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What are the new rituals of post-internet culture?

The label ‘post-internet’ is usually applied to art that wears its digital identity proudly – designs evoking the eerie sheen of web art, literature employing Wikipedia rabbit-hole narratives, or audio pieces that use glitched-out data streams or robot voices. But ‘post-internet’ just as easily applies to any art that’s made today – there’s nothing being created that doesn’t bear the influence of the internet somehow, however subtly.

It’s this ‘internetisation’ of culture that fascinates Estela Oliva, creator of hybrid art and new media project Clon. Her work concerns not just the culture of technology and the internet, but how that culture has changed us as humans. With Clon, she creates and curates work that probes into our relationship with the digital sphere, including allowing VR-equipped audiences to play Pied Piper for a crowd of humanoid clones, or concept films investigating artificial intelligence.

On 7 October, she presents New Rituals, two ‘ecstatic multimedia performances’ at the Barbican Centre. The double-bill of world premiere performances are led by two musicians, Aïsha Devi and Pan Daijing, in an exploration the new spaces for expression, identity and spirituality that the internet has enabled. Devi’s Aetherave blends ancient tradition with twisted dance sounds, featuring the choreography of Asian Dope Boys, and imagery from Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen. Pan Daijing, meanwhile, presents First Piece, a live performance with guest dancer Gregori Homa, in a contemplative look at what femininity means in 2018.

In our interview, Estela told us more about Clon, New Rituals, and why she continues to be beguiled by the effect of digital culture on the human race.

What is New Rituals? Or, should I say – what are the ‘New Rituals’ that this show explores?

New Rituals is an ongoing research on how we perceive identity and spirituality in today’s world. We live in a hyper-technological and hyper-connected world and I think there is a need to reassess our individual and collective values, aside of consumerism and capitalism. I also believe that it’s time to look at the world through the eyes of women, to offer spaces where we can reflect on how to move forward in new ways. In this first event, I am interested in exploring different states of mind through performances that challenge our perception and take us to unknown territories.

Image: Aïsha Devi / Pan Daijing

A lot of your work is concerned with the ‘internetisation’ of culture. How has the internet changed us?

The changes range from the obvious to the deep. In our everyday lives, so many things have changed: how we communicate, our perception of space-time, how we meet and love people, how we see ourselves; how we manage our personal daily lives. The fact that we perform all these actions outside our physical bodies, in the ‘connected world’, is something that was not possible before the internet. Data and connectivity are the new driving forces of our lives, although we are still yet to understand how we can use them in better ways to benefit real people rather than financial systems. In a much deeper way, our relationships as individuals, collectives and our surroundings have changed to an extent that we don’t yet understand. Aside from the internet, I am also particularly interested in new media spaces such as virtual and augmented, as they are sort of a new layer in reality where anything can happen. What will we build? And how will these new ideas integrate with the physical world? All these questions are the core of my work.

How do you see the scenes of experimental music, visual art and dance explored in this concert relating to post-internet culture?

The term post-internet and post-digital refers to being in this current age where digital has changed culture already. The artists invited have a strong connection with Asian culture, and in particular Chinese culture. In China, we can see extreme integrations of digital culture, as the use and the boundaries are embedded in people’s lives. Also in China spirituality is seen through different eyes, as Pan Daijing says “where I come from spirituality is part of every day life” (Barbican Podcast). I think we have a lot to learn from the artists who participate in this event, as they bring together all these influences alongside their personal views.

What attracts you to Aïsha Devi’s and Asian Dope Boys’s work? What can we expect from their performance of their piece Aetherave?

Aisha’s work is rooted in spiritual connections. Her music transcends emotional realms. In this new performance with Asian Dope Boys, they integrate club influences with mystical scenarios, and dancers which take inspiration in ancient Chinese characters. I expect the show to be very unique.

Similar question – what draws you to Pan Daijing’s work?

I am interested in how Pan Daijing looks at intimacy and female relationships. In the case of ‘Fist Piece’ she created the performance as a collaboration with her mother. To me, the piece is a space for reflection and connection with the self. I am also very interested in her presentation as a multimedia performance integrating music, film and performance.

Do you see a synergy between the two musicians?

Yes very much, the shows are different yet complementary. The aim is to drive people through a journey and provoke a range of feelings and emotions. While Aetherave is intense and energetic, First Piece is introspective and reflective. I hope that audience members will appreciate this mix.

JANMAR B17 (Concept Film) from Clon on Vimeo.

You founded Clon, blurring the lines between art and new media. How do you see the relationship between art and technology?

In Clon, I explore speculative future narratives and sci-fi scenarios. In this sense, the focus on art that uses technology and new media is a natural engagement. Art with technology is the art of today.

How does your background in the digital sector inform your artistic and curatorial work?

I have always been fascinated to learn about new tools and to reflect on how they are being used by people. Working in digital helps me understand how the digital world works, what are the structures behind, who decides how they are made. Usually those who make the decisions don’t think too much about the consequences outside the commercial goals. All my learnings are transformed in reflections that are interconnected with my practice, the themes I choose, the artists I am interested in, all of them feedback to similar ideas.

What is the role of art and artists in shaping the future of artificial intelligence in the world?

Artists pose questions and raise points that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. It is crucial to involve them in the development of new technology, not just artificial intelligence but any other systems developed by companies or institutions. Unfortunately it is rare to see an artist taking part in high level decisions about the future of technology. However through exhibition, and visibility of their work, I believe their ideas can reach and influence those who are making decisions about our future.

Estela Oliva


New Rituals: Aïsha Devi feat. Asian Dope Boys + Pan Daijing
7 Oct 2018, 19:30
Barbican Hall
Produced by the Barbican in association with Clon. Curated by Estela Oliva. Supported by the Goethe-Institut London
Tickets and info:

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