'Fallout Pattern'

Published in ART PAPERS (U.S.), 2018. 

With the spectre of alleged Russian cyber-espionage still haunting the outcome of the last U.S election, a new global paranoia re-shapes itself, attuning for the first time to the hum of the server and the search engine. The old strategies of propaganda slither and re-form, and in these throes, the rise of sponsored fake news, misinformation on social media, and collected-data abuse all find their places as instruments in this new political landscape. 

The artist Andrea Molodkin looks to sources like Wikileaks for the sort of transparency our representatives no longer even pretend to provide. Against the backdrop of Kremlin interference in Trump’s election and the resulting international tensions, Molodkin draws on some particular Wikileaks documents that detail the impact of a potential US nuclear attack on Russia. The predicted Fallout of such a strike becomes the basis for his latest exhibition; the aptly named ‘Fallout Pattern’(February 9th - April 6th, 2018), on view at Rua Red, Dublin. 

10 tonnes of industrial steel hosts flashing projections that streak down from the ceilings of Rua Red’s Gallery 1. A barraging artificial soundscape heralds these images as they descend onto this platform, where they congeal in an unsettling atmosphere exasperated by severe pragmatic lighting. In Dialogue with this central plateau are 12 symmetrically displayed cartographic drawings based on the Wikileaks documents. Made using the humble ballpoint pen, these drawings take shape through the meticulous stacking and accumulation of marks, and manage to tire the arm just by looking at them. In each of these blue and white abstracted diagrams, some contours seem familiar, recalling coastal geographies. Foreboding curves of more severe and relentless impressions are more central to the compositions however, and they seem to pass over the more recognisable features in a vein that aggressively overpowers.

Between the simple palette, the TV static-esque quality of the marks, and their symmetrical display, one could easily imagine these drawings as props on some science fiction film set. Add to this then the specifics of what is being presented - the palpable anxiety of the projection and sound, the space’s cold lighting – and we are left with the impression of being deep underground, watching as the doomsday clock moves one minute closer to midnight. Appropriately, Stanley Kubricks’s similarly unsettling Dr. Strangelove (1964) was screened as part of an artist talk after the shows opening.

A conceptual artist known for making political work, Molodkin’s work is steeped in crude oil and blood. Fallout Pattern however, makes use of a more allusive and mysterious material: information, that ancient and most occluded of currencies. Actors with access to this currency constitute the world’s most powerful people, and as such, this access is overtly political. 'Fallout Pattern' unfolds in tune with this proposition. It is Molodkin’s interest in this access to information, and conversely, the sociological exclusion from such access, that is supposed to situate Molodkin’s work as contextually relevant to this area of Dublin.

Rua Red is a good example of the sort of community-oriented arts centre that emerged in pre-crash Dublin. It was to be an arts centre that could hold its own against the cultural hegemony of the metropolitan centre, and by extension, contribute to the wider gentrification efforts in the area so as to lure capital from the city centre. Since its opening in 2009, neoliberal aspirations of culture-led prosperity have fallen by the wayside; still, the institution has maintained an ethos of engagement with its locality. Under new directorship since 2017, the center has partnered with the London-based art organisation a/political for the duration of its 2018 programme, and 'Fallout Pattern' is the second exhibition to result from this collaboration.

Yet the choice to show Molodkin’s latest work at Rua Red seems to be based on a broad context of global inter-connectivity rather than any specifically considered local one. In a sense, 'Fallout Pattern' could have been shown anywhere - as long as it was somehow culturally ‘peripheral’. 

This looseness in location choice perhaps compounds the rather obvious sentiment that the advent of the internet led to communities outside of major cities having access to important information - and with that, a cultural education. Molodkin, whether intentionally or not, has thankfully curbed this patronising and banal notion by involving students from the local Institute of Technology in what seems like a genuine spirit of experimentation. In a socially driven and performative element in the smaller gallery 2, Molodkin sets about putting these students to work researching “systems that enable the world to function”. Gallery 2 stands as a sort of research lab in relation to the main exhibit, a sort of control centre through which an ideal and inclusive political engagement can be staged. The students’ processes and findings are actively updated over the course of the exhibition, the ambition being that this research will yield actual product to be included in the main gallery alongside the work already installed there. 

Moldkin’s didactic approach to local engagement might run the risk of being self defeating: the work not only takes information distribution as its subject matter, but also flirts with the propagandistic functions of media in its own construction. From this perspective, a manipulative aestheticisation familiar to contemporary political discourse - the sort visible on social media, in Russian - American relations, through fake social movements, or the misuse of collected data - might be read into Molodkin’s own approach. Yet 'Fallout Pattern' maintains an appealing integrity through the sheer idealism of its intent: what Molodkin’s work has that discourse in our political epoch does not is a vision and a dream outside of itself. The result is not an aestheticisation of the political but the politicisation of the aesthetic - not always an obvious distinction, but, in the age of Cambridge Analytica and foreign intelligence Facebook ads, a critically important one. 

images : 

1. Andrei Molodkin, Fallout Pattern, proposal [courtesy of the artist; Rua Red, Dublin; and a/political, London]

2. Fallout Pattern, installation shot. Photograph by Ros Kavanagh.  

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