Parallel Shows in London and Berlin Conjure Up Political Utopia, Using A.I. and Celebrity Deepfakes

This may sound funny, but in all honesty: artists Annika Kuhlmann and Christopher Kulendran Thomas present two types of exhibitions that I usually walk out of.

On the first floor of their presentation at the KW Institute in Berlin for Contemporary Art is a political video documentary. In the second, the familiar Ab-Ex restart as well. Two years later I would rather read about a political uprising in a book by anthropologists than hear about it from an artist. Abstract painting for its part can be frankly enjoyable, but today it is often used not because of anything but because of who created it. These types of encounters are often art that is not necessarily art, but art that is simply promoted because it provides a window on an important topic.

“Another World,” a focus on the Tamil Tigers, a former militant group based in northeastern Sri Lanka, is not like that. On the contrary, the exhibitions of Kuendran Thomas and Kuhlmann really know what it means to think and with art – and there is so much power in the spirit that you can not help it. And so I stayed; It. Stayed.

Christopher Kulendran Thomas The Finesse (2022) in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann. Installation scene of the Christopher Kulendran Thomas exhibition. “Another World” at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Photo: Frank Sperling

Kulendran Thomas, a Berlin-based Tamil artist, along with German collaborator Kuhlmann, created “Another World”, two simultaneous exhibitions on the scene at KW and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). ) London. Its central job, The FinesseThe newly-appointed video work is projected on a mirror and faces another screen, showing a slow motion video of a Tamil tiger forest. Sandwiched between two viewers, minimizing the three image situations. The video itself is based on parts of a video in the archives of the early 1990s showing members of the group talking with other world rhetoric about Western fiction about democracy and freedom. “Democracy should allow us to choose between different systems, but in the West there is only one,” she said. Her intelligence and charm are kind of created for political influence. Her TikTok will be unbearable – and this in part is what the work is about.

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The description of the Tamil Eelam independence movement (the proposed Tamil Autonomous State that the Tamil Tigers are fighting for) is beautifully integrated into the context of the media scene of OJ Simpson’s trial that took place at the same time. So clean that I’m not sure which parts of the movie are real and which ones are not. It’s not very difficult to produce VHS grains, create old Yahoo searches, nor is it the fake Kim Kardashian that appears in Fine, Although slower, immobile and perfectly attractive. With the nobility of a young Tamil, and referring to her Armenian roots and indirectly to her closeness to the Simpson trial media, Kardashian’s icon argues that some people do not easily believe in fiction. Of capitalist hegemony. Some circumstances – like the Tamils ​​in Sri Lanka, we can conclude – require you to be more realistic when it comes to how stories are actually fabricated in the newsroom and on the internet.

Christopher Kulendran Thomas The Finesse (2022) in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann. Installation scene of the Christopher Kulendran Thomas exhibition. “Another World”
At KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin
2022. Photo: Frank Sperling

In another part of Fine, This contemporary film follows in the footsteps of another young Tamil who has invested in the imaginary Eelam heritage. Now lost for more than ten years. But the possibility of that history and its politics to become an identity for young women today is alleviated by phone calls she receives from old friends or relatives. The voice at the other end of the line says it’s a fantasy that we have, questioning what a child is. The next generation is expected to come out with an identity with it now. And viewers – themselves caught in the predictions – also wonder.

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It is through clever correspondence that Kuhlmann and Kulendran Thomas incorporate constant awareness into their storytelling while escaping the dangers of emotion. What I like about the work is that it does not allow us to take its politics at face value; Instead, it is embodied in an exaggeration that has generally not been tolerated in the art world since the Berlin Biennial, which was hosted by DIS in 2016 (which Kulendran Thomas also attended). There is a significant stress that we will never risk falling into the neo-essentialisms of the afterlife. Kindness, charm and charm are also art forms, each of which ceases to function as a form of manipulation when we accept it as such.. At the same time, the extent to which these conversations and singulars are written, distorted or misrepresented also loses importance.

Upstairs, Be humanVideo work from 2019, Is projected on the translucent wall by cutting a gap. Both of its rooms are lined with abstract paintings, which it turns out were created by AI and executed by Kulendran Thomas Studios, as well as their sculptural counterparts. Climbing to the top like pop songs, the screen occasionally lights up to show the other side of the room. Art and modernity are part of the same ideological image circuit as Kardashian and Taylor Swift (which fakes deeply reflect the possibility of accuracy in Be human) And the propaganda machine that will make the Tamil Tigers terrorist insurgents or not. The theoretical implication is that we are completely immersed in the simulacrum, but it is also simply beautiful. Experienced, enchanting.

Christopher Kulendran Thomas The Finesse (2022) in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann. Installation scene of the Christopher Kulendran Thomas exhibition. “Another World”
At KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin
2022. Photo: Frank Sperling

In New York Times, Critic Travis Diehl wrote about the London chapter of the exhibition, the mirror of KW. “If Kulendran Thomas really aims to provide new political possibilities, count me as a skeptic. If his goal is to destroy contemporary art, he probably can. ” Here Diehl refers to the abstract zombie that is part of the installation Be humanAnd perhaps to the generally irreplaceable morality of sound. But this is far from a threat to contemporary art. On the contrary, after the summer, the structure, aesthetics, communication and good intentions stood in the works of art in Documenta 15 of ruangrupa “Another World”, maintaining an average consciousness, which shows a hopeful vision for the future of It. Elements of spectacle in both works –The Finesse Top in an exciting set – perhaps cheap in its popular appeal, but it is clearly a hint of contempt that makes both work annoying and clever at the same time. .

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In recent years, discourse around politics and the arts has lost the distinction between representation and reality, taking for example images for actions, descriptions or reflections of violence as violence. But “Another World” does not allow reality to be summed up by its image. Instead, it asks the viewer to continue to observe the line between the two, even if it is blurry. And the experience of sitting in Kuhlmann and Kulendran Thomas’s limitless mirror makes you sure of the surviving part of the reality from the media scene and what the truth is about on the surface of the fake. A deep one. In fact, there are many: the intelligence and humanity of the protagonist (true or not); The joy and fun of imagining another world and being surrounded by its images. How political dreams and fiction can overlap at a particular time and in other important parts is different. And while you may not notice the difference, you will feel it.

“Another World” is seen until 22 January 2023 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London and until 15 January 2023 at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.

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