O lives in a good apartment, O is young, O is vegan, creative, non-binary, she loves sports, yoga and enjoys downloading, collecting and sharing images on Instagram of plants that O and O’s contacts find interesting. They are images of a botanical and clearly scientific sort, like a Species Plantarum. O is only interested in formal rarities, in exotic unusual specimens with anthropomorphic forms, fungi from which gels are obtained, and peculiar hermaphrodite flowers; Clathrus archeri, Trametes versicolor, Laccaria amethystina. She’s blown away by the tentacles of the Entoloma hochstetteri, the phallic simulacra of Phallus indusiatus, the blues of Lactarius indigo and the alien protrusions of Hericium erinaceus. When O searches for her images on the internet, O revels in erotic, magical, almost orgasmic pleasure. For O, this is her new ancestral ritual. Lycra, ASMR music, ergonomic sofa, O turns the vaporizer on with ylang-ylang essential oils and slides her fingers across the iPad. Zaap… an image… hypnotized, she slides her hand… fsssh… Digital joys. Her fingers slide on the low, medium and high-quality jpgs of Javanese rainforest trees. She moves her hand across the screen while images of nature from places where O will never go cling momentarily to her silicone nails before being added to her archives. By chance, I don’t know, the algorithm for sure, among its many plants Google suggests images of prosthetic hands that remind O of the extensions of the Hydnellum peckii.
It’s time, it’s time for the gym, and today it’s meditation class. The room is dark, only a few blue LEDs remain on between the plastic plants. The same routine, lying down, eyes closed, the sound of Tibetan bowls coming out of the instructor’s iPhone. O relaxes completely, she relaxes her jaw, her arms, her ass, her feet, she relaxes her legs, she relaxes everything and imagines herself as a cyborg covered in soft rubber skin. With her synthetic body, she walks parting the tree branches of a redwood forest, her prosthetic hand touching everything within her grasp; the moist earth, the rubber-tree and the Heliconia. O imagines the smell: an almost balanced mix of scents with a touch of effluvia from decomposed sediments, a strong stench of algae and water-lilies, putrid and swampy, and the gentle perfumes of tropical flowers. O caresses everything but feels nothing because O, halfway between the fucking gym and the jungles of Java, is alive and dead at the same time. She takes in another deep breath; she sinks her cyborg feet into the mud.
The artist Inês Norton (Portugal, 1982) has created Haptikos for Uma Lulik Gallery, a solo exhibition with a site-specific work consisting of a 2’54’’ video and two installations. In the video we can see a hand covered with a latex medical glove that moves its fingers, reproducing the movements that we recognizably make to access the content in our electronic touch devices, screens, tablets, and phones.
Slowly, rhythmically, relaxed, the fingers move in a way that oscillates between the ordinary and the sensual. The images of the video are accompanied by a soundtrack produced specifically for the project in collaboration with the well-known Portuguese artist Pedro Tudela. The sound is ambient, metallic, synthetic and surrounds the experience of a halo that perverts and troubles the images
As a new representation of Hindu mudras, Norton’s hand moves to the rhythm of these new asanas, presented here as gestures for meditation that make use of poses that refer to the technological. It is a choreography of a fictional neo-Buddhism that acknowledges contemporaneity, our liquid ultramodernity. Norton’s hand evokes a post-spirituality that embraces the future and glorifies technological progress.
Gummy, artificial, clean, flexible, light, new, monstrous, clinical, slippery, squeezable, sexy, imperishable, luminous but sinister, soft like silicone and latex. The artist’s work proposes a union between the religious, the archaic, the profane and the contemporary. The representation of new ways of ritualizing our life. We are witnesses of this symbiotic union between mudras and an aseptic and clinical way of relating to reality. Matter mediated by the synthetic. A new semiotics: hand, rubber, object.
In the unusually cold gallery (a hidden piece pumps out, joule by joule, the room’s thermal energy), the icy air is the artist’s work touching us, biting our skin. Inside this experience, two installations complete the exhibition. The first is a box, a tray of water, with a clinical, polished, aseptic and sideral aspect. Inside we can see a set of 3D-printed sculptural objects with ergonomic, or even anatomical shapes reminiscent of the marine world. Forms that refer to corals, mineral formations, white, osseous, fragile, and synthetic structures. They all float as if suspended on the transparent ultrasound gel, a pasty gelatinous delight. Norton’s piece is a small ecosystem that joins the world of the organic and mortal to the fiction we call technology. Not far away in the gallery space, a gigantic shell, made from aluminium, displays a small and elegant pearl inside. The exhibition is filled with memento mori. Norton talks about living beings and their organic qualities, their fragility, their symbiotic forms, their adaptability, she presents defenceless and monstrous objects as an allegory of us. The artist’s work makes us feel a certain pleasure, a shiver as we are confronted with the unknown, the frontier land we are marching towards, the boundary between our vanishing, safe, organic world, and the future of technological progress we are stepping into.
Text by Mit Borrás