In his sculptural work, David Jablonowski skillfully juxtaposes a broad spectrum of man-made and mass-produced materials in order to reflect on timely topics such as the status of objects and the flow of data through the lens of technology. We had seen his work in group shows (see this blog post), but having the chance to see his solo presentation 'Hype Cycle' at Fons Welters was a very welcome addition to our Amsterdam Art Weekend visit. Jablonowski's interest in the complexity of today's networks of information and its technologies is manifested in a series of sculptures clustered as glass totems ('Prediction Tower, Hype Cycle 1' 2 and 3, all from 2014) or simple low shelves à la mode of still lives ('No Market Left Waiting To Merge (Taipei)', 2014). He favors working with contrasting materials in texture and warmth (e.g. reflecting glass vs. wicker baskets) constantly moving between the analogue and the digital (e.g. offset printing plates vs. LED screens). His sculptural arrangements belie their minimal appearance by incorporating organic materials such as dry orange slices, spices, leaves or rice crackers, often tricking the eye as to what is real and what is a prop. He plays, for example with the veracity of immaterial financial data against the seeming-artificiality of actually-present indexed produce – such as ears of grain. 'Hype Cycle' incorporates some of the elements from his recent Art Cologne presentation 'Hello Prediction! / Data Mining' (2014). One of the most intriguing pieces is 'Industrial3d Display', a 4 metre-long work arranged on the floor composed of materials such as aluminum, dried rye, peppers, plexiglass, Samsung LED screens, plaster, dried leaves and acrylic. This piece, one that best sublimates his conceptual and sculptural efforts, elegantly alloys all his concerns around the evolution of media and obsolescence, layering found video footage on two flat screens, used offset printing sheets folded in their corners and reed baskets containing ears of wheat. Jablonowski's choice of wheat is significant as the cultivation of this cereal was one of the main factors in the emergence of city societies. It was easily grown and could be stored over long periods of time as well as serving as a construction material.
Another imposing piece is 'New Trade Routes, Trade Alert' (2014), featuring one of the stars of the show: an 18th Century wooden wagon. 'New Trade Routes...' appears to lance any uneasy nostalgia for mankind as a tool-maker. Although similar wagons are doubtless still used in many communities today, the proximity to modern and contemporary items such as consumer objects and the trapping of newer technology (LED panels, aluminum printing plates, reproduction Chinese dim sum, etc.) turns the wagon into a sort of time-traveled artifact. It is as if it has become hardly recognizable as technology for the many of us more familiar to interacting with a touch screen than a horse harness. The show is underscored by many of the social, technological and economic changes we are witnessing today. A pointed example of this is the graphic printed on a transparent sheet (typically used for overhead projectors in pre-PowerPoint corporate and educational presentations) and included in one of Jablonowski's totems. The Hype Cycle is "a branded graphical tool developed and used by IT research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. for representing the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies." The curve shows, for example, that Predictive Analytics reached the "Plateau of Productivity" phase as of July 2013. It is interesting to put Jablonowski's work in the light of the nearby exhibition at SMBA with film work by Zachary Formwalt, which focuses on the progressive abstraction and remoteness of financial trade, taking as a point of departure the 1903 H.P. Berlage's Amsterdam Stock and commodities Exchange in contrast to the 2013 OMA-designed Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Both Jablonowski and Formwalt's approach resonates with our current research on artistic practice broadly inquiring on the circulation of raw materials, economic trade, information flows and technological obsolescence. For better photo documentation of the show, check Fons Welters' website or Artsy.