Joey Holder “Abyssal Seeker” Seventeen Gallery / London by

by May 22, 2021

Joey Holder’s exhibition complicates the concept of a “net-zero carbon” economy by which corporations can offset their carbon footprint. Current strategies vary from planting trees in Indonesia to paying another company to suck CO2 out of the air and store it in the ground beneath the seabed — burying our collective shame and guilt within a planetary subconscious (because that method has always worked).

“Measuring anything is a kind of violence,” says the artist as we discuss the concept of epistemicide — the reduction of complex phenomena and eradication of plural forms of knowledge in favor of globalized abstraction (and usually the market). Joey Holder’s two-room installation at Seventeen Gallery is a deep, speculative realm populated by creatures looking to escape labyrinthine structures of big data and binary classification. The initial space comprises a site-specific Littoral Zone (2021) — a spatial taxonomy of knowledge regimes that have historically structured society. Fascinated with “how conspiracies and systems of belief can be constructed on the internet,” Holder’s ominous wallpapers collage photorealistic species, DNA strains, and a looming panopticon prison into a jarring spatial database. Her single sculptural work, Ambunticoris sulawesicus (2021), emerges from a white wall opposite as a kind of anomaly. A preternatural creature derived from dragonfly genitalia, caught between “life as constant mutation” and rigid pattern.

The following Demersal Zone is a spectacular 180-degree digital video depicting an enigmatic, parafictional sea floor. It’s an evolving, uncharted environment hosting an array of ambiguous life forms that escape the territory of classification. Here, Holder’s symbols — “magical sigils or portals” — migrate across a subterranean space in which certain knowledge seems more elusive than ever. Apparently crafted out of algorithmic confusion, Holder’s speculative abyss is nonetheless defined by the decayed dataset of visual culture. An interpretive experimental soundscape by 33EMYBW, commissioned specially for the show, supplements this work of world-building by lending itself to fluid epistemological experimentation.

Whether DNA or carbon, the capture of data has always been intertwined with power, begging the question: Who is the measurer and who are the measured? Speculative projects like “Abyssal Seeker” complicate such regimes of classification, constructing plural epistemologies out of the ruins of the modernist past for the good of our techno-capitalist present. In the compromised conditions of contemporary art, through which neoliberalism seeks to curate neocolonial knowledge, world-building creations like Holder’s find salvation in deep cultures.

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Sonja Teszler