Garden of e-arthly Delights
05.09.2021 - 02.11.2021
Through video compilation, digital archival material, and moving images, Garden of e-arthly Delights forays into the dark forest of the web to look at what’s budding underneath the surface. From viral videos and memelords churning out digital arte povera to new forces that impact market dynamics and political trends, this fertile ground incubates and accelerates fringe movements and a new class of ideologues that together, test what we know.
Showcasing eight artists from, based in or around the GCC, whose works deal with memes as subject and medium, the exhibition explores wider expressions of gathering, ritual, and community to discover a new visual communicational landscape that maps out an alternative social terrain, varying definitions of being public and the terms of visibility and power.
The dark forest is a term borrowed from science fiction writer Liu Cixin and repurposed to refer to alternative spaces of consensus reality, in the wake of Web 2.0, where rigorous discourse takes place and overflows to the public in digestible formats — predominantly memes. It looks at the mushrooming of communities and the sprouting of a wide network across pockets online and out of sight, where relationships and connectivity that would otherwise take place in public, now play out in private.
Here, Gulfgraphixx draws from the pool of retro Gulf memes and comment section culture wars to bring into sharp relief what is otherwise bubbling in the gut-brain of the Khaleeji subconscious. Ahaad Alamoudi imagines a future where language is banned and replaced by a universal lingua franca that facilitates state surveillance. Basmah Felemban looks at world-building using a game engine to create a whole fictional universe where unity is not the underlying order in everything, rather duality and extreme paradoxes. Mythical creatures called ‘Jirri’ create a home out of a continuous stream of collaborative practices — playing, singing, and simply being together. Christopher Joshua Benton zeroes in on the exploitation of viral videos to foreground the invisible free labor of cultural production and the vectors that govern this market. Nadim Choufi overlays found footage with archived chats from LGBTQ+ chat forums, brought to life through Apple’s standard Arabic text-to-speech, unfolding the unrealized love of two people who never meet. Persia Beheshti presents an ethereal stage composed of compiled stock images, visual effects, and Tweets sourced from “angelicism” clone accounts on Twitter and Tumblr to recreate the “angelcore” aesthetic permeating these platforms. Fatemeh Kazemi collaborates with Chicago-based artist Maryam Faridani to take us into the secret worlds of female-only gatherings, the mirth of which is reflected on the screens of handhelds and documented in 10-second intervals on Instagram Stories. Shamiran Istifan brings together original footage and sourced imagery to spotlight the free association of posting patterns online through a fluid trickle of profound ruminations on space and theology, punctuated with altered verses from German rap culture.
Individually, these artists look at what has fallen in the crevices of the web to create dialogue trapped between the shifting policies of big tech and an institutional rejection and art market failure to invite and absorb them.
_ Ruba Al-Sweel
Ruba Al-Sweel is an arts and culture writer and researcher from the Middle East with words in Art Asia Pacific, Vogue, VICE, The Brooklyn Rail, MOUSSE Magazine, among others. She holds a master’s degree in media and creative industries from SciencesPo, Paris, and takes particular interest in the emergence of internet subcultures. Al-Sweel also manages strategic, integrated, and global communications at Art Jameel, an independent organization that supports artists and creative communities.