THE MINE presents “Haptic Trajectories”, a solo exhibition of American artist Johnny Abrahams, for the first time in the Middle East.
From the earliest IBM computers, which based their punch card technologies on 19th century Jacquard looms, to through to binary and bytecode weaving, technology and the fibre arts share a richly intertwined history. In Haptic Trajectories, weaving informs the artist’s visual vocabulary as well as his process-oriented practice but the outcome is decidedly digital. Abraham’s process is a meticulous, accretive one, not dissimilar to the way that code is built up line by line. Tape is used to create repetitive line patterns that are superimposed, rotated and slightly phased to destabilise and dizzy the viewer’s gaze. In particular, the moiré paintings at once suggest the waviness of watered silks and the render errors that you might get when taking a photo of a screen, as well as the Java lake applet that was so ubiquitous in the early days of the internet.
We might consider this technological evolution as an example of Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, which proposes that technological change is exponential. Yet Abrahams’ paintings draw their power from a series of processing failures that result from the limitations of hardware—camera sensors, in the case of the moirés, or our own optical nerves. As such, engaging with these works is not contingent on a familiarity with art history (1960s experiments with op-art and shaped canvases might immediately come to mind) so much as a shared biology, which suggests all the flattening potential of technology at its utopian best. High-contrast figure-ground relationships trick the eye into perceiving afterimages of colour where there is none, creating the curious sensation of getting screenburn from acrylics on canvas.
- Johnny Abrahams