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  • May 11, 2018

Timur Si-Qin’s “Campaign for a New Protocol, Part III: New Peace”

Installation view of TIMUR SI-QIN’s Campaign for a New Protocol, Part III, 2018, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable, at 

As part of a new generation of artists associated with “New Materialism,” which proposes that objects and materials assert their own power over the viewer independent of subjective cultural interpretations,  multimedia artist Timur Si-Qin is fascinated by the immediate visual and emotional power of brand logos and advertising in and of themselves. Typically, Si-Qin works in branded cycles (the artist has experimented with the notion of projects as “brands,” complete with logos) that serve as theoretical frameworks for his sculptures, installations, light boxes and videos. Titled “Campaign for a New Protocol,” his latest project functions as a proposal for a “new materialist spirituality for today and the future…[to] lead to a new orientation of the world” for the good of the planet. The project developed into a three-part exhibition cycle, the first of which was presented in March 2018 at Société Berlin, followed by a second part later that month at the gallery’s booth at Art Basel Hong Kong. The third part of the project, subtitled “New Peace,” was exhibited in Milan at Spazio Maiocchi, a new, cross-disciplinary, studio and exhibition space by art media company KALEIDOSCOPE and Plusdesign Gallery.

Si-Qin’s Milan exhibition began in the gallery’s courtyard, with a large billboard advertising the project. Mirroring the hip aesthetics of luxury vacations ads, the poster showed a virtual mountainous landscape bathed in a serene hazy sunset. The words “New Faith, New Path, New Peace” were written in white across the picture, accompanied by the project’s brand logo, a circle split into two sections, similar to the Chinese taijitu, or yin-yang symbol.

Installation view of TIMUR SI-QIN

Inside the exhibition space, three low, rust-colored rock sculptures served as seats, on which virtual reality (VR) headsets were placed. On the walls surrounding this environment hung four light-boxes with views of a rocky desert in daylight. A decal of an elegant, black version of the New Peace logo, recalling an illustration of an atom, was emblazoned on another wall. Wearing a headset, the viewer is immersed in a 15-minute-long VR experience involving a nocturnal flight over a deserted mountain range. As the journey begins, a silky female voiceover explains the core tenets of the New Protocol—the need to elaborate a new “spiritual relationship with the universe of pattern, matter and energy we call home” in an era where “religious extremism has turned into apocalyptic death cults” and belief in the afterlife means it is pointless to worry about climate change and endangered ecosystems.

Installation view of TIMUR SI-QIN

Hovering over a primordial landscape scattered with debris and bushes, one could observe small, glowing plants sprouting from the reddish-brown rocky terrain, perhaps witnessing the birth of the first forms of land vegetation on an as-yet-unpopulated planet. Celestial music creates a serene atmosphere and conveys a sense of wellbeing. Above the horizon, the New Peace logo rises in a starry sky like an alien moon. Slowly, a diffused light appears behind the mountains’ ridges, announcing sunrise. The journey ends at dawn, as one is gently delivered on a hilltop, by a grove of lush trees swaying in the breeze. 

Beyond the entrancing VR experience and the allure of Si-Qin’s polished aesthetics, what makes the project intriguing is its multilayered nature. Though “Campaign for a New Protocol” was, on the surface, a heartfelt tribute to a natural world that, due to humanity’s actions, is now on the brink of disaster, its use of sleek visual branding to promote a syncretic mix of Western flower-child and Dao-inspired axioms was paradoxical, as if pointing to the way that consumerism is increasingly seeping into our spiritual lives. Furthermore, the VR-centric exhibition called for one to reflect on how perception is increasingly being organized by commercialized electronic means, one of the effects of which is to prolong fantasy into reality. In doing so, “New Peace” posed the chilling question of whether the only landscape to exist in the future will be a technological one.

Timur Si-Qin’s “Campaign for a New Protocol, Part III: New Peace” is on view at Spazio Maiocchi, Milan, until May 18, 2018.

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