The Invisible Hand

SYDNEY. 28 JUN – 4 AUG 2019. 

Artists: Simon Denny, exonemo, Sunwoo Hoon & Mijoon Pak, Baden Pailthorpe

The Invisible Hand considers how digital platform technologies are exploiting technological convenience to co-opt personal data in an uncertain zero-sum game. With work from Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan, this exhibition explores current and projected complications and contradictions in the digital realm that increasingly oscillate between technological evangelism and scepticism.

In 1991, the World Wide Web creator, Tim Berners-Lee, developed the first website at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. Since then, over one billion websites have proliferated across the globe, with 2.5 trillion Internet searches made every year. Everyday our connected devices generate some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, creating a rapidly expanding field of human communication and providing unparalleled insights into our lives. The rise of global platform companies—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Rakuten, Tencent and Naver among others—are largely underpinning this mass connectivity, with Facebook alone weaving together over 700 billion friendships across the globe.

However, from search results to self-publishing platforms, these global corporate powers are logging every digital click, like, share and scroll made on these supposedly free services—selling on this consumer information to third parties and advertisers. While this business model has produced mass convenience, connectivity and information sharing, a closer examination reveals a vast information inequity between users and these providers. Nowhere are these invisible computing forces more present than in the hyper-connected East Asia region, where household internet penetration and use is at its global highest. In this region, platform technology companies have the power to alter the course of history, in the same way recent technologically-led scandals like Cambridge Analytica have manipulated contemporary politics in America, Thailand and India, and the coordinated cyber-attacks of public health records loom over Singapore.

Against this dystopic information landscape, The Invisible Hand examines our ever evolving digital realm with careful focus on the East Asia region, a place at the bleeding edge of this technological frontier. Exploring the existential threat of Big Tech through a series of commissioned and recent works the artists each untangle the networked rhythms of our age, with careful allusion to science, public policy, economics and share price. Through these meditations The Invisible Hand presents artistic agitation to the arena of public debate—providing new perspectives, understandings and predications that enable us to better understand our place in this newly formed digital battleground.

Artists:

Baden Pailthorpe: Born 1984 Canberra, Australia. Baden Pailthorpe lives and works in Sydney, Australia. Baden Pailthorpe’s work explores the spatiality of power, politics and the cultures of late Capitalism through hyper-real animation, video and sculpture. His key exhibitions include UTS Art Gallery, Sydney (2018); Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney & Singapore (2017); 21st Triennale di Milano, Milan (2016); Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle (2015); Casula Powerhouse, Sydney (2015); Artspace, Sydney (2014) & CACSA, Adelaide (2015); Hors Pistes, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014); Westspace (2014); La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris (2013); and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012).

exonemo: Formed 1996, Tokyo, Japan. The artists live and work in New York, New York, United States of America. Artist unit, Exonemo formed in 1996 with key members Sembo Kensuke and Akaiwa Yae. Exonemo create experiments that explore the boundaries of the internet and internet culture. Critical to this examination are the exploration of digital paradoxes and the divide between analog, digital and real life. Exonemo’s exhibitions include: Baruch College Library, New York, U.S.A 2018; Plg.in, Basel, Switzerland, 2008, Whitney Museum, New York, 2019; Jogja National Museum, Jog Jakarta, Indonesia, 2018, New Museum, New York, USA; Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan, 2018. Since 2012 they have organized the ‘Internet Yami-Ichi’, a large flea market that has taken place in Tokyo and New York and which makes the often immaterial flotsam of cyberspace tangible in online-themed objects.

Simon Denny: Born 1982, Auckland, New Zealand, lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Drawing upon research into the practices and aesthetics of technology companies, Simon Denny creates artworks that interrogate the implications of big data in our contemporary age. Denny represented New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). His work was included in Manifesta 11 (2016), 9th Berlin Biennale (2016), 6th Moscow Biennale (2015), 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015), La Biennale de Montreal (2014), the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), 1st Brussels Biennial (2008), and the 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008). His work has been included in exhibitions at museums and institutions throughout Europe and the United States, and has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); BOZAR, Brussels (2017); the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington (2016); Wiels, Brussels (2016); Serpentine Gallery, London (2015-2016); MoMA PS1, New York (2015); Portikus, Frankfurt (2014); Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig MUMOK, Vienna (2013); and Kunstverein München, Munich (2013).

Sunwoo Hoon: Born 1989, Seoul, South Korea, lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. Sunwoo Hoon translates key socio-political moments from history into isometric 8 bit ‘digital drawings’ loaded with intense meaning and narrative. His key exhibitions include the Daum, online web-portal, 2015 – 2017, Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 2017 and Gwangju Biennale, 2018. His work is collected by Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain and in 2015, he won the Emerging Artist
Award from the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival (SICAF). From 2016 – 2017, he was Editor-in-chief of Yourmana.

Mijoon Pak: Born 1978, Seoul, South Korea, lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. Mijoon Pak is long-term collaborator with Sunwoo Hoon. Since meeting fellow artist Sunwoo Hoon, she has been critical to the development of their collaborative practice as a storyteller. Prior to this, Mijoon has had a corporate career at large multinational firms including Google, Bloomberg, Oracle, SAP, and Samsung.


Exhibition Documentation

A gallery glass front with the decal that reads 'The Invisible Hand' looks into a space with a mound of electrical cords on the floor and two hanging television screens from the ceiling above. A face with closed eyes is displayed on one of the screens while the other screen is overlapped on the face's mouth as both screens are kissing
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Left: exonemo, Kiss, or Dual Monitors, 2017, HD video, cables, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists. Right: exonemo, Live Streams, 2018, T.V. monitors, live cameras, software, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
Two television monitors are suspended from a gallery ceiling, one broadcasting a kissing face overlapped with the other television monitor. Cords from the monitors hang down into a pile of electrical cords on the gallery floor
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. exonemo, Kiss, or Dual Monitors, 2017, HD video, cables, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
A femme-presenting figure in a black down jacket and her hair in a bun looks into a webcam broadcasting an Instagram livestream of her face onto two television screens mounted on a white gallery wall
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. exonemo, Live Streams, 2018, T.V. monitors, live cameras, software, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
A laser-cut artwork with stencils and numbers encased is mounted on a white gallery wall
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Front: Simon Denny, Shenzen innovation paradigm – Mass Entrepreneurship – 2, acationem Universalem / Universal Call, 2017, New Rixing K7 Wireless Microphone & HIFI Speaker, laser cut airbrush stencils, UV print on plexiglasm laser cut mdf, 75 x 120 x 20 cm. Courtesy the artist and Fine Arts, Sydney. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
A yellow sculptural block emblazoned with red Chinese characters stands on an illuminated white plinth, with a video still of hands projected onto the wall behind
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Front: Simon Denny, Shenzen Mass Entrepeneurial Huaqiangbei Market Counter in OCT Theme Park Style – Battery, 2017, airbush on synthetic plaster, illuminated plinth, 125 x 132 x 68 cm. Courtesy the artist and Fine Arts Sydney. Back wall projection: Simon Denny, Real Mass Entrepreneurship, 2017, video, 14:23. Courtesy the artist and Fine Arts, Sydney. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
A yellow sculptural block airbrushed with the red Chinese character for 'Battery', situated on an illuminated white plinth
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Front: Simon Denny, Shenzen Mass Entrepeneurial Huaqiangbei Market Counter in OCT Theme Park Style – Battery, 2017, airbush on synthetic plaster, illuminated plinth, 125 x 132 x 68 cm. Courtesy the artist and Fine Arts Sydney. Back left: Sunwoo Hoon, Flat is the new deep, 2018, digital drawing, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the Gwangju Biennale, 2018 with support from Christina H. Kang. Courtesy the artist. Back right: Sunwoo Hoon and Mijoon Pak, Flat Earth, 2019, digital drawing, dimensions variable. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy the artists.  Image: Kai Wasikowski.
Two figures in black stand in an art gallery. One has his hand on a clear perspex plinth where a large scroll wheel is embedded. He looks at the two vertical LED screens in front of him. The other figure looks at a twisted platinum sculpture on a reflective plinth.
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Left wall front: Sunwoo Hoon, Flat is the new deep, 2018, digital drawing, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the Gwangju Biennale, 2018 with support from Christina H. Kang. Courtesy the artist. Left Wall Far: Sunwoo Hoon and Mijoon Pak, Flat Earth, 2019, digital drawing, dimensions variable. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy the artists. Back wall: Baden Pailthorpe, One and Three PCs, 2019, digital imagery produced by a DCGAN machine learning algorthim, various LED screens, In-Win Z Tower, Threadripper 2970WX, ASUS RGB 64 GB, 2 x AMD Radeon VII, 2 x WD Black 1TB NVMe, ASIS ROG Thor 1200W Platinum, Themaltake Ring Trio, CableMod Pro Sleeved Cables, Custom 7” screen (running Aida64). PC build: Stuart Tonks, GGF LAN Party; AI assistance Dr Charles Gretton, ANU Kieran Browne, ANU; Network architecture by Radford et al., 2015. Code: https://github.com/gsurma/image_generator. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia. Supported by In-win. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
A male-presenting figure in black looks at two LED screens in front of him, with his right hand on a large scroll wheel embedded into a clear perspex plinth. The left LED screen depicts an 8-bit computer game graphics scene
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Left: Sunwoo Hoon, Flat is the new deep, 2018, digital drawing, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the Gwangju Biennale, 2018 with support from Christina H. Kang. Courtesy the artist. Right: Sunwoo Hoon and Mijoon Pak, Flat Earth, 2019, digital drawing, dimensions variable. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy the artists. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
A twisted platinum sculpture with a neon-lit computer system built inside. It stands on a reflective plinth
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Baden Pailthorpe, One and Three PCs, 2019, digital imagery produced by a DCGAN machine learning algorthim, various LED screens, In-Win Z Tower, Threadripper 2970WX, ASUS RGB 64 GB, 2 x AMD Radeon VII, 2 x WD Black 1TB NVMe, ASIS ROG Thor 1200W Platinum, Themaltake Ring Trio, CableMod Pro Sleeved Cables, Custom 7” screen (running Aida64). PC build: Stuart Tonks, GGF LAN Party; AI assistance Dr Charles Gretton, ANU Kieran Browne, ANU; Network architecture by Radford et al., 2015. Code: https://github.com/gsurma/image_generator. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia. Supported by In-win. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Image: Kai Wasikowski.
Close-up of the neon-lit computer system inside a twisted platinum metal sculpture. The computer system includes a motherboard labelled 'Zenith', installed over two graphic disks with the name 'RADEON' lit up in red on each one
The Invisible Hand, installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Baden Pailthorpe, One and Three PCs, 2019, digital imagery produced by a DCGAN machine learning algorthim, various LED screens, In-Win Z Tower, Threadripper 2970WX, ASUS RGB 64 GB, 2 x AMD Radeon VII, 2 x WD Black 1TB NVMe, ASIS ROG Thor 1200W Platinum, Themaltake Ring Trio, CableMod Pro Sleeved Cables, Custom 7” screen (running Aida64). PC build: Stuart Tonks, GGF LAN Party; AI assistance Dr Charles Gretton, ANU Kieran Browne, ANU; Network architecture by Radford et al., 2015. Code: https://github.com/gsurma/image_generator. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia. Supported by In-win. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Image: Kai Wasikowski