LOS ANGELES — I don’t know about you, but the heat has been tough to handle. Hot summers and climate change have been on people’s minds for a while, but it seems like there’s been a tipping point this year, bringing climate change to the top for almost everyone I know. The earth is very large and powerful, and our extractive relationship to it is resulting in noticeable consequences for our daily lives.
All of this makes We Are They: Glitch Ecology and the Thickness of Now at Honor Fraser Gallery a timely exhibition that explores the roots of our relationship to ecosystems. The title borrows from Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto (1985), in which she explores the idea of the glitch as an unexpected error. The show’s thesis shifts away from this aspect and into intentionality, where artists “glitch to subvert and decenter human ego within social and ecological hierarchies.”
Glitch ecology appears in Don Edler’s “Untitled (mammoth video)” (2022) an AI-generated video piece nestled within “the mammoth in the room (Zed)” (2021–22) a massive, impressive skeleton composed of plywood, Styrofoam, used batteries, and other detritus. Zed is a beloved mammoth unearthed in Los Angeles’s La Brea Tar Pits. He appears in the video, where we also learn about a theory that wooly mammoth hunting by humans may have contributed to climate change at the end of the Ice Age. As the theory goes, dwarf birch trees flourished with the demise of mammoths, darkening the reflective surface of the land around the Arctic. While some recent research holds that human hunting likely had a much smaller effect on mammoth extinction, what’s clear is that the extinction event accelerated ecosystem change.
The exhibition also draws from Legacy Russell’s notion of Glitch Feminism — in this case, “‘glitch ecology’ is championed as a subversive tool for clandestine self-expression, as well as a catalyst for coalition building between non-human species and more-than-human forces.” This more-than-human element emerges in many of the works, which, in this context, I interpret as supernatural or magical forces.
For example, Aaron Elvis Jupin’s “Natures Guard Dog (Saviors)” (2023) is an acrylic depiction of a witch-like figure with scarecrow arms. At its knees is a little white butterfly. And scattered throughout the gallery are untitled concrete pieces by Star Feliz, which they refer to as “Floor maps, or Portals into emerging mysteries.” The concrete is pulled from a sidewalk in ruins, and they show symbols reminiscent of esoteric spirals and arrows. I wanted a little more curatorial guidance to link these works with the notion of glitches, but I found myself thinking that these connections in the fabric of space and time suggest that a reconnection with the spiritual world is part and parcel of reuniting with, rather than extracting from, natural forces.
Andro Eradze’s “Raised in the Dust” (2022) which was part of 2022’s Venice Biennale, occupies a video room of its own. In the film, fireworks erupt over a nondescript forest, and taxidermied creatures, like a wolf and a hare, peek out in the flashes of light. If this vision of apocalypse leaves little room for hope, Mimi Ọnụọha’s These Networks In Our Skin (2021) depicts four women rewriting information cables with hair and other objects, as they reimagine and revise how the internet is built from the ground up.
Tabita Rezaire’s “Premium Connect” (2017) starts with the sound of a gong and reminds us that “This is not a world that belongs to you. If you want a world which you can improve then you can go and create one for yourself. In this world you will take your place as the insignificant speck that you are.” Flames erupt around the words, and the filmmaker takes us into a glitchy, campy, mystical world between nature and machines, where divination, The Matrix, and information science all collide. The English word “glitch” derives from the Old English glidan, from which we also get “glide.” The glitch, perhaps, is that we thought technology, the earth, and the spirit were all separate things when really they all glide together.
We Are They: Glitch Ecology and the Thickness of Now continues at Honor Fraser Gallery (2622 La Cienega Boulevard, Culver City) through August 26. The show was curated by Gallery Director Jamison Edgar.