Jonathan Vidal
Jonathan Vidal

Self-augmentation dream inducers machines 2.0 (2018)
tôle, métal thermolaqué, grille de ventilation, encre de calligraphie, papier adhésif

Jonathan Vidal’s latest works are an enquiry into the relationships between human beings and technology, where the history of the robotic faces labour issues rooted in the master—slavers capitalist dynamic. Employed to supersede humans at work, robots have been designed to retain human features such as  the voice or skeleton. By looking at the robotic industry’s history of tests and failures, Vidal’s works raise ethical questions about the treatment of machines. At the same time, by means of traditional artistic media, he questions the very
future of the artist’s manual labour in a world driven by digital technology.

Like relics from a used future, his works echo the traditional topoi of science-fiction, such as the ambiguous relationships between humans and machines, where it is unclear which party is the victim and which the oppressor (such as in the film Blade Runner). This approach is combined with archival research on those corporations, that since the 1970s, have dealt with the production of cyborgs. For example, the structure of Self-augmentation dream inducers machines 2.0, 2018, is the copy of a window shutter, modelled by Vidal after those employed in Swiss social housing.
On the surface of this symbol of worker’s labour, the artist applies texts from 1970s educational cartoons on the limits of robots, alongside stickers with logos of famous companies involved in the business scheme. Instead, by appropriating existing images, Programmed for love (music theme), 2018, hints at the machines’ capacity to carry out human labour with equal dexterity. Titles, in Vidal’s works, provide contexts and loose reference points to his research: Tesla on fires, 2018, or Defective heating system waiting for the empathy of the neo liberalism, 2018, combine traditional artistic techniques with dismissed industrial elements and expensive materials (such as the Hermès scarf in the latter).

Vidal’s practice ends up exploring the very essence of artistic labour, with a parallel enquiry into the ability of traditional artistic techniques to face the coming technological future. With a sardonic approach, Vidal provides an aesthetic understanding of the relationships between economy, cyborg technology and art.

Stefano Collicelli Cagol