Sam Songailo: Digital Wasteland

Sam Songailo’s Digital Wasteland is an absorbing experience. From the floor to the ceilings of the CAC Songailo has crafted an immersive, painterly, ‘digital’ environment. The gallery is separated into a series of installations, including video and sculpture, widening your interaction with the work whilst challenging the traditional mores of painting.

Whilst meandering around the space you sense that the walls have a certain hum, order, and syncopated rhythm. Your eyes dart, weave and refocus confused by the UV light and scent of settling paint fumes. This chaotic array of colour and lines morph and transform as you travel from room to room. Installations like these are wildly popular and engaging but sometimes run the risk of being a carnival-act as opposed to ‘artwork’; here Songailo toes the line – he wants you to experience the work, enjoy yourself, whilst investigating his own ideas of painting and installation art.

In the accompanying sculpture(s) we see remnants of forms sitting awkwardly within this experiential and hypnotic digital scape. The title, digital wasteland, would imply that The Digital Age has been and gone, but, what Songailo has created here, is in the thick of its animation. In perhaps a formal nod to contemporaries like Jim Lambie the puncturing of this environment with the inclusion of sculpture is necessary in reading anything other than a fractal pattern of monumental scale. In the front gallery a small stack of thin strips of wood lean up against one wall ushering you towards them; shaman-like and a visible sign of the artists labour. In the back gallery a boulder-like object, weightless, yet sizeable, precariously balances on a formal plinth taken over too by the digital pattern. These sculptures (and the video work in the middle gallery) are examples of Songailo’s extended practice and assist in creating a few points of reference when navigating the installs. They sit lifelessly as if their function has already passed; visible remains of once animated objects.

Animism and subjectification are clear criteria in reading contemporary sculpture today. Critics spend a lot of time looking at the way objects are made and examine how they are fixed within a particular order of knowledge. But how do we retain this process/perception in the age of technology? We now exist alongside networks that create an abundance of data or devices, and a voluptuous amount of digitalised material. These advancements are causing artists, to look further back; to reflect, and retain some of the fundamentals whilst properly addressing the totality of our current landscape in both a tangible and intangible state.

Songailo has created a series of moving networks that involve ourselves, these objects, and the environment around us. Digital Wasteland is an immersive experience that is engaging without recourse or critique; you can empathize with it on a whole other level. What Songailo has made here is something vital and mortal, emerging from something that could be read as cold and lifeless as code.

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