Ghosts of the Machine
Lu Yang, Heaven Realm #1, 2021, aluminum, LED lights, backlit fabric

Ghosts of the Machine

The Polygon Gallery, North Vancouver, BC - To Aug 14

by Michael Turner

Taking its title from English philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s critique of Cartesian dualism (that Nature is a complex machine, while human nature is a smaller mechanism whose “ghost” accounts for ingenuity, improvisation and other human qualities), Polygon curator Elliott Ramsey presents an exhibition that eschews the mind/body binary for a variegated approach to the interrelationship of human, technological and ecological forces. Of the artists included, all have a reflexive interest in the edges of their medium relative to their lived and embodied experiences.

Not surprisingly, the avatar features prominently. In Singapore artist Ho Tzu Nyen’s installation No Man II, human, beast and hybrid avatars quote John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island,” while in Juliana Huxtable’s ARI I, the artist poses as a trans-species figure to highlight the instability of our online spheres. In Lu Yang’s video Doku: Digital Alaya, the relationship between human, non-human and cyborg life is exemplified in the eponymous non-binary subject. Mohawk artist Skawennati’s Second Life cyberpunk avatar appears in a series of machinimagraphs (images made in a virtual environment). Santiago Tamayo Soler’s pixelated Retornar has queer avatars negotiating an ecological crisis.
Rounding out the exhibition are interactive installations by T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss and Anne Duk Hee Jordan. Wyss was commissioned by the gallery to plant and tend a garden that includes an augmented reality experience by Syilx artist Tracey Kim Bonneau. Jordan’s Ziggy and the Starfish is a work of sculptural theatre where viewers can watch otherworldly sea creatures in various states of flirtation. On Thursday nights the gallery will host two film programs as well as VR experiences programmed by IM4 Media Lab. Wyss and her daughter Senaqwila Wyss will host talks and nature walks.

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