In a time of large global political shifts, it is clear that a diversity of bodies and voices must come into contact beyond the echo chambers of our computer screens. As digital and robotic technologies change the fabric of human systems, is it possible to create spaces that unite the human, ecological and technological with basic principles of empathy, care and kindness?
With this question in mind, Rory Pilgrim premiers the first instalment of a new body of work at Rowing that unfolds like an experimental music album. Resisting a fixed form, Software Garden aims to grow as a space for different bodies and voices to come together both within and beyond the screen to challenge forms of erasure and oppression through the process of songwriting, video, performance and social engagement. The exhibition introduces the first set of collaborations that give figurative shape to the Software Garden through a music video that unfolds over multiple screens and chapters.
Interweaving poetry, choreography and song, the first words and bodies enter and construct the metaphorical shape of the garden, exploring how complex systems of power and technology are manifested through the experiences of individuals. Narrated by Sheffield-based poet Carol R. Kallend, her words reflect her desire to have a robotic companion and compassionate form of technology in harmony with the human. Kallend is joined by dancer Casper-Malte Augusta and singer Robyn Haddon who respond with choreographic gestures and song.
Creating a rupture in geographic space and context, the videos transition to Japan and the Japanese islands of Okinawa which face continued occupation by the American military. A nation known for both fuelling technological innovation and experiencing the most horrific human invention, the atomic bomb, and more recently the Fukushima disaster, the videos inhabit a range of spaces that trace these histories. Following recent mass student demonstrations protesting against the Japanese government’s investment in nuclear energy and decision to end its constitutional support for pacifism, a group of Tokyo students create a series of choreographic and vocal sequences that build throughout the music video. Taking Kallend’s poetry as additional inspiration, the students reflect on how their lives intersect with technological systems of power to imagine principles in which the Software Garden is nurtured.
The exhibition at Rowing advances Pilgrim’s interest in social engagement, activism, music and film with additional handpainted text work by long-term collaborator David Andrews, alongside photographic works captured by Pilgrim while living in Japan. During the exhibition, the artist will develop a performance in collaboration with Block Universe festival on 3 June. Taking place at Friends House London, the central hall for consensus and social peace and justice work for Quakers in the UK, Pilgrim’s performance will bring the Software Garden to life beyond the screens of the video installation.
Mondriaan Fonds, CBK Rotterdam and Arts Initiative Tokyo