December 11, 2020 – February 21, 2021
Installation view courtesy of photo: Guillaume Python and the gallery
In a future in which men no longer exist, characters of the feminine sex have created an artificially intelligent device that they use for entertainment, for conserving memories, and for creating emotional relationships. They also depend on it to reproduce. This technology takes the form of a childish blue doll, the Bluebot, suggestive both of a retrogressive toy and a cyber-feminist avatar.
Fri Art welcomes the New Heads 2020 prize, awarded each year to an artist graduating from HEAD – Genève, Haute école d’art et de design. For A Selene Blues, her first individual exhibition in an institution, Giulia Essyad has transformed the first floor of the Kunsthalle into an immersive environment given over to the universe of a heroic fantasy saga of which she is both the author and one of the characters.
The first room recreates the hall area of a multiplex cinema. We aren’t sure if it’s still open or has been abandoned. Giant advertising hoardings display images of the heroines of a fantasy film about to be released. The key moments of a still-to-be-discovered adventure play out in front of us. This intermediary space, a space pregnant with the promise of screenings, now appears to us in an out-of-time solitude, as if in a dream.
Hidden behind a curtain, the second room is given over to the Bluebot doll, presented behind glass at the various stages of its fabrication. Both archaeological staging and homage to its inventor, creation and reconstitution, the successive stages of the assembly process evoke an automaton to which life is given, the process recalling the magical naturalism of cinema and cinematic technique: disassembling and reassembling pieces, time. A disquieting strangeness emanates from the doll, which has been given this breath of artificial life: the breath of its creator, or of our imaginations? Phony wreckage of the Bluebot, redolent of a decaying romanticism, towers over the display in the most symbolic occurrence of a rediscovered, exhibited future.
In the last room, an obsolete museum device invokes codes designed for lost civilisations, retrieved from fan museums or a hard-rock café. Glass showcases and monumental frames present artefacts from film sets, in a sort of making-of: character costumes and fetichised gadgets evoking a cult of nature, menstrual cycles have been sealed up, offered to a historical assignatory gaze.
Still in the same room, two screens invite us to read a diary and letters written by the main character in the fiction: Naria. As the images pass in front of our eyes, the text and the soundtrack are reminiscent of early video games. The introspective account uses a narrative technique that brings us closer to the character and her feelings: confession. The inclusive scenography uses a deliberately didactic presentation style. The black digital screen takes on the form of an archaic cinema that the imagination of each spectator fills with their own images.
A Selene Blues installs an atmosphere. Its distant fiction is part of a variety of cultural devices which assign beliefs and emotional relationships to time. At the première of a film that will never be held, in a run-down museum that is part of a story taking place in the future, what exactly are we witnessing? The doll symbol comes to summarise the desire for consumption. Its artificiality is ambiguous: with utopia comes the shop.
Giulia Essyad, born in 1992, is an artist, poet and performer. She has published several collections of poetry, including “Birthday” (Oraibi/Beckbooks) and “Poetry Archive” (Quark). She has exhibited at Cherish in 2020 and organized the exhibition Immortality at Forde, Geneva (2014), a presentation focussing on poetry with Loren Kagny and Viktor Tibay. In 2019, she opens “Touching myself”, a ceramic workshop centered on the body.