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A live digital mapping of Palazzo Re Enzo, Bologna (I) for roBOt Festival

October 4th, 2014
9:30 and 10:30 pm

With Spore Baroque Jonathan Monaghan offers a surreal transformation of the facade of Bologna’s Palazzo Re Enzo. A fantastical scene plays out across the building and reveals a world where meaning dissolves, giving birth to a visual manifestation of our history, memories and emotions, intervoven with the fast-paced development of contemporary computer technology. Inspired by the medieval and baroque character of Bologna and displaying an ambience that can exist undoubtedly only in our imagination/memories, the work represents a kind of metaphor for the nature of technology and how this one takes on its own life.

Like something from an alien sea, strange tongue-like forms emerge from the top windows of Palazzo Re Enzo. Part flesh, part architecture, part computer icon, these bizarre creatures awake from their dwellings to disperse tiny rainbow eggs spreading their wings, flying around and interacting with the entire façade until delving into a black and unknowing curtain before appearing in a new, baroque interior. Golden filigree, fleshy appendages and rainbow windows rein the scene, giving life to a new universe, yet one that is oddly familiar.

While appearing shiny and ornamented, this work hides thus a dualism: On the one hand it refers clearly to the importance and position which devices and the digital assume in our daily life, on the other, the exaggerated, fantastical and vibrant environment denotes a kind of technological decadence. Technology puts us in a fake narcosis, but its power becomes banal.

In general, the video animations by Monaghan tell us contemporary tales, funny and colorful, almost superficial, but at the same time based on a deep analysis of the history of art, politics, and social dynamics with an emphasis on former and actual power structures. Although the stories are very different from each other, we can recognize similarities – the interpretation and reconstruction of monarchial structures, the exercise of power and control.

In fact, the organizational principles of his works are an ideological criticism of today’s society. Monaghan often reverses the meaning and function of objects and characters, embezzling not only the elements and protagonists of pop culture, advertising, consumerism, and new media, but also their subconscious strategies that elicit a particular response in us. The immediate familiarity granted by images from our cultural heritage mediates the surreal foreignness of his aesthetic. It is this combination that makes his works so magnetizing. Monaghan defines our contemporary society not as self-contemplative, as suggested by Siegfried Krakauer, but rather medicated, anesthetized by the surplus of information, products, and technological possibilities that go far beyond the capabilities of neuronal processing by our brain. His ornamental exaggeration and artificial constructs force us to wake from a coma of indifference and into a state of deeper self-reflection.

Jonathan Monaghan is represented by The Curator’s Office.

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