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Fiber: Prima Materia - group exhibition

Project Spaces Looiersgracht 60

Looiersgracht 60
1016 VT Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 7728006
office@looiersgracht60.org

Open Wed - Sun / 12-20 hrs (during scheduled exhibitions)

Exhibition 12 May — 21 May

Opening 11 May, 17-20 hrs

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Fiber: Prima Materia at Looiersgracht 60

Fiber and Looiersgracht 60 are delighted to present ‘Prima Materia’, an exhibition of the work of 16 interdisciplinary artists and designers who question and reimagine the relationship between man, technology and matter. The exhibition draws parallels between their practices and the centuries-old practice of alchemy. Relegated for centuries to the realm of the occult and pseudo-scientific, alchemy is enjoying a renewed appreciation for its methodologies and interests. The alchemists of old sought to define mankind’s position within the cosmos. They were curious about artificial life, or Homunculus and eternally in search of the ever elusive ratio between man and machine. Their concerns resonate strongly with our contemporary experience. By collaborating with artists, designers, coders and engineers, Fiberworks as a bridge between us and the Alchemist. Harnessing expertise across various disciplines, they gain valuable insight into our relationships with and position at the crossroads between the natural, synthetic and virtual worlds.

Alchemy too has always been situated at the crossroads. At its core it is about bringing together – searching for that core substance, a prima materia, which forms the common denominator of everything in our universe. In their quest for knowledge, the alchemists combined materials, mixed ideas and transgressed disciplinary boundaries – cherry picking the best parts from various sources to create a new, superior entity. Artists similarly combine the world around them in their creative, exploratory and sometimes transgressive process. Our position in the cosmos is embodied by the figure of the artist – a figure both shaped by its environment while being an active shaping agent in turn.

The incessant march of technology has had an inexorable effect on nature as we bend, shape and create the world to our will. Contemporary digital technology is no exception. It does not exist in some abstract dimension but is very much a part of the natural fabric of our modern world. This makes it all the more difficult to take a step back and objectively define our relationship to the technological. Our reality is saturated with data and immersed within the realms of artificial intelligence and automated technology – challenging our understanding of what nature is and presenting us with the world as a prism – multifaceted and layered. Instead of responding with either apathetic paranoia or euphoric tech dreams, the artists in ‘Prima Materia’ boldly set out to intelligently navigate these multiple dimensions. They experiment with materials and question the very building blocks of the digital construction; the algorithms, the bots, the artificial intelligence. Much like the Alchemist, these artists strive to understand the essence of the technologies surrounding them and to ascertain their impact.

‘Prima Materia’ exhibits works that engage with multiple scientific disciplines: spanning everything from eugenics and climate change to virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The artists and designers see themselves as unrestricted to the realm of either the arts or sciences. Instead, seeking liberation from compartmentalization and definitions, they set out to carve out a new niche of cultural experimentation and invention. Many have a longstanding affiliation to the field of hybrid art and have come from a background in interdisciplinary education, collaborations and residencies. They have been selected to engage with three themes; each related to a different aspect of alchemy. The theme ‘States of Matter’ is about new ways of looking at matter. ‘Artificial Perception’ uses artificial intelligence and programmed instruments to help to bring our world into focus and ‘New Ecologies’ speculates about a future in which we experience the connections between technology, geology and the universe in a new way.

Ultimately ‘Prima Materia’ is about finding new ways of dealing with technology in a manner that bears striking resemblance to the ancient practice of alchemy. It is a journey through the transmutations of 21st century materials as seen through the lens of artistic instruments and speculative imagination about our future. What further transmutations are we capable of? Where can we find ourselves in relation to our earth, cosmos and the digital tidal wave that seems to be engulfing us?

List of selected artists:
Ralf Baecker (DE), Random Access Memory (2016), installation 
Michiel Pijpe (NL), The Modeling (commissioned by Fiber)
Mischa Daams (NL), Origin: Sustained (commissioned by Fiber)
Sebastian Wolf (DE) & Michael Kugler (US), Brume (2016)
Joris Strijbos & Nicky Assmann (NL), Liquid Solid (2016)
Semiconductor (UK), Where Shapes Come From (2017)
States of Matter an Alchemical Laboratory, Digital Media students University of the Arts Bremen
Amy Whittle (NL), Artificial Afterlife (2016)
Quadrature (DE), Satelliten (2015)
Jodi and MFP (NL/UK), Material Want, 3D-printed objects / video
David Benque᷄ (FR/UK), The Presage
Monique Grimord (NL), Terraeconomics (2017), installation
Quadrature (DE), STONES (2016)
Paul Seidler, Paul Kolling, Max Hampshire (DE), Terra0 (2016)
Luiz Zanotello (DE), The Aerographer (2016)


‘Prima Materia’ forms a part of the 2017 Fiber Festival and runs from May 12 – May 21. 

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Portrait of Daniel J. Butler with gold and mining tools, 1850 © Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada/The Origins of Photography/Archive of Modern Conflict/CPI (detail)