EARTH is an exhibition by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, also known as Metahaven. They have included works they have been creating since 2015. They both have backgrounds in graphic design, something you can clearly see in this exhibition. EARTH is a large scale museum survey, this exhibition spreads over four galleries, however, there is a fifth which centres on Metahaven’s videos, textiles and print works. They are distinguished by global politics, the opposing relationship between fiction, truth, mass media and digital platforms. Metahaven’s projects look into how information technologies and ideologies affects our lives, both politically and personally.
In the first exhibition room there is the film The Sprawl created by Metahaven in 2015 playing in the midst of an installation consisting of videos, mirrors and screens hanging from the ceiling. The film opens with a scene of a forest at night where there is a phone conversation between two men conversing of moving a car from Ukraine to Russia two days before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed over Eastern Ukraine by an air missile as they have accidentally mistakened it for a military aircraft. This occurrence was the start of Metahaven’s investigation of the propaganda of the internet age with the rapid spread of information. With the subject constantly shifting, this installation portrays the contemporary media landscape which has taken part in the “post-truth” politics. Viral dance videos and electronic dance music are cut together with interviews with theorists, Russian poetry and news segments from supposed reliable news sources such as CNN yields clashing shifts in genre and tones.
Walking into the next room, Information Skies (2016) is playing, building upon The Sprawl. It is evident this film was inspired by the Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky, like many of their films are. This film follows a young couple occupying an immersive visual sphere, where they visualize themselves fighting dragons as heroic characters. As realities from outside press in they submerge themselves into their own bubbles, proposing a yearning for simplification of the social complexities of life. This film has overlapping visual layers such as animation, live action and graphic computer interface which combines digital and physical forms to create a surreal and augmented reality. The game-like hypnotic soundtrack of stirring harpsichord strums and piano notes references the virtual world played on the protagonists’ VR headsets. This film creates an environment that is futuristic and hyperreal. In an era in which offline and online space has become so intertwined and different versions of the “truth” are competing, the artists questions what really counts as reality.
After, we see the centre piece and newest work, Eurasia (Questions on Happiness), a digital film installation on a 16-channel video wall, carries on the artists’ exploration of issues that related to our societal indifference toward the relationship with the media and truth. Metahaven researches the infrastructural landscapes and enquires into the political polarization of Europe and Asia. Eurasia intertwines different storylines such as Fifty Shades of Grey into an anti-patriarchal feminist narrative, whilst another takes places in Veles, Macedonia, a town that has been described as a center of the production of ‘fake news’ and a greenhouse of pro-Trump propaganda during the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential election. Casted as the actor is the media, shown by moments where cameras self-referentially records its’ own image. With the cutting and posting of found footage, such as video game recordings and YouTube clips results in a portrayal of our grip that is loosening on the reality generated by the media and fake news.
At the end of the exhibition, you walk through the first room again but there are more mirrors behind these screens where you can see yourself whilst watching the different news segments. Watching yourself, whilst the news fragments scattered with manipulations of images are appearing on other screens around me really made me feel like I was losing my grip of reality. This exhibition was like an exhausting internet blog with a nostalgic nineties aesthetic that has manifested itself in the real world. Animations created by the collective reeps the screens whilst visual samples from the internet, such as a download clock in bright colours, the drop down sidebars and menus usually found online all pops up, satirising the online experience. The rooms had carefully placed carpets made of tufted wool faux blocks where viewers can comfortably sit back, watch the films and relax. This made me feel like I was in a somewhat comfortable trance, perhaps a similar feeling of comfort of going through the internet in my own home. Whilst going through the rooms I constantly felt as though I was falling in the middle of films, reinforcing the feeling of going through videos and pages online at a fast place.