Deptford X Event Space, Deptford, London
Reality (Daniil Alexandrov, Zhenia Vasiliev) showed a live work titled “Entymology” (approx 40 minutes), which consisted of a projected film, accompanied by live audio performance and readings/ actions by a number of performers who were seated as if in the audience. The video’s imagery varied between industrial, urban and riverside landscapes, with human protagonists forming a focal point, sometimes, layering shots using digital editing techniques. At intervals a voiceover, with subtitles was added; the voice was childlike and slightly robotic, and difficult to hear. The main audio aspect of the work came from the live soundtrack, which was loud and ambient, with lots of reverb – almost dirge – not exactly musical but borrowing elements from electronic music. The first performer came from the audience with a torch, lighting up the dark room, and placing printed papers around the walls and fittings. The second performer read aloud as she strode round the room, using the torch to highlight a collection of small objects on the floor that also featured in the film.
A text of the readings executed by the performers was available as a print out for the audience to read during and after the performance.
The conversation began with a discussion about the layering in the work, and the way in which this might address the inadequacy of language to communicate effectively, and how the work appeared to attempt to formulate with objects, a new or substitute language. Comments were made that this was something of a paradox – a work about the inherent failure of language, which uses language to convey this. However, others preferred to see it as a thwarted dialogue, or an attempt to use multiple languages. One contributor wondered if the work was nihilistic, in that there was so much going on, that it essentially became meaningless. However, this idea was challenged by those who felt that it offered a levelling out of meaning; a flatness or equality of languages, without hierarchy. This was enhanced by the soporific effect of the audio, creating a meditative space, encouraging the viewer to surrender to the artwork and absorb it without cognition.
Entymology, a project by Reality duo (Daniil Alexandrov, Zhenia Vasiliev) brings live video mixing, creative writing, electro-acoustic sound performance together with empathy in the context of collective intelligence on contemporary digital networks. The work, engaged with language and swarm mentality, takes the form of exercise of multi-modal translation: translation of bodies into text, text into visuality, social behaviours into symbols, speech of insects into human speech and back. Which possibilities, Reality asks, the study of communication in insects, particularly those ones living socially, could bring into our understanding of connection between users in the digital domain? The duo approaches critically the idea of collective action, arguing instead that users are involved on the level of the individual, rather than collective, action frame.