February 27th in London, I saw a performance and installation at Cell Projects by MSHR, a project developed by Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy. In the dark rectangular room were two long, matching tables on either end of the room, each illuminated by an array of complex, multi-layered decals just below their surfaces. Like the way plateaus of cloud pass over one another in the sky, the appearance of these shapes were defined by the varying opacities of their smaller overlapping geometric components. Both psychedelic and organic in form, but equally referential of the aesthetics of circuit boards, unintentionally silly visualizations of proteins, and the fractal structure of organisms and natural phenomena. In the center of the floor between the two tables was a kitschy arrangement of custom-made synths, conch shells, lightbulbs, and these bio-techy metal decals depicting linearized dendritic structures.
The artists began to play with their synths — noises, using various participatory mechanisms to modulate the cacophony that was slowly building. For instance, in the center of the room between the two artists on the floor, two people would stand facing one another on mats sensitive to the movements of their body and loci of touches between them. So I watched as couples rubbed one another up and down and poked, prodded, knealed, and so on, and listened to the music change. Reminiscent of David Rokeby’s foundational 1986-1990 work “Very Nervous System,” in which his differential [and admittedly funky] movements through xyz space were recorded through video camera[s?] and translated into respective changes in the pitch and speed of the soundtrack he danced to. Rather however, the self-described “ritualistic,” and what I think of as the ‘earnest kitsch’ of MSHR’s interface conscious installation seems to point to an ambiguous, yet charged, humorous, and non-cynical stance towards the techno-optimism of the 90’s new media work it is derivative of.