Computational explorations of the space between western and non-western ontology
Transhumanist ideology of a singular ontological history implies a determined "post-human" future. Active colonial legacy and extractive economies are bound up in the etymological architecture and product infrastructures of programming languages facilitating this development. With a universal 'morality' built from this same ontological history, there is no room for indigenous cosmologies of thought in a virtual "post-humanity" created from data of the living and dead. This artistic research asks how can alternative cosmologies be better represented within the virtual "metaverse".
Red Earth appropriates these methodologies to synthesise new pathways between divergent cosmologies and new codices from West African thought.
The project has two points of origin: 1. Dante's allegory of falling autumn leaves; his insistence that each damned soul is individual helps to think about synthesising data of the living and dead in the Covid era. 2. Difficulty with arguments in Chinua Achebe's 1977 essay, An Image of Africa
, where Achebe neglects to critique the power structure holding up the very 'morality' he appeals to while denouncing the racism of Conrad's Heart of Darkness
, even though Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart
, takes on the invasion of this disingenuous 'morality'Achebe also fails to mention Conrad's metaphysical alienation from this environment.
This is addressed through a personal narrative exploring a lack of touch with one's 'home' due (in part) to the current moment. Machine learning is used in a controlled manner to translate an original work of prose written by Michael Salu into a visual data topography. Inspired by Yoruba oratorical thought and traditional manifestations within physical objects, this data is used as raw material to sculpt a series of virtual totems, geological sculptures for a codex, distilling the exchange and visualising the connection between text and data, colonial and inherent language. These make one part of a triptych of forms.
There is a process of interpretation between this triptych of forms. The translation process reveals the possibility of extractions or distillations that can be used as an 'ore' to begin exploring alternative codices within the "metaverse". Data derives directly from the tension between one's western and native ontologies and physical and digital language. The physical, namely, the body and its gestural functions, significant in manifesting the oratorical beginnings of Yoruba thought and religion versus Christianity deployed as a colonial weapon and wholeheartedly adopted by many Nigerians. This project aims to ask what of the physicality of language; voice, form, gesture and touch as seen through Yoruba, can be re-imagined in a virtual afterlife.
The process begins with a series of photographs taken just before and during Covid, inspiring an original book-length work of prose that explores the metaphysical dissonance from existing between virtually and geographically disparate realities. This is prose forms the central panel or vertebrae of this project. Subsequent translations from text sections provide enough data to create meshes detailed enough to mould into virtual (physical) sculptures.
The outcome of this process intimates the beginnings of new manifestations of language in an open-world virtual context, beyond the traditionally figurative, with the potential to develop new codices for equitable knowledge exchanges between cosmologies of thought, between post-human and humus. RED EARTH exhibition, Studio Hanniball, Berlin 11/11/21 - 07/01/22
FLAT Journal (UCLA), November 2021
Berfrois, September 2021
Archive of Forgetfulness: Exhibition March 2021, Goethe Institute South Africa
Early Preview, "Artist no. 7", Blake and Vargas Gallery, Berlin.