Science Fiction: New Death

By Dickinson, Bo | Art Monthly, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Science Fiction: New Death


Dickinson, Bo, Art Monthly


Science Fiction: New Death

FACT Liverpool 27 March to 22 June

We all love a good dystopia. And at FACTs latest show there are plenty on offer, courtesy of science-fiction writer China Mieville, whose newly commissioned texts inform a variety of work by different artists encountered within a 'deconstructed movie set', designed in an appropriately oppressive style by cult Liverpool underground artists Kazimier.

At ground level, through doorways marked 'in' and 'out' (use the wrong one and a threatening bleep is emitted), visitors enter a network of corridors containing closed doors, their windows lit up. You feel you are in an interrogation centre. Where all corridors seemingly meet, a screen displays a film--already awarded future accolades including the People's Award for Agitpulp, 2083--about a 'time-travelling Riot-o-naut' involved in street demonstrations past and present, plus persecution and prison. Deep State, 2012-14, by Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, refers to the Turkish term ' Derin Devlet' which means State Within a State--the hidden zone where real power resides, even within what appears to be a democracy. Mirza & Butler often challenge the conventional role of the artist in their long-term project the Museum of Non Participation and it was during a residency in Cairo in 2010, shortly before widespread protests began against the Mubarak government, that this film evolved. Nearby, facsimile leaflets from Egypt and Turkey are available to be ripped from the walls, showing protesters how to survive: 'Shield and spray! Distribute through email printing and photocopies only! Twitter and Facebook are being monitored.'

For the most part, the word 'death' in the exhibition's title refers not so much to experiencing death as to the way humanity is changing so fast that it is abandoning important versions of what it is to be human. New Death, 2014, by Nathan Jones, a sound piece discovered along another corridor, features a male and a female voice overlapping, telling the visitor the dead are all around in the form of 'completely banalised television programmes and, of course, video games'. Like the demise of democracy observed in Deep State, banalisation is presented as an insidious process from which there is no escape. 'We are not ready,' the voices tell us, 'What might the endgame of the new death be?' As we were reminded during opening remarks by the curators, Omar Kholeif and Mike Stubbs, it is 30 years since both William Gibson's novel Neuromancer and the year of George Orwell's 1984, and the path of pessimism has advanced so much further.

Through a door, in a quieter room, Larissa Sansour's Nation State, 2012, illustrates a science-fiction solution to the intractable Palestinian problem. In this film, a visitor enters a spacious, shiny, multi-storey building and heads for the lifts. A different Palestinian city is installed on each floor, and--echoing Israeli advertising campaigns from that country's formative days--she is reminded on posters that she is ' Living the High Life'. Alighting at Bethlehem, she walks past ancient walls installed on squeaky-clean floors. She waters an ancient olive tree and it becomes obvious she is pregnant. With an expression of increasing anxiety, she looks out of the window and surveys the urban landscape around her from what is revealed to be an enormous skyscraper. …

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