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Recycle Group

Noah's Ark

Ref. CH134

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Year 2015

Category Sculpture

Technic Terracotta

Height x Width x Depth (cm) 160 x 40 x 50

Signature Unsigned

Edition Pièce originale

Geographical zone Europa

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Recycle Group, which appeared to the public in 2008, consists of Georgy Kuznetsov, born in Stavropol in 1985 and Andrey Blokhine, born in Krasnodar in 1987; both graduates of the Academy of Industrial Art in Krasnodar, Russia. The name 'Recycle' which indicated to begin with the use of recyclable materials, has gradually taken on a conceptual dimension: the reinterpretation or transformation of ideas and images.

To start with their project consisted of working from recyclable industrial materials – acrylic, plastic fencing, polyurethane or polyethylene rubber - in order to denounce the proliferation of waste generated by increasing generalised consumerism in our societies, but also to warn about the future consequences of this phenomenon. So from 2010, they created pieces called Sarcophagus a present-day urban dustbin sculpted with bas-relief along the sides, or pressed up against a man sitting cross-legged, illustrating the danger of humans being engulfed by their own rubbish; all the more so as these synthetic materials are subjected to particularly slow physical decomposition.

This preoccupation led Recycle Group to ask questions more generally about the destiny of what we currently produce and what future archaeologists will be able to consider as the vestiges of our contemporary civilisation. They therefore frequently assign their works an 'archaeological status', showing them to be highly degraded by erosion or clearly giving them western artistic tradition as a formal and iconographic reference, namely the classicism of Greek statues or narrative bas-relief from the Roman era or the Renaissance.

What they are intensely concerned about in the functioning of today's human societies, wherever they may be, is the increasingly invasive place of the Internet and associated media: with data constantly updated and instantaneously sent out to a growing number of individuals, a strong dependence on new technologies has developed, like a new cult. Recycle Group questions the evolution of the phenomenon and its consequences, according to a visionary approach that is coloured at the same time by irony and remorse.

In the era of the internet, the major new development - according to Recycle Group - is that an individual has two lives, one in the real world and the other in virtual 'online' space. On reflection, with the globalisation of the web, social networks constitute in themselves veritable new worlds, governed by their own rules and rituals, whilst information available en masse acquires an importance and power over individuals such that one can talk about an all-powerful divinity capable of dominating thought and imposing laws. We are therefore at the mercy of a higher entity in which we place our trust, all the more so because the ever-increasing technological complexity that deploys it, escapes us still more... The Tablets of the Covenant (2012) thus shows ten slabs on which Facebook's terms and conditions are engraved: a direct reference to the bible's Ten Commandments.

Indeed, Recycle Group often set up a transposition from the Christian religion and its traditional iconography to the new religion of the Net, brilliantly illustrated by their installation Conversion (2015) in the church of Sant'Antonin in Venice: it shows the future ruins of a sanctuary of our era, where statues of the Enlighteners scattered about the nave are opposite an altar at the centre of which a giant 'F', emblem of Facebook, is erected like a crucifix or Bishop's crosier, towering above the remains of Noah's Ark. On both sides, large bas-reliefs hanging high up, display scenes directly inspired by representations of the Passion of Christ: Conference picks up the arrangement of the Last Supper to show new apostles busy at a Skype video-conference, focussed on a face emerging from a computer screen, showcase of the new faith, whilst Tower Rising substitutes the elevation of the crucifix at Golgotha with the erection of a mobile phone mast. At the side, another bas-relief is about a succession of recesses sheltering web users who have become saints (Users).

Elsewhere the reference is to ancient Egyptian religion with Luxor Antenna (2016), an obelisk covered with technological symbols associated with the Net, billowing smoke ready to take off into a virtual sky. Whereas the bas-relief Battle adapts a theme dear to Roman Antiquity to show men engaged in a fierce battle in order to pick up the network signal for their devices, thus expressing the despair and vulnerability of those not 'online'. For, as critic Ekaterina Scherbakova has emphasised, a new 'on line/off line' dichotomy could be superimposed on top of the traditional 'life/death' dichotomy. So much so that the absence of connection to the virtual world puts the individual in peril, according to the laws of the new religion, since we define our identity more and more through the social networks that are Facebook or Twitter:

"We lead people to think about the potentiality of the Net to offer immortality to its users. Online profiles exist, even if the person doesn't use his or her account. Eternal life is already promised to people who use the Net appropriately, whereas the deviants [people who spread viruses, spam etc..] are blocked by the machine and sent forever to the virtual hell of the integral void."

Blocked Content (2017) illustrates this idea, in an installation inspired by Dante's 9th Circle of Hell which shows individuals frozen inside geometrical figures and incapable of coming back to life, visible only by means of a digital augmented reality app that the visitor can download.

Recycle Group does not hesitate to turn to new technology, also using a 3D printer to make elements of the above installation or, in Future Archaeology, an interactive robot programmed to show the visitor photographs taken by the two artists during a journey around Iceland – untouched landscapes at first glance, but in fact inhabited by icons associated with the Net (eg Wifi, Bluetooth) – whilst the plastic mesh used to shape the figures and drapery of the bas-reliefs evoke a holographic image and the fragility of its virtual nature.

The art of Recycle Group - 'sophisticated provocation' according to James Putman - that questions the future of humanity under the growing influence of the virtual world, has received different prizes including the 'Young Artist' category of the Kandinsky Price in 2010 and the Arte Laguna prize in 2016. It features in diverse public collections throughout the world, among them the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo (Wyoming), the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow and the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM), Russia.

(Martine Heudron)

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