Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pierre Julien Fieux: Are You Human?

The humanoids of Pierre Julien Fieux’s Are You Human? (CAPTCHA) project are, by turns, stolid, startled, and contentious. They expect the question, or they do not, and sometimes it incites in them a terrible rage. They catapult it back to the site and source of its emission, where they hope it will be expected, or where it will startle, and perhaps enrage.

These creatures do not rest: they prod and pull on their own elastic flesh, to see if the resultant body will land them in humanity’s box. A head splices and the portions fly apart; they come back together, and the head becomes a cube, or a wedge, with sharp edges that jar against the roundness of simple bodies.

I’m always saying that I admire people who work in ink and in watercolor (especially those who do it well). Both media are unforgiving when it comes to mistakes, and—especially as the complexity of the work increases—require a level of forethought I've never been able to manage. In the CAPTCHA series, the artist negates any such requirement, and the willful bleed of ink on wet paper becomes the frenzy of its figure. Stolid or startled, body and mind rebel against the starting question. It reverberates through invisible bones, and makes invisible teeth ache.

Some of Fieux’s creatures emerge from a harsher geometry: a complex of vectors and fractals that expand and contract on their own, alluding to the strange intelligence of the computer which measures humanity, but has none of its own.

In the short, animated film that accompanies and prefaces Fieux’s ink drawings, we witness some faceless creature’s (inexplicable) failure of the computer’s humanity check, and her subsequent imprisonment in a transparent cell, where further tests are performed. The viewer is made to understand that proving or failing to prove that one is human is not enough and is, perhaps, impossible. Despite being impossible, it will be asked of her again and again, with the singular, unmistakable effect of her submission—in the matter of her humanity—to the authority of the computer which is distinctly inhuman.

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