THE MAW OF by Rachel Rossin (*1987, US) explores the confluence of body, machine, perception and code that emerges in the context of current research on brain-computer interfaces. Rossin, an artist and programmer whose multidisciplinary practice has made her a pioneer in the artistic exploration of virtual reality, combines painting, sculpture and new media, among others, to create digital landscapes in her work. Aspects of entropy, embodiment, omnipresent technology and their effects on the human psyche are addressed. Rossin’s project THE MAW OF includes installations, sculptures, elements of augmented and virtual reality and net art, as well as a site-specific installation at the Tieranatomisches Theater (TA T) in Berlin, presented as part of the KW Institute for Contemporary Art’s digital programme.
Image above: Rachel Rossin, THE MAW OF (2022) © the artist
Conceived as mixed reality theatre, the work stages a new conceptual and visual vocabulary that engages with the expanded boundaries of the contemporary human body and mind. The work draws on the historical development of structures removed from the trunk of the body and correspondingly outsourced, peripheral sensory systems, presenting the physical as part of a larger technical entity. Rachel Rossin’s work combines visual elements from computer games, apps, manga and documentaries, becoming a voyage of discovery of unbounded fantasy made real. In the course of this, different images emerge, like dream figures, which in turn mutate into prosthetic symbols to extend our corporeality – “sentinel species”, such as canaries used to check for toxins in the air of coal mines, or guide dogs, but also technical devices like smartphones and keyboards. Today, wearable exoskeletons represent an example of how hardware and wetware (body) are increasingly merging. Many of these technologies are currently being tested on animals before eventually being implanted in the human brain, which is strongly driving the development of cognitive peripherals.
Co-commissioned by KW Institute for Contemporary Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the online work, which will be available on the websites of KW (14 September – 21 October 2022) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (from September 2022 – ongoing), forms an interactive feedback loop between visitors’ computer screens and their smartphone displays. Offline, in the Animal Anatomical Theatre, Rossin’s virtual reality environment overlays the 3D scans of the TA T with those from the Whitney Museum lobby and landscape elements from a video game. In this virtual environment, visitors follow an avatar as a “machine spirit” that traverses a network of tributaries embodying the human nervous system.
The choice of location is not accidental: Rossin not only uses the Animal Anatomical Theatre as an exhibition venue, but also actively incorporates it into her work. This is where the systematic study of animal biology began at the Humboldt University in Berlin, which in turn laid the foundation for the scientific research that now enables us to intervene in the anatomy of humans and animals. While the TA T now serves as a site of curatorial research and aesthetic practice, neuroscientists in the immediate vicinity are actively researching brain-computer interfaces based on animal studies, game studies and other practices.
As an exploration of embodied subjectivity in the technocene, THE MAW OF addresses the relationships between inside and outside, of human, animal and machine. The exhibition resembles an extended body in which the boundaries between physical and digital space become blurred. The exhibition space is delineated by creating a world whose virtual reality is accessible through various portals. These function as access points to a digital world of contemplation and poetic representation.
Curator: Nadim Samman
Curatorial Assistence: Linda Franken
Tieranatomisches Theater, Campus Nord, Haus 3, Philippstraße 13, 10115 Berlin
Thursday, 15. September to Saturday, 18. September 2022
daily 12–19 Uhr
Daily at 4:30 pm
In German and English language