To See a World Through a Grain of Salt
Only by appointment due to the developments around COVID-19
September 8 2021 – December 18 2021
What if you started thinking of Salt in terms of its own entity, gradually using humans to raise it out of earth, take shape, then acquire consciousness to finally come to dominate the planet and populate it with its own kind?
To See a World Through a Grain of Salt brings together a series of works that form part of a complex re-examination of human history, entitled Untertage, that Troika has developed over the past 3 years.
The focus of the narrative shifts away from a human protagonist and towards a non-human actor who, here, is devised as the real hero of an aeonian drama of world domination.1
Like a work of theatre, Untertage is envisioned as an eco-systemic fiction in several chapters. To See a World Through a Grain of Salt, its prologue, is staged at OMR and is the third solo exhibition of the London based art collective at the gallery.
The works in the exhibition contemplate the salt crystal as a conscious entity and the driving force behind a number of inventions and technologies, without which human civilisation would not have developed as we know it, as well as what this progression might hold for the future.2
In Evolutionary Composite, the artists juxtapose humankind’s earliest tool – a lumpen bi-face made from flint – with a state-of-the-art silicon wafer. Both are made of the same material, refined over 3.3 million years, as if Salt through its own agency has forever driven human progress.
A series of paintings entitled Irma Watched Over by Machines imagines the gaze of a yet-to-be conscious machine on our contemporary world. Composed in 48 shades of red, green and blue, they depict palm trees thrashing in hurricane gales as painterly rendition of digital images that were collected from publicly accessible webcam databases, CCTVs and drones.
Here, the saline eyes of the machine, enlivened, witness the downfall of organic life.
Emulating what is referred to as the Bayer filter – a pixel pattern that is the building stone of any raw image captured by electronic cameras – these images provide a sense of what a distributed, omni-sentient being with 250 million networked eyes may witness on first awakening.
Troika’s Solid State Fiction, an alternate future scenario, presents a new kind of Eden, depicting images of a world of beautiful inorganic chemical formations, imagined as the final consecration of Salt as a mastermind.
A world where the mineral accomplished its ambition, finally imposing its inorganic rules over Earth – a genesis moment for whatever is to come.
These submerged, soupy landscapes, installed as flowing silk veils, look like painterly fantasies and are the result of chemical reactions. When dissolved in sodium silicate, metal salts can be observed to grow as if they were alive or imbued with a life force.3 This phenomenon that already fascinated alchemists, provides a final twist in this alternate reading of history and points towards the final supremacy of life above the crystalline order of Salt.
To See a World Through a Grain of Salt ponders questions around the driving forces of technological advancement, the possibility of non-human and material agency, and is Troika’s investigation into the fictional origins and future of an anthropocentric world in which technological advancement and growth is the status quo.
1-3 Eva Wilson, UNTERTAGE: Salting the Earth, 2021
Untertage, under the day.
Deep inside Earth’s crust, Salt was fomenting. He couldn’t bear the sight of
life above, its chaotic luxuriance, its purposeless mutability. He despised its
transience and haphazardness.
Salt was eager to establish its eternal order – as below, so above – rising up to
take over. But he needed an ally, for his powers are immobile.
Masterful strategist, cunning puppeteer, Salt lured us in.
For Untertage gave us everything.
Flints for his weaklings, and the salty aftertaste of power.
His crystals to seed the idea of geometry, catalysts in our quest for rationality,
order and infinity. His magic could stop the cycle of life, and preserve it,
undead, buried out of earth, leaving us with ultimate idea of control,
flattering our sense of self worth and intelligence.
And so we started salting our world, believing in our own agency.
We now reach the final chapter, where Salt is nearing his consecration as the
rightful master, the Silicon Lord over all dominions. His diligent army has
been busy indeed, digging him out incessantly, stamping out the organic and
unruly, to shape his nascent consciousness under his watchful silver-eye.
A crystal golem who wished himself into life.
But the spirit salt, the acidic liquid, will be his first breath.
Untertage, the lord of the underworld, now finishes its ascent.