Weaving one’s way around in a world of information

In the so-called age of technological information, the facts available to us have increased and our access to them is as easy as a click on the computer mouse. Strangely, this has not necessarily made our knowledge of the world expand nor our experience of life more real. It has, however, paved the way for another, less linear perception of the world, perhaps a fragmented and mediated understanding of reality, but also seemingly endless choices and combinations. Like surfing the Internet, information can be liberating and chaotic at the same time, full of potential as well as constrictions. «Body Milk,» an installation by artist Alexandros Psychoulis recently presented at the gallery, is aimed at addressing the ambiguity. Psychoulis, one of the most successful of a generation of Greek artists now in their late 30s, seems steadily concerned with issues of communication and information in its reception and processing. In «Body Milk» this concern is less apparent than in the artist’s previous works, particularly his digital videos, or works that invited interaction from the viewer. Still, this is also one of his works that is most engaging and multilayered in meaning. Hundreds of meters of pink-colored thick cotton string have been woven to replicate the aisles of a supermarket in complete ruin. The shelves, which hang like hammocks, have been emptied of their contents, and small details, scattered around – a leftover black shoe, or a Mickey Mouse head – complete the melancholy mood and suggest recent destruction. It all makes sense when the viewer reads in the exhibition’s leaflet that what inspired the work was a suicide attack by a woman in a supermarket in Israel last May. Psychoulis learned of the incident while he was surfing the Net. One piece of information led him to another and Psychoulis gathered the facts and images and recontextualized them all into an art installation. Constructed from rolls of string that have been woven to indicate shelves, the installation resembles both a giant loom and a circuit, rather like a visual metaphor for Net surfing. It plays with the idea of weaving, either in the sense that evokes handicraft and tradition or in the contemporary «weaving» of information through technology. The correlation between the work and the Internet, however, does not become apparent unless one is aware of the process behind its creation. Concepts about how information is transmitted, processed and reused do not necessarily come across upon viewing this sprawling installation. What does is a strange feeling, an ambivalent sense of alternating comfort and uneasiness. This pink haven made of material that evokes knitting and a female world, evokes a sense of warmth, protection, childish innocence and vulnerability. But the scattered string and bent constructions suggest violence and disaster, thus turning the carefree feeling to melancholy. Both reassuring and ominous, «Body Milk» seems to encompass opposite worlds. As the installation slowly works on the viewer, more associations begin to surface. The space of the supermarket and the chaotic environment, for example, are a possible allusion to consumption and its trappings, particularly in respect to women. The pink color, at first evocative of a girl’s adolescent world, also gradually acquires the connotations of a false, plastic, vapid, bubble-gum world. It is both replete and void of meaning. Just as in most of Psychoulis’s works, the content of «Body Milk» is left open for the viewer to decide. Playful, ambiguous and intriguing, it weaves interesting themes and challenges us to think about how we too weave our way through life and through a surplus of scattered information. Does the weaving of information offer a more clear evaluation of reality? Or does it end up in the unconnected, chaotic world of «Body Milk»? Psychoulis poses the question.