National Pavilion UAE - Recycle Group’s CONVERSION project / By Xeina Al Malki
  • Recycle Group’s CONVERSION project / By Xeina Al Malki



    Main view upon entering the church

    The brief of Recycle Group’s CONVERSION project begins with Marshall McLuhan’s phrase, “The medium, or process, of our time-electric technology- is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life”.  This quote embodies everything I saw, understood and related with after viewing the installation at Church Sant’Antonin in Venice. CONVERSION could be understood literally as a change of one material to something else through technique or physical process, or it could also mean a spiritual shift. Given the context the objects reside in and the context our daily interactions and thoughts are stored and shared in, the group have created a dialogue by using what they call ‘Future Archaeology’- they have set a site-specific installation that consists of statues and reliefs represented in modern materials and juxtaposed with ancient artifacts. When one takes their first glimpse at the work, they would be lead to think that patina has led them to age through time due to the aging processes they’ve gone under to create this fabricated patina. What makes a viewer in the 21st century question the honesty of this patina are the recognizable reliefs found on the statues that symbolize our everyday smartphone applications and the virtual world that has become our reality. Viewers in the far future will only see this as history representing some outdated technology which is exemplified in the concept of ‘Future Archaeology’. The artists and curator also reference Walter Benjamin’s observation “Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably” which is an instrumental aspect when creating the conversation between past, present and future. A large standing “f” lives in the Church’s centre nave where a cross traditionally resides as a religious ornament. This symbolizes the heart of the project, in my opinion, which is the proposition that Facebook, or communication through means of social media, has become our religion. Just as there are commandments in religion that should not be broken, the virtual world of Facebook has commandments for its users that should not be broken.


    “Enlightner III”, plastic cast

    As an observer of this project and a great admirer of the Florentine Renaissance Quattro-cento art era, I see a strong resemblance between the depictions of biblical stories at the time, and Recycle Group’s depiction of the figures. The difference is that once they were carrying a cross but now they are grouped to look at a smart gadget, or lift a mast for activating 3rd and 4th generation mobile connections. When looking conceptually at the boldness of the idea of representing these symbols and figures in a holy church that denote a growing distance between people and religion to follow a “virtual religion”, I am reminded by the Baroque’s paradox of the Sacred and Profane specifically Caravaggio’s depiction of religious scenes without decorum to convey a more honest and real scene. I see a similar situation here, a reality check; art needs to represent a current event and acknowledge an issue yet remain grounded and reminded by what it was born from. I was able to relate with this work on a personal and a creative level; It helps me take a step back and question if I am a victim of the virtual world and teaches me that art is a reminder of time and a child of history.

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