Metahaven produced this installation with their own design for the carpet. Nothing is left to chance . . .
Metahaven: Earth Stedelijk, Amsterdam to 24th February 2019 Metahaven: Version History ICA, London to 13th January Metahaven work in multimedia. For old traditionalists like myself that may sound a wee bit unpalatable, meaning as it does so often looking at time-based artworks which meander around a light like a lazy moth. There’s only so much you can watch if it’s video based. This is especially so if it comes without music or sound – often the only element which gives a piece some sort of narrative – and I don’t care what some people may say, humans are always seeking a narrative. It’s a function of our evolutionary need to recognise patterns. Thankfully Metahaven’s concurrent exhibitions in London and Amsterdam have plenty to feast the eyes and engage the brain. Their work addresses social decay and disruption, it examines threats and is politically charged. It is big both physically and in its use of technology, with 60’ wide projection screens with an extensive variety of images, sometimes filmed, sometimes digitally created. Their work ‘encompasses the practices of filmmaking, writing, design, and installation, and is united conceptually by interests in poetry, storytelling, digital superstructures, and propaganda. Their moving image works manifest as immersive installations, and share an aesthetic logic with the collective’s design work in an attention to surface, texture, and the intelligent simplification of complex logics and visual forms’ says the Stedelijk’s website. I’m not sure I would quite agree with the use of the word ‘simplification’ here, if simplification leads to explanation, which I think it must. For example, part of a film features a bloke in some crowded square choosing to barge through handholding couples. I assume he was a member of the collective acting out a form of behaviour which might tell us something about ourselves – either our own attitude to others or theirs towards us. The couples so rudely barged into might think this was just an ignorant man, whereas they were really unwittingly featuring in an artwork which makes the rudeness purposeful. Perhaps we’re all trapped in an artwork. These days I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that this was the case, considering the absurdities of Trump and Brexit – things which could easily be mistaken for the feverings of the night – perhaps some artist is sticking pins in our collective doll somewhere, if you get my drift. Philosophers used to debate (probably still do) whether reality was just a dream. The films of Metahaven are dreamlike in that their sequence doesn’t necessarily follow a script which the viewer will understand. So this is not ‘simplification.’
Metahaven is a collective which is bold in its realisation of the disturbing trends in our civilisation. Hence a degree of chaos is called for. The accompanying catalogue, PSYOP: An Anthology, produced in the form of a ‘zine’ is a necessary guide to the meaning of their work. It is a shame that their films are not available on DVD – indeed it seems generally the case that artists in multi-media don’t seem to want to produce their work for showing on the small screen. I guess even if you had a 60” telly, it wouldn’t capture the impact of something designed for 60’. Having said which, I will have a look on Youtube to remind myself what this all about.