 pm

Galerie Omnius

1 rue Vauban

Arles 13200 France

+33 (0)6 70 59 47 23

Galerie Omnius, in conjuction with Octobre Numérique IX, is pleased to present the world premiere of Joseph Nechvatal’s 2009 hermaphroditic digital animation viral pastOral pleasures, along with a selection of digital androgyny prints (1999-2002) from his 2002 vOluptuary gender series that depict blended pansexual representations of the intimate body of both sexes associated with sexuality. The word ‘voluptuary’ generally means ‘devoted to pleasure’ and comes from the Latin voluptarius or voluptas.

Nechvatal’s viral pastOral pleasures animation, a 6.32 minute captured endless loop, benefitted from the a-life computer programing of Robin Gareus and uses a musical excerpt based on Ovid’s classic text Metamorphoses from Nechvatal’s viral symphOny (2008). It is within that Ovid text that the hermaphrodite initially occurs in Western culture as Hermaphroditu, both man and woman.

As the tale of Hermaphroditus suggests, viral pastOral pleasures is a show of emergent eroticism that marries androgyny to the virtual so as to render sexual order provisional. All sexual signs are subject to boundless semiosis within the flowery viral pasture – which is to say that they are generatively translatable into other signs – so it is possible to find resonances and affinities between sexual opposites here. viral pastOral pleasures plays with a chameleon-like sexual attitude where nobody fathoms whether they are female or male. All rest between male and female, between straight and gay, between dominant and submissive. There is nothing but pastures of curves and clefts constructing a matrix of possibilities, self-assembled out of the flowery excess of ambiguous erogenous organs.

Philosophically here, Nechvatal took inspiration from Gilles Deleuze’s term pornology that aims at confronting an idea with its own limits. This idea comes from Deleuze’s essay “Klossowski or Bodies- Language” which is found in his book The Logic of Sense. The patriarchal construction of woman as other and the female body as object is deeply rooted in the supposed duality (opposites) of the (two) sexes. Most feminist theory questions this patriarchal construction of sex and gender, suggesting that sex is expressed through a continuum, rather than as an opposing couplet based on heterosexist male/female polarities. Accordingly, Nechvatal’s philosophic position, that he calls the viractual, is a multiverse where womanhood/manhood are subverted by the presentation of ambiguous genitalia: the mutable image and performance of pan-sexuality. Gender here is viewed as an act of becoming.

In the viral pastOral gender performance fails to sustain sexual oppression by ceasing to draw the boundaries of the Other. As such, it is a provocation not only to male/female constructions of heterosexuality, but also to homosexual constructions of identity. So the art of viral pastOral pleasures can be seen as political in the sense that the dominant order of sexual power adheres to no fundamentals.

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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