I am Algorithm, Marie-Anne McQuay

I am Algorithm (2013)

Marie-Anne McQuay, Curator, spike island

Charlie Tweed’s mesmeric films bring to the foreground of our attention processes that operate more usually in the background of our perception. We are narrated to by abandoned hardware, such as old cathode ray tubes and obsolete LCD screens which, in the words of the Tricorn (2013) are somewhat sinisterly “re- enlivened and coming back to haunt you”. Perhaps they serve to remind us as Jane Bennett proposes in Vibrant Matter, that “our trash is not ‘away’ in landfills but generating lively streams of chemicals and volatile winds of methane as we speak”. As well as animating the overlooked, the detritus of human existence, the artist also asks us to rethink the very divide between the human and the non-human, the built environment and the technological. Thus Tweed creates a world in which algorithms, viruses and molecules merge with one other, with the elements and with the atmosphere to form new hybridised life forms and self-governing processes. Everything we see constantly pulsates and regenerates: motion is law, as if moving forward, the ubiquitous phrase of politicians and bureaucrats, has become our new and only reality.

The artist’s tightly paced edits do not allow pause for explanation or dissensus but instead generate a kind of complicity with the productive blurring of codecs and ecologies which appear to beoperating so effectively around us. Scenarios such as an uninhabited town becoming a self-governing “auto-effective mechanism”, as described in Archimeters (2011), are also made more plausible if not actually necessarily desirable, by the calm yet insistent voices intoning their operations as if describing a state of now. An unnerving intimacy is further created by their addressing the viewer directly as “you” whilst in certain works, Vorkuta (2011), Archimeters (2011) and Grain (2013), the viewer is also given a point of location in relation to their own assumed position; “Grain is located exactly 28 miles east from where you are sitting” and “Ordos is located 4873.56 miles from where you are sitting”. At once we are both near and far from these sites and operations, potentially a witness to, yet also part of, this system of networks.

Through bringing together carefully adapted found footage with text to speech programs, combinations which play on both association and dissociation between word and image, Tweed forces us to go beyond what we recognise and surrender to the experiential qualities of his work. His dizzying scenarios are not intended as the stuff of science fiction but rather a means by which the artist can draw attention to a leveling of matter and life which allows for equal importance to be given to the affective properties and agency of things and forces in the world: a

proposition that may have ethical implications for the assumed central role that humans play within our environment.

Furthermore, Tweed reminds us that our own lives are played out and governed by systems and networks which react to unconscious or affective inputs; a twenty-first century city could be seen to be determined less by its physical architecture and more by the myriad pulses of electrical exchanges it produces. The artist heightens our awareness of such phenomena as well as the physicality – the fibre optic cables, servers and hard drives – of apparently immaterial forces, asking ultimately where our own agency may be found within the regulation of their forms and flows.

Marie-Anne McQuay