Yuri Pattison: RELiable COMmunications
March 4 2014
Commissioned by Legion TV and co-presented as part of the New Museum’s online exhibition series First Look, artist Yuri Pattison’s newest work RELiable COMmunications dramatizes the experience of consuming and cohering the layers upon layers of information we are presented with online. It does so by compiling fragmented digital trails left by two historic incidents into a web-based collage. The first event is the 1991 attempted Soviet Coup, where a group attempted to take down Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and install a communist government. The second is Chelsea Manning’s declassification of US military documents in 2010.
While emerging from vastly different circumstances, both evince the ways in which networked technology has the ability to alter history as well as how the internet has changed dramatically in recent decades, as have perceptions around it. The Soviet Coup took place before the birth of the World Wide Web; however, the political action unfolded within the privacy of jabber chats, some made available here. Manning’s leak was also, of course, enabled by online distribution; and her emotional and civic conflict was later made public by the exposure of online conversations between her and Adrian Lamo, a friend who eventually turned her in.
Idiosyncratic and elusive, RELiable COMmunications depicts Pattison’s captivation with the ways political strategies are incubated and distributed online, and his concerns for how the internet has become more corporatized, surveilled, and divided. The work is a schizophrenic stream of information that shifts erratically between backgrounds and visual environments, as it presents materials from various databases, including the Soviet Coup archive and the Gulf War parent directory, where IRC chat logs relating to the unofficial beginnings of this latter conflict are stored. Here, viewers see the timestamps, email addresses, and fragmented plans of little-known witnesses or participants in major world events. Online, different time zones and historic periods flatten out into one variegated informatic space, and here too, in RELiable COMmunications, personal and cultural histories are flattened and collapsed, pointing viewers toward an endless number of paths that offer new information but synthesize none.1
Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing a substantial array of work that continues to expand, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.