SOLO SHOW: Shadow Knowledge (2020)
It is often said that all we have is the past to train with. I believe there is truth to that. But some importance also lies in our contemporary state. To engage with contemporary digital culture means to be able to formulate a sharp and critical point of view, which involves analysis and active change through critical thought processes, such as speculation. Uncovering and studying these spaces of speculation is of vital importance.
What is ultimately necessary for this, is Shadow Knowledge: in the shadows, things lack definition. In the shadows we can find objects of unsupported dimension and scale, ambiguous and fluid. The shadows are blurry and liminal, but ultimately potent spaces that can exist between what is enlightened and opaque (or black boxed).
Shadows offer shady outlines, that can function either as a vector of progress or a paint by numbers. In the shadows we can rest, heal and recalibrate. Now is not the time to hope or fear. It is the time to look for new weapons. The future lies in the shadows of our present.
In Shadow Knowledge, Menkman presents four recent bodies of work, which explore the experience of lack and loss through oversaturation. Throughout, Menkman explores what she terms “Shadow Knowledge,” the blurry and liminal, but ultimately potent space that can exist between the enlightened and the opaque, derived from objects of unsupported dimension and scale.
Some installation photos
Pressrelease from the SJSU website
The Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery is pleased to present the work of digital media artist Rosa Menkman in a solo exhibition that will open on March 3, on display through May 20, 2020.
Born in 1983 in Arnhem, Netherlands, artist and researcher Rosa Menkman has worked extensively on pushing the boundaries of technology through the exploration of glitches, compressions, encoding, and other feedback artifacts that are accidentally produced in analogue and digital media.
Menkman’s career has been defined by a strong basis in research, and her artistic and curatorial projects have often been accompanied by publications. In 2010, Menkman published the Glitch Studies Manifesto, in which she laid out eight statements on understanding and working with glitch. The seminal one being that one must start by accepting the inevitability of such errors. “Acknowledge that although the constant search for complete transparency brings newer, ‘better’ media, every one of these improved techniques will always possess their own inherent fingerprints of imperfection,” wrote Menkman. In 2011, Menkman published Glitch Moment/um, which explores the growing field of glitch art and examines it through critical, technical and cultural lenses, before considering the possibilities of a glitch art genre.
In 2019, Menkman received the prestigious Collide International/Barcelona award and residency from CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research for her proposal “Shadow Knowledge”. As an artist fellow at CERN, Menkman works in dialogue with the scientists at the organization’s particle accelerator facilities. This opportunity has given Menkman the chance to deepen her research in resolutions, especially from the perspective of scale.
Shadow Knowledge presents three recent bodies of work. In the video projection Whiteout, Menkman explores a personal anecdote, the true story of a mountain hike in a snowstorm. As Menkman made her way up the mountain, she noted not only her physical sensations: inability to see, hear, or orient herself, but also the oversaturation of the environment, the realization that spatial dimension was seemingly wiped out.
In Pique Nique pour les Inconnues, Menkman considers the ways in which the history of technology has been defined by standardization, in particular through the use of color test cards of image processing. The work presents les Inconnues – unknown women whose images are linked to the history of image processing. In this work, test card holders, bots, virtual assistants, stock photos and others find a voice, but fail to recover their personhood. As Menkman states, “Engineers used these female objects to evaluate the quality of image processing, rendering and composition of architecture and to make these latent spaces more amicable. While these women seem to be able to prolong their existence for as long as the (digital) realms will copy and reuse them, most of them have lost their name and identity.” In this work, the viewer is haunted by the familiarity of these digital ghosts, while at the same time, privy to an uncanny experience when the historically mute images speak for the first time.
In 365 Perfect, Menkman turns to mobile imaging softwares. 365 Perfect is “the best FREE virtual makeup app, period. It’s like having a glam squad in your pocket” – or so states the software. In this humorous, yet discomforting work, Menkman layers the standard features of beautifying software on her own image, enlarging her eyes, deleting blemishes and enhancing features, until the original face is nearly unrecognizable. Over and over, Menkman alters her likeness, seemingly to make herself appear more conventionally beautiful and more “perfect”. Saving her image at every new iteration, she arrives at a re-compressed pixelated JPEG, and a grotesque, if not almost unhuman self-portrait. Presented at the Natalie and James Thompson Gallery in the form of prints, 365 Perfect is not only a powerful commentary on the relationship between mobile technology and the beauty industry, but a careful exploration of resolution loss, and the visual artifacts that are created as a result.
In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Rosa Menkman will present an illustrated lecture 5:00pm – 6:00pm the evening of March 3, 2020, just prior to the opening reception, 6:00pm-7:30pm.
I would like to extend my appreciation to Rosa Menkman, Andrew Blanton, Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator at San José State University, and curator Aaron Wilder for their help with this exhibition.
LOCATION: Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, Art Building, San José State University
(Near 9th / San Carlos Streets)
EXHIBITION DATES: March 3, 2020 – May 15, 2020