“up the river down the tide” at Various Small Fires (Contemporary Art Daily)

"up the river down the tide" at Various Small Fires

"up the river down the tide" at Various Small Fires

Artists: DIS, Katja Novitskova, Christopher Kulendran Thomas

Venue: Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

Exhibition Title: up the river down the tide

Date: November 8, 2018 — January 12, 2019

Note: A checklist is available for download here.

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"up the river down the tide" at Various Small Fires

"up the river down the tide" at Various Small Fires

"up the river down the tide" at Various Small Fires

Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.


Images courtesy of Various Small Fires, Los Angeles

Press Release:

The Aymara, an indigenous people native to the Andes mountains, maintain in their language a spatial conception of time distinct from the global mainstream. Whereas in most cultures the future is conceptualized as ahead of the ego, with the past behind it, for the Aymara the opposite is true – they believe that the past stands in front of us as we move through the world while the future trails behind us.¹

The Aymara also speak of Pachakuti, an event roughly translated as “world reversal”: a wide-reaching state change akin to a cosmic polarity shift.² It seems increasingly plausible that we are in the midst of such a reversal today. The once-familiar cluster of ideologies and social assemblages constituting our liberal democratic order feels increasingly alien and divorced at base from our present reality, while the new appears to us in the skeuomorphic garb of the old (for now, at least). Just as the God of Abraham is said to have once coded the world into being, vast computational systems now terraform our world from the inside out – but in whose image?³

up the river down the tide models this emergent sensibility by interweaving three distinct artistic standpoints. DIS’s contribution to the exhibition confronts viewers with a system of photographic image production, the logic of which has been rewired for the age of SEO. Their series Image Life re-presents authentically generic incidents – image cultures that serve to soften reality and turn our economic, political, cultural, and emotional landscape into saleable products that are representational yet infinitely versatile.

Katja Novitskova takes a biotechnical approach for an encounter with non-human ecologies: banal monuments to ‘C. Elegans’ (a medically vital species of microscopic worms) are presented here in tandem with a robotic, crooning Mamaroo baby swing that’s been rendered unnervingly alien by her sculptural interventions, underlining the nascency of machine consciousness while also orchestrating an eerie prenatal environment inhabited by mutant forms.

New Eelam is a long-term artwork in the form of a startup – a real estate-technology company founded by artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas as a collaborative experiment to grow a new economic model out of the existing economic system rather than in opposition to it. Drawing its name from the once self-governed – but now non-existent – Tamil homeland from which Thomas’ family originates, the venture imagines the future of citizenship in an era of technologically accelerated dislocation.

– Nathan Everett Engel


¹ http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~faucon/BEIJING/nunez-sweetser.pdf

² Feeling Abolition Through Nonlinear Timescales, a lecture by Elysia Crampton at Private Eye, Houston, July 14th 2017.

³ https://punctumbooks.com/titles/divine-name-verification/


The New York-based collective DIS (founded 2010, New York) – made up of Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso, and David Toro – works across a wide range of media. In 2018 the collective transitioned platforms from an online magazine, dismagazine.com, to a video streaming edutainment platform, dis.art, narrowing in on the future of education as entertainment. DIS enlists leading artists and thinkers to expand the reach of key conversations bubbling up through contemporary art, culture, activism, philosophy, and technology, with the aim of informing and mobilizing a generation around the vital issues facing us today and tomorrow.


DIS was a part of the New Museum Triennial: Surround Audience curated by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin (2015), the group exhibition Co-Workers, at the Musée Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2015), and the New Photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015). They also curated the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, The Present in Drag, (2016), the group exhibition, I Was Raised on the Internet, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2018), and curated and participated in Genre-Nonconforming: The DIS Edutainment Network at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (2017-18), Thumbs that Type and Swipe, Casa Encendida, Madrid (2018) and A Good Crisis at the Baltimore Museum of Art (opens Nov 2018).


Katja Novitskova (b. 1984 in Tallinn, Estonia) lives and works in Amsterdam and Berlin. Culling from myriad sources online, Novitskova mines the Internet for images and data visualizations, often specific to scientific research and elusive to the eye. Leveling the anthropologically familiar with speculative projections of the future, she aims to synthesize retinal sight with that of machinic imaging. Rather than depicting the observable environment, Novitskova assembles various visual incarnations of data, which are collected by an immense number of sensors and cameras at the frontiers of human knowledge of the world.


Recent solo exhibitions and projects include Whitechapel Gallery, London (2018); KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn (2018); Public Art Fund, New York (2017); Greene Naftali, New York (2016); Kunstverein Hamburg (2016); Kunsthalle Lisbon (2015); Salts, Basel (2014); and CCS Bard, Annandale-on-Hudson (2012). Her work was also included in the 57th Venice Biennale (2017, solo for the Estonian pavilion), Baltic Triennial, Vilnius (2018), CC Foundation, Shanghai (2017); the 9th Berlin Biennial (2016) and at the Okayama Art Summit (2016). She has recently exhibited in group exhibitions at MoMA, New York (2015); the 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015); Kunsthalle Wien (2015); Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2014); and Fridericianum, Kassel (2013). She was shortlisted for the 2016 Nam June Paik Award, Folkwang Museum, Essen.


Christopher Kulendran Thomas (b.1979, London) is an artist who manipulates some of the structural processes by which art produces reality. New Eelam is a real estate technology company founded by the artist to develop a global housing subscription based on collective co-ownership rather than individually owned private property. Initiated as a long-term artwork in the form of a startup, the venture has brought together an interdisciplinary team of specialists across the fields of technology, art, real estate, finance and architecture to explore how a more liquid form of citizenship could be constructed beyond national borders. Developed in collaboration with curator Annika Kuhlmann, New Eelam takes as a starting point contemporary art’s role in the global processes through which cities around the world are transformed and attempts to reconfigure what art can actually do in the world structurally.


Thomas’ work has been included in the 7th Bi-City Biennale, Shenzhen (2017); the 11th Gwangju Biennale; the 9th Berlin Biennale; and the 3rd Dhaka Art Summit (all 2016). Recent exhibitions include I was raised on the internet, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018); moving is in every direction, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2017), Bread and Roses, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2016), Co-Workers: Network As Artist, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2015) and Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making, Tate Liverpool (2013). Recent solo exhibitions include: Tensta konsthall, Stockholm; and New Galerie, Paris (both 2017). Forthcoming exhibitions include: Spike Island, Bristol (UK), Institute for Modern Art, Brisbane (2019); Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2019); and a new commission with the V-A-C Foundation for the 58th Venice Biennale (2019). Thomas is the founder and CEO of New Eelam (new-eelam.com).

Link: “up the river down the tide” at Various Small Fires

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