Leave a comment

Jacob Love’s “CONTENT: learning about pleasure”

On my birthday, about a month ago, I decided to stop by Jacob Love’s exhibit of his latest work, which was part of Deptford X. CONTENT: learning about pleasure was on view for three or so days at The Church at the St. James Hatcham Building, which was an interesting space in itself, although I couldn’t tell you why I’m drawn to repurposed religious spaces, only that I am.

The show spanned different mediums, but let’s face it: I was drawn to it mostly because of the photography. The photographs were scenic and wide-spanning, but also very intimate and sensual. I mean that in the sense that it makes me feel very tied to my body and a sort of corporeal experience that’s heavy with sensuousness, but also somehow not necessarily tied with eroticism, but also certainly not completely devoid of it.

The photos, incidentally, were taken with a robotic camera showing “a perspective not possible with human vision.” They were stitched together using algorithms and software, somehow recreating a sense experience that feels close and familiar, though in actuality, something that wouldn’t even be phenomenologically possible to witness.

There’s a creepy sense of surveillance, too, I thought, but I’m unsure if that was intentional. According to Love’s notes, the show on the whole deals with “notions of synthetic experience.” This is more obvious with the rest of the show, which include video installations and digital collage-images that deal with more generated imagery. It’s an exploration of “unconscious processes at work when we read images,” and how those processes affect “our pleasure, attention, and agency.” Presumably, the effects go unnoticed.

The installations use found content that “generate physiological bodily responses” — some cringing, a jerk of the shoulder, something warm that flows through your body, and so on. Though immersive — or perhaps because of its scale and nature — the work confronts us with questions of the invisible mechanisms at work that elicit these types of responses.

As this is a work in progress, the continuation of the explorations of these questions is something I’m keen to see. There is something curious and decidedly ominous about “learning about pleasure” from what is essentially machinery and systems outside “genuine” bodily human experience, but I can’t help but think that it is also something that is inevitable, and in many ways, already at work.