Essay on “Keep Me Updated Your Holiness” by Recycle Group at Gazelli Art House, London

November 20, 2015 – January 10, 2016

In 1922 a photographic image authored by Man Ray and / or Marcel Duchamp was published in photo-surrealist journal “Littérature”. The image was entitled “A view from an airplane”. Later on, in 1934 the same photograph went out signed “Dust breeding”. Actually, the photograph was taken in Duchamp’s studio and is a fragment of Duchamp’s “Large Glass” covered in the dust it had collected while he was in New York. The picture itself, as we may presently discover, is nothing more than a sneer, eliciting the ambiguity of photographic documentation. This particular image set up a crossroads between photography, sculpture, action and performance.

The core of Recycle Group’s project “Keep Me Updated Your Holiness” is a mocumentary retrofuturistic fabula. Landscapes depicted in a major installation, a collection of images, manipulated by a robotic arm, evoke the very same question raised by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, even in the era of digital photography. Is it the documentation of a gesture? Is it a piece of land art? How real is this representation? What does this gesture include?

The iconic œuvre of land art, a Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson, is nowadays almost converted into an image: being widely seen photographed and filmed, it is much more rarely sighted in real life. Thus, a gesture of the artist is encoded into its representation since the most common means of its demonstration is photography. Robert Morris, in his article Aligned with Nazca, published in October 1975 in Artforum, set a parallel between the spatial comprehension of land art and the structure of nazca lines in Peru: “What one sees on the ground at Nazca has little to do with seeing objects. For if in the urban context space is merely the absence of objects, at Nazca space as distance is rendered visible only as a function of distance. If one sees here by looking down, across, through, do the lines perhaps also point to something in that distance?”. Morris remarks that as well as nazca lines, land art required particular settings of viewing, those standing outside the Cartesian grid. Exactly the same method of representation is played up in Recycle Group’s series, presented in the exhibition “Keep Me Updated Your Holiness”. Besides a reference to the conceptual sense of nazca lines as messages to gods, Recycle Group appropriates the canon of its morphological perception.

Fake photographic documentation, blurring the lines of sculpture, performance and photography itself, is a manoeuvre for the first time accomplished in Recycle’s group corpus of work. They attempt to endure conception of fake artefacts, enrooted in the reflection on retrofuturism, raising the essential for the duo question “how could the future look in the past?” Fascinated by the science-fictional narrative, they foretell of a junction of virtual and tangible realities, exposing the fact of being online as being blessed and saved. Recycle Group manifests the iconography of applications programs as communication signs between humankind and divines of the future, seeing them as “nazca lines of the aftertime”.

At long last, a divine could only exist in man’s description, perceived in signs he disposes of and is able to grasp. As Walter Benjamin in his essay On Language as Such and on the Language of Man (1916) remarks, God “did not wish to subject him to language, but in man God set language, which had served him as medium of creation, free”.

Ekaterina Shcherbakova 

November 2015

Using Format