Ghosts: Keith Piper and Roshini Kempado

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Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins 27/11/2015-11/12/2015

Last day today of this exhibition curated by Paul Goodwin as part of a curatorial project in which he examines the intersections between technology, subjectivity and contemporary art. In the exhibition introductory text, Goodwin writes:

Ghosts specifically explores how artists in the UK are interrogating these complex relationships in the context of the current historical conjuncture of proliferating international migrations, global political-economic crises and scattered migrant communities in cities…

Another problematic that the Ghosts project seeks to address is in relation to the way that certain questions of history and memory, identity and power have been downplayed and left to hover and fester in the dark recesses and corners of contemporary art’s technological imaginary. … there has been massive proliferation of art historical and contemporary art discussion and research about the relationship between art and technology in the current techno-cultural conjuncture. However there has been less research and discussion about how these important questions of technology have been addressed within the context of problematics around migration, ‘race’, ‘post-colonialism’ and the proliferation of diasporic identities – including sexual and gendered identities, especially in the European context which presents itself in such urgent terms today. In many ways questions of diaspora, ‘race’ and post-colonial identities are like ‘ghostly’ presences or excesses haunting the technological utopias and techno-determinism that often pervades discussions around art and technology.”

In the exhibition, Roshini Kempadoo’s ‘About Face‘ explores the digital chatter we experience as we try to negotiate our diverse experiences of transition and migration through the city through multiple handheld devices.

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I was particularly interested in the work of Keith Piper, an artist whose work in digital technologies I have been following since the 1990s. His work in this show combines animation and video to deconstruct the racialised metaphors that haunt science fiction and space age technology. His thought provoking installation contrasts robots, androids and cyborgs with different types of identities to reveal social fears about race and difference. Piper says, “This project is part of a body of research expanding the scrutiny of popular science fiction into the fields of post-colonial studies and developing discources around ‘Afro-futurism’, encoding and ‘CyberEbonics’.

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This is made especially apparent in a video that comments on the robotic pathfinder that tirelessly explored Mars for three months in 1997 until communication was lost. It was named Sojourner, after the former slave and anti-abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner, Sojourner Truth. Here’s a clip of the actual Mars rover:

You can see an artist commentary by Keith Piper on his work here:

Robot Bodies from Keith Piper on Vimeo.

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Ghosts: Keith Piper and Roshini Kempado

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