Vibrating, pulsating and claustrophobic. Words that may come to mind if you so happened to find yourself stuck in a working database. If you would like to experience such a thing,
Small Gate, Infinite Field, an exhibition by Glasgow artist Christopher Macinnes, is the place for you. Ask anybody in Dundee- most already have and most will not be able to shut up about it.
The first room consists of one massive projection, sucking in all the light in the room and spitting it back out in such a choreographed manner it makes you swoon. It’s not clear where the film begins and ends- it’s persistent looping swings you along with it.
It invokes the same stages of motion sickness, panic and claustrophobia you might have experienced in a roller coaster simulator. The generated environment that the darkness holds you within acts as the heavy harness across your chest. Except it’s more than a simulation: panic is thrown at you in the inevitable question of, quite literally, the ‘bigger picture’. Floating through a dark repetitive, endless city stamped by the logo of one sole corporation, the simulator takes a vertical turn, like the climb before the drop of a ride, creeping up the metaphorical skyscraper of digital hierarchy, of which we will undoubtedly never reach the top.
An alarm sounds and an army of solar panels flashes on screen. Ironically, they can catch no sunlight- they’re in the midst of the perpetual electrical storm that cannot be harnessed.
The calm precedes the storm, and vice versa. The simulation symbolises the next big thing we are about to embark on that never amounts to anything, a concept reminiscent of the digital age where we are so overloaded with information and quick thrills that distinctions are swiftly leveled. This work proposes many questions to whether that leveling is purposeful- are we the hundreds of identical solar panels, waiting to be charged?
Escaping from the inky darkness, the next room is like a breath of fresh air. Two videos fill the room; one, a utopian jungle, projected on to a standing screen and one, a canopy of leaves and wires, suspended above our heads. Music reminiscent of a 2000s relaxation tape floats around the room.
“Welcome to our happy world. Welcome to the network…
… Do you feel refreshed? I feel refreshed.”
The languid voice is both tempting and relaxing, like a hypnotherapist, and also with the floating pink screens, is the only human element of the video. The screens nod and tilt their heads as if listening- another parody of a therapist, illustrating the reassuring falsity of the net.
It wants you to give in to it’s lull, and with the convenient invitation of the bean bags, you almost do. Plonked down in front of one massive screen and relaxing underneath another at the same time, proposes the seductive (and comfortably addictive) nature of screens.
By deceptively displaying the supposed ‘inner workings’ of the digital utopia of the posthuman era, with the wires hanging from the canopy above our heads and the conversing screens, Macinnes has revealed a hypnotic lie in itself. Cyber blue sunlight streams through the generated paradisiacal palm tree jungle and blinds the viewer to an age old tradition of only ‘saying so’. The network can do everything for us, but only in visuals and words. It knows what we need but only because Google tells it so. Small Gate, Infinite Field may seem like it’s luring us further into digital reliance, but if we still hold our capabilities to read, you can see it’s ironically illustrating all the ways in which we’re fooled; life as a generated simulation.