Uglification already exists. Replace or merge?
Kyiv and Paris based curator group socl: e brought together works of contemporary artists from Ukraine and France at MetaCulture space. Ironic project “Uglification” is dedicated to the aesthetics of the non-beautiful, strange, accidental, and faux-amateurish.
The word uglification appears in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” (1865), chapter IX, where Griffon tries to explain the meaning of the term to Alice as a process of making something ugly. Today it barely would work. Beauty is diverse, and harsh value judgments become an anomaly for modern society. The equivalents of ugly and unacceptable remain perhaps boredom and tediousness [as in this paragraph].
Curators Clara Malet and Sonia Gaspard suggest taking the word uglification as a neologism that means glorification of aesthetics generally perceived as ugly, a glorification of ugly.
Simulation of bad taste and ugly-aesthetics is triggered in many cases by the ongoing acceleration of communication, when there is no time to care about the quality of the picture, typo and fact check. Ongoing forwarding and sharing, a screenshot of screenshot and conversion from format to format, from messenger to messenger make quality loss inevitable but leave a chance to keep up.
Probably this is the reason why medium is not important for most of the artworks: on a T-shirt or as post on social networks they could exist and interact with any audience same as in the gallery. Sasha Kurmaz’s photobook “Oh Yeah, Yea, Yea, Yea!” is exhibited as separate prints on the walls while MASSA digital experiments are printed and bound into books.
The activation of the dialogues between the works is the strong suit of the exhibition and curators achievement lies in the ability to identify dialogues and conflicts between artworks that arose at the exhibition. Are we interested in the deliberate distortions and the complicated technological process of creating “Apprendre as`user” (ADSL Honeymoon, France) or are we fascinated by accident that turned 10 years’ photo archive of Igor Chekachkov into a glitch? Compare immediately.
Building the scenography of the exhibition took several months, although the list of artists appeared almost simultaneously with the idea of the project: “In France, many young artists work with polysemy images in this kind of mood. We have noticed very similar trend in Ukraine: aesthetics of the first computers, visual codes of the ugly, random jokes. We immediately thought about Sasha Kurmaz and Julie Poly who could definitely fit the exhibition. Two works (Mariya Vasilyeva and Carole Mousset) came to the project through open call but we invited most of the artists personally.”
The intrigue of the exhibition is destroyed by the very first work “Spoiler to spoil” (Aurélia Declercq, France). Trick is not in swearing black is white and inverting those colors, not in making promised spoiler an unreadable text (available only to a system, which marked it with red dotted line as a mistake). Such effortless irony and interest in communication forms in the digital environment can be found in many works at the exhibition.
Notice, unravel and fix the conglomeration of current visual symbols is the ambition both of the exhibition and Gentlis Floquets`s artwork “U: la possibilite du nihil / G: 2003 / L: extension” (France). This graphic series with the spirit of absurd punk aesthetics was made specifically for ”Uglification” and enclosed pop culture characters and sarcastic jokes about the 90s era in single word UGLY.
Digital collage “Webpunk” (Yuri Bolsa, Ukraine) has a similar concept but composition itself holds chaos of the visual codes of the Dandy generation instead of outlines of the letters. A reliable and slightly predictable way to cope with polysemy. The desire to preserve and grasp all the familiar images and not to let them dissolve in the visual noise is natural and yet unexpected in the climate of today’s irony. What if some of them suddenly become a symbol? There is no time to evaluate or prioritize.
How can digital grow old, how does it die? A 3-minute video made by Jugoceania (Ukraine) demonstrates the process of complete degradation of digital. For this video artists modified strange, already abandoned fonts from open archives and re-saved the final file with compression so that the image quality deteriorated each time. A black screen without a single pixel is the result of this experiment.
The withering of digital is abstract and romantic, unlike our own aging. How to edit the body and save the best version of it? Neither plastic surgery nor pharmaceuticals provide us with what cryopreservation could have done. The work of Carole Mousset (France) hints that the dream of the twentieth century science fiction looks attractive only on paper. Huge vacuum bags with unrecognizable parts of the bodies are probably the only thing that evokes disgusting feelings at the exhibition.
If “Uglification” project consisted of one work, it could be the “Cosmolot” installation. Provocative deck of cards created by artist and photographer Julie Poly (Ukraine) has become digital so anyone in the gallery could play right at the exhibition. Find the old desk with outdated computer and play “Fool”, one of the most popular card game of post-Soviet countries and source of procrastination of white-collars in early 2000`s. It is total synthesis of irony, game, sexuality, the 90s, everyday life, digital and real, mixed media and its evolution. There is probably nothing to add within the theme of the exhibition.
“Uglification” does not question our perception of the “ugly” but captures what has already become firmly established in aesthetics and keeps being trendy. A short quote from Carroll was also present at the exhibition but the irony in Carroll`s text is not at all in beauty and its opposites.