Contemporary Reactions: Confront Yourself / Corrupt.Yourself
Currently in UMOCA’s Codec Gallery, visitors can find three pieces by Paris-based artist Ben Gaulon. His installation, Corrupt.Yourself, confronts a societal “glitch” in which we all participate: planned obsolescence and consumerism in a disposable society.
Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by the titular work, a center projection titled Corrupt.Yourself. Referencing Glitch Art software, which aestheticizes digital errors, Corrupt.Yourself shows malfunctioning webcam images submitted by participants on corrupt.recyclism.com. This glitched, voluntary interaction by consenting participants reflects our own participation in the societal malfunction that produces e-waste. It shows the average person participating in a glitched moment by their own choice, on their own accord. While the two other pieces in the exhibition are literal re-purposed e-waste, here we have webcam uploads, created in a private sphere (the viewer’s home), and re-purposed into Glitch Art in a public space (a museum exhibition). This confronts the general public’s participation in a malfunction that Gaulon has taken out of context and aestheticized for a gallery space.
ReFunct Modular, a kinetic piece on the viewer’s left, also confronts the audience’s relationship to technology and e-waste. While Corrupt.Yourself is a past interaction, ReFunct Modular is a live one. The collection of stripped-down, outdated technologies share power, audio signal and video signal. The sculpture is fully operative, nd moves and reacts to itself and the viewer. The layout and interconnectivity of the re-purposed but defunct technologies are reminiscent of the complex and deeply rooted web of consumerism and disposability in our culture. Three stripped-down monitors mirror the viewer’s glitched image when approached. While Corrupt.Yourself may confront the general public’s participation in a disposable society, ReFunct Modular asks the viewer to look at themselves.
On the wall to the right of the entryway are 18 outdated kindles, mounted in a line. The first kindle is displayed with the back facing the viewer. The artist has printed and signed his name in a place typically occupied by a brand name. Although the rest of the kindle screens are facing us, we assume that all of them have a “Ben Gaulon” brand and signature printed on the back. Each kindle screen displays a glitched image of a book page, comic, or ad, and most of them display the words, “Slide and release the power switch to wake.” The viewer is compelled to ask, “Wake from what?” Is this phrase meant to confront the viewer? Wake from being oblivious and apathetic toward our participation in a disposable society where these kindles, though potentially functional, are considered obsolete? What is our relationship to these technologies?
Similarly to how Glitch Art does not offer a solution to a malfunction but rather aestheticizes it, Ben Gaulon hasn’t provided an answer to e-waste or consumerism. He has, however, confronted the glitch and therefore the viewer, asking us to think about our participation in a disposable society and analyze our relationship to fleeting technologies. The comparatively miniscule amount of e-waste Gaulon has re-purposed inspires an anxiety over the mass amount of e-waste actually in existence. Corrupt.Yourself explores a not yet confronted glitch in our modern society.
Written and photographed by Visitor Services and Specia Events Intern Madison Donnelly