Installation view of "Cacotopia 03: Johanna Flato" at Annka Kultys Gallery, London, 2019 (photo courtesy of Annka Kultys Gallery)
Installation view of "Cacotopia 03: Johanna Flato" at Annka Kultys Gallery, London, 2019 (photo courtesy of Annka Kultys Gallery)

On End[s]

2018 – 2019

The "On End[s]' body of work uses various technological processes (including 3D scanning and modelling, voice synthesis, natural language processing, and machine learning), coupled with body-testifying expenditures of human subjectivity and labour, in an attempt to ‘embody’ and mine for meaning the presumed gibberish of placeholders like lorem ipsum filler text and the default avatar image. Through these overlapping approaches, the artist explores the tensions between meaning-making and nonsense, pleasure and pain, embodiment and constraint, and our shared proclivity (computer and human alike) to loop and glitch.

The name of the series is a play on the English translation of the title of Cicero's classic treatise on ethics, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, "On the Ends of Good and Evil" (De Finibus, or "On Ends," for short). In a unique 1914 first edition of this text the Latin original text is shown side-by-side with its English translation. The first words on page 36 of the book, “lorem ipsum,” are meaningless without the prefix left hyphenated on the previous page; reconnected, the words become “dolorem ipsum” ("pain itself"). Today, a scrambled version of the paragraphs that follow is ubiquitously utilized in word processors to autofill a page with loops of nonsensical placeholder text, a curious de-contextualisation of philosophically earnest material. In the works under this umbrella, the artist experiments with these found juxtapositions of meaning-making and gibberish, pleasure and pain, embodiment and constraint, labor and automation.

The primary works in the series consist of a series of audio-video works embedded in custom-made mirrored screens ("Recite Lipsum Corpus"), freestanding teleprompters reflecting projected text ("Generate Lipsum Corpus"), a first edition book with machine-generated pages ("Return Lipsum Corpus"), Latinate wall text ("Do-Lorem Corpus"), and a 3D-printed bust ("Bust Blank"), and a live performance variation: "Doing Lorem Lipsum".

In the "Recite Lipsum Corpus" works, created with 3D scanning and modelling techniques and voice synthesis, visitors find themselves reflected in the screen over a glitchy, digitized default avatar, while through the accompanying audio they hear duelling monologues: a spliced and broken recitation by the artist on the ethics of pleasure and pain and the dominant drone of a computer generated male voice speaking Latin.

"Generate Lipsum Corpus" consists of two teleprompters live-streaming meditations on pleasure and pain generated by a recurrent neural network. The source ‘corpus’ draws from the original ‘lorem ipsum’ placeholder text (a classical treatise on pleasure and pain), seeded with contradictory materials spanning philosophy, romance novels, scientific writing, and poetry.

In "Return Lipsum Corpus," all but two pages of a worn 1914 first edition of De Finibus have been replaced with re-informed, multi-sourced, regenerated lorem ipsum text in automated English and Latin, interrupting the Epicurean account of the ethics of pleasure and pain that served as the original source material of lorem ipsum text.


Included works

Related works