Cécile B. Evans, Ian Cheng, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lawrence Lek + more

The exhibition HYPERTENSION23 at the Trade Fair Palace of the National Gallery in Prague, is the thirteenth installment of the Fotograf Festival. It includes works by aLifveForms, Stephanie Comilang, Cécile B. Evans, Ian Cheng, Sin Wai Kin, Martins Kohout, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lawrence Lek, Stef Van Looveren, Markus Selg, and will be on view from September 21, 2023 until February 11, 2024.

We are living in a time of transformation of the human body into a liquid digital mass, affecting every aspect of our lives. Our digital entities roam cyberspace and create their own enclaves where each virtual self constantly yearns to present itself well. We become the subjects of embodied fantasies in which we can be someone else entirely – forever, for a time, or just for a post.

The exhibition deals with the tension in our minds caused by technologies that expose our attention to the constant visual pressure to notice something, to experience it emotionally, and react. Photography demands to be liked, video to be seen, a hashtag to be categorized immediately. The day becomes a to-do list which shrinks our perception of time. It becomes globally fluid in the metaverse.

The exhibition HYPERTENSION23, working with the medical term for high blood pressure, looks at contemporary visuality as something that primarily wishes to gain attention and somehow provoke a reaction. At the same time, the project seeks a new identity for the human being, whose original self is abstracted by digital space. It has taught us to think in new ways about ourselves and humanity surrounded by a vision of a technological singularity, where general artificial intelligence will surpass the capabilities of humanity.

Cécilie B- Evans' video "Hyperlinks or It Didn’t Happen" (2014) presented as a multi-media installation. The video is narrated by the failed CGI rendering of a recently deceased actor, PHIL, and follows a group of digital beings—render ghosts, spam bots, holograms—as they search for meaning. Multiple storylines and materials collapse and converge to raise questions about what it means to be materially conscious today and the rights of the personal data we release.

Stephanie Comilang's self-described sci-fi documentary "Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise)" (2016) is screened in as a three-channel installation. The work chronicles the lives of three Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. It shows the womens’ ritual of digitally transmitting their stories and messages back home. Much of the footage comes from Paradise, an all-seeing drone spirit, summoned every Sunday into the heart of Hong Kong where Filipina migrant workers gather to socialize in public space. Voiced by the filmmaker’s mother, who left the Philippines for Canada in the 1970s, Paradise’s character embodies a fluid constellation of themes including community, diaspora, and memory.

Martin Kohout's video "Slides" (2018) has equally been adapted as an installation: In a blue-lit room, plastic chairs accommodate visitors in small booths viewing the projection.The two main characters in Kohout’s film are never woke at the same time. One works at night, the other one during the day. They sleep next to another, have opposing use of digital tools to adjust their surrounding color temperature to their professional work schedule. Their communication relies on apps which overlaps with bodily communication, lingering in the ambivalent nature between the new channels that enable humans to stay in touch and live together without having eye contact. The voice messages they leave at times for the other, sometimes intimate, sometimes random, are finally a wrapping whistle for contemplation.

The curator of the exhibition at the Trade Fair Palace is Monika Čejková. The theme of hypertension is also treated in a group exhibition at the Fotograf Gallery by curator Tina Poliačková. Furthermore, the festival theme is extended to the public space, where a visual essay by Shumon Basar, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Douglas Coupland are presented in the exhibition space in an underpass of the metro B line and on the facade of the Trade Fair Palace.

National Gallery Prague

Trade Fair Palace

Dukelských hrdinů 47

Prague 7, Czechia

All images copyright: Fotograf Festival, Jan Kolský