Andromache Freya Rocket Suki Nomad Pete Kimmy Z River Chloe Ali Robert Maple Tigger Theodosia Martha Nate
Andromache Freya Rocket Suki Nomad Pete Kimmy Z River Chloe Ali Robert Maple Tigger Theodosia Martha Nate is named for the artist’s 11 favorite sharks on the Ocearch shark tracking app and features new paintings and sculptures by artist and poet, Rindon Johnson. Shark tracking is the process of monitoring sharks through the use of acoustic tags and satellite tags, which emit unique frequencies and GPS locations that can be detected by underwater listening stations and satellites. The data provides researchers with information on shark behavior, migration patterns, and population dynamics, which is used for developing conservation strategies.
In Andromache Freya Rocket Suki Nomad Pete Kimmy Z River Chloe Ali Robert Maple Tigger Theodosia Martha Nate Johnson continues his inquiries into speciesism and surveillance. For nine months Johnson checked on each shark daily, awaiting their next ping (location update) memorializing each update in the form of small bronze dots eventually replicating in physical form the constellations of shark travel that the Ocearch app features. Meanwhile, he made paintings. This body of work hinges on the confusing incorporation of sharks into a nonconsensual form of what theorist Jean Burgess calls “produsage”; a term which refers to the ways in which digital technologies enable people to collaborate and co-create content, blurring the distinction between producers and consumers.
Foundational to Johnson’s earlier works with live streams is the extractive nature of surveillance capitalism which in Shoshana Zuboff’s definition “proceeds by extracting personal data and using it to produce behavioral predictions that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. These predictions are then packaged into prediction products and sold to business clients for decision-making and manipulation.” The data for Johnson’s 11 sharks is not bought and sold so much as it is hard won by scientists whose work is in turn funded by these aforementioned entities.
Shark tracking is itself a form of data extraction but who benefits? Whose agency and privacy is lost? The sharks live within a particular argument for safety, one that is maintained by the accumulation of capital: ‘if we don’t know where and if we don’t know what and how they are doing, then we cannot protect them.’ By following the shark, the shark is protected from the condition we humans have created. With this new body of work, we arrive at one of the essential questions in Johnson’s multivalent practice: When do human actions simply become desperate attempts to avoid the eventual mass extinction of non-human beings from the Earth? To Johnson, as to Derrida, Harraway, Tsing and Ingold (among many others), we watch the shark to see and simultaneously avoid ourselves.
The 11 sharks do not know that Johnson is watching them. The sharks are thrust into- as Annette Markham considers it- an ambiently intimate form of communication. This, Johnson feels, is a kind of unnameable state, a longing for an as yet impossible reality, one where animals can be followed like an old friend, a state that lies between and amongst many trying others all along a terrain of desire for a different form of human and animal relation.
For Johnson, these ideas of agency, surveillance, speciesism and large data collection run lazily alongside his new paintings anchoring themselves in the bronze ping dots which sit on low Tasmanian oak plinths, unbound from the app’s aggregated map of each shark these bits of data are unmoored and useless.
27 January - 22 February 2023
2/27-39 Abercrombie Street
Chippendale, Sydney, NSW, 2008