In “Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl”, The Young-Girl is described as a total product of consumer society. The book, published in 1999, is a collaborative writing of fiction produced by the French literary collective Tiqqun. The identity of The Young-Girl is cynically torn from popular Hollywood sitcoms and social stereotypes: she is cool but not too serious; she is stylish but she doesn’t try too hard. Borrowing language from glossy teen magazines youth is presented as a fragmented mess of contradictions. Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl is a critique on modern capitalist society, which explores the commodification of social life, this text forms the basis for a new exhibition by artist PUNK IS DADA.
PUNK IS DADA is also a moniker – synonymously freeing its author from the baggage of social identity and reaffirming the political position of remaining anonymous. MEAT SPACE # MY GIRLFRIEND IS THE REVOLUTION is the title of her latest work. It consists of a nine minute video and an accompanying installation of sculptural pieces. The sculptural materials are primarily cheap domestic consumer items: hair gel, room freshers, gardening gloves and paw-waving ‘fortune cats’ combined into arrays and spread throughout the gallery space. By appropriating consumer items, PUNK IS DADA references the language of commodity-production in much the same way as Tiqquin references social stereotypes of femininity.
The sculptures are richly coloured and configured into tight small clusters. By pairing odd materials together their relationships gesture towards the absurd. Contradictions are abound, a obsolescent phone sits in a jar of hair gel, a Nike brand trainer is trampled under a faux marble stone. There is no distinction between authentic or knock-off, this is the excess of capitalism taken to the nth degree.
A video piece forms the core of the exhibition, expanding on themes of identity and anonymity in cyberspace. It is edited into a karaoke music video of sorts, in which a youthful cast of cyberpunks play together in a bombed-out post-apocalyptic environment. The video references OPENCV, a software library used widely by computer applications to facilitate face-detection. The OPENCV algorithm is let loose over the participants faces which resist detection through their rich adornment of makeup and fashion lifestyle accessories. The work touches on research by artist Adam Harvey, whose anti-face detection style tips are aggregated into the project CV Dazzle.
As the video progresses it becomes increasingly uncomfortable. A chop’d and screw’d version of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ slurs forward while excerpts from Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl appear as karaoke lyrics, encouraging the viewer to read along.The footage is beautifully shot and the sombre mood of the deteriorating environment contrasts well with the fashion forward futurists.
PUNK IS DADA is one of a growing number of artists engaged in disrupting emerging technologies. Her work explores the increasingly thin divide between meat space (real space) and virtual space, and the resulting effect on the politics of identity. Will our gaudy consumerist culture lead to a dystopian future, reminiscent of William Gibson’s Neuromancer? Or can we harness our anxiety and adapt to a culture of mass-surveillance? These are some interesting questions that PUNK IS DADA brings to mind.
Review by Tomasz Kobialka
MEAT SPACE # MY GIRLFRIEND IS THE REVOLUTION is on view at Erratum Galerie, Berlin until 11th July 2014.