Digital PTSD. The Practice of Art and Its Impact on Digital Trauma
The program is curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Stella Bottai, and Giulia Colletti
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The Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea presents a two-part online program of talks, conversations and artworks between 2020-2021, entitled Digital PTSD. The Practice of Art and Its Impact on Digital Trauma developed in the framework of the exhibition Espressioni. The Proposition.
It is counterintuitive, but Digital PTSD presents through an online platform a critique of the potential misuse of technologies. What are the traumatic consequences of the sudden increase in virtual activities in a period when spaces of aggregation, such as museums, are in lockdown? Digital PTSD invites to reflect on screen-based experience, the physical erosion of living matter, the transformation of life into big data and the new digital epistemic regime.
Participants in Part I include: Tabita Rezaire, artist; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, museum director, exhibition maker, writer; Beatriz Colomina & Mark Wigley, architectural historians, theorists, curators; Cécile B. Evans, artist; Matteo Pasquinelli, cognitive sciences, digital economy, machine intelligence theorist; Hito Steyerl, filmmaker, visual artist, writer, and innovator of the essay documentary; Grada Kilomba, artist and writer; Anne Imhof, artist musician; Bracha L. Ettinger, painter, theorist, psychoanalyst; Éric Sadin, writer and philosopher; Vittorio Gallese, cognitive neuroscientist; Ophelia Deroy, philosopher and cognitive neuroscientist; Griselda Pollock, feminist-postcolonial-queer-international art historian and cultural analyst; Agnieszka Kurant, artist; Cally Spooner, artist; Chus Martínez, curator and writer; Stuart Ringholt, artist; Marco Lutyens, artist and hypnotist.
Invited speakers in Digital PTSD – Part II, taking place on May 20, 2021, include: Devra Davis, Irene Dionisio, Catherine Malabou, Otobong Nkanga, Shoshana Zuboff, amongst others.
DIGITAL PTSD – PART I
Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev introduces some of the concerns which prompted this program. She believes a trauma related to digital overload may be emerging and requires addressing and healing. Museums are the symbolic site of a society, and, as such, in the future they must transform into a gym where the ability to connect the symbolic, real and imaginary spheres can be exercised. Christov-Bakargiev proposes that it is necessary to re-imagine museums in the twenty-first century in light of this task, bringing all these dimensions to intersect and overcome a binary, Descartian approach to the body/mind, real/virtual, dichotomy.
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is a writer, art historian and curator. Currently, she is the Director of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea and Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti in Turin. She is the recipient of the 2019 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence. She was Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor in Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University (2013-2019). Christov-Bakargiev was Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012.
Premium Connect, 2017
Single channel video, 13’
Courtesy the Artist
Premium Connect envisions a study of information and communication technologies (ICT), exploring African divination systems, the fungi underworld, ancestors communication and quantum physics to (re)think our information conduits. Embracing the idea that ICT acts as a mirror of the organic world, capable of healing or poisoning depending on its usage and users, Premium Connect investigates the cybernetics spaces where the organic, technologic and spiritual worlds connect. How can we use biological and spiritual systems to fuel technological processes of information, control and governance? Overcoming the organism/spirit/device dichotomies, this work explores spiritual connections as communication networks and the possibilities of decolonial technologies.
Tabita Rezaire is an artist-healer-seeker working with screens and energy streams. Her cross-dimensional practice envisions network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as healing technologies to serve the shift towards heart consciousness. Navigating digital, corporeal and ancestral memory as sites of struggles, she digs into scientific imaginaries to tackle the pervasive matrix of coloniality that affect the songs of our body-mind-spirits. She has shown her work internationally at Centre Pompidou Paris, MoMa NY, MASP São Paulo, Gropius Bau Berlin, ICA and Tate Modern London. Rezaire currently lives and works in Cayenne, French Guiana, where she is birthing AMAKABA.
Germ Theory, 2020
Single channel video, 1’14”
Courtesy the Artist
In The Stack. On Software and Sovereignity, Benjamin Bratton analyzes digital changes in the context of a review of political philosophy. From cloud platforms to mobile apps, passing through the connectivity that increasingly crosses contemporary cities, Bratton proposes to frame the different computational systems that act in everyday life no longer as forms that exist independently, linked by contingent interactions, but as a coherent whole; a fuzzy entity that Bratton calls an “accidental megastructure”, both a computational infrastructure and a new governance architecture. This infrastructure takes the form of a stack structured by six interconnected levels: Earth (the raw material used by digital technology), Cloud (the weight of global corporations such as Google, Amazon and Facebook on the sovereignty of states), City (the daily experience of the cloud-computerized urban space), Address (identification as a form of management and control), Interface (the interfaces that connect user and computer, such as apps), User (human and non-human agents such as bots and some types of social accounts). Paraphrasing Bratton, the data of the individuals shape the megastructure. At the same time, the megastructure shapes the data of the individual and the space in which it moves.
In their landmark 2016 book Are We Human?, Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley explored the way that the human species has always been continuously and radically redesigned by its technologies. In a time in which the smartphone is the first and last thing we touch each day, the supposedly private spaces of the brain and the home been dramatically transformed. The brain has become a factory and the bed has become an epicenter of labor. In this short lecture, they further expand this analysis to take into account some of the social and mediatic transformations triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the reliance on digital telecommunication that it exposed.
Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley are architectural historians, theorists and curators. Colomina is the Howard Crosby Butler Professor at Princeton University and her latest book is X-Ray Architecture (Lars Muller, 2019). Wigley is professor of architecture at Columbia University and his latest book is Konrad Wachsmann’s Television: Post-Architectural Transmissions (Sternberg Press, 2020). In their Are We Human? book (Lars Muller, 2016) Colomina and Wigley explore the notions of “Homo Cellular” and “Design in Two Seconds”, interested in understanding how the archaeology of design applies to social media and technological devices in relation to mechanisms of personal expression and the performance of labour.
Cécile B. Evans is an American-Belgian artist living and working in London. Evans’ work examines the value of emotion and its rebellion as it comes into contact with ideological, physical, and technological structures. They have recently exhibited a new performance commission for the MOVE festival at Centre Pompidou, Paris, and are working on an ongoing adaptation of the Industrial Era ballet Giselle. Recent selected solo exhibitions include 49 Nord 6 Est – Frac Lorraine, Museum Abteiberg, Tramway, Chateau Shatto, Museo Madre, all 2019; mumok Vienna, 2018; Castello di Rivoli, Galerie Emanuel Layr, Tate Liverpool, Kunsthalle Aarhus, M Museum Leuven, in 2017; De Hallen Haarlem, 2016; and Serpentine Galleries, 2014.
Matteo Pasquinelli proposes to look at the history of the notion of trauma in order to understand the way we talk about trauma today. He offers a brief presentation highlighting, through historical examples, the ways in which the human mind organizes itself to survive trauma, and how the study of these neuroplastic processes has been fundamental in the development of Artificial Intelligence technology and philosophy. In order to learn and progress, our brain produces “small catastrophic reactions”, which Pasquinelli defines as forms of “self-organized trauma”. Drawing on these research premises, his presentation touches on the psychopathologies of intelligent machines and attempts at a definition of trauma in the age of A.I..
Matteo Pasquinelli is Professor in Media Philosophy at the University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, where he is coordinating the research group on Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy KIM. He edited the open-access anthology Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas (2015, Meson Press) and, with Vladan Joler, the visual essay The Nooscope Manifested: AI as Instrument of Knowledge Extractivism. His research focuses on the intersection of cognitive sciences, digital economy and machine intelligence. For Verso Books he is preparing a monograph on the history of AI provisionally titled The Eye of the Master.
Artist Hito Steyerl introduces her presentation with her new short film Mein Internetvortrag: Vorteile der Automatisierung des Schauspielers der Schauspielerin w Mark Waschke (My Internet Lecture: The Advantages of Automatization for Actors and Actresses By Mark Waschke). The protagonist is a TV cop, played by German actor Mark Waschke, who discusses digitization of work, avatar animations, police brutality and protests. The video is followed by a short lecture by Steyerl, titled 2020 in 10 memes.
Steyerl is a filmmaker, visual artist, writer, and innovator of the essay documentary. She is currently a professor of New Media Art at the University of the Arts, Berlin, where she co-founded the Research Centre for Proxy Politics. Steyerl has produced a variety of work as a filmmaker and author in the field of essayist documentary, filmography and post-colonial critique, both as a producer and theorist. She is widely published in periodicals, newspapers, journals and anthologies, as well as her own publications, including the critically acclaimed Duty-Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War in 2017.
Grada Kilomba and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev tackle some of the complexities of contemporary digital technologies, highlighting the necessity to problematize their use beyond polarizing dichotomies. Kilomba’s work on colonial trauma provides a lens to consider how digitization cannot in itself be separated from the history of colonialism, and to discuss the socio-political emancipation of marginalized communities through digital networks.
Grada Kilomba is an artist and writer, living in Berlin. Her work draws on memory, trauma and post-colonialism. Kilomba is best known for her subversive writing and her unique practise of storytelling, in which she brings her own writing into performance, image and installation. Her work has been presented at the 10th Berlin Biennale, 2018, documenta 14, Kassel, 2017, and the 32. São Paulo Biennale, 2016.
Looking at Caravaggio’s seminal painting Narcissus, which will be featured in Anne Imhof’s upcoming show at Castello di Rivoli, Anne Imhof and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev consider the collapse of the image in its own reflection as a representation of the narcissistic times we live in, punctuated by the constant capturing of selfies on our phones. However, Imhof’s reading of narcissism shifts it away from a merely negative connotation, opening the concept up to further levels of self-interpretation. A selfie could be a tool to re-discover ourselves in an unexpected way and understand what role we may play in this accelerated society, if only we were willing to read our image differently.
Anne Imhof is an artist musician based in Berlin. Through her sculptures, paintings, drawings and “durational performances,” she offers an unprecedented expression of the experience of the contemporary world in which physicality is increasingly mediated by digital communication. The new forms of alienation and detachment dictated by the massive spread of social media and its new related gestures can be considered an essential component in the artist’s work. She was awarded with the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2017.
As an artist, and drawing on her cross-disciplinary knowledge in visuals arts, philosophy and psychoanalysis, Bracha L. Ettinger discusses her seminal concept of Matrixial gaze, screen, time and copoiesis, to problematise the accelerated hyper-connectivity whose effect of digital stupor she assigns to “a fused screen-gaze in symbiosis with the psychic eye” which, mounted upon narcissistic routes in denial of differences, collapses the psychic future time at the service of a phallic Web of webs. Starting with an analysis of Caravaggio’s Narcissus in terms of Death-drive, Ettinger ends with a discussion of care, deceleration and compassion-beyond-empathy in relation to her painting Eurydice, The Graces, Demeter (2006-2012).
L. Ettinger is an international visual artist, painter and theorist, psychoanalyst and philosopher, whose wide-ranging artworks and writings have influenced art theory, feminism, cultural studies, philosophy and psychoanalysis. Her artworking revolves around historical, transgenerational and personal trauma of women in war. She is participating in Espressioni at Castello di Rivoli, 2020-2021, and has exhibited in Kochi Biennale, 2018, Colori at GAM Turin and Castello di Rivoli, 2017, 14th Istanbul Biennial, 2015, ELLE at Centre Pompidou, Face à l’Histoire at Centre Pompidou, Archive at Stedelijk Museum. She has coined the concept of Matrixial sphere. Her recent books include And My Heart Wound-Space (2015); Matrixial Subjectivity, Aesthetics, Ethics, Vol I: 1990-2000 (Palgrave 2020), Vol II: 2000-2010.
In his latest essay L’Ère de l’individu tyran. La fin d’un monde commun (“The Age of the Tyrant Individual. The end of a common world”), Éric Sadin delivers a new analysis through a historical, political, social, economic and technical perspective on what he defines as the “tyrant individual”. A product of recent technological progress – including the development of the internet, smartphones, and applications magnifying our image and giving the feeling that the world is at our feet – this individual is an ultra-connected being, withdrawn into his subjectivity, convinced to be center of the world, know everything, do anything. Anchored in the I of Iphone, the You of Youtube, the tyrant individual sees a weapon in modern technological tools that will allow him to influence the course of things.
Éric Sadin, writer and philosopher, is one of the leading thinkers of the digital world. He is invited to lecture around the world and his books are translated into several languages. He has just published his new essay, L’Ère de l’individu tyran. La fin d’un monde commun, (Grasset, October 2020, translated into Italian by Luiss University Press in 2021). He regularly publishes columns on Le Monde, Libération, Les Inrockuptibles, Die Zeit. He has published several books, in particular: Surveillance Globale – Enquête sur les nouvelles formes de contrôle (2009); La Société de l’anticipation (2011); L’Humanité Augmentée – L’administration numérique du monde (2013); La Vie algorithmique – Critique de la raison numérique (2015); La Silicolonisation du monde – L’irrésistible expansion du libéralisme numérique (2016, translated by Einaudi, 2017), L’Intelligence artificielle ou l’enjeu du siècle. Anatomie d’un antihumanisme radical, (2018, Italian translation by Luiss University Press, 2019).
In this presentation, titled Digital World: The Experience of Self and Others in COVID-19 time, Vittorio Gallese will discuss the relationship with digital images as de-materialised, visual representations of reality. His arguments are grounded in the belief that technology has always been an extension of the mind, thus the very definition of “artificial” is inherently connected to the “natural” cognitive ability to develop devices with the evolution of novel cognitive technologies. Through his talk he will take a closer look at the possible effects of digitisation on neuro-cognitive processes involved in social communication as well as in the constitution of the self, especially in the context of the increased amount of time spent online during the recent lockdown, which has significantly changed our engagement with what may constitute everyday reality.
Vittorio Gallese (Parma, 1959), MD and trained neurologist, is Professor of Psychobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Dept. of Medicine & Surgery of the University of Parma, Italy. Cognitive neuroscientist, his research focuses on the relation between the sensory-motor system and cognition by investigating the neurobiological and bodily grounding of intersubjectivity, psychopathology, language and aesthetics. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and three books.
Entitled Digital forgetting, Ophelia Deroy’s talk discusses how lockdowns have generated a tectonic shift towards the digital sphere, with increasing Internet traffic and patterns of use changing quite dramatically. As the pandemic is likely to have a lasting digital legacy, Deroy questions its external as well as internal impact. What do we remember of our online experiences? What could long-term effects on the arts and museums look like? Deroy will discuss these questions through neuroscientific and psychological evidence, including her work with Tate Britain, London, to highlight a possible blind spot with wide-ranging implications: that we more easily forget what happens online.
Ophelia Deroy is professor of Philosophy of Mind at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a member of the Graduate School in Systemic Neuroscience (GSN) in Munich. She is the former deputy director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London. She specializes in philosophy of mind and cognitive neurosciences and has widely published on issues related to multisensory perception and social interactions. In her recent research, she tackles issues relating to how and why we share experiences, notably in the arts and on digital platforms.
Griselda Pollock’s presentation, titled Aesthetic Transformation and Trauma – On Screen Now!, addresses the “age of digitalisation” before reflecting on the characteristics of trauma: something that happens but we do not know it; it haunts that we cannot grasp the shape of what haunts. Drawing on this interpretation, Pollock asks whether our current social experience of physical distance and fearful dissociation and exposure to screen association may be defined as traumatic. Is it not the social conditions and the content rather than the technology that is stressing us.
Griselda Pollock is a feminist-postcolonial-queer-international art historian and cultural analyst. She is Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art and Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis Theory and History at the University of Leeds. Her most recent publications include the re-issue of the co-authored feminist classic Old Mistresses, the editing of the collection of the theoretical writings of artist Bracha L. Ettinger (Palgrave 2020) and a monograph on the artist Charlotte Salomon (Yale 2018). As part of current research, she is addressing aesthetic transformation and trauma in connection to our exposure to screens.
Agnieszka Kurant presents an investigation of collective intelligence, the algorithmic exploitations of social capital, and the transformations of the human resulting from the automation of our decision making. The artist discusses her projects exploring the future of labor and creativity, from crowdsourcing and ghost-work to the replacement of individual authorship with complex collective forms, the audience as a factory of value production and the redistribution of capital from the art market. She will share her current research into the use of A.I. by corporations in the colonization of our dreams and of nature, and her experiments with artificial societies and computational sociology.
Agnieszka Kurant is an artist whose work investigates collective intelligence, non-human intelligences (from microbial to Artificial Intelligence) and the exploitations of social capital under surveillance capitalism. She explores the transformations of the human and the future of labour and creativity in the 21st century, from crowdsourcing and ghost-work to artificial societies. She is currently an Artist Fellow at the Berggruen Institute and was an artist in residence at MIT CAST in 2018. Her recent exhibitions include Broken Nature at MoMA, Cybernetics of the Poor at Kunsthalle Wien, Uncanny Valley at the De Young Museum, all in 2020; the 16th Istanbul Biennial and The Age of You at MOCA Toronto, both in 2019.
In this presentation, Cally Spooner joins an assortment of notes on her current research with a new proposal: that “digital PTSD” is the result of an aggressive reality; “the performance principle”, identified in 1955 by Herbert Marcuse and found today in surveillance capitalist culture as well as chrono-normative regimes. The concept of temps mort (lit. “dead time”), after which Spooner’s ongoing work DEAD TIME is titled, provides a framework to test states of duration, undetectability, waiting, less controlled life and rehearsal as modes of resistance to our century’s demand for performance.
Cally Spooner lives and works in Turin. Rooted in her philosophy training, her practice begins in writing, unfolds as performance, then settles as installation, sculpture, drawing, film and sound. She uses duration, erosion, waiting, rehearsal and collapse as acts of resistance, in a present techno-capitalist climate, to ask how might we tell the difference between what is alive and what is dead. Recent solo shows include DEAD TIME, Parrhesiades, London, 2020; DEAD TIME, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2019; SWEAT SHAME ETC., Swiss Institute New York, 2018; Everything Might Spill, Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 2018. Spooner is also the LEGIBILITY COORDINATOR and LECTURER in OFFSHORE, an embodied knowledge performance company and practical philosophy school, founded by Spooner in 2017.
In her latest publication Corona Tales, written in Spring 2020 and recently released in print, Chus Martínez compiled a collection of short narrations that she posted daily on Instagram to reflect on the value of friendship. Corona Tales includes personal narrations such as the author’s grandparents’ recovery from tragic family losses and poverty in the aftermath of the 1918 Spanish flu, and attempts to counterbalance our current enforced physical distancing by establishing a sense of nearness. In her talk, Martinez discusses this story-telling format which took social media as a platform to highlight the importance of creating a bond with others during a time of great social crisis and isolation causing depression and anxiety.
Chus Martínez is a curator, art historian and writer. She is currently Director of the Art Institute at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel, where she also curates the exhibition space of the Institut Der Tank. Her latest book Corona Tales, written and published online (followed by print edition) during the Spring 2020 lockdown, offered a chance for gathering, if just virtually, demanding to identify vulnerabilities, how the COVID-19 crisis was being generalized, and how to research ways of doing.
Stuart Ringholt‘s presentation shifts attention away from the digital as something built through binary code to instead place emphasis on the original Latin root of the word – digitus, ‘finger’. He considers the violent roots of the handshake, and, more centrally, the offensive and assaulting finger gesturing and actions he has personally experienced. He recounts his “digit stress” as well as a more general set of hand gestures used across the world – from insulting finger signs, to the history of hand gestures in public protest and meditation. Warning: the subject matter and frank nature of the presentation may cause discomfort and stress to some viewers.
Stuart Ringholt was born in Perth, Western Australia and lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. His works in performance, video, drawing, collage, sculpture and collaborative workshops. Personal and social themes such as fear and embarrassment are often represented through absurd situations or amateur self-help environments. His Anger Workshops was first created for the 16th Sydney Biennale, 2008, and have been presented in dOCUMENTA (13), 2012. His naturist tours have featured in major survey shows of James Turrell, Wim Delvoye and Pipilotti Rist. Ringholt is a lecturer at MADA Monash University and was awarded a PhD (Philosophy) in 2016.
A closing performance <<(C)O2(Si)_In this way>>
Artist and hypnotist Marcos Lutyens takes the audience on a journey at the boundaries of carbon-based consciousness and the silicon frontier. The title includes (C)O2(Si) – the periodic table elements of Carbon, Oxygen and Silicon ¬– thus forming the Italian word “COSÍ” (“in this way”). Carbon is the element on which our own materiality is based; Oxygen is what gives us sustenance and creates exchange; and Silicon is the basis of digital platforms. The <<…>> signs in the title denote what in coding is called “logical shifts,” which help reframe the perspective of the operand, in this case the audience.
Marcos Lutyens is an artist based in Los Angeles and the UK. Lutyens’ practice targets the psychic and emotional well-being of his audiences by leading participants in hypnotic exercises that affect the deepest levels of their psyche. His works take form in installations, sculptures, drawings, short films, writings and performances. In the time of COVID-19, Lutyens created a series of 12 Zoom performances to help the healing process of people in various countries around the world. He then went on to ease the pain of front-line doctors through multiple hypnosis sessions.
The event is staged over virtual backgrounds inspired by artist Claudia Comte’s exhibition How to Grow and Still Stay the Same Shape at Castello di Rivoli (October 31, 2019 – January 10, 2021).