THE MAW OF by Rachel Rossin (*1987, US)
explores the coming together of flesh, machine, cognition, and code provoked by current research into brain-computer interfaces. An artist and programmer whose multi-disciplinary practice has established her as a pioneer in the field of virtual reality, Rossin’s work blends painting, sculpture, new media and more to create digital landscapes, which she uses to address aspects of entropy, embodiment, the ubiquity of technology, and its effect on human psychology.
Spanning installation, sculpture, augmented reality, virtual reality, and net art, THE MAW OF features a site-specific installation at Tieranatomisches Theater (TA T), Berlin, as part of the digital program of KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Conceived as mixed-reality theatre, Rossin’s project stages a new conceptual and visual vocabulary, addressing the expanded limits of the human body and mind today.
Imagining the corporeal as a component within a larger technical assemblage, the work draws from the historic development of body peripherals and outsourced sensing. Marshalling visual tropes from gaming, mobile apps, manga, and documentary video, Rachel Rossin’s work is a guided trip through the outer reaches of fantasy made real. Various icons are conjured along the way, like figures in a dream, that serve as symbols for prostheses used to augment our bodily existence. There are ‘sentinel species’ such as canaries, used to detect air toxicity in coal mines, or seeing-eye dogs, but also artificial devices such as smartphones and keyboards. Moving into the present, wearable exoskeletons represent an instance where hardware and wetware (flesh) increasingly meet. Many such technologies are currently being tested on animals before being implanted into the human brain—further intensifying the reality of cognitive peripherals.
The online artwork — co-commissioned by KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and accessible on the websites of both KW (between 14 September and 21 October 2022) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (September 2022 – ongoing)—is an interactive feedback loop between the visitors’ screens and their mobile phone displays. Offline, at Tieranatomisches Theater, Rossin’s virtual reality environment morphs 3D scans of the theatre with the lobby of Whitney Museum and terrain features appropriated from a video game. Inside this environment, visitors chase an avatar, as a ‘ghost in a machine’, while it searches a network of tributaries representing their nervous systems.
The choice of location is not accidental. Rossin not only uses Tieranatomisches Theater as a venue but incorporates it into her work as a place where, as part of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the systematic study of animal biology was initiated, leading to the scientific inquiry enabling us to intervene in animal and human anatomies. 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, gaming, and other practices pursuing brain-machine interfaces.
THE MAW OF dramatizes relations between the inside and the outside as well as between humans, animals, and machines. It is a work about the theatre of embodied subjectivity in the technocene. It also performs the exhibition as an expanded body—blurring the line between the physical and the digital realm. The exhibition space is mapped through the creation of a world whose virtual reality may be accessed through various portals. These portals are entry points to digital spaces of contemplation and poetic representation authored by Rachel Rossin.
September 17, 3 p.m.
September 14, 7 p.m.
Daily 4.30 p.m.
Kurator/Curator: Nadim Samman
Kuratorische Assistenz/Curatorial Assistant: Linda Franken
Kuratorische Beratung/Curatorial Cosultant: Felix Sattler, TA T
Vermittlung/Mediation: Laura Hummernbrum
Produktionsleitung/Head of Production: Claire Spilker
Technische Leitung/Technical Management: Wilken Schade
Presse und Marketing/Press and Marketing: Marie Kube, Anna Falck-Ytter
Praktikantinnen: Luisa Schmoock, Fangrong Tian