17 JANUARY 2009

Fabio Paris Art Gallery is proud to announce the second solo exhibition by the Austrian artist duo UBERMORGEN.COM, presenting the world preview of the project “Superenhanced”, which is dedicated to the pressing issue of torture. Though torture is banned almost everywhere, it has re-emerged under a new set of names with the neutral, tidy, functional language of marketing and branding.

Kidnapping is now called “extraordinary rendition”, and torture is “enhanced interrogation”: “an efficient way to extract valuable information from unwilling detainees” that uses so-called “soft” techniques such as the Attention Grab (the interrogator forcefully grabs the prisoner’s shirt front and shakes them) and the Attention Slap (an open-handed slap to the face); the Belly Slap (a hard open-handed slap to the abdomen, able to cause pain, but not internal injury); this then continues into “harsh techniques” like then Long Time Standing, with prisoners forced to stand, handcuffed, for more than 40 hours; the Cold Cell, where the prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 10 degrees Celsius; Waterboarding, a controlled form of drowning, and Sleep Deprivation, where they are not allowed to sleep for several days.

These are mostly psychological techniques, which do not leave marks on the detainee’s body, and have been used for years (since the Reagan administration) in America’s Supermax prisons (but also in places like Kandahar, Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay) to prepare ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ (including numerous children) for interrogation. The final set of methods used by authorities are the classic extremely brutal ones: Hanging prisoners by their wrists for days, beating prisoners, breaking bones, amputation of limbs, starving prisoners and killing prisoners.

UBERMORGEN.COM gets to grips with this sinister subject matter, but rather than condemning a human rights outrage that is there for all to see, appears to be more interested, on one hand, in exploring the hypocrisies of the language that renders it acceptable, and on the other the moral position of the spectator when exposed to ambiguous questions and disturbing images. The point of departure is the Superenhanced Generator, a web project (displayed in installation form) that contains a smart interrogation engine, basically capable of comprehending the spectator’s responses, and that generates a fake legal document (a foriginal), modelled on rendition orders and interrogation protocols.

The installation is accompanied by a series of photographic prints and a video which adopt the ascetic aesthetic of maximum security prisons representing child prisoners undergoing intimidation and torture: the photos are staged poses of a reality that no-one wants to believe in – a reality that is conveyed to the public eye as a form “collateral damage” in a “necessary” fight against terror. The images are nicely lit and professionally produced, but they are profoundly unsettling due to the truths that lie beneath their patina of glamour. On the evening of the opening, the installation will be accompanied by a performance.

UBERMORGEN.COM (lizvlx & Hans Bernhard) is an artist duo based in Vienna, Austria. Behind UBERMORGEN.COM we can find one of the most unmatchable identities – controversial and iconoclast – of the contemporary European techno-fine-art avant-garde. Their open circuit of conceptual art, drawing, software art, pixelpainting, computer installations, net.art, sculpture and digital activism (media hacking) transforms their brand into a hybrid Gesamtkunstwerk.