Bonding with, Filtering, and Assembling reality
As a human being I am curious about the shifting frontiers of our present culture.
In my research I am making conceptual use of the neo-materialist philosophy of Mexican scholar Manuel De Landa (which is in many ways inspired by the writings of Gilles Deleuze). De Landa goes against the still influential post-structuralist claim that our access to reality is bound by language and media, and can therefore be only speculative and discursive. Innate properties of matter allowed for it to self-organize into galaxies, organic life, humans and books. By looking into processes of material becoming we can rediscover what is cultural, rethinking such essences as ‘capitalism’, ‘fetish’ and ‘nature’. Shifting away from idealist relativism, neo-material realism allows seeing culture as part of nature, subjects as complex objects, digital as physical, human and nonhuman as a relation. In addition to philosophy, natural history of forms, ideas and values is being traced by such disciplines as anthropology, evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology.
Life itself is a never-ending run of form-finding procedures. Everything we consider human culture is a direct continuation of these evolutionary processes. One cannot look at cars or computers and see them for anything else but nature. We as species are able to manipulate matter in advanced ways, making it unrecognizable as nature even to us. All our resources, no matter how ‘synthetic’, still originate on planet Earth and are subjected to the same physical and chemical processes as organic life or rocks.
This understanding allows me to look at human-made artifacts such as texts, products, images and the expanding digital environments as equally material, as forms that co-exist in complex ecologies of matter and value. Human ambition to own, display and have access to these artifacts reflects a deep evolutionary incentive to improve our chances for sexual reproduction and survival — by doing whatever it takes, even if it goes against the well-being of other species on this planet and puts our own existence at risk.
By bonding with, filtering and assembling elements from surrounding reality I exercise my personal neurochemical consciousness; produce new concentrated patterns; and I make art. In order for it to be recognized as art by others, my assemblages respond to certain aesthetic and formal traditions of western (and now global) art and challenge some of them with novel gestures. By using latest formats like the Internet, image-editing software or industrially manufactured products, my participation in global economic relations becomes part of the work.
What is the evolutionary premise of art, and why is it present in every single human culture ever discovered?
Art, in any sense one thinks of it, is a specific kind of form-finding practice that modern humans engage in. What we are looking for is the creation of effective attention-grabbing patterns, profound insights and other intensive experiences that expand our social frameworks, and give pleasure. Albeit costly and energy-demanding, the ability to create and enjoy art promotes mental and communal flexibility, giving a strong evolutionary advantage to succeed as a group — a trophy for our fitness. Art is a real result of human evolution, and our culture is a direct consequence of our ancestors’ creative explorations. Generations after generations (starting perhaps from 200,000 years ago with ochre body art) we have been exploring and selecting the forms that triggered us the most, forms we were most attracted to.
Attraction and repulsion are key concepts in evolutionary biology, and I suggest they are useful in understanding art as well. Attraction as a base for selection, success and survival (be it on the level of molecules or emotions) is my special interest. Our brains and vision are wired in such ways that we recognize other humans and animals better than anything else, better than other objects or landscapes. More than just recognizing, our brains light up in all kinds of specific ways, and we have an immediate emotional reaction to any animal we see. Developed over the millennia, we perceive other life forms as intense signals. Art often borrows formal solutions found in this ‘original’ nature as they are extremely efficient in drawing our attention – becoming animal, becoming other …
In my work I directly engage with certain ‘attractive’ formats and assemble them in ways that render their evolutionary origin. Besides animals and art there is another stimulant that defines our contemporary condition – brands and commercial products. Similar to biological evolution, the world of commerce is based on selection and competition where attraction plays a crucial role. Commerce is a huge ecological and geological force, and the Internet is where it is culturally liquefied in images, financial transactions and emails.
Having only recently started my path of inquiry I am eager to continue and reach levels of greater insight. I see a simple acknowledgement of evolutionary becoming as the primary principle of life and human societies, radical enough to allow a wide range of new conclusions, and new forms.