© Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe 2021
Working in sculpture and new media, aenl (a.k.a Anna Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe) maintain a primarily collaborative artistic practice. The duo have participated in residencies with Espace Projet (Montréal, 2015), Verticale (Laval, 2018), and the Bòlit: Centre d'Art Contemporani (Catalonia, 2019). Recent two-person exhibitions include void loop () at the City Hall Art Gallery (Ottawa, 2018) and of the mountain and the ravine at White Water Gallery (North Bay, 2020). Recent group exhibitions include the Place Publique festival at the Fonderie Darling (Montréal, 2020), the Athens Digital Art Festival (Athens, 2020), Sight & Sound at Eastern Bloc (2021); and MUTEK Montréal (2021).
h3ll | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2021 | website | h3ll.ca/
Based on the mythological story of the River Styx, h3ll is an interactive web project featuring a fictional dialogue with the ferryman of souls, Charon. In classical mythology, the river forms the boundary between the earthly and infernal realms; for this work, the Styx acts as a liminal space between the digital and the physical.
At h3ll.ca/, participants are invited to take a journey down the river with Charon as their guide. Veering away from realism, h3ll hearkens back to 90s video game aesthetics, with cartoon-esque speech bubbles punctuating an otherwise austere landscape. Inspired by the nine circles of hell in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, h3ll’s text is generated using a random dialogue generator. Speaking the language of the net, Charon peppers his musings with memes, gifs, and SMS language. Although normally presented as a sullen character throughout history, Charon takes on a more convivial attitude in his digital state, waxing poetic on digital death and virtual space with an equal dose of pathos and humour.
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Image credits: Miles Rufelds
derrick_I, derrick_II, derrick_III | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2021 | plexiglas, electronics 30 x 30 x 10 cm (each unit)
derrick_I, derrick_II, derrick_III explores our fraught relationship to the earth and its resources.A now iconic structure in the extraction of petroleum, the oil derrick has played a key role in the violent history of resource extraction.
Rather than serving human needs, however, this colony of derricks toil in a calculated bid at their own survival. Formed themselves from the very material they seek to extract, they search for new materials with which to replicate themselves---a desperate attempt to stave off their own inevitable extinction.
The derrick series features three modules constructed of glass green Plexiglas and animated by small DC motors. Moving rhythmically in an endless loop, these delicate structures inhabit the dark corners of the gallery space, their size and transparency lending them an inconspicuousness. Subtly alerting us to their presence, the low hum of their motors evoke the buzz of insects. Once discovered, however, their decorative etched surfaces allow them to camouflage themselves amongst the artworks, eluding capture. Both uncanny and seductive, the derrick series looks to a dark past (and present) while offering an ambiguous cyborgian future.
Photo credits: Adrian Morillo
D.o.t.T.D (Dance of the Techno-demons) | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2020 | AR application, site-specific installation, performance
D.o.t.T.D (dance of the techno-demons) exists at the interstices of the natural, technological, and the sacral worlds. From early animistic to modern-day societies, mysticism and technology have been intimately interconnected, yet our ideas of the sacred have shifted alongside our tools. The Western sacred no longer lives in the rocks, trees, and rivers, but has moved to more amorphous terrains. Has the evacuation of these supernatural agencies from the natural world opened it up to technological exploitation and destruction? Or are we bearing witness to the rise of new forces, what sociologist Bronislaw Szerszynski calls techno-demons? When our technologies become ends in themselves, or when they set off unpredictable chains of consequences, they become seemingly autonomous forces, shaping our lives in untold ways. As technology assumes an ever-increasing presence in our lives, how can we form new relationships with our digital kin? In the graduating exhibition of Anna Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe, we are confronted with the creatureliness of technology, while simultaneously asked to question its limitations. D.o.t.T.D (Dance of the Techno-demons) speaks to humanity’s enduring pursuit of a higher power, questioning the ways that technology has been---and continues to be---implicated in this pursuit.
Video performance: 16 July 2020, Fonderie Darling FB Live
Combining an AR application, website, and performative installation, D.o.t.T.D reflects on humanity’s need for meaning in the face of technological uncertainty. Bringing together equal parts nostalgia and humour, this work hyperbolizes the relationship between consumption, technology, and anxiety. D.o.t.T.D features a mobile food cart which is periodically activated by the artists over the course of the summer, who prepare and serve augmented reality hot dogs to participants. Through a custom application accessed via QR code, participants receive a unique prognostication on their own smartphones or tablets. Each prognostication is the product of an artificially intelligent hotdog techno-demon, which is accessed through the digital medium. Ranging from the sincere to the absurd, these “fortunes” are both meditations on collective anxiety and speculations on our shared future. By inviting participants to in turn consume their own virtual prophecies, the artists question how we might get closer to the digital divine, while acknowledging the ephemeral union inherent to all consumption. D.o.t.T.D. simultaneously occupies the hallucinatory space of the Internet.
Referencing 1990s web aesthetics, D.o.t.T.D hearkens back to utopian visions of the net. Despite the claims of cyber-enthusiasts, however, our online environment has not flourished into a democratic techno-utopia, but rather, it has become a complex material and immaterial site dominated by global market capitalism. Our virtual worlds and digital devices at first appear to satisfy our needs and desires, but ultimately, their algorithmic ends are not our own. But even if the web has failed to deliver on its promise, perhaps there is still room for virtual redemption?cart At www.dottd.net/, participants are invited to consult the digital oracle from anywhere in the world. By uploading an image of a hotdog, participants receive a speculation on their digital future generated by an A.I. entity. Meanwhile, an archive on the site displays every sausage-induced fortune, offering a snapshot of our collective future. In its transmedial nature, D.o.t.T.D operates somewhere between mythology and corporate brand. Gliding from the physical to the virtual and back again, the techno-demons of D.o.t.T.D---at once beyond our understanding but also deeply familiar---ask us to reconsider the faith that we place in technology---both old and new---while offering some level of intimacy with our digital kin.
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We acknowledge the generous support of the Fonderie Darling in the production and exhibition of this work.
La Fable d’OxA 21965 | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2019 | single-channel video with sound | 16:9 | 6 min 36 seconds
La Fable d’OxA 21965 considers material culture within the context of geological (or deep) time. Evoking at once an architectural frieze and an archaeological timeline, this looping video work surveys a computer-generated virtual landscape comprised of 3D scanned artifacts and architecture from the Girona province.
Featuring sites with a rich, cultural significance---from the Coves Prehistòriques de Serinyà to the archway of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona---the video stitches together these 3D models into a palimpsest of human-geological relations. At the same time, the environment is populated with some of the less romantic signifiers of our geological legacy: trash. Fossilized water bottles, cell phones, and selfie sticks pepper the landscape, complicating our relationship to the earth and its resources. Reflecting on the immense ecological (and geological) pressures of tourism specifically (and contemporary life, more broadly), La Fable d’OxA 21965 imagines future fossils of the digital age, and places them on equal footing with the architectural wonders of civilizations past. In this distant future, the artists themselves masquerade in Hazmat suits, scouring the landscape in vain for some unknown (or perhaps, unattainable) material.
This work was produced during a two-month residency in Girona, Catalonia, supported by the Bòlit centre d'art contemporani and the Québec-based artist-run centre, La Chambre Blanche.
We acknowledge the generous support of the Bòlit Centre d'Art Contemporani, La Chambre Blanche, le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts.
cité | Nicolas Lapointe | 2019 | aluminium, electronics, papier-mâché, wood | 200 x 200 x 185 cm
Despite society’s advances in science and philosophy, death and the afterlife remain mysterious territories.
As many of the first technologies were developed to assume domination over life (i.e. spears for hunting), technology has maintained an intimate relationship to questions of mortality. With the recent developments in computational science and engineering, a new, symbiotic relationship between death, mysticism, and technology has emerged. In cité, Lapointe explores how technology functions as a mechanism for dealing with our own mortality in a contemporary context.
Inspired by both Japanese rock gardens and Baroque fountains, Cité features papier-mâchéd boulders set upon stilts and covered with discontinuous, rocky textures. Existing somewhere between ecstasy and anguish, contorted metal studs seem to dance around these rocky pillars, evoking notions of ritual. At the same time, references to building and construction abound, from the rough 2 x 4 beams to the aluminium studs, positioning the viewer as if underground. Tablet-sized screens are pinned to the studs, revealing playful yet grotesque animations of 8-bit flies and maggots moving across slabs of fresh meat, functioning as digital reminders of death (memento mori). Red wires twist and curl across the floor, continuing bodily metaphors.
Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2019 | plexiglas, aluminium, electronics | 215 x 110 x 110 cm
As our repositories of knowledge become increasingly digital, this media-based sculpture questions the relationship between technology, information, and embodiment. Drawing on the visual vocabularies of science fiction, data centres, and video games, Anna Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe offer multiple windows onto a virtual landscape, questioning what lies behind, below, and beyond the digital frontier.
Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) looks back at the techno-utopianism of the 1950s as a way of examining our own contemporary relationship to technology. As one of the first satellites in the history of American space exploration, Vanguard I continues to orbit the planet as our oldest example of space debris. In this work, Vanguard I is revived, multiplied, and mutated into a fleet of satellite-virus hybrids. These cyborgian entities twitch and glitch across a virtual terrain, monitored by a Panopticon-like structure of screens. As they glide from screen to screen, their drone-like movements also offer a reversal of the gaze, questioning our relationship to surveillance technologies. The screens themselves face the interior of the tower, and as such, are visible only obliquely through the mediation of the structure.
Evoking at once Modernist architecture and data servers, Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) is a tiered, modular structure constructed from transparent Plexiglas and electronics, punctuated by a series of small screens. Fans and circuit boards are mounted to the exterior structure, as cascading wires form connections between the structure’s levels. Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) speaks to the unseen systems---the ghosts in the machine---that exist behind our virtual environments. The screens themselves offer an imperfect map of virtual space: one comprised mostly of gaps and absence. By conflating the architectures of physical and virtual spaces, however, the work invites us to consider the invisible structures governing our digital identities. At the same time, the work serves to highlight---and indeed, animate---the digital debris that we ourselves leave behind.
no-fluke/no-feed/no-swim/no-play/no-fun | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2017 | plexiglas, steel, electronics
Referencing kinetic, department store window displays, no-fluke/no-feed/no-swim/no-play/no-fun employs the materials and techniques of advertising to reflect on the role of technology in contemporary culture. Anna Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe take an ambivalent position on reality, behaving a bit like amateur archaeologists from an imagined future.
In both form and symbolism, no-fluke/no-feed/no-swim/no-play/no-fun draws on Mannerist painter Jacopo Pontormo’s famous altarpiece, The Deposition from the Cross (1528). Renowned for its bright colours and flat composition, Pontormo’s painting veered away from naturalistic representation, instead employing aesthetic strategies to heighten the emotional and religious content of the scene. Likewise, no-fluke/no-feed/no-swim/no-play/no-fun uses the form, palette, and two-dimensionality of the altarpiece to evoke ideas of the mystical. Rather than adhering to a Christian narrative, however, this work instead questions the relationship between spirituality and technology in a contemporary context.
As the positions of the rocks change from moment to moment--while also varying in speed--they provide a tangible sense of the passage of time. Their movement simultaneously calls forth the shifting of tectonic plates, thereby conflating day-to-day change with a geological sense of time. In so doing, no-fluke/no-feed/no-swim/no-play/no-fun reflects on our impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, offering a poignant yet critical reflection on obsolescence and our material legacy.
PAN/PAN | Anna Eyler | 2018 | single-channel video | 16:9 | 3 minutes 53 seconds
Through computer-generated video, PAN/PAN probes the connections between exploration, wilderness, and technology in a contemporary context. Drawing on the visual vocabularies of landscape painting and NASA live-streams, PAN/PAN presents a series of relics from a distant future. Hovering between motion and stillness, virtual scenes are devoid of human presence, yet biomorphic apparatuses function as technological stand-ins for embodied experience.
Their unexpected presence in the landscape calls into question violent, colonial notions of the uninhabited wilderness pre-contact and masculinist narratives of discovery so deeply embedded in early twentieth-century landscape painting. By conflating categories of artificial/natural and virtual/actual, PAN/PAN generates a playful yet uncanny vision of our technologized future.
As more and more of our experiences become mediated through technology, how do we re-negotiate our embodied subjectivities? Can virtual environments function as sites for the troubling of distinctions between technological, aesthetic, and artificial categories? And how can we develop a critical intimacy with our technologies without reducing them to mere reflections of our own values and beliefs? PAN/PAN speaks to these questions and concerns surrounding contemporary discussions of art and technology.
the scryer | Nicolas Lapointe | 2017 | aluminum, electronics, marble, nylon | 152 x 152 x 30 cm
As daily life becomes increasingly datafied, commodified, and secularized, this kinetic sculpture considers the relationship between technology and spirituality in a contemporary context.
Drawing on the visual language of museological display, the scryer presents a marble technofossil as it undergoes some form of parascientific analysis. By combining real-time video with recorded footage, the scryer blurs the boundaries between reality and artifice, raising important questions surrounding faith, mysticism, and technology in the digital age.
Referencing Internet advertisements for fortune-tellers and clairvoyants, the scryer features a tiny inscription laser-etched across a marble slab. A digital microscope slowly pans over the text, revealing the mysterious incantation on a nearby screen. Combining the text of several Kijiji listings, the text is syncretic to the point of absurdity, drawing attention to the ways that faith and spirituality have operated as commodities, both historically and contemporarily. At the same time, the work also reveals the limits of science and technology to fully resolve our most fundamental questions surrounding life and death.
Within discussions of occultism, scrying refers to a form of divination or fortune-telling. The scryer is “the one who looks”, divining messages and visions from the beyond. In this work, technology functions as a medium. The text itself exists at the limits of legibility, asking the viewer to either accept or refuse the mediated version as true and authentic. Meanwhile, as the microscope pans over the text in reverse, a grainy image of the night sky is presented on the screen, recalling footage of alleged UFOs recorded with hand-held cameras. In many ways, the scryer speaks to humanity’s enduring quest for a higher power, questioning the ways that technology has been---and continues to be---implicated in this pursuit.
Regard des mages | Nicolas Lapointe | 2016 | aluminum, electronics | 152.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm | Documentation by Miles Rufelds
Simultaneously suggestive of drone and satellite, Regard des mages probes the connections between objecthood, materiality, and the digital artefact.
Functioning as both digital circumambulation and three-dimensional map, the work offers what appears to be a window into digital space, bringing the ontology of the digital object to the fore while questioning our relationship to virtual environments. Three tablet-sized screens slowly orbit in space, supported by austere, industrial structures. At once solid and mobile, they appear ready to be posted to new terrains at a moment’s notice. The videos within mimic the motion of the structures, the cameras slowly panning around asteroid-like forms, mapping them in virtual space. In so doing, Regard des mages also speaks to contemporary methods of surveillance, data collection, and cartography. At its core, the work functions not as a window into virtual space, but as some record of an imagined future, as a beacon or transmission from another moment in time.
How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) | Anna Eyler | 2016 | single-channel video | 16:9 | 6 minutes 26 seconds
How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) is the second work in a series of machinima vignettes set in the Second Life (SL) virtual environment.
The first work of the series, How to Explain Love to a Tape Measure (HELTM), features amorphous, geometric forms interacting within SL spaces while being animated by sexual scripts. HELTM’s subjects are situated within their “natural habitats,” ranging from desert oases to lush rainforests, whereas this work features similar, animated, geometric forms “in captivity.” The notion of captivity not only extends the animal analogy of the series, which strongly evokes the nature documentary, but it also extends the connections between physical and virtual environments.
Just as HELTM explored the overwhelmingly sexual nature of SL, this work explores the idea of “playing at captivity.” Captivity/prison role-playing is prevalent in SL as well as other multi-user virtual environments. Reflecting this notion of simulated captivity, How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) features geometric forms animated by scripts ranging from fighting/struggling to repetitive pacing/rotating. At the same time, the work establishes connections between the submission---both to and within---the game environment and voluntary religious captivity (such as monastic cloistering). In “This Is Not a Game: Violent Video Games, Sacred Space, and Ritual,” religious studies scholar Rachel Wagner notes the strong similarities between sacred and secular play, as each function within a temporarily “real” world according to established rules. The “trimming of the myrtle-bush” refers to Robert Browning’s poem “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” which exposes the tensions of cloistered life by focusing on a Dominican monk’s desire for the flesh over the spirit. As our lives migrate more and more into virtual spaces, How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) examines critical questions surrounding the nature of belief and the psychology of submission.
How to Explain Love to a Tape Measure | Anna Eyler | 2016 | single-channel video | 16:9 | 8 minutes 28 seconds
Evoking at once the nature documentary and the peep show, How to Explain Love to a Tape Measure (2016) is a series of machinima vignettes featuring amorphous, geometric forms interacting within the Second Life environment.
In “The Gendered Body in Virtual Space: Sexuality, Performance and Play in Four Second Life Spaces,” Jude Elund observes that even “within potentially subversive spaces, there is a normativity that persists which reiterates the ideological foundations of identity that are historically and culturally ascribed to.” By reconfiguring and repurposing existing Second Life environments, animations, and models, HELTM subverts expectations of normative identity to open up a broader dialogue surrounding intimacy and subjecthood within virtual environments.
In HELTM, Eyler assumes the identity of, at times, one, and at others, many, flexible, geometric bodies. While some are highly camouflaged to mimic the surrounding fauna, others are skinned in raw materials, such as plaster, marble, and paper. Having effaced her human avatar, the artist rebuilds her virtual identity by attaching these seemingly autonomous entities to different parts of her form and then animating them with scripts purchased in the Second Life marketplace. Reflecting the abundance of “adult” themed material in Second Life, the animations themselves are primarily sexual in nature, ranging from masturbation to aggressive intercourse. At times, the forms appear to engage in an Absurdist dance, their clumsy exterior forms contrasting with their graceful undulations. In so doing, HELTM probes issues surrounding technologically-mediated intimacy while at the same time functioning as both artifact and love letter to an imagined digital future.
M3R0 M3R6 M3R7 | Nicolas Lapointe | 2015 | resin, electronics | 101.5 x 38 x 38 cm
M3R2, M3R6, M3R7 (2015) is a collection of three resin rocks that quiver and shake at random intervals within a Plexiglas case, and as such, are protected from, or perhaps, protecting, the viewer.
CEP II | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2014 | concrete, electronics, Plexiglas | 91 x 182 x 15 cm
CEP II (2014) features two diode displays embedded within each concrete slab, rapidly displaying glyph-like symbols as if communicating with each other. A trail of black Plexiglas shards continues the smaller slab's form, suggesting movement, or perhaps, dissolution.
CEP I | Anna Eyler + Nicolas Lapointe | 2014 | concrete, electronics, Plexiglas | 91 x 182 x 15 cm
CEP I (2014) is a mixed-media sculpture combining electronics with cast concrete and fluorescent yellow Plexiglas.
The translucent Plexiglas reflects back the ambient light of the space, causing the edges to glow to create a defined yet visually permeable structure. Two rectangular, concrete columns support the sheet of Plexiglas, which emerges from the rough sides of the concrete, distressed and eroded to reference the passage of time. Rather than suggesting a stable core beneath the concrete layer, however, the work uses the translucency and luminosity of the Plexiglas to echo back the environment of the site. In this sense, the piece suggests a hidden interior, but that interior is ultimately empty. A 4-Digit LED is embedded in the concrete, displaying constantly changing (and seemingly infinite) computations of data, which draw attention to the layers of digital information present in our technologically saturated world. Recessed in the column’s surface, the digits appear to communicate the inner machinations (or thoughts) of the sculpture. This “animation” of the inanimate draws connections between the “minds” of machines and human consciousness.