17 Nov. – 18 Dec. 2021
Future Gallery is pleased to present a selection of new works by Spiros Hadjidjanos. This marks Hadjidjanos’ fifth solo exhibition at the gallery. His in depth research into historical and contemporary sculptural processes is manifested as hybridized digital/material proposals.
The Logic That Binds the World to the Earth
Some thoughts about the work of Spiros Hadjidjanos
by: Taco Hidde Bakker
I first encountered the work of visual artist Spiros Hadjidjanos online in photographic documentation—absorbed in the so-called digital world, or virtual realm, that invisibly connects to the non-virtual in many ways. There was a spark of magic that immediately triggered my interest. Although I could sense that his work not only asks for direct embodied presence, for its multiple material and virtual ramifications to be viewed and grasped, but also stimulates to think and feel through the mind-bending as well as body-bending implications of virtuality. After I had spent considerable time with two of his sculptures in real space, the works called for thinking through the fundamental entanglement of the material and the virtual, and to reconsider the question of the image (especially the photographic or photographically in/formed image, which so thoroughly shaped our contemporary visual media apparatus). In both sculptural works, Anthemion (2015) and Unfolded (Branch) (2019/2021), photography played an intermediary role in the translation from photographic record to data points with which Hadjidjanos could deliver input to the 3D-printing process. As such, these spatial works are neither fully sculpture nor photography, but something in the middle, trying to show the medium of the medium (the middleness of the middle, so to say).
I see Hadjidjanos’ works as essayistic and speculative attempts, touching on the limits of material resistance and computation, to visualize the translation process from raw material to photography and photogrammetry on to the computational and back to the material. The resulting works traverse multiple dimensions: spatial, temporal, calculable, material. In these works’ presence, as obvious as enigmatic, one could sense an urge to make algorithmic processes visible, while they keep secrets like the inner workings of black boxes. This relates to the fate of the translator, whose work succeeds when the frictions and dilemmas of translation processes are rendered invisible, while their must remain an echo of the original in the translation. Translation is both a task and a surrender, like the ambiguity in Walter Benjamin’s use of the German term “Aufgabe” in his famous essay ‘The Task of the Translator’ (‘Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers’, 1923). The artist surrenders himself to processes that are largely beyond his control.
Hadjidjanos’ implicit and explicit annotations on processes of (digital) translation and the meaning of the material in an increasingly virtual world, raise the question as to
what extent we should still consider the digital secondary to the physical realm. Or has our command of calculation become so powerful by now that humans can impress its molds onto the reality of hard matter? Like monetary value has in many ways become primary to the goods and services exchanged for it, the computational seems to take primacy over the material world, and is reshaping it in its own image. “The digital pole,” writes Roberto Calasso in The Ruin of Kasch, his narrative enquiry into the origins of modernity, “confers great power, but it does not contain, within the machine, that physicality of changing values that is a last palpable record of the outside world. Digitality is pure sequence of signs: when its control is extended to everything, we no longer know what earth supports us—if there still is an earth.”*
Although it may feel as if the world of digitized screens is smooth, frictionless, fluid, lightweight, even better for the environment (‘don’t print this text and save a tree’), nothing could be further from the truth. The world of electronic screens is supported by a relentless digging for minerals and an ever-increasing (not quite so climate-friendly) energy consumption to prevent (or postpone) the coming Datapocalypse.
Through his sculptures and installations, Hadjidjanos courageously attempts to visualize such paradoxes of the digital. His work asks us to reexamine the virtuality of the virtual and shows material substrates as an interface. He calls his works ‘computational objects’, which means that they are outcomes of algorithmic processes. For example, for one of his latest works, the bronze cast K_enn_ecot_t (2021), he employed a photograph, software translating the image into data and a 3D-printed mold as necessary interlocutors to arrive at an object as bronze cast. Traditional one could say, but it resulted in a new language, neither a traditional nor an exclusively computational object. The bronze cast is the outcome of a combined algorithmic and material translation of an aerial photograph of the largest open-pit mine in the world (Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah). After Hadjidjanos converted the photograph into a virtual 3D depth map, from which negative molds can be produced so to cast a positive object. However, foundries were unable to cast such a surface-detailed object with traditional techniques. Instead, 3D printing molds made from silica sands and resin provided the means with which Hadjidjanos was able to pour melted bronze, containing copper from the Bingham mine (also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine), at a temperature of 1160 ̊ Celsius into the flow channels, parts of the production process that remain visible in the exhibited object.
The negative and the positive, terms that arrived into popular parlance thanks to photography, Hadjidjanos’ works make clear, not only refer to the way in which images can be rendered visible, but also to the fundamental binary logistics behind the production and the fueling of the silicon-based Screen Age. The workers and the raw
materials constituting it are usually kept out of sight but, as Jacob Emery writes in a critical essay on photography and mining, “the framed work of the miners has contributed materially to the construction of the world beyond it, and not least the camera that makes apprehensible, in miniature, the logic that binds the world together.”* Hadjidjanos takes this one step further and reconnects a photograph from a mine pit to the materials sourced from it and to the energy-intensive computational processes that are made possible due to humans’ tireless upturning of the earth.
*Roberto Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch. Penguin Books, 2018 (1983), p. 21.
**Jacob Emery, ‘The Mirror and the Mine: Photography in the Abyss of Labor’, in: Kevin Coleman and Daniel James (eds.), Capitalism and the Camera: Essays on Photography and Extraction. Verso Books, 2021, pp. 226-253, p. 251.
With the support of Stiftung Kunstfonds and NEUSTART KULTUR-Programm, Germany