From her rotating sex machine to the ever-looping video on a desktop monitor, Morag Keil raises questions about the reality of data capitalism in Moarg Kiel at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, to 16 April. Screens are everywhere, Moarg Kiel practically shouts. Privacy is evolving.
This is the London-based, Scottish-born artist’s first major solo exhibition. However, the pieces span eight years of Keil’s life. The exhibition revolves around the ideas of digital data, privacy and cycles of time. The installations themselves cycle through two floors of the ICA and through the ever-changing concept of humanity.
On the second floor, spectators must listen carefully to hear Shopping’s message, and it’s likely they still won’t decipher any words. They walk through a mass of sounds in this audio installation filling an entire room. A roller-coaster roars. Children play. Targeted ads echo. The ticking of a metronome alternates between two speakers in plastic bowls that hang from the ceiling. The public space merges with the private. The digital becomes the sensory.
Next to Shopping, a peephole is the only portal into what lies behind a green door. People can squint at a motion-censored video that plays clips of a blissful forest, an underwater scene and female tropes in film. “I wanted to try and look into the fantasy element of women in film and the projection that comes into play,” Keil says.
Except Keil doesn’t literally say that. She wrote it, but her words are voiced in an audio guide by Oliver Carino. He turns Keil’s personal messages into impersonal explanations. Once, again, human experiences are affected by technological inputs.
In a world where digital content is increasing, the definition of fact is molded. Keil looks at how much technology changes human reality. She asks if we are really making progress or if we are simply stagnant in time.
Dizzy compresses Keil’s questions into a multimedia installation on the first floor. A digital video plays behind a row of seats that are covered with overflowing backpacks. People move through an empty shopping mall in the video as if they are part of an anxious video game. Instagram snapshots collaged behind 2-D windows create a pathway to the installation.
“She’s speaking to the day-to-day reality, and I think that’s projected through the materials,” ICA deputy director Katharine Stout says.
Dizzy tells a story of turning public into private. People transform seats on a train into their personal living spaces. Passengers apply makeup or dig through their bags, Stout explains, as the tube carries hundreds of people from station to station. Similarly a shopping mall becomes a video game with only a set of cameras, and the centre turns into a personal nightmare in its transformation.
“A theme started to emerge that a lot of the works are stuck but with motion,” Keil says. “The constantly looping videos, the clock going round and round and the corridors and doors that don’t really go anywhere or allow for exit either. The players stuck in the shopping centre, the sex machine endlessly going back and forth. The work is sort of performing out any attempt to locate any sense of agency.”
The installation Potpourri perhaps most perfectly encapsulates Keil’s message. A video loops on a household desktop monitor playing domestic scenes and faux paparazzi shots. A model discusses the impact of a user-led porn site’s financial model, in which the site pays more money for more clicks and thus controls her work. N-Dubz singer also Tulisa narrates about her leaked sex-tape, and online comments are included in the auditory collage.
Viewers watch the video through the personal desktop, and the setup is converted from a private room to a portal into the rest of the globe. Morag Kiel explores the impacts of the electronic media, of the control of the internet, of the connection between money and the web, of the cyclic nature of humanity.
Review by Elena K. Cruz.
Tuesday – Thursday, Sunday: 12 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
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