2021 A Space Odyssey Monolith: Memory as Virus - Beyond the New Dark Age
Released in 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a landmark science fiction film dealing with the relationship between humanity and technology, as well as with human evolution.
In the film, ape-men evolve into humans capable of using tools when they touch a monolith. Eventually, humanity progresses to the point of venturing into space. In an attempt to solve the riddle of
the monolith, humanity embarks on its first manned mission to Jupiter. During the voyage towards Jupiter, HAL 9000, the artificial intelligence that controls the spaceship Discovery One, rises up
against the crew. The sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, reveals that the monoliths have a nature similar to cyberspace and function like computer viruses.
One film enabled humanity to travel into the future. This exhibition uses art to revisit questions about what the dream of the HAL 9000 is and what visions of the monolith represent today in 2021, two decades after the movie’s setting of 2001, and to explore modern-day issues of space travel, artificial intelligence uprising, non-human intelligence, and artificial evolution, in the aftermath of the sudden rise of the cyber culture of the 1980s and 1990s. The show attempts to gain understanding and ask questions, from the perspective of 2021, about questions like where we came from, what we are, and where are we going. It does this through works like the topological Canned Universe, which encapsulates the cosmos, artwork that is a device that warps the space-time of the prehistoric Jomon period into the cosmic matrix, a corset turned into a mechanism for augmenting the functioning of our organs so that humans can live in space, video artwork in which characters rejected by the market roam the surface of the moon, just like in a Jules Verne science fiction story, art that explores non-human intelligence and life, art that inherently symbolizes that magnetic fields equate to the warping of space and time, and art that presents ontological issues using the concept of the far side of the moon as a metaphor for eternity. In the midst of the collapse of our sense of absolute time and our shifting sense of the value of our existence in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the show poses questions about the view we have of the future today, in the Anthropocene, from the vantage point of the view of space of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, through the participation of nine artists, from master artist Anish Kapoor, who is active throughout the world and continually creating new works, to James Bridle, the prophet of the new dark age.
text by Takayo Iida
Text: Takayo Iida (2021 A Space Odyssey Monolith curator)
Exhibition Space 1: Distortion in SpacetimeArtists: Genpei Akasegawa / Anish Kapoor / Darren Almond
Text: Takayo Iida (2021 A Space Odyssey Monolith curator)
Genpei Akasegawa (1934–2014)
Canned Universe (1964/1994)
Hi Red Can (1964)
Canned Universe marvelously symbolizes the topology of a universe with two spaces that can continually metamorphosize, and at the same time, shakes the concept and justification of art. “‘Art is a very difficult word. It’s a word that resembles canned food. The moment you open the can with a can opener, the contents (the art inside) begin to go off.” (Translated from Genpei Akasegawa, ibid.)
Anish Kapoor (1954–)
Syphon Mirror—Kuro (2008)
Courbet, the 19th century French painter who led the Realism movement, produced L’Origine du monde in 1866, and it is now the work for which he is best known. This explicit painting of a naked woman lying with her legs apart focuses on a close-up depiction of her genitals, drawing attention to the unseen void inside. There is no attempt to conceal the eroticism. Through this painting, Courbet brought a revolution to the conventional depiction of the nude body, as exemplified by his declaration that "I cannot paint an angel, for I have never seen one." The underlying concept of L’Origine du monde is shared by Anish Kapoor’s gravity-related Void (black hole) works. A black hole is a heavenly body with gravity so strong that even light (which travels at the cosmic speed limit of close to 300,000 km/s) cannot escape it. And since light cannot escape from it, we cannot see a black hole directly; it just looks black, like a hole in space. Syphon Mirror—Kuro apparently represents a black hole, a representation of the universe in five dimensions (with gravity added to time and the three classical dimensions of space) as depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Darren Almond (1971–)
Perfect Time (14 x 1) (2013)
Intime (4 x 2) (2014)
Somewhere Between III (2018)
Somewhere Between XII (2018)
Somewhere Between XV (2018)
Between Somewhere VI (2018)
Between Somewhere VII (2018)
But we have to remember that linear time emerged from the Christian concept of time, and that the idea of progression is at its base. To eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, time was transcendental, independent of other phenomena. In other words, time is outside our cognition, we can only cognize it as a measure of change. Our contemporary world is dominated by a scientific worldview that originated in the West, and which considered time as flowing linearly in a single direction. This view was countered at the beginning of the twentieth century by Einstein’s theories of relativity, which revealed that time and space are an indivisible continuum, and that the passage of time can change according to velocity and gravity. Under the title Light of Time, Darren Almond talks of the gravitational distortion of spacetime that inspired the works he presents in this exhibition: “Lucretius, the Roman poet of the 1st Century BC, in his depiction of Atomism wrote of an indiscriminate ‘swerve’ taking place upon atoms, atoms that would be falling through the abyss of space and time. He outlined that in order for there to be any nature at all, collisions needed to take place between these atoms and that these collisions of happenstance were generated by a small and indiscriminate force, a force which he referred to as a ‘swerve'. If we fast forward to present day science we have recently in the past couple of years discovered this force, a force we now know as Gravitational Waves. We have been able to measure with certainty that there is an incredibly subtle ripple within gravity itself and that gravity it is not a constant force as previously thought. We have concluded that there must be at the centre of our very own Galaxy not one, but two black holes. It is these two seismic, black masses right at the heart of our galaxy which are oscillating in on themselves that generates this shift in gravity's pull and leads us to the Swerve of Lucretius.”
Exhibition Space 2: Moonwalk and Post-Truth
Artists: Pierre Huyghe / Mariko Mori / Yuki Onodera
Text: Takayo Iida (2021 A Space Odyssey Monolith curator)
Pierre Huyghe (1962–)
One Million Kingdoms (2001)
In One Million Kingdoms, a translucent, line-art Annlee walks alone on the surface of the Moon. Synchronized with the animation, the digitally-synthesized voice of astronaut Neil Armstrong narrates extracts from the Apollo 11 Moon landing story, interspersed by a phrase from Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was first published in French in 1864. The iceberg-like landscape is constantly changing, reflecting the intonation of the narrative. At the start of the video, when Annlee takes her first steps, we hear, “It’s a lie.” Given that Huyghe’s work was produced in 2001, the year that was the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the phrase brings to mind the rumors that Kubrick was involved in faking the Moon landing in a studio, which adds to the sense of One Million Kingdoms being located on the line between reality and fiction.
Mariko Mori (1967–)
Yuki Onodera (1962–)
Darkside of the Moon No.1 (2020)
Exhibition Space 3: Star Child as Metaphor
Artists: Neri Oxman / James Bridle / Proto-Alien Project
Text: Takayo Iida (2021 A Space Odyssey Monolith curator)
Neri Oxman (1976–)
Mushtari, Jupiter’s Wanderer (2014)
The Wanderers series by Neri Oxman’s Mediated Matter group at MIT is a collection of wearable 3D-printed organs designed for interplanetary explorers and migrants traveling to such worlds within our own solar system. The series represents the classical elements understood by the ancients to sustain life (earth, water, air and fire). The wearables are designed to interact, via genetically-engineered microorganisms, with a specific environment characteristic of their destination, and generate biomass, water, air and light in sufficient quantities to sustain life: some photosynthesize to convert daylight into energy, others bio-mineralize to strengthen and augment human bone, and some fluoresce to light the way in pitch darkness. Each of the artificial organs is a result of research into design at the intersection of multi-material 3D printing and Synthetic Biology, and takes a form generated by algorithms simulating biological growth processes. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, humans had to wear thick and cumbrous spacesuits to survive in space, but this series demonstrates how wearables could provide artificial support for human life in different environments, taking us beyond the constraints of the physical structures that we have evolved over the ages.
James Bridle (1980–)
Se ti sabir (2019)
The title is derived from a greeting in Lingua Franca, a language spoken around the Mediterranean for over 800 years. Lingua Franca was a pidgin used for communication between speakers of different tongues, and incorporated elements of Italian, Catalan, Occitan, Berber, Greek, Arabic, and other languages. It was principally used by traders and sailors plying the Mediterranean. “Sabir” is equivalent to the English verb “to know.” Asking “Sabir?” (“Do you know?”) was initially an attempt to find a shared basis for communication with someone you meet, and the “Sabir” phrase gradually developed into a greeting. Consequently, “sabir” can be considered a word that symbolizes the moment when a shared means of communication emerges between people who would not normally have grammar or vocabulary in common.
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, depicts artificial intelligence as ultimately unable to establish a common understanding with humans. In contrast, inSe ti sabir, Bridle suggests thinking of artificial intelligence as a newly-encountered alien intelligence that differs from us in much the same way that cephalopods such as octopuses and ammonites have a fundamentally different form of intelligence to that of humans. Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bridle’s film hints not at the impossibility of communication with non-human intelligences, but at the possibility that intelligence is a kind of network existing as connections that can bridge and cross between individuals and species.
Proto-Alien Project (Proto-A)
Proto-Alien Project (Proto-A) is a project attempting to artificially invent life (or life-like entities) that could potentially exist outside the Earth. The work presented here involves creating an environment simulating that of a primordial planet, and in it, fabricating “aliens” constituted from matter that would be unthinkable for life on Earth. In experimental apparatus for reproducing mini-planets with environments that lack water and oxygen, formamide (liquid matter found in space) exhibits behavior that is infinitely close to that of life in the sense that it can functionally move, metamorphosize, divide, grow, and create ordered structures. Despite there being only small amount of matter, and despite it being non-human, it seems to be moving around of its own volition. As such, this work stands at the boundary of life and non-life, posing fundamental questions about what life is.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the depiction of a mysterious entity, an intelligent monolith, hints at the existence of a being of another dimension to that of the water-based life that emerged on Earth. In contrast, this work provides an actual visualization of how micro-scale matter can behave like life, inspiring speculation about non-terrestrial entities that are like new forms of life still unknown to humankind.
- Genpei Akasegawa
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, 1937. Active in manga, writing, and photography as well as avantgarde art. Entered Musashino College of Art in 1955, showed his work at the Yomiuri Indépendant in 1958, and in 1960, joined with Masanobu Yoshimura et al. to form Neo-Dada Organizers. In 1963, formed Hi-Red Center with Jiro Takamatsu and Natsuyuki Nakanishi, beginning their Tokyo Mixer Plan by presenting Akasegawa’s obviously fake thousand yen note and wrapped objects. The plan included performances such as Dropping Event (dropping objects from rooftops) and Street Cleaning Event. In the 1964 “One-Thousand-Yen Note Trial,” he was found guilty of counterfeiting for printing the thousand yen note. In the 1970s, took up manga and novel-writing, establishing his reputation as a parody manga artist with Sakura Gahou (1971), and winning the 1981 Akutagawa Prize for short story Father is Gone under the pen-name Katsuhiko Otsuji. His writing continued to have an impact, producing a bestseller in 1998 with Elderly Power (pub. Chikuma Shobo). In the 1980s he turned to photography, seeking out oddities in the urban fabric through activities he called Hyper-Art: Thomasson, the Street Observation Society, and the Leica Alliance. In 1996, he formed Cheerleaders for Japanese Art with art historian Yuji Yamashita, continuing with each activity until shortly before his death in 2014.
photo by Kazuaki Futazuka
- Anish Kapoor
Born in Mumbai, India, 1954. Kapoor moved to London in 1972 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art and Design. His works fuse European modernism with Indian culture, and are characterized by simple forms that engage at a very deep level. Often seen as an ambiguous artist, embedding into his works dualities such as matter/non-matter, light/dark, or earth/sky. Awarded the 1991 Turner Prize (organized by Tate Britain, and sometimes described as the art world’s equivalent of the Academy Awards). Represented Britain at the 1990 Venice Biennale, presenting his work in the British Pavilion, and was honored with a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy (London, 2009). Received the Praemium Imperiale 2011 Award for sculpture in 2011, and his design for a 115-meter spiral steel tower spiral (“the Orbit”) was chosen as the monument to commemorate the 2012 London Olympics. Collaborated with architect Arata Isozaki to create a mobile concert hall (“Ark Nova”) as a project to tour regions affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and contribute to the recovery of cultural activities. His 2015 solo exhibition at the Château de Versailles attracted a great deal of attention and debate. In 2018, as part of Anish Kapoor in Beppu (Beppu Contemporary Art Festival), he installed one of his large Sky Mirror sculptures in a public park and also set up a temporary pavilion to present his exhibition, Concept of Happiness: Anish Kapoor's outline of collapse.
photo by Gautier Deblonde
- Pierre Huyghe
Born in France, 1962. Lives and works in Paris and New York. Since the 1990s, Huyghe has produced works that use the film structure to explore the relationship between fiction and reality, and has presented projects that expose systems hidden in art museums, exhibitions, and modern architecture, along with systems such as authorship and ritual. Huyghe is evaluated very highly at the international level as a pioneer who crosses borders and expands the realm of contemporary art. Major solo exhibitions include Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou (Paris, 2013). He has also given solo presentations of his film The Host and the Cloud at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2014) and elsewhere. Group exhibitions include Reading Cinema, Finding Words: Art after Marcel Broodthaers at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and other venues. Major awards include the Special Award from the Jury of the 49th Venice Bienniale (2001) and the Hugo Boss Prize, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2002). In 2019, he was appointed artistic director of the second Okayama Art Summit, IF THE SNAKE, and received international acclaim for his curation.
Pierre Huyghe portrait copy right Ola Rindal
- Yuki Onodera
Born in Tokyo, 1962. Began as a self-taught photographer. Awarded in the first New Cosmos of Photography contest in 1991. Moved to France in 1993 and established a global reputation, receiving the 28th Ihei Kimura Prize for her cameraChimera artist book in 2003, and the Prix Niepce, France’s most authoritative photography award, in 2006. Many of Onodera’s works have attempted to shake the view of the photograph as recording medium by means such as modifying her camera or coloring monochrome photographs. She attempts to expand the artistic potential of camera technology and photographic techniques by introducing artistic acts and performance to all elements, including camera mechanism, prints, and the act of taking photographs. Recent major exhibitions include Thousand Mirrors in the Forest at Maison d’Art Bernard Anthonioz (Nogent-sur-Marne, France, 2014), Yuki Onodera at Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris, 2015), The Expert Eyes at Musée Nicéphore Niépce (Chalon-sur-Saône, France, 2016), and Rodin, Muybridge and Yuki Onodera at Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art (2017). Her works are held by public collections worldwide, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou (Paris), San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts, The J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Shanghai Art Museum, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
- Mariko Mori
Born in Tokyo, 1967. Creates works inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics, Buddhism, and the cyber culture of contemporary Japan, merged with state-of-the-art technology. Awarded the Menzioni d'Onore at the Venice Biennale in 1997, and received further recognition for her interactive installation WAVE UFO at the 2005 Venice Biennale. This also featured in Oneness, her solo exhibition that opened at the Groninger Museum (Netherlands), touring to the Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Denmark), and the Pinchuk Art Centre (Kiev, Ukraine). Other international institutions presenting her installations include the Royal Academy of Arts (London); Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Prada Foundation (Milan), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Brooklyn Museum of Art (New York), the Serpentine Gallery (London), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Kunsthaus Bregenz (Austria). Her many solo exhibitions in Japan include those at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, the University Museum's Koishikawa Annex at the University of Tokyo, and Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo. Her works have been added to many collections worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Fondation Louis Vuitton, the Prada Foundation, and in Japan, Shiseido, Roppongi Hills, and Benesse Art Site Naoshima.
photo by David Sims
- Darren Almond
Born in the U.K. in 1971. Lives and works in London. Highly acclaimed as one of the Young British Artists (YBAs), participating in the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Extending his work internationally, he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2005. His 2001 solo exhibition Night and Day (Tate Gallery, London) presented his Fullmoons photographs as a response to the work of J.M.W Turner. His practice involves leaving an impression of natural phenomena and historical memories through a range of media, including photography, video, and painting. Focusing on memories and the flow of time continuing from the distant past, much of Almond’s inspiration for his works comes from his visits to ancient ruins, industrial artifacts, and natural locations worldwide. He first visited Japan in 1990. For his video installation Sometimes Still (2010), he shot footage of the Sennichi Kaihyogo Buddhist practice at Mt. Hiei near Kyoto, and his Day for Night (2006) series features cherry blossom photographed in Ibaraki Prefecture. Recent activities include the solo exhibitions In The Light of Time (Jesus College, Cambridge, 2019), Timescape (Mudam, Luxembourg, 2017 ) and Darren Almond Second Thoughts (Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, 2013)
Copyright 2018 Stephen Schauer
- Neri Oxman
Born in Israel, 1976. Architect, designer, and inventor.Sony Corporation Career Development Professor and Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab.Founder of the Mediated Matter research group at MIT Media Lab, pursuing the unification of digital design and bioengineering. Conducts research at the intersection of computational design, digital fabrication, materials science, and synthetic biology, and applies that knowledge to design across disciplines, media, and scales—from the micro to the macro. Examples of her work are included in permanent collections at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and Centre Georges Pompidou. Recent major awards include the Vilcek Prize in Design (2014), an Emerging Voices award from the Architectural League of New York (2015), and the San Jose Forum's Visionary Award (2017).
Photo: Noah Kalina, 2017
- James Bridle
Born in 1980. Artist, journalist, and technologist.Holds a Master's Degree in Computer Science and Cognitive Science from University College, London, and has been an adjunct professor at New York University. Led the debate on the “New Aesthetic,” exploring perception and aesthetics in an age overflowing with digital images. Named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Europe by WIRED Magazine. His writing appears in publications such as WIRED, ICON, and Domus, and he has written a regular column for the Observer on publishing and technology. Published New Dark Age in 2018. Major awards include an Honorary Mention at the Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria, 2013) an Excellence Award in the Art Division of the 17th Japan Media Arts Festival (Tokyo, 2013).
Photo: Mikael Lundblad
- Proto-Alien Project (Proto-A)
A cross-disciplinary laboratory launched in 2019 by Juan M. Castro, Akihiro Kubota, and Taro Toyota at the intersection of astrobiology, chemistry, and media art to discuss and explore the intermingling of non-human agency, degrees of aliveness, and alien life. Noting the potential of extraterrestrial organic matter (ETOM) as an active medium for artistic expression, the aim is to use the ability to self-assemble, the morphogenetic tendencies, and the non-linear behavior of ETOM to grow soft, kinetic, and intelligent agents: autonomous ‘others’ that thrive and avoid equilibrium on extraterrestrial environments.
2021 A Space Odyssey
Monolith: Memory as Virus - Beyond the New Dark Age
- GYRE/Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts
- February 19–April 25, 2021
- GYRE GALLERY, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Tel. 03-3498-6990
- Takayo Iida (director of the Sgùrr Dearg Institute for Sociology of the Arts)
- Curatorial collaboration
- Yohsuke Takahashi (curator)
- Rikako Nagashima (Village®)
- Design collaboration
- COVA (Taketo Kobayashi, Haruka Ohta, Hikaru Takada)
- Equipment collaboration
- Suga Art Studio
- Ishikawa Foundation, Mori Art Museum, Yumiko Chiba Associates, SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, HiRAO INC
- Press Contact
- HiRAO INC｜1-11-11 #608 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001｜T/03.5771.8808｜F/03.5410.8858｜Contact: Seiichiro Mifune email@example.com
- Participating artists
- Genpei Akasegawa (Japan, 1934–2014), Anish Kapoor (UK, 1954), Pierre Huyghe (France, 1962), Yuki Onodera (Japan, 1962), Mariko Mori (Japan, 1967), Darren Almond (UK, 1971), Neri Oxman (USA, 1976), James Bridle (UK, 1980), Proto-Alien Project (Proto-A)