Ob_ject & O_bserve

Ob_ject & Ob_serve
Small View Gallery, Gostins Arcade, Liverpool

Is the first exhibition of work of a group of artists who are, at least nominally, members of the Object Liberation Front. The OLF was born out of a number of clandestine meetings in and around FACTLAB Liverpool. As Such it is an emerging organisation of artists technologists and theorists interested in the non anthropocentric life of machines. Beyond that our views and approaches are quite different. So, here, I speak only for myself.

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Machine 14, 2016, Lamp, electronics, ear wax remover, tables.
Machine 14 shamelessly deploys a number of anthropomorphic devices. The foetal shape of the earwax remover with its steady, but faint, heartbeat is ‘watched’ by the tenderly curving lamp. Humans easily understand these patterns produced by the anthropomorphic screen as they have been repeatedly deployed throughout our childhoods. There are all to obvious echoes here of Pixar animations, brave toasters and feisty cars called Herbie.

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Visitors to the opening of the exhibition undoubtably gathered round the stricken object in response to its anthropomorphic call but also, perhaps, for other reasons. In the context of the show Machine 14 lay on two sub-domestically scaled tables. To the left were works by Thiago Hersan and Radames Anja. Mobile phones with robotic prostheses were ‘intelligently’ trying to take selfies. One wiggled, danced and shivered in front of a mirror as it sought to recognise itself and post the resulting image online. In the circle surrounding Machine 14 the question came: “what does it do?”

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Machine 14 barely does anything. A broken circuit board periodically allows a tiny pulse of electricity to enter the Ear wax remover. This causes a barely audible ticking, the occasional almost imperceptible twitch and a tiny intake of air. In the crowded private view only the twitch was caught by observers. It isn’t quite a machine freed from production but its apparent breakdown drew concern and interest from the audience which was distinct from its anthropomorphic call.

In another part of the gallery, near Machine 12 was a small piece of text.

The Deus ex Machina was a theatrical apparatus first used by Aeschlus and Euripides. Although it has become a literary device it originally had an entirely mechanical form. It usually took the shape of a crane (mecane) or other mechanical device used to bring a god onto stage. Deployed to dig the story out of a plot hole, it made a conscious break in the narrative and, In order to create a god, a sort of theatrical cyborg was enacted. This cyborg both creates and breaks illusion, it lays bare the mechanics of the play. To use Barad’s theory of Agential Realism the Deus Ex Machina is an apparatus that reveals a phenomenon of human machine intra-action. It is a sort of machine-human-god becoming.