Renaud Jerez’s techno-animistic sculptures have lost their protective membranes. Skinless, fluidless and vacant, they sit in wait, lying prone or hanging limp like marionettes. Occasionally, Jerez’s quasi-figurative works stand upright in a state of perpetual suspended animation—suffocated by hanging cables, ensnared in gauze and papier-mâché, stuffed tubular pieces of fabric and weighted in a contrapposto stance by heavy costumed footwear. Running into and out of these lifeless bodies are medical tubes, wrapped cables and hoses, and PVC piping, suggestive of a last ditch effort to reinvigorate. Breath has long since departed from these dry, emptied shells; they are left literally and figuratively petrified.
The inertia in Jerez’s work occurs via several means at once. The first is a state of suspended equilibrium, achieved vis-à-vis a complex set of material parts that hang in the balance. Materially, the assemblages combine found advertising with altered generic clothing or fabric—frequently ripped, charred or masked—situated in an architectural setting suggestive of the monotonous drone and spatial indeterminacy of a modern day workspace, waiting room or unemployment office. Also at play in these environments is the absence of time, of commerce and desire. Like characters in some post-apocalyptic scene, these impotent, burnt-out skeletal mummies mirror an abject version of ourselves in the polluted and passive aggressive culture of our time.
Techno-animistic sculptures that mirror the polluted culture of our time
With titles like TBD, BDS, T, EFNKXRHB, Greed, and Pain Corp, Jerez’s artworks echo the vulnerability and crudeness of Nam June Paik’s Robot K-456 (1964), made in Japan in consultation with electronic engineer Shuya Abe. Unlike Jerez’s zombies, Park’s early robot actually moved—that is, until it was mangled by a car, run over outside the Whitney Museum in a hyperbolic performance Paik called The First Catastrophe of the 21st Century. Catastrophe besmirches the scene in Jerez’s room-sized installations, of which there have been quite a few—and yet, the apocalypse is one of both a distant past and an unrealized future. Doomed surfaces abound in Jerez’s arsenal of de-liquified systems and hollowed screens, comprising taut fabrics, CNC-cut pink polyurethane foam panels, obscured projection devices, distorted retina display screens and scrambled networks.
Heavily influenced by the “Shoot ‘em up” genre of video games, the cyborgian quality of Manga comics, and science fiction in general, Jerez is interested in a technology that is an extension of the human body, screens attached to finger tips, webcams sewn into eyes, and prosthetics of all kinds protruding from orifices and limbs. Like the mouse we use to move across our screen, or the joystick we maneuver and thrust while engrossed in a video game, these parts become central to the whole while at the same time serving as markers of control and suppression. As second skins—an actual term recently declared as a bio-tech polymer-based skin treatment, now in research—these surfaces and appendages recur in Jerez’s installations, just as they will in his upcoming show at the ICA Miami, the artist playing with colored film sheets and hanging fabric to total effect. Wonder how to create a persistent image amidst such atrophy? Jerez does. Suspended in time, in place, in thought, these familiar strangers offer a false camouflage against our most sadistic fantasies of technological singularity.
(French, b. 1982) is an artist who lives and works in Berlin. He is represented by Galerie Crèvecoeur, Paris.
Jerez’s solo show “Glmaour” is currently on view at Fahrenheit—FLAX Foundation, Los Angeles, through 30 July. An upcoming solo exhibition will be on view at the ICA Miami from 8 July-30 October
Tina Kukielski is a curator and writer, and director of Art21, an organization specializing in digital media about contemporary art. She was co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International.
Image: Untitled, detail, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Crèvecoeur, Paris