A Thousand Pictures of Nothing

Emmanuel Van der Auwera

VideoSculpture XXV (Archons), 2022: 8 LCD screens, black glass, cable, 19 min. HD video, color sound 170 x 310 x 310 cm - 66 7/8 x 122 1/8 x 122 1/8 in

VideoSculpture XXVII (JANUARY 6TH.), 2023: LCD Screens, polarization filter, Raspberry Pi, metal, cables, HD video (22 min loop), 234 x 179 x 140 cm - 92 1/8 x 70 1/2 x 55 1/8 in

White Cloud / 白云: 2023 HD video, 18 min 30 sec

A Thousand Pictures of Nothing, is Emmanuel Van der Auwera’s third solo exhibition at the gallery Haran Levy Projects, reflects on a world, which seems to reject rationality, reason and physical reality for technological myths, emotional politics and conspiracy-ridden claims. Continuing to investigate the impact of automation, image circulation and digital culture, Van der Auwera straddles the digital and the analogue, interested less in scientific promise than its impact on the human condition, mental wellbeing and contradictions in perception of possibilities for a better world. Scrolling through pressing social topics and major events, works in the exhibition incorporate both emerging and traditional technologies to explore the influence of media, regulation and the radical shaping of opinion in the post-truth era. These include ‘VideoSculptures’, a film constructed with audio and video AI tools as well as a selection of ‘Mementos’ adding to his acclaimed series and unique collaboration with technicians at a Belgian newspaper production plant. The archeology of mass media and documentary approaches within a generative digital space connect the various modes of production.

In Van der Auwera’s ‘VideoSculptures’, the screen and related hardware become sculptural material. The large-format VideoSculpture XXV (Archons) consists of eight manipulated screens and four black glass plates via which the images can be seen in their inverted form. This cinema in negative explores the theme of digital immortality and is loosely based on futuristic tales by research and security specialist Rick Ferguson. To the naked eye, the screens yield nothing but white light. It is only when looking down into the dark glass that one can see images flitting by, seemingly ad infinitum, as if squinting into an endless mine of poetic visions reflecting a postmortal digital life.

The polarizing filters of the screens in VideoSculpture XVII (January 6th.) have been partially removed, and manually deconstructed into fleeting strips. Here, the DIY nature and punkish poetic gesture of taking a knife to the screen remains visible. On close inspection, this techno altarpiece reveals dust and dirt as the glue of the machine is cut apart. The composition takes a painterly approach to mass media, playing with the framing and filtering of the camera, the screen and the narratives delivered towards a shaping of popular opinion. Van der Auwera hence creates a distance from the event, flattening it through abstraction. This distance allows one to rethink and shift perception, escaping the problem that exists through ubiquitous exposure. Often, the more something is exposed, the less visible it becomes.

Emmanuel Van der Auwera’s new film "White Cloud / 白云" investigates mysterious white clouds, the promises of communication technologies and the lives of laborers whose work helps us see the world and yet remains outside of the visible grid. White Cloud is an emotional speculative documentary that offers one of the first looks into an equally mysterious and influential Rare Earth Element mining district. While questions related to geopolitics, ecology, capitalism, conspiracy and future scenarios circulate around the film, at the core is the testimony of a lonely miner attempting to embrace a dark and desolate landscape in search of a better tomorrow. Using generative audio and visual tools, Van der Auwera looks into the deep underbelly of these technologies and the rarely spoken relationship between the earth’s bowels and humanity’s outer space dreams. The film has an uncanny, slightly grotesque feel as emerging AI technologies show their own flaws. It was not despite, but exactly because of these flaws that Van der Auwera was driven towards the utilization of these tools. Within months or perhaps weeks, this aesthetic will disappear leaving us with an illusion of reality where what doesn’t exist is indiscernible from what does. And herein perhaps lies the artist’s focus, providing us with critical resources to read the physical world as it vanishes before our eyes.

A Thousand Pictures of Nothing

September 6 - December 16, 2023

Harlan Levey Projects

65 Rue Isidoor Teirlinckstraat

1080 Brussels, Belgium

Wednesday - Saturday, 12:00 - 18:00 + by appointment