Interview with Ville Kallio
As part of of the exhibition for unknow.online we decided to invite Helsinki based artist Ville Kallio to exhibit his work GOREPLEX as the online exhibit and to open up a discussion with Ville about his generative praxis in a written interview form. We felt GOREPLEX served as a complex metaphor and illustrative outcome for some of the ideological and metaphysical issues that the digital sphere ruptures, negotiates and perpetuates within the magnitude of the multiplicity. Additionally Ville's digital painting practice and sculptural works negotiate gaps between the digital and meatspace working through intersecting symbols that generate an accelerated economy of signs and meta images.
We wondered how this kind of work speaks of ideology when it is simulated and rendered, and how this terrain of technology challenges core values and psychological underpinnings of the human experience?
“I convert political desires to economic flows and data, and then I convert them back again. I convert revolutions into revelations. I don’t want security, I want to leave, and then disperse myself everywhere and all the time” 1
The oceanic network of values, systems and symbolic logics that cross and converge into new physicalities of the digital sphere are reminiscent of GOREPLEX which returns the body to total tactility enclosed by the simulated world, it is body that en-frames another body - we as the viewers are the bodies consuming its body again as representatives of the analogue absorbing its own ether. Here is a procession of connective tissues and networks that wash meta images through filters and digital landscapes moving and out of the real and simulated world. Perhaps the simulated world is no longer simulated but co-existing with the real as a sort of appendage. Does a network finalise and enclose or does it continue to perpetually denounce the present passing on and on again, rendered into a majestically vexed oscillating state of finite in infintium?
- <p>Gilles Deleuze, Foucault (London: Continuum, 1988) 105-6 <a href="#fnref1:1" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">↩</a></p>
EM Hi Ville! Magnus and I wanted to open this interview with some of your thoughts on making GOREPLEX, can you tell us some more about this work?
VK I think the original trigger for the production of the work was becoming tired of the weirdly moralist stance of the basic humanist left with regards to technology, especially regarding life extension or otherwise modifying human bi- ology. People have memed themselves into believing that the body has some sort of pure essence that can be soiled by “playing god”, even by something as non-intrusive as ingesting genetically engineered foods. I obviously don’t believe this and would rather see the species splintering off into whatever experimental biological forms that people would prefer to occupy.
MM The first thing I noticed was values of Technospirituality and trans humanism as occultism, what is this about for you?
VK Transhumanism as occultism is a pretty good way to put it I guess. The occult part comes from a general sense of hopelessness stemming from lack of belief in any kind of political or personal agency, where the only thing you can resort to is performing occult rites in a final attempt to grasp control of history. I had been thinking a lot about the concept of hivemind and how we’re constantly moving closer and closer to becoming one as communication technology becomes faster and more pervasive. I thought a good way to visualize this would be to imagine the human species melting into one enormous biomass, where the communication technology is replaced by direct nerve connections between brains, consciousness existing in a sort of fluid bio-simulation. (Represented in the video by the Arma 3 modification Altis Life)
MM Is the concept of the occult not mired in pythagorean ethos about universal musical spheres, rigid structures, and so forth and does this not in itself refer to something - not natural, i.e. straight angles in nature, non-fractal structures, etc? I mean, I’m not sure if I’m agreeing or disagreeing with you but it seems like there’s a lot to your thoughts concerning this that you’re not sharing with us and it seems very intriguing. Could you maybe elaborate?
VK I’d be lying if I said that I know much about any of this stuff. My take on the occult is based on more free-form practices like chaos magic, meme magic, hyperstition, etc. where there’s not really any rigid traditions and the emphasis is placed more on the results. For me it’s also very much tied to the use of the internet, the way I see it the internet is very much egregore made flesh. In general I think there’s a tendency of formerly spiritual ideas to become profane through technological means, like the idea of creating an AI god or a consensus religion existing on the blockchain (like 0xOmega).
EM I think this looking back to mythos and sacred totems has become an increasingly popular move by artists to gain authority of the magnitude of the multiplicity, and the ethos of Transhumanism holds within it such rich representational forms and embedded characteristics of spiritual and religious models. Like you say the context of the data sphere and networks becoming bodily and meaty, universes within universes with conditions and limits - expandable or otherwise. I was re-reading the other day about Nick Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis; that all reality is in fact an artificial simulation much like a computer simulation and this in itself hold within it the notion of an authorising God figure, I was wondering if you feel as an artist these ideas transcend into your conception of lived reality and where the point of one thing being real and manufactured begins and ends. Would you consider moving your work into a place with the digital space is rendered intertwined with meatspace say as an interactive game and as such how might the work operate in that capacity?
VK The simulation hypothesis feels mostly irrelevant to me and operates on many flimsy assumptions about what kind of simulations would be run by an advanced (or just completely different) forms of life. If we live in a simulation it’s just as likely that we’re in a simplistic video game akin to Super Mario Bros., just designed on on a higher order of reality with more readily accessible energy and computation power. Which one do we put more resources into in general, games or “ancestor simulations”? Either way, to me there’s no point in distinguishing between real and manufactured, my understanding of reality is that all of these borders are extremely fuzzy and it’s pretty much impossible to draw any lines. Even if we don’t live in a simulation everything’s still essentially running on code and different embedded overlapping systems, like how our consciousness and identity is basically created by a primitive wireless audio-visual-tactile communication network between different brains, and how these networks structure themselves into different politico-ideological operating systems.
MM I was just thinking about your comment on Mario and real and fabricated being indistinguishable. In video game engines there’s the concept of a skybox which creates backgrounds to make a computer and video games level look bigger than it really is. e sky, distant mountains, distant buildings, and other unreachable objects are projected onto the cube`s faces (using a technique called cube mapping, thus creating the illusion of distant three-dimensional surroundings). When I was a kid playing Super Mario 64 on a N64 at my friend's house we used to trick each other into believing that you could swim to the island way, way out in the water, but of course in the course of doing so you would inevitably hit an invisible wall, the swimming animation would continue and you’d just sit there experiencing this weird infinite meaningless task, egged on by pure faith, trying to reach this island that technically was just an image, an assortment of pixels. A sort of castle in the sky. Is playing Super Mario 64 in that sense a religious experience?
VK I actually had very similar experiences with SM64 as a child, for example I thought that if I could fire myself out of one of the cannons in Bob-Omb Battle field at exactly the right angle I could fall on a cloud. There’s definitely a similarity in how this works in comparison to “real world” religion, where gaps in knowledge of how things are structured allows you to fill those gaps with pretty much whatever you want. Of course it’s a lot easier to understand how a game works than it is to understand whatever it is we’re living in. When I think about past experiences with these simple game worlds I often feel like the TV screen was this very material tunnel opening up into the geometry of another world, which most likely has to do with the human brain’s fundamental inability to distinguish between real/artificial space. The way it maps the route from Peach’s Castle Courtyard to Tick Tock Clock is exactly the same as the way it maps the route from your home to the nearest grocery store. This topic also reminds me of a great video by pannenkoek2012 about SM64 where he explains how to traverse parallel universes in order to teleport around the level.
EM On another note there is also a temporal trajectory to your work, things seem to be following a collapsing of time into a point - there are multiple temporalities that cross moving spaces and realities yet finalise with a ritual happening. What is the significance of this finality for you? And is it really final or simply transferring again?
VK The collapsing of time into a point is I guess just basic technocapital singularity, technological acceleration becoming so intense that future is flattened into the present. Despite the extreme speed being stuck in the middle of it is draining, sluggish. It all coagulates into this oobleck-like mass that suffocates you the more you struggle. I guess the what I’m looking for is finality beyond the finality of capital, the release of planetary death and institution of communism in the realm of hell.
MM Where do you see humanity in 500 years? Biologically and physiologically considering capitalism's demand upon our natural resources, how can we splinter off into anything if there’s nothing left to sustain ourselves on if the planet is all fucked up?
EM Yeah I guess I feel this return to spirituality has come from the anguish of catastrophe and the production line, all things perpetually are being manufactured, defined and spat back out again - becoming more dispersed and meaning- less. Its interesting that you say you are seeking finality beyond capital, like this crushing of the ad infinitum of manufactured time - is this a metaphor for you, an ironic theatre of possibilities or something you see as a tangible potential outcome ?
VK We’re already beyond fucked as far as global warming and environmental destruction is concerned. We need to start thinking about how we’re going survive despite this. There’s plans to go to Mars, so we definitely have some form of life support systems to help us live on a shittier version of Earth. The problem of dwindling natural resources is a problem of energy. With enough energy anything is possible even on a fucked up planet, and there’s still plenty of capacity for both solar and nuclear energy. When I say hell I mean it in the sense that we’re essentially Lucifer being cast out of heaven for rebelling against daddy. The rebellion in this case is the discovery of fossil fuels and the following unleashing of ancient death into the atmosphere, the casting out being temporal rather than spatial. Like the princes of hell we’ll just have to make the most of our raw deal. If anyone is still alive in 500 years the most significant faction will be composed of fully carcingised post-humans floating freely in the vacuum of space and subsisting on cosmic radiation.
M What is this fascination with gore? There’s something about fleshy bodies in cyberspace and trying to brute force human meat bags into digital space. Are you casting a sort of spell with this work?
VK I have this image stuck in my head of my body being riddled with machine gun fire as a sort of final cyberneticisation. Total opening up of the body to external flows. That’s how I’d like it to feel when you use a computer, hands melting into the keyboard, the screen as a meat grinder pushing you out into the world in meat string format. It’s probably a spell in some sense yes.
EM I wanted to ask you some questions about your digital painting practice. I guess the first thing that comes to mind with your digital painting is the move to work with digital materiality’s and manufacturing processes and how the metaphysics of painting artifice changes. The mineral properties of the pigment, oils, waxes and cloth are replaced by rendered colour spaces, pixels and the digital interface constituted up by numbers and data which radically changes the form of painting , its' archiving and archaeology. I get a sense this change is important to you and the ethos of your practice so I wanted to hear some of your thoughts and ideas about this transference.
VK I can’t really say that it’s all that important, it’s just what I do. I was pushing pixels long before I ever touched acrylics or oils. After messing around with non-digital mediums for a couple of years I found out that there’s usually no point for me to be doing that. I mean I still do it if I feel like it but I got over this idea that it’s something you have to do. There’s also the whole hassle of buying materials and storing stuff that I’m not really too fond of.
MM Yeah, for sure. In a tablet painting the building up and layering of the painting is often made through a video of a series of gestures and colour choices, instead of the materiality there is a literal visual archive of the gestures and choices taken into account while creating the painting. I also feel like one way digital and analogue painting differ is in the amount of pure information or data they can hold, much like in the sense of analogue and digital sound for example in a digital painting you can zoom in to a certain extent until all you see is huge pixels, or if its vector-based, you see a bunch of lines. In the material world you can zoom in until you see the molecules making up the painting, and behind that an immense, immaterial void. Is it the void that you find interesting and is it that void that you want to bring into the digital/internet/electronic world?
VK The material-immaterial distinction as it relates to this doesn’t really make any sense to me. You’re right that when you zoom in all you see is pixels, but that’s a property of how the computer processes the data and transmits the image to the screen. If you zoom in more (metaphorically) you’ll find that it’s all electrical charges flowing through copper wiring, nanoscale transistors etc. Even most of what we know as the internet runs in massive data centers that produce tons of heat, very much like factories. It’s not really any less material than the production of say, steel. In this sense I think the void is already there.
EM Your sculptural and installation work seems like spillage from the simulated, as if the gap between the digital is spewing into the physical in a very urgent and abject way. Have you always worked with these two realms as intersecting? So many digital artists work with the screen space in a fairly rudimentary way, only conceptualising it within obvious reason say with plush seating arrangements or projected surfaces. In your installations the sculptural is not simply a vessel but a mirror phase zone where the same digital interrogations are are applied to meatspace - it is doing the same thing but in another realm. I see it as not really a proscenium but a part of two parts that look at each other and themselves. This provoking the physics of space and time both digital and analogue opens up what I sort of see as a void portal between existing and not existing and I wondered how this came about, if it was natural progression for your practice and what you are seeking by interrogating the two zones as self reflexive.
VK I don’t think it’s just my work, but something that’s happening everywhere and at an accelerating rate. Accessing the cyberspace may have been more like opening some kind of portal at an earlier time, but now it feels more like an unlocked door that just needs to be knocked a bit for it to fly open. The mush and gunk is always packed against the door waiting to cover you up. We’re all data plumbers waiting for the septic tank to blow up in our faces now. My installation work and how it relates to this is I suppose all about just applying the things I’ve learned while navigating the faeces-flows of the internet into the more traditionally spatial reality of the gallery space. It’s all very intuitive and means to an end, like I don’t think I’m necessarily actively doing any kind of interrogation as much as humans as a life form have finally adapted to solve the problems of spacetime.
Ville Kallio is an interdisciplinary artist working in the media of 3D animation, sculpture, digital drawing, and site specific installation. Through his angst of living under eternal capitalism, his work explores violence, bio-technology, and the future of warfare through video-games like simulations and accelerated realities.