GEM Z: The Farthest from Earth We’ve Ever Been, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam 30,October 2021
GEM Z is an exhibition cast as the speculative crash-landing site of an alien pod. After millennia of humankind looking out into space and beaming messages into the unknown, what if it turned out that someone was gazing back? By employing collective sci-fi imagination, the artists of Generation Z turn the gaze back onto us: this time around, we are not the observer, but the observed.
In 1977, Earthlings launched two spacecraft, each equipped with a copy of the Golden Record — a gold-plated audio-visual disc containing information about the diversity of Earth’s life and cultures. These ‘messages in a bottle,’ loosely aimed in the direction of intelligent alien species, are currently the farthest human-made objects from our home planet. They carry images and sounds of Earth — samples of human speech, musical tracks and illustrations of the structure of DNA — deeper into interstellar space.
Four decades after the hopeful launch of the Golden Records, GEM Z imagines an analogous alien treasure trove crashing here on Earth. Inside the precious debris are adornments enclosing genetic data, all-seeing artificially intelligent eyes, ornamutational organisms designed for symbiosis, samples of nuclear animistic beauty, ritualistic tools and research that de-glamorizes diamonds.
The membranous scenography of the exhibition’s crash site serves as a metaphor for the new narratives offered by the Generation Z makers — oozing and diffusing out of the museum’s walls. The presented works fuse design, digital art and adornment, and were specifically developed for this exhibition by the participants of Current Obsession’s Gem Z Talent Acceleration Programme.
Emmie Ray Hubbard
Joannette van der Veer
Initiated and curated by Current Obsession.
About ‘A Eye’
In this project, Dovile utilizes an ancient archetype of the ‘evil eye’ to reflect upon the growing fears surrounding a contemporary phenomenon: Artificial Intelligence. According to superstitious beliefs, the evil eye wards against the transmission of negative energy through visual contact with malevolent individuals. In trying to understand something as culturally and technologically complex as AI, Dovile collected images of evil eyes to train a machine learning algorithm, using a GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) to automatically generate new imagery. She was most interested in the images that appeared as unforeseen ‘mutations’ of the archetype and used these as blueprints for new jewels, experimenting with both traditional glass beadmaking and high-resolution 3D printing. ‘A Eye’ allows for a poetic reflection on ancient and contemporary cultural beliefs and superstitions, and serves as a materialization of the complex relation between the digital and physical world.
Special thanks to
Lee Allen Kuczewski – technical and conceptual support
Michelle Bondulich – photography
Aleksandra Pavlenkova – glass casting support
This glaring eye, in all its strata, seems to behold a protective power. But from what evil is this eye trying to protect us? Within our hyper-surveillance, tech-infused society, it is hard to imagine anything to be left unseen, undocumented, unrecorded. In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine anything incalculable these days – we behold all the tools to prevent any erratic outcome. Unless it is, of course, something extra-physical or untouchable. Invisible, even, perhaps. We can’t help but wonder what is reflected in this glossy eye; what malevolence we are unable to see as of yet. Perhaps we should cherish this precious ocular talisman, for it may be of use for us in the future or, even, in the present.
Joanette van der Veer