A production designer and an experience director start an exhibition project together. Both of their backgrounds are in studio art. But in order to eat in 2020, your job title has to be designer.

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In ‘moldable, injectable, extrudable, vacuum-able’, the two have staged the uncanny qualities of light-catching synthetics, as an interface to invite curiosity into the tools and devices that aid our daily performances. Vasquez’s ‘Trigger Relief for prosumers’ and Xi’s ‘Fleeting Antidote’ are engaged in Socratic dialogue.

Xi's plastic fanaticism underlies the journey to surpass the absurdism brimming our new anthropological frontiers. We’ve graduated from the fire to the synthetic flame, the last light you see before you lid your eyes each night. Discern complicity and futility fanning the crackling embers. Soothing our latent awareness to tools capitalizing on political and economic anxieties, we point at the sinister specificity of shadows. We point at the pathologically designed funnels of an attention economy that reinforces alienation from ourselves. Vasquez casts a light on the intricate design of a system of tools that funnel ‘workers’ and ‘users’ alike. Luring us through a seemingly mystical system, incentivized by the capture of our emotions sustains our current Attention Economy. We explore how this evolving architecture further reinforces the alienation from ourselves.

What happens when we wield our complicity with disarming transparency? Can we perhaps feel out the cavern boundaries for one another then, if no absolution exists? —the implastic absurdist asks.

 

Vasquez invites Xi to slip off the illusion of blinders. Shift focus to the agency of “tool use,” because fire is a tool to be used. There is no turning back after every iteration of the flame. It is at once a force that brings us together and can blow us apart.

Dinner.tn’s goal is to serve that discourse. By bringing artists a seat at the table and fueling their concepts into fleshed-out execution, an exercise in dignity simmers. A stimulus and nourishment subversive to what we access online.

The artists behind the project would be giddy to create flickers when the table supplants the screen in instances of shared warmth. In huddled solidarity around flames of our own making, be it further illusion, community, or echo chambers. Grab a plate.

// 'Trigger Relief for prosumers'

 

Ana Vasquez traces the evolution of how Information Technology first manifested as a flame around which conversation, stories, and culture emerged. Symbolically, this history is compressed down to red, blue and black. Utilizing these elements as simple modular components that reference the tools and methodologies used to produce the triggers within the persuasive technologies neatly packaged in our devices. The platform through which the worker produces a sense of intimacy, and through which an individual user habitually performs closeness.

 

Dissonant triggers, similarly, pepper the experience though contrasting color, motion, audio, and flavor. Drawing in and repelling the senses. Creating anxiety while attempting to soothe. Looped audio cooing reminders and notifications, a plead in favor of slowing down and savoring the familiar experience of food around a flame.

 

By manipulating components of stimulus and social atmosphere, her work explores a framework in which to observe the cognitive dissonance of the worker as the user, systemic structures of control, and how these systems can mediate cultural intimacy.

 

Vasquez engages the senses to come to terms with tools of the market, positioning perceptual tension and dissonance as a reference point for how we interface with our environment and one another. Stoking questions about the search for comfort in digital spaces, this new mode of “Augmented Intimacy” mediates our understanding of community and closeness.

// 'Fleeting Antidote to Flights of Grandeur'

 

In Xi’s former iteration as a biologist, Drosophila culture is familiar genetic investigative device. Installation operating under the guise of controlled experiment, two cohorts of fruit fly mutants, one blind albino, one wingless, breed and feed in compartments below a thick pane ceiling.

 

Trudgery and genetic perpetuation below, the only exit from their mating hovel of potato sludge is upwards, a winding skyward route to perilous passage. Above, the seductive scent oozed from Nepenthes nectar. The Greek origins for the insectivorous pitcher plant’s namesake are steeped in mythos; cited in The Iliad and The Odyssey, nepenthe is the elixir of “anti-sorrow” Helen pours with mercy for Odysseus’ men in the aftermath of the Trojan War.
The antidote for sorrow is forgetting. The antidote for memory is death.

 

Hovering or clambering to their digestive deaths in this enclosed system of functional futility, the ambitious choice of absolution is theirs to make. Our Sisyphean flyfeeder, the designer, is at once Daedalus tending to her infinite Icari destined for finite fate and Sisyphus perpetuating the ritual of the absurd. She reads Camus, obviously, and wears a jackfruit helmet— the rot having supplanted her scalp, which is flayed on the table, bare.
She note-takes the incidence of these aspirational flights, hoping to investigate compulsion and quenchability— which is the victor that drives the Sisyphean wheel?

 

When human observers project their own inclinations onto minuscule Drosophila, a model organism sharing 44% common genetic material, do these fantasy-flies experience trepidation or is DNA’s programming dauntless? Do they suffer any much more than we do in our own feeble labors?

 

The exercise equalizes, casting both as brief consumers headed for merciful death by consumption. Perhaps all she has succeeded in is cultivating empathy for the installation’s residents living out Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, performing a universal coming-of-age —a hankering quest to understand origin, to distinguish lifesource from illusion-source.

 

My parents weren’t much older than I am now when they left behind everything they knew and everyone they loved to come here.
what is the antidote for them and their lifetime of struggle? the farce of the American Dream? a defiant daughter you don’t speak to?

 

Before, when I was aspirationally wedded to the idea of a dual life between Lisbon and Berlin, I would pose the question to my father— how could they not understand my desire to make a life for myself elsewhere, when they their intrepid selves were guilty of the same.

 

It was only the last time I saw him, that I learned the true nature of their expatriation. Immigration was more-or-less involuntary for their marriage to remain undissolved by the state, and the United States the only viable landing to defect. 

Filial, obedient Chinese daughter was never in the cards for them. Fate demurred.