RƎTRO/GRADƎ - 2023
360 sound installation, 15min loop
min. 6 speaker monitors, stands, subwoofer, multi-track player
(stereo mix available on request)
Press Release for RƎTRO/GRADƎ, solo show, Super Dakota, Brussels-BE
9 November 2023 - 16 December 2023
“Only a single bird is singing.
The air echoes it.
We hear through mirrors.”
Replica, Federico Garcia Lorca
Operating continuously within a transdisciplinary framework that spans fields such as geology, anthropology, and neuroscience, Sarah Derat’s multidisciplinary project captures the most dramatic era of technological innovation. From silicone rubber sculptures to video, performance, and sound compositions, the artworks in the exhibition delve into the intricate and ever-evolving dynamics of our interaction with the Earth and technology.
The title of the exhibition, RƎTRO/GRADƎ, plays a pivotal role in conveying its essence. This evocative term embodies the idea of moving backwards or experiencing retrograde motion. The slash in the middle acts as a symbol, subtly representing the axis tilt and the encompassing nature of this transformative journey.
The exhibition stems from an exploration of various bodies – celestial, geological, and human. Here, the Earth’s core rotation, which moves at a different speed than the rest of the planet and shifts and reverses every 70 years, symbolizes a generation’s lifespan. As a metaphor, the retrograde movement bridges discussions about the body and the mind, carrying political and poetic implications. The very technological progress that enables scientific discovery is questioned in the context of the transition from organic to digital, relevant in social, political, and economic arenas and the zeitgeist. In the face of technological accelerationism, retrograde motion stands for resilience and defiance.
The sound piece in the gallery’s main room, bearing the exhibition’s title, anchors many of the subjects the artist explores, emphasizing the connections and parallels between human, geological, celestial, and technological entities. The sound physically rotates and changes direction, reflecting the central theme. Sarah Derat’s writings in this piece delve into movement, backward progression, and the journey from micro to macro. It is performed both by herself and her own voice synthesized by a custom AI system. Field recordings from volcanic activity enrich the sonic landscape. The volcano emerges as a prominent figure in the exhibition; rhythmic sounds from its eruptions are woven into The Radicant, aka Vincent Cavanagh’s, musical composition and sound design. Choreographed by Georgia Tegou and performed by Synne Maria Lundesgaard, the dancer represents the rotation of the Earth’s core, exploring movements on and off the axis, defying gravity, and challenging coordination.
The other artworks in the exhibition further probe the simulation and emulation of the body. They intricately examine ideas surrounding permanence, impermanence, and fragmentation. This exploration ranges from capturing and isolating the dancer’s performance sounds to documenting choreographed movements that mirror the tension and release echoed in surveillance footage of Kilauea’s volcanic unrest.
By quoting Lorca’s words ”We hear through mirrors”, the artist underscores the profound role of technology in shaping our identity within the societal body. From surveying volcanoes to moon landings, the modern world stands in awe of grand technological achievements, epitomizing the “technological sublime”(1). Derat’s scrutiny of the politics of perception in industrial society urges us to ponder the sustainability of unchecked technological advancement, which, unlike the natural sublime, is finite.
As we immerse ourselves in the deeply organic rhythm of RƎTRO/GRADƎ we are prompted to contemplate our intricate bond with technology and its profound impact on our constantly evolving sense of self and our surroundings.
(1) Term originally coined by Perry Miller.