Purge Pray Play ︎
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[PADMENIC > LOOKING AT DANTE]
We are living in an era when the global collective is trying to resurrect itself from the wounds of a pandemic, unsure whether heaven will ever be back, or, perhaps, the hell of trying to tame an invisible virus is here to stay. Looking for some wisdom, we looked back to a classic - Dante Alleghieri’s seventh-levelled Purgatorio, the space between heaven and hell, the liminal crossing between paying for one’s sins and enjoying heaven’s delights. Although the notion of a purgatory, a transformative place for purging one’s sins, is very Christian in nature, similiar concepts exist within other traditions, too: Al A’raf in Islam, the Narakas in Buddhism, and the Barrelhaven in Judaism. The notion of climbing seven levels is also prevalent in ancient myths, like Inanna in the Underworld.
[PURGING > AS A RITUAL]
Traditionally, humans turned to different purging acts in order to cope with unknown viruses devouring their lives, literally and metaphorically. Humanity’s attempt at purifying itself from the virus’ threat isn’t completely rational, though we can find some reasoning for it. The purging act serves as a ritual act as well, playful at times, which taps into our age-old psyche and grants us some peace of mind. What is associated today with using hand sanitizing gel, or wearing a surgical mask, has been taking place centuries ago with the act of fumigation and other purging acts.
We detect the playfulness in contemporary rituals and we intend to merge the experience of an art exhibition with a unique user experience giving a chance to actively engage, explore and build onto existing works as creative collaboration. The Purgatorio’s viewer will be the spect-actor, one who will activate the experience while submitting to the set logic of the purgatory, which demands their attention at viewing each level and its artworks to unlock the next level and so forth.
[ARTISTIC PRACTICE > VAPORWAVE AND MIDDLE AGES]
The Purgatorio Mountain, visually rendered by Ronnie Karfiol, is standing lonely inside the digital-landscape, taking its inspiration from the vaporwave aesthetic, reminiscent of the computer commercials of the 1980s and 1990s. Much like in medieval art, the mountain is disconnected from a realistic perspective, not actually trying to portray anything other than ideas and concepts. Taken together, the combination of these two inspirational sources represent what philosopher Žarko Paić called “the image without the world”, image artifacts that pop up in the landscape and no longer have a reference in time or space; nor do they have nature or history. They depict the haunting freedom of representation in terms of the artificiality of the virtual world.
[ARTWORKS AND THE SPECT-ACTOR TOUR]
The artworks themselves also function as images without a world. Entering the Purgatorio Mountain, we first see Léa Porré’s Royal Fate is Fluid, which follows Louis XVI's decapitated head, confronting us with the notion of Pride. On the second level, Yiming Yang’s 3D model Splice is a hybrid - a meeting between a spider and a human being, reflecting on whether the boundaries between technology and the body could trigger in us a feeling of Envy. Following this is another Cyborgian example by artist Anthr0morph, which investigates the non-human bodies in their performance on Instagram, perhaps evoking sentiments of Wrath. The fourth floor of Sloth lets us meet Yun Choi’s Where The Heart Goes, an exploration of the sense of banality in the collective faith behind common images.
Ballet Pathetique by Adam Basanta is on the fifth terrace, showing us the useless act of Greed as expressed in the orchestrated dance of simple oscillating fans. The sixth floor, that of Gluttony, is where Letta Shtohryn’s video Offshore Bakery, shows an investigative look into the financial meganetworks woven behind the romantic facade of Valletta's old town buildings. Getting to the top, we reach the seventh level of Lust, where Mor Afgin’s installation UXUI juxtaposes the life cycle of a biological bird with that of a Bird public scooter. Throughout the journey up the floors, a sound plays in the background. Taken from Yuwol June C's video-work I would lick to be someone else. The audio (created together with rapper Xéna N.C.) is separated from its visual source, evokes the vague feeling of being trapped inside an unknown quest.
At last, we arrive at the floor of Heavenly Paradise: this is where Ebstorfer World Map by Liliana Farber invites us to take a closer look at the crossing between the reality of Google Maps and that of world travelers from centuries ago. At this moment, the game changes.
We perceive the Purgatorio Mountain from another perspective, as a moment of the Kantian sublime, as the image stretches on the screen beyond all previous limitations of the quest level design. After breaking the game’s grid, inciting a visceral meaning-making, the linear exhibition mode collapses, too: the viewer has to decide whether they want to get out of the maze, or go back to the Mountain and its artworks.
Commisioned for the Wrong biennale #5 edition
Curators: Lital Bar Noy + Ronnie Karfiol
Lea Porre, Yiming Yang, Anthr0morph, Yun Choi, Adam Basanta, Letta Shtohryn, Mor Afgin, Liliana Farber