Alumnus Ryan Kuo Solo Show at Bitforms Gallery in NYC

Ryan Kuo: The Pointer, bitforms gallery, 2018. Courtesy bitforms gallery, New York. Photo: Emile Askey.
ACT at MIT

Ryan Kuo (SMACT ’14)’s The Pointer, a solo exhibition at bitforms gallery in New York City, focuses on the construct of whiteness and its involvement in technological aesthetics and productivity. The Pointer will be on view until July 22.

For this exhibition Kuo developed three new software works: The Pointer, File: A Primer, and OK. The Pointer is the illogical figure of whiteness, which American philosopher George Yancy describes as a “structural, ideological, embodied, epistemological and phenomenological mode of being.” Because its ascendancy is predicated on such notions as universality, neutrality, and purity, whiteness must isolate and obliterate barriers to its ideals while disavowing its own position. This also informs how software interfaces have come to be understood and used.

These interrelated works consider whiteness as an unremitting affective failure that erases bodies, including its own, in its search for a neutral point of origin. Rather than prescribe an answer, Kuo aims to materialize whiteness by redirecting its failure into recursive sequences, systems, and spaces.

File: A Primer is a kiosk animation created using Keynote’s built-in tools for automating digital presentations. In an austere looping sequence, boxes unfold from boxes as text annotations sift through the racialized messaging of white surfaces drawn against black. Taking inspiration from instructional manuals and online webinars, File: A Primer is a new manifestation of Kuo’s online work File, which documents processes by which the contemporary artist-worker is defined and redefined by abstract forces such as the user and the market.

OK. is a macOS application inspired by System Preferences and named for the “OK” button, ubiquitous in operating systems, that we click to repeatedly affirm our intent and deny interruptions to our usage. The application revolves around an interactive database of terms that outline a continuum between white innocence and white supremacy. While the user navigates these terms, popup windows materialize a body shifting to align with its thought patterns. On the occasion of its premiere at bitforms, a limited edition of software boxes containing the program and an accompanying cheat sheet will be available through the gallery. The software box and printed insert extrude the theme of ideological thinness into physical space, while the application’s egg icon refers to insulation, fragility, and the default Twitter avatar that once hid the collective identity of the world’s trolls.

I Don’t See It, a site-specific work continuously generated by a video-game engine, is displayed on the presentation monitor in the Director’s office. It houses a digital re-creation of the bitforms office in which multiple virtual cameras scan and roam the environment, interrupting and intensifying one another. The computer not only activates this self-surveilling network of eyes, but also includes the physical observer on the couch, whose viewing position is echoed on the television, and on the television in the television, tunneling ever inward and outward. The work’s endless seeking of a better view simulates the movements of the Pointer, who resembles a dog chasing its own tail.

These are not acts of resistance so much as renderings of the elaborate contortions needed to assimilate into whiteness. As such, they might be taken as an admission of the artist’s complicity.

For more information, please visit bitform gallery’s website.