Cécile B. Evans – What the Heart Wants
August 7 – October 2 2016
In What the Heart Wants (2016), Cécile B. Evans’ (b. 1983, lives and works in London) most comprehensive piece of work to date, the artist looks to a future; into a technologically driven time when it has never been more uncertain as to what makes someone or something ‘human’. The artist identifies this as a point in time called “after K” and places the female protagonist HYPER, an omnipotent system, at the centre of a non-linear narrative that questions what it could mean to be a person in an age where software, hardware, and consciousness have merged.
The list of topics negotiated in Evans’ What the Heart Wants is impressive and bordering on the absurd: stem cell research, terrorism, dress codes for women and the sacrifice of minorities in favour of an esteemed greater, corporatised good. Such topics are discussed by HYPER, a partially animated pair of lovers, a worker’s collective of ears, a robot, the immortal cell HeLa and a memory from 1972, among others. This list of characters and topics is not exhaustive yet makes clear that they are not meeting at a place we now (still) call reality, but one that serves as an intersection where all information could meet. Many of the topics are the same as those of our time; communication has become different but not easier, problem solving has not gotten better. “After K” time seems to have taken as many steps backwards as it has forwards and HYPER longs for useful insights to solutions despite her algorithms and unparalleled access to an infinite amount of information.
It is clear that the contents of this world are not only cognitive but manifest themselves on an emotional level. By reaching autonomy through her ‘humanness’, the system HYPER is burdened with the capacity for subjectivity. The video reveals itself to be an homage to both technological progress and the ability to have feelings, to love. Contrary to most future scenarios, the characters in Evans’ work are not depicted as rivalling antagonists but in the stages of a process that wants things to work for everyone in a way that is made-to-last: What the Heart Wants is a human story.
What the Heart Wants was commissioned by the 9. Berlin Biennale and co-produced by Kunsthalle Winterthur, De Hallen Haarlem and Kunsthalle Aarhus. The new site specific installation at Kunsthalle Winterthur, filled with salt and sky, recalls a technique used to break up cloud systems by flying through them to deposit large quantities of salt crystals. Much like the video itself, it is unclear whether this act of dissolution is a sign of progress or control. The new setting in Winterthur also features a German translation.
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