HYPERREALISM

The exhibition HYPERREALISM – the collective trap and the absent being in mass media society- is happening when humanity and the world are undergoing in fundamental changes. At the time that the world order is being questioned, we are re-imaging the image, it’s practices and everything that comes in contact with.

The word HYPERREALISM has detached from its original meaning, the one related with realistic techniques that mostly painters were seeking to achieve photographic detail. HYPERREALISM now carries a much wider interpretation of how the human has abandon its empirical perception of the world, and the intrinsic conception of reality, for the conceptual representation of the world by appearances; we think we know more about the world but we don’t get to comprehend or even see the appearance itself. 

This mass supported meta-media phenomena, stands in front of us –all the time, making a serious threat to the very thing that make us humans.

How did we get there? Who benefits from this? And what can we do about it?

It is an urgent stop, to take our time to understand these questions. The image has become the world; we don’t see clearly anymore because image dominates our perception, it is all we can see.  So, if the image has overcome reality, we have to start seeing reality with a different pair of eyes to re-imagine and rethink the powerful role of the image towards a more diverse, inadequate, even chaotic, not analgesic usage of representation.

Humans are far more comfortable to understand a single vision of the world by endless layers of representation. Rather than see the world and experience it in its human scale, now we think about our scale of perception as limitless information that we can immediately have access to. We think we know more about the world by accessing to this information, but our perception of the world has been reduced to a single image version. We think we can send our eyes through time and space and see the world in images, but we only see the created version of it. And through this processes, reality stops being perceived because we look at it as an alien complexity rather than accepting it in its pure truth.

We all know, the authentic fake has penetrated our lives and human relationships, and yet we are still there because it brings temporally comfort – a sing along version of reality. Even if for a fraction of a second we became aware of this counterfeit version of ourselves –called a moment of Hyperrealization- in full denial, we continue to sing along.

The anxiety state arises. We suddenly become more human –yes this is how it feels... The rotten neoliberal order is failing, and a lot of reconstruction has to be done, before we literally kill each other.

We image makers, have to wake up with eyes wide open. We have to recognize that individualism has become our deepest enemy to revolutionize what we do and where are we going towards. We create images, but for what? We satisfy our tiny vicious visual pleasures, but what do we really get in return? How does it make us feel? Does it us bring happiness or wisdom?

Suddenly we feel alone and misunderstood because that is not what we really wanted to say but is all we have learned to communicate.

Same with individualism, the image has sedated us. Photographers have become the ones who see the least because all they see are images that represent nothing but themselves. We create and consume images as if real life will suddenly get better with it, as if we have learned something about the world. The truth is, the image has only become a symptom of the world rather than an authentic way to travel with our eyes and minds to the perceptions of reality the world has for us to understand.

While deeply distracted and detached from truth, we neglect the real use of the image that is going on: the oversaturated surveillance, the repetition of image patterns for social control, the fabrication of dreams to ensure capital gains, to build ideals and contemplation figures to boost the machine of image production where the real ambition is to create a narrow minded, easily controlled human living inside an image.

We cannot longer comfort ourselves in a reality maintained by images. The image as –representation of all things-  has to be destroyed and reimagined.

Giovanni Cervantes,

Creative Director @COLONY Incubator

The Journey.

Back in 2012, before the opening of COLONY Studios, the first vision was to create a space dedicated to the photographic phenomena, a photography incubator. The idea was great, but it wasn’t the right time. We first needed to increase our network and develop our own voice. That’s when we created a product named COLONY Studios Brooklyn.

After 4 years operating as a photo/video production studio, we are now talking to the industry, and our voice is COLONY Incubator. COLONY Incubator was founded last year with the purpose of creating a space where emergent photographers and researchers can discuss and have a better understanding of photography and –more broadly- the image in current society. At first, the mission seemed to be very clear: try to pursue establishment and help photographers to produce commercial work that was appealing to fashion editorial publications.

During this process we first understood we had to keep meeting new photographers and creatives literally -all the time, that’s when CO/LAB Nights first started. 6 months of an on-going experiential project has taken us closer with those young minds who will define the future of the image.

Soon we came to understand better establishment, and we realized that by looking at it as something to pursuit, we would always be limited by its own structure. The truth is, most of what is established; magazines, products, the art world, institutions, schools, governments; they don’t exist to challenge the status quo, instead –we have become a symbol: $.

We think is imperative to redefine our drives and efforts to recognize that being a photographer is more than having a camera in one’s hands. So we started questioning ourselves, and other image makers/consumers in order to unveil the social and cultural impact that is rapidly leading us to even deeper into a mass meta-media civilization.

-We will build a community of image makers, researchers and theorist to engage in a new expedition of the latent world that our collective minds have created. Seeing through the mediatized Image and it’s uses we will comprehend why we start thinking we might be part of an image itself. 

Our voice soon became a wake-up call: -You are not special, there is no more time to glorify each other’s self-expression. This is not a networking event- It is urgent to stop and recognize that not only us but the elements that encompasses the image have been reduced and abstracted into fake dreams, simulated notions of wellbeing, false realities and idols. We shouldn’t be afraid of look away and diversify our visual language, to welcome with empathy the different realities of others, to freely create with no efforts to adapt into something, be liked, or even make sense –whatsoever, establishment will not affect our creative work anymore.

This exhibition represents the first result of this new order. We would like to say Thank you, to all artist and collaborators who made this possible: Allegra Sussman, Adam Curtis, Stefano Ruffa, Maria Romero, Simon Menner, Eden Mitsenmacher, Netta Laufer, Valery Jung, Zefrey Throwell, Eva and Franco Mattes, Jan Hoek, Jonathan Schoonover and Alvaro Deprit.

The COLONY Team,
Tania Apolinar, Juan Mora and Giovanni Cervantes.


The artists

JAN HOEK - The "Real" Somali Pirates (Netherlands) 
Jan Hoek, became infatuated with a small group of men in Nairobi, who pretended to be pirates, even though they had never seen the ocean. During the peak of Somalian hijacks in 2010, Western journalists often travelled to the capital of Kenya instead to interview ex-pirates. It was a much safer way than going to Somalia, where they were prone to be hijacked themselves. Some local guys figured this out and decided to make a living out of fooling the Western media.


JONATHAN SCHOONOVER Jazz Cabbage (USA)
Jazz Cabbage focuses on the denials, failures, and boundless potential of photography in the post-truth world. Through manipulations and the general plastic nature of photography, the pieces reveal that not only is photography not an accurate representation of the world, but that it never has been.

The images that compose the body of work act as visual notes, fully embracing the plastic and artificial nature of the medium and subverting it in order to find the truth within photography. They represent a pursuit that is attainable and unattainable all at once.


ALVARO DEPRIT – Fiesta (Spain)

Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Uganda etc. A journey ended into non-locations, spaces of iron, of motors, of immigrants who find themselves selling trinkets in the car parks of the italian shopping centre, outside the supermarkets. More then 360.000 migrants crossed into Europe in 2016.

What are the effects of these voyages on the fabric of the identities? What form does their story take? Cut and separation, but also assembly and construction are at the origin of different form of identity. Cars are dismantled in order to be reassembled in a new form, in a new life. Organic and inorganic matter, made of rift and transformation, as the life seems to be made of. Entwined, entangles materials composed by microcosm of subatomic particles formed in uncertainty, of undertones similar to mixed states in quantum physics, which hold infinite potentials.

A myriad of possibilities, each of can happen, a various flyover, the encounter of several “roads” which represent the plot of our existence.


VALERY JUNG ESTABROOK – How to prepare awesome egg rools (Korea-USA)
Female mixed-race Korean American artist whose work explores identity and technology. Her work consists of individual pieces that have the ability to stand alone, while also supporting and contextualizing each other. Valery seeks to push the boundaries of how we interact with and perceive new media by using unexpected approaches and materials. Often installed as themed tableaus, the work is made to be experienced through various sensate strategies by asking the audience to not simply “view” but to also touch and feel. These interdisciplinary presentations provide the audience with an immediacy of engagement, making complex narratives personalized and accessible.


SIMON MENNER Role Models (Germany)

One image of each pair is from an islamist propaganda video, the second is the result of a quick web search for an image with a similar gesture. It is quite fascinating to see how, using the same medium, different groups grow closer in their visual expression. It is quite irritating to look at material from an ISIS related source and encounter a scene that is clearly inspired by Bruce Lee. And if this video is then uploaded to YouTube, the confusion is complete.

To think that ISIS and Co appropriate the western image canon is a little bit short sighted, since both sides seem to utilize the same canon, without it being of a single origin. Take for example the pair with the two guys looking like TV reporters. They both play the same role. Neither the sport reporter from the US, nor the media representative from the Islamic State are truly authentic. Both merely enact a role they deem best for the situation. When the people, the ISIS reporter has interviewed, are burned alive afterwards, the whole thing breaks apart. It is not entirely clear, if this perversion is part of a game ISIS is playing with the West, or if their fundamentalism is so over the top, that even this perverted behavior seems quite normal.


EVA and FRANCO MATTES – No fun (Italy)
No Fun is the edited video of an online performance in which we simulated a suicide and filmed viewers’ reactions. It is staged on a popular website that pairs random people from around the world for webcam-based conversations.

Thousands watched him hanging from the ceiling, swinging slowly for hours, without knowing whether it was real or not. They unwittingly became the subject of the work.


EDEN MITSENMACHER – Forever in a day. (USA)
Combining performance, video and installation to take a critical yet engaging view of social, political and cultural issues. Embracing the desire to do what you love and occasionally getting embarrassed by it. Finding a form for vulnerability and blurring the lines between sincerity and ambiguity. Using pop culture as a frame of reference for social and personal critique but also as a way to create familiarity and accessibility. Sharing and connecting experiences between an I and a You.

Personal experiences such as love, loneliness and longing are taken at face value but are immediately turned into points of systematic general inquiry. The banal becomes serious, and vice versa. Presenting hyper-worlds, built from cultural stereotypes and clichés, then pushed to the brink of emotional overload. Kitsch is a conscious strategy in my research and practice. My inspirations often come from the observation in daily life and especially the firsthand experiences. As one of the many individuals who are experiencing the confusion and struggles in the current macro environment I am interested in the doubts, curiosity and cognition for the potential new value orientations and its unpredictable future possibilities.


NETTA LAUFER – 25FT (Israel)
25FT is an installation of video and still photographs appropriated from Israeli army surveillance cameras monitoring activity along the separation wall with Palestine. The work simulates the position of the soldier controlling the camera, focusing only on animals and the landscape in the occupied West Bank. The appearance of these animals throw the border, its function and what it stands for, into question for both the soldier who survey it, and the viewer in front of the work. Man is absent, yet his presence is visible through the tracking movement of the camera, military radio exchange, the fence and signs of urban structures, of which their inhabitant remains questioned.


ZEFREY THROWELL Face of Fascism (USA)

I find it so easy to point my finger at the current administration and call them corrupt maniacs hell bent on destroying what I love in this country. It is much harder for me to admit that I played a role in their election. Each of us is complicit in appointing these people.

It is up to us to reclaim power. It is up to us to rescue ourselves. We are the only defense against the creeping fascism that pound on our door.


HYPERREALITY NEEDS HYPERHUMANS. ARE WE?

Since the beginning of life on this planet, one of the most useful skills a living organism had, was the reaction to light. [1]
Our mental process can be described as simply as an infinite game of relationships, analogies, and metaphors between what is new and what we already know. [2]
The definition of society, the Spirit of Time, the Weltanschauung that changes in space and time is based on what can be seen and what can be said. [3]

___________________________________________________________

Our eyes react to visual stimuli, our brain process the information. Our identity and our knowledge of the world is based on what we see. It has always been true, and it still is.

Photography, intended in the wider sense possible, as an optical record of a selection of space and time, ideally reflects our vision - analog or digital, it's always a matter of reactions to light - properly, the light reflected by the world in front of us.
Photography can be even more, giving us the chance to see things hidden to our human's sight, allowing us to discover something new, too big or too small or too fast.

But it still based on something physical, objective, real; true in some way.
Of course, manipulations for artistic or political purposes are as old as the medium, but for our discourse, we can disregard this information.

A few dozens of years ago things started to change fast.
The Internet grew up and a new word became of common use: the prefix "hyper".
New languages come, and the first step of a capillary diffusion of blogs and personal websites comes with HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language - and a feature of the earlier editors: WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get.
No need to learn code, just use your eyes and interact like you would do with a conventional word processor that imitates a physical blank page.
But what do we actually see?
Code exists even if we don't see it, and it rules!

Hypertexts and hyperlinks drastically change our way to interact with information and build identities and acknowledgments.
Our way to make relationships.
Randomly, in a decontextualized world.

Is not anymore about how our eyes react to light, but about how artificial light sources responds to sequences of 0 and 1 that we cannot see.
In less than ten years our daily interactions have become every day more digital than physical, we started to be engaged more with an electronic device than the real world, we are moving toward a software enhanced experience of life.
We can travel worldwide most easily and cheaply than ever, but we always have a monitor in front of us, a frame that isolates us from the context and where some hidden algorithms decide for us what is worth to see or not, to know or not.
Cookies, browsing history, social networks activities, shopping habits, everything is stored and processed to give us what a machine assumes we will like, to make us feel comfortable in our beliefs, in our filter bubble.

But new acknowledgments come with a relationship between what you already knew plus something new. If an algorithm works to remove unexpected stuff from your usual, reassuring feed, we start to have a problem.

Photography instead could be the best medium, literally the perfect interface between the objectivity of the world and the subjectivities of our different points of view. Can teach us something new, allowing us to see the world as someone else experiences. 
The piece of space and time we decide to isolate in a photograph is ruled - maybe unconsciously- by our mental process, our cultural background, our interests.
It's a reconstruction of the billions of stimuli our eyes simultaneously carry to several areas of the brain (about color, distance, movement, face recognition and tons of others different specific features) in a unique, usable vision of our surroundings, that discards millions of information that are not useful to us in a determined context.

So, what you decide to isolate in a photograph is governed by who you are, but what I see in a photo is ruled by who I am.  
(Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida talks about ‘Studium’ and ‘Punctum’.)
And there is no algorithm right now that can reflect like a mirror only our personal way to look at things.

Just being aware of that is the first step to become hyperhumans.

 

Stefano Ruffa

 

Notes.
Inspirations come from:
[1] The Eye: A Natural History by Simon Ings
[2] Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander
[3] Gilles Deleuze’s Lectures on Foucault at La Sorbonne, Paris (1985-1986)

Stefano Ruffa - ONEROOM
Located in the center of Rome, just a few steps from Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori, in Piazza dei Satiri, 55.