machines will watch us die at The Holden Gallery

James Mathews-Hiskett
machines will watch us die at The Holden Gallery
Cory Arcangel

machines will watch us die at The Holden Gallery, Manchester 9 April — 11 May 2018 Entrance is free

Attempting to link the monumental time scales of minerals and ores to the instantaneous transfer of digital information is quite an undertaking, yet machines will watch us die at The Holden Gallery does just that. Curated by Patrizia Costantin (PhD student in curatorial studies) the exhibition explores how the development of seemingly immaterial digital technology is grounded in our material surroundings; addressing themes of digital decay and obsolescence without falling into a typically narrow-minded, negative view of technology. As such, visitors are encouraged to consider the earth-bound roots, and social and historical context, of the machines that surround us.  

Among the six artists included in the show, Martin Howse uses raw earth materials to manipulate and explore digital technology, acknowledging the common roots of the geological and the technological. His approach blurs artistic practice and scientific enquiry resulting in a unique viewpoint of our digital surroundings, in this instance leading to the intriguing installation Test Execution Host (2016-18).

Meanwhile, Emma Charles combines the ephemeral and the material to expose the often-hidden physical reality behind our experience of the digital. The film Fragments on Machines (2013), for example, uncovers the imposing and tactile roots of digital systems that go unnoticed within urban architecture. Whilst Charles’s films clearly document the physical processes that bring about ephemeral digital realms, an air of mystery and the unknown also remains. How soon will Charles’s documentations become dated and nostalgic as a result of the relentless development of technology? Do they therefore represent a sort of future archeological artefact?

Rosemary Lee also creates future archaeologies that fuse the environmental and the digital. Broken and twisted gadgets are encrusted with semi-precious stones and ores and set within a modelled landscape, more akin to a natural history museum display than an art gallery. Presented in glass cabinets as if they were artefacts from an ancient civilisation, these examples of 1980’s and 1990’s technology become a vessel to explore blurred timescales and contrasting viewpoints that run throughout the show.

In Vail/Lakes (2014) and Jeans/Lakes (2016), Cory Arcangel shows us how quickly digital culture develops, swiftly rendering technological objects obsolete and intrinsically linked to a place in history. He uses the iconic computer game character of Mario, his own digital realm dematerialising around him, to illustrate the decomposition of technology in Super Mario Movie (with Paper Rad, 2005). Concurrently, Shinji Toya’s 3 years and 6 months of digital decay (7 April 2016 – 7 October 2019, in association with Arebyte, London.), and Rosa Menkmans To Smell and Taste Black Matter (2009) exhibit digital decay as pure data loss. They provide a contrast to the material nature of other works in the exhibition and show us the results of digital decay as we experience it at the interface of digital realms.

 machines will watch us die is a thought provoking project that expands horizons and brings together artists that compliment, but also challenge, each other. The exhibition is accompanied by a talk and screening with Emma Charles on 8 May, and a symposium taking place on 11 May to contextualise the exhibition and further discussion around digital decay, the role of online media, and its role in shaping history.

Attend a free talk and screening to accompany the exhibition on 8 May and symposium on 11 May. 

machines will watch us die at The Holden Gallery, Manchester 9 April — 11 May 2018 Entrance is free

Where to go near machines will watch us die at The Holden Gallery

Manchester School of Art

The Manchester School of Art, of which the Holden Gallery is a part, is a beautiful neo-Gothic building that’s part of MMU’s All Saints campus.

Manchester Metropolitan University Brooks building, Birley Campus in Manchester
Event venue
MMU Birley Campus

Birley is Manchester Met’s world-class centre for Education and Health Professionals and the university’s flagship community campus.

The Salutation pub in Manchester
Bar or Pub
The Salutation

This traditional boozer, surrounded by imposing flats and university buildings, was taken over by Trof (of the Deaf Institute fame). The Sally, as the regulars call it, hosts an energetic, arty crowd – and its recently expanded outside area is another good reason to visit.

MMU Student Union

Manchester Metropolitan University Students’ Union building houses a bar and various other facilities for students and staff.

Catalog Bookshop

Find Peter and his Christiania cargo bike around All Saints Park, a hop, skip and a bunnyhop from Manchester Poetry Library.

exterior of Contact Theatre building
Contact Theatre

Following a major redevelopment, the iconic venue on Oxford Road will be reopening its doors to welcome the public back into the building this autumn. 

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