PLAZA, 2020 4K Video 12:58 mins
PLAZA, 2020 4K Video 12:58 mins
PLAZA, 2020 4K Video 12:58 mins

Rory Cahill and George Mackness

with Inês Costa

It’s an exercise in imagining a future for places that reside on the Internet and how they might come to be abandoned and what does that abandonment look like. Decay in a digital space, what does that mean?

Listen to the full interview here:

I’m Rory Cahill. I’m an artist predominantly working with digital technologies. In my personal practice I employ CGI, along with procedural technologies, coding and game design tools to create digital artworks that explore humanity’s dual existence. Living in both the real and also the digital universe and these two universes affect us, how we affect them, then also the interesting crossovers between the two. That’s the same for PLAZA (2020) as well. PLAZA is a response to the Internet and how it has changed from the early days, how it’s become much more of a controlled environment and less of a digital utopia.

My name’s George Mackness. I’m chiefly a musician and sound designer under the name Endless Mow, but I’ve also been working with Rory Cahill on this project and others with similar themes, digital technology, the Internet. I come from a music background. My practice is generally focused on slightly left-field club music and electronic music. Similarly to Rory, I’ve found myself increasingly at a point of tension between being interested in new technology and what it means, but also trying to understand my connection to an older state of things, perhaps less digitally made music and sounds. I think PLAZA was a way of trying to look at what happens next, actually. It’s an exercise in imagining a future for places that reside on the Internet and how they might come to be abandoned and what does that abandonment look like. Decay in a digital space, what does that mean? What would the aesthetic of digital decay look like?

Cahill: I think that tension, that’s such a good word in terms of why our practices came together. I feel like it’s something that our generation feels quite acutely. There’s obviously a lot of tension in the world, generally, post 9/11. We are the last generation that remembers the world without the Internet. Both of us obviously grew up playing video games and being part of early Internet culture on chatrooms and MSN and things like that. For people that use and are interested in digital technologies and video games and seeing the future roll out, it is really exciting, but then there’s always this tension between still being grounded in the real world and seeing a younger generation that’s completely digitally native.

You are showing PLAZA (2020) as part of The London Open 2022. Tell us how it visually feels and what might you encounter when you see the work?

Cahill: We tried to create a series of edited vignettes that are essentially explorations into an online multiplayer universe that is abandoned. We took some inspiration from abandoned cities or abandoned projects. Places in Siberia or Africa or or South America, where there were these grand utopian visions or towns built around a specific purpose that have been abandoned. We wanted to try and recreate that, but in a digital sense. What happens if you have a game on a server, but parts of the code have been taken away. 

Mackness: Corrupted somehow. 

Cahill: Yes, what does that look like in a visual sense? Do you have textures that are supposed to be there that aren’t? Do you have physics running amok?

Mackness: It was coming up with what is the detritus of people’s lives when they’ve built things and then they’ve left. What does that detritus look like and how does it behave in a digital space? I think the answer in a very literal sense could be quite dull. A programmer might say well, it just wouldn’t run. If it was corrupted, it would just break. But I think in terms of expressing an idea, we thought it would be much more compelling to actually visually represent an idea of that somehow, in a language most people understand, the language of digital, visual. The sound was built with the same principle. It’s diegetic sound, so everything you hear is supposed to be from the viewpoint of the player or the avatar exploring the space. Experiencing visual degradation or the results of degradation, as well as aural.

Cahill: I think it’s quite a meditative piece, it’s very calm, which contrast with what you would maybe expect from a video game or a virtual reality piece, which I think … 

Mackness: … is often hyperactive.

Cahill: Yes, it’s a very calm exploration and we wanted to include a sense of desolation and definitely a sense of intrigue as well.

Works in the exhibition:
PLAZA, 2020
4K Video
12:58 mins

Rory Cahill (b. 1991, Warrington, UK)
2013 BA (Hons) Illustration, University of Brighton

Selected exhibitions: Sea Things, Sam Jacob Studio, London Design Festival, V&A, London (2019); Invisible Landscapes: Environment (Act II), Dark Matter Labs, The Royal Academy, London (2019)

George Mackness (b. 1991, New York City, NY, USA)

2017 MA Contemporary Literature, Culture & Theory, King’s College London
2015 BA (Hons) English Literature, University of Sussex, Brighton

Selected musical releases as ‘Endless Mow’: ‘Articulated Nose’, VA, Related Articles, Auckland (2021); ‘spellcasters’, All Centre, London (solo) (2021); ‘Fey Dor’, All Centre, London (2020); ‘Insect’, Mega Metal, London (2020); ‘Possession Chamber’, All Centre, London (solo) (2019)

What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?

This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.

Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.

The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.

The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.

The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.

Gallery 1, Downstairs

The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.

Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.

Gallery 9, Upstairs

This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free  2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.

Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.

Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?

Gallery 8, Upstairs

The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.

Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.

On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.

The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.

Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.

See the full list of works here.

An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.

Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.