Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error

Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error-Omenka Online

WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error, a group video exhibition curated by Lindsey Raymond, with contributing artists Dineo Seshee Bopape, Lungiswa Gqunta, Dynasty Handbag, Angel Ho, Lakin Ogunbanwo, Cameron Platter, Tabita Rezaire, Athi-Patra Ruga, and Warrick Sony.

Divided into three parts, Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error, begins with an evaluation of our political world and ends with how we respond to and heal from the injustice that has come to signify our present. Humanity, history, ‘evil’, and error are located within the seemingly abstract — ’cultural criticism’, ’neoliberalism’, ‘the internet’. The programme excavates some of humanity’s greatest failures: from The Gukurahundi, a series of massacres in Zimbabwe between 1983 and 1987; to the Marikana Massacre which took place on 16 August 2012, in South Africa; to the laying down of fibre network cables on the Atlantic Slave Trade seabed routes; to the invention of social media, algorithms, and modes of ‘connecting’ through manipulative systems. ‘Evil’ in this case refers not to the doctrine of Original Sin, but rather, to the underbelly of humans’ relationship to power. Theorist Thomas Hobbes argues that humans’ self-interest, and our investment in reputation and material wellbeing, hinders our ability to live together in large-scale political societies. Unlike bees or ants, who instinctively band together for shared survival, humans compete over scarce resources. We are hardwired for socio-political and economic failure.

Used in the title, the term ‘human error’ refers to an unintended and undesirable act that leads a task or system to react outside of its acceptable limitations. As a consequence, this ‘happening’ or deviation from intention (from ‘goodness’) risks the integrity of the whole. A blip in the matrix causes a catastrophic end or, as Jaron Lanier suggests, a “whimper”. This tongue-in-cheek use of the term, coupled with it’s diminutive prefix “Only”, refers to humanity’s ability to dismiss malice, negligence, and wrong-doings as being “only human” only when the intention is deemed pure. “Order”, “progress”, and “freedom” are good intentions, but against our contemporary milieu, cannot be separated from self-fulfilling political motivation, and often leads to tragedy, death, and division. By dismissing the invisible scapegoats “angels” and “algorithms” — phenomena which appear outside of human control — the title prompts the audience to restate the weight and responsibility in being only human: the single most significant impact on Earth’s geology, ecosystems, and humanity itself.

Part 1 / Video Synopses

In Part 1, Tabita Rezaire’s Deep Down Tidal examines the political and technological affects of water as a conductive interface for communication. Rezaire reveals how the infrastructure of submarine fibre optic cables may inform the transferral of users’ digital data and the data economy at large. Rezaire refers to the internet as the new cyber colony, whereby a more dignified data economy could see the establishment of a universal standard income. Where housing, healthcare, and education, are provided for just by users creating content and generating more data for psychographics. Rezaire questions: “From fibre optic cables to sunken cities, drowned bodies, hidden histories of navigations and sacred signal transmissions, the ocean is home to a complex set of communication networks… What data is our world’s water holding? Beyond trauma, water keeps myriad of deep secrets, from its debated origin, its mysterious sea life of mermaids, water deities, and serpent gods, to the aquatic ape theory (Goodman Gallery, 2017).”

Warrick Sony’s abstract scapes of secretly obtained video footage form the backdrops to his evocative sound pieces. In Most of You Will be Listening, an uncut video, taken with a handheld device, shows a person walking through the twilight aftermath of the state-led atrocity of the Marikana Massacre which took place on 16 August 2012, in South Africa. A recording of South Africa’s first female national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, plays in which one hears her quietly congratulating the police force on their part in the massacre. In Gukurahundi, a meditative Mbira soundtrack emotionally guides the audience through abstract swifts of military forces walking through a landscape. The video reveals found footage from The Gukurahundi, a series of massacres in Zimbabwe between 1983 and 1987. Both videos comment on cultures of violence; state terrorism; corruption; neo-fascism and democratic decay.

Similarly, Athi-Patra Ruga’s Injibaba comments on the strengthening of national borders as a result of racism and colonialism. In vernacular, “injibaba” means alopecia, a condition whereby hair falls out in patches and the hairline recedes. Ruga’s character, Injibaba, formed from synthetic Afros, was born in Switzerland (while the artist was on residency) as a response to a xenophobic poster by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party. It depicted a couple of white sheep kicking a black sheep off of the Swiss confederacy flag. Injibaba highlights European xenophobia under the guise of ‘state control’ and ‘nationalism’, a means of protecting utopia.

Text by Lindsey Raymond

Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error runs until 3 July 2021 at WHATIFTHEWORLD.

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