Agnieszka Kurant: Crowd Crystal: Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli, Italy
Within the overall Museum program Espressioni taking place in 2021-2022, Castello di Rivoli presents Crowd Crystal, a solo exhibition of the conceptual and interdisciplinary artist Agnieszka Kurant (Lódz, Poland, 1978).
The exhibition Crowd Crystal investigates the crowds as assets of late capitalism, in which the entire society became a factory of data mining. The title is inspired by the concept of “crowd crystals” introduced by the writer Elias Canetti in his book Crowds and Power (1960).
In her work Agnieszka Kurant analyzes the transformations of the human and the future of labor and creativity. The artist questions the concept of individual authorship and reflects on the notion of the footprint that everyone leaves in the digital world, as well as carbon footprints, as actualizations of prehistoric imprints left by our ancestors. She reflects on the potential we all carry within ourselves to influence social change and mutations of matter.
Crowd Crystal consists of evolving installations, paintings and sculptures resulting from the collective agency of thousands or millions of people, molecules or microorganisms. The artworks investigate the impact of collective intelligence phenomena in nature and culture and non-human intelligences – from bacteria and other single-celled organisms to artificial intelligence. The works in Crowd Crystal physically react to changes in society. The liquid crystal paintings Conversions (2019-2021), employ “data mining” to harvest the dynamics of emotions of protesters around the world expressed in their social media feeds, which causes constant changes of the appearance of the artworks, displaying the effects of collective intelligence in contemporary algorithmic and technological society. In Chemical Garden (2021) the artist investigates the relationship between the digital, biological and mineral. The work consists of complex crystalline structures resembling plants, created through a mix of inorganic chemicals: salts of metals – copper, cobalt, manganese, chromium, iron – which are ingredients in modern computers, the industrial extraction of which leads to the devastation of entire ecosystems. Paradoxically, the chemical gardens in hydrothermal vents on the sea floor are a plausible origin of life on earth.
Crowd Crystal will also present two sculptures from the Post-Fordite (2019-2020) series, made of pieces of material known as “Fordite” or “Detroit agate”; a hybrid, quasi-geological formation, created through the accumulation and fossilization of automotive paint on production lines at now-defunct car factories around the globe.
Finally, Castello di Rivoli presents Adjacent Possible (2021), a series of works on Luserna stone, investigating alternative directions in which human culture could have evolved or is presently evolving. In the development of this project, the artist collaborated with the computational social scientists LeRon Shults and Justin Lane to apply an artificial intelligence algorithm – machine learning – to an archive of thousands of various iterations of 32 graphic signs signs – the earliest known forms of symbolic communication, dating 40,000 BC to 14,000 BC – documented in the Paleolithic caves in Europe by the paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger. The algorithm generated other potentials signs and forms of expression that could have emerged as products of collective subjectivity. Over the centuries some of the cave paintings have been colonized by bacteria and fungi, replacing the original pigments. Through collaboration with synthetic biologists, the artist creates new paintings using vividly colored pigments containing mutated pigment-producing bacteria with genes from corals and jellyfish, as well as fungi and lichens as “living pigments”.