The 4th Industrial Revolution of information and communication technologies is transforming the way we live, work, dream, and play. Like all technological revolutions, it is once again altering forms of production, communication, and social interaction, as well as creating new ways of organizing space and time. The 4 th Ural Industrial Biennial: New Literacy looks at the novel forms of literacy necessitated by the physical, social, and emotional results of this transformation, and the ways in which this revolution is combining digital, physical, and biological worlds. As a tool for visual and experiential investigation, the main project is conceived around three related themes:
IMAGE AS WITNESS
Most of us walk around with hundreds of images in our pockets, and have nearly instant access to a massive online archive. These images are an ongoing record of our daily lives, as well as an integral part of the way we experience both history and the present. Images have become witnesses to the personal and global events of contemporary life, from what we post on social media, to the news images that mediate world events, and the increasing instances of crimes or violence in which a bystander or attacker records an image in the act. Such images are not merely representations of an event, but implicated in the event itself. Easily manipulated yet testimonial, images now increasingly witness the present alongside us, seeing beyond human vision while mediating between the world and us. As witnesses, what do these images see, and how they can begin to claim ethical and legal, as well as visual power?
Motion is central to our globalized world. Capital is always in motion, from the circulation of financial instruments and the movement of people at work, to the migration of workers across borders. The nature of work, and the movement of the body in relation to capital, defines a kind of choreography, both personal and social. Capital works itself into the level of the body, shaping, moving, contorting it, ordering and tending to it. The factory, as a space that defined industrial capitalism, for instance, implied a certain order of labor; this has altered with changes in the organization of post-industrial work, and the related effects on the body, the factory often transforming into a space of culture or leisure. We have become literate dancers of new choreographic demands of work and play, the hand a particularly important part of the repertoire of our daily movements. We not only look at images, but now manipulate them with the ease of a moving finger.
THE PERSISTENT WORD
Despite the importance of images and visual interfaces to today’s networked world, text and reading remain a principal means of producing and consuming information. Language persists and adapts to technological changes, new grammars created by transformations in production. As mass industrialization and mass media implied the need for new forms of communication, so networked forms of production create a kind of adaptation of one technology to the effect of the other — from Soviet typography to sms and emojis. Forms of visual literacy today amend the word, from social media to programming code. What is the form and potential of the word in today’s interconnected global word? With more than 60 artists from 19 countries, the exhibition investigates the new literacy necessitated by the technologies that now permeate everyday life. How might contemporary art help to understand and overcome the speeds, languages, and movements of these changes, part of an ongoing revolution of technologically-mediated information, things, and people?
All photos by Evgeny Litvinov