MUTUAL ART | 5 May 2023

‘In the Middle of Nowhere II’, Jonas Lund’s solo exhibition at Annka Kultys Gallery, is featured in Mutual Art.

Jonas Lund: In the Middle of Nowhere II

In So Bright the Vision, a sci-fi short story penned by Clifford D. Simak in 1968, humans vend stories to fiction-hungry aliens within an interplanetary entertainment marketplace. Equipped with ever-evolving Yarners—automated word-engines that churn out one work after the next—these writers end up securing the Earth’s economic viability by removing their own hand entirely from the creative process; “human” creativity becomes cringe, even taboo. While sci-fi tends to position the human and machine as binaries—with automated processes on one end, and the creative intelligence of the human on the other—the current “golden age” of AI-assisted creative production introduces a new paradigm for the art world and beyond. As large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and text-to-image generators like Midjourney become increasingly integrated into contemporary art practice, this relationship becomes less like a binary and more like a gradient to be questioned and explored.

Swedish conceptual artist Jonas Lund has worked around the increasing digitalisation of culture for years, producing a body of work that investigates issues of creative labor, production, authorship, and authority within the art market and society at large. As these systems become more complex and entangled over time, Lund’s work evolves recursively, riffing off itself in confounding ways. In the Middle of Nowhere II, presented at Annka Kultys Gallery in London, picks up where In the Middle of Nowhere, exhibited earlier this year at Office Impart in Berlin, left off. This iteration drops us into the speculative office of an aspirational CEO whose unnamed company, much like the Yarner-equipped ghostwriters of Simak’s narrative, is struggling to keep pace with the ever-advancing technological stakes of this world. Potted plants and corporate office furniture frame the missing CEO’s art collection: a series of AI-generated tapestries, a single-channel video, and a four-channel screen-based wall work of automated affirmations.

The six tapestries, made in collaboration with the latest interations of text-based large language models (LLMs) like GPT4 and text-to-image AI tools like Stable Diffusion, collectively ask after the value of creative labor in the age of AI production. Merging the craft aura of the textile medium with the increasingly familiar aesthetic of contemporary AI-generated imagery—warped perspectives, weird textures, mutant anatomies, and animals doing strange things—conjure a hybrid affect that’s both comical and vaguely threatening. This is heightened by the works’ titles: Titans of the Trunks (2023) showcases a cluster of elephants decked out in office dad attire, while Oinking in Opulance (2023) reveals a bunch of swines seated at a luxe corporate dinner. Where the Wild Things Rule (2023) and We’re having an Alignment Problem (2023) draw us into the comfortably vintage look of the smaller command-line tool Deep Daze (2021)—each tapestry’s composition is a mosaic of smaller corporate multispecies scenes.

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