I don’t exist yet

The protagonists of Susanna Flock’s latest video work I don’t exist yet are bright green, clumsy objects in different shapes. The work looks at stand-ins, placeholders of computer-animated characters, in a strangely funny-uncomfortable way. Since the early 1990s, the film and entertainment industry has used computer-generated images to create mathematical simulations of entire worlds. The first feature-length film to use simple 2D animation is Westworld, an American science-fiction western thriller from 1973 in which malfunctioning androids kill visitors in an amusement park. That there is a connection between discomfort and animation is illustrated by numerous examples from science and (pop) culture: one famous example is the novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818 by Mary Shelley. The novel draws upon real events from the science of its time, then incorporates, adapts, and retells them. In her Frankenstein, the author has taken into account contemporary studies on revival, galvanism, and the possibility of states between life and death. In times of increasing processing capacities, the question of the possibilities of animating both humans and machines has shifted to the research fields of molecular biology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, data processing, and computation.

The protagonists of I don’t exist yet seem to be interested the conditions and possibilities that are given to the computer-generated image and its environment, closely linked to metaphysical questions about disembodiment, becoming, and subjectivation. In windy weather conditions, a person in a green, bloated full-body suit carries around a stand-in object in a rough dune landscape. If one would expect a stand-in object to be smooth and have motion-tracking markers, the surfaces of these greenish objects in Flock’s video, are topographies in themselves. In their »roles,« they point to their own objecthood and at the same time provide space for imagination, possibilities, and desires. Whether as an antagonist of an actor; a diffuse, floating, lifeless body hanging from a drone; or as a floppy object tied to the back of a horse, the object remains absurd, dislocated in its environment and the relationship to it strange and distant. At no point in the script is it clear how the final design of the future interface, his/her gestures or role, will look in detail. It is precisely this complete absence that makes the endless possibilities of mathematically calculated appearances “visible.” However, the work is not only about the possibilities of virtuality and simulation in the realm of the digital age. As already hinted, one can also read the green objects as simple sculptural works, sculptures in the landscape, sometimes standing in the sand, sometimes in the forest, and so on. Throughout the video, the work reveals its general interest in the various acts of processing material – forming, transforming, and destroying it – in the real as well as the virtual.

“I wanna be pushable and squeezable, I wanna be able to bend, twist, crumble and crease.”

I don’t exist yet is interested in the status of bodies, their visibility and disappearance, realities and their substitute realities. The fragility of (bodily) states and of disappearance are then subtly demonstrated in a strangely uncomfortable way when a frozen ice cream held by a green cube begins to melt softly and says, »I might as well leak out,« and when a Styrofoam sculpture, similar to the shape of Mickey Mouse’s hand, is brutally etched off in front of pastel-colored tiles. These images follow a linear pattern from appearance to disappearance, from presence to absence. When a white, soft, and wobbly mass on which a portrait is digitally illustrated (bizarrely reminiscent of a poached egg and a Christian shroud) disintegrates in boiling water, it can be argued that the work also critically looks into the relationship between visualization systems and mechanisms of representation, the image, and its representation.

Following this argument, Pinocchio and the lies of Disneyfication could be the title of the next scene: an animated male figure floating in a vacuum dissolves slowly, his limbs are violently amputated, the body fragments animated. One of the green objects bursts into two pieces. At the end of I don’t exist yet, a certain frustration and disenchantment emerges from the fact that these ambiguous substitute bodies maintain a physical distance. One of the green protagonists even seems disappointed in this emotional vacuum when it speaks in trembling subtitles: “I wanna be pushable and squeezable, I wanna be able to bend, twist, crumble and crease.” Despite its attempt to glitch and morph to become something else, it remains trapped in its stiff, emotionless body. Like lonely plastic garbage washed upon the shore, the final image seems like a critique of the digital material that once again shows us the mortality of digital garbage and the predetermined breaking points of current technologies.

Introductory text by Denise Helene Sumi