Katja Novitskova

Mars Potential (cat), 2015

cutout display, digital print on three layers of aluminium

176 × 44 × 100 cm


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Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

photo credit: Florian Kleinefenn

Artwork
Description

Katja Novitskova’s exploration of the human condition and the digital landscape has taken her to Mars, where scientific discoveries are being made in the dim light of a Martian sunset. Mars Potential (cat) is part of a series of work that was first shown at Novitskova’s solo exhibition ‘Spirit, Curiosity and Opportunity’ – a title that takes its name from three of the robotic rover missions deployed by NASA in the exploration of Mars. High-resolution images captured by the rovers on Mars are collaged with disproportionately sized, cutout images of animals from the artist’s previous ‘Approximations’ series (2012 – ongoing). Here, a cat – that most ubiquitous of Internet search – stares out from fossilised, desert landscape of the red planet.  Taken from generic search engines and then affixed to aluminium display stands, the flat pictures of animals became three-dimensional – the perfect prop for visitor selfies that are then posted back into the Internet’s ocean of signs, returning the images to their free-floating source.

Novitskova is both aware, and wary, of the social and cognitive shifts enacted by our contemporary culture of the selfie. As in Mars Potential (Cat)’s original display, she co-opts the audience as a mediating force, legitimising her work through the perpetuation of its image online. There is an underlying uneasiness posed by this limitless circulation of images – Novitskova’s work is in a sense apocalyptic: “Nature adapting to technological surplus. Alarmed scientists fear the overexposure to screens might result in a lasting attention deficit, while anxious Christians dread Pope Francis would baptize aliens. ADD is the new multitasking. The brain adapts to higher frequency cycles, to lol cats—“Who are we to close the doors?”  (Elise Lammer, ‘Katja Novitskova at SALTS, Basel,’ Mousse Magazine, 2014). Through the juxtaposition of irreal space imagery and Internet cats, the artist posits that the line demarcating the natural world from its technological rendering has dissolved, all exist now in a flat continuum of images. Real (outer) space is collapsed with Internet space; one is indistinguishable from the other, to the point of psychic disruption.

What mitigates this unrelenting pessimism is both by the Potential suggested in the work’s title, and Novitzkova’s own artist’s book, Post Internet Survival Guide, published in 2010. The publication is her own proposal to navigate a space in which “everything is simultaneously realistic and camouflaged,” offering strategies such as ‘Remember Where You Are’ and ‘Vanquish Fear and Panic,’ to combat the insidiously synthetic rendering of our post-Internet reality. The ambivalent spatial compression of Mars Potential (Cat) is a trope of endurance – perhaps one day, lol cats will live on Mars.

About
the artist

Katja Novitskova (b.1984) was born in Talinn, Estonia and now lives and works between Amsterdam and Berlin. She studied graphic design at the Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam and holds an MSc at University of Lübeck, Germany (2007).

Novitskova interrogates the positions and locations where the technological and physical coincide, understanding them as two facets of the same ideological continuum. Blurring distinctions between media, she is interested in the interpretation and perception of visual material and works with digital collages, sculptures and installations. Katja Novitskova also released a text, Post Internet Survival Guide in 2010, an exploration into the creation and distribution of art online in that year. It is both the artist’s publication and an installation; not solely to be read, it has also featured as the subject of numerous artworks. As digital materials rapidly change, an image can soon alter and take on new meanings. In the foreword to the book, Novitskova asserts that “the notion of a survival guide arises as an answer to a basic human need to cope with increasing complexity.” She describes it as an essential tool that addresses the space “where we ask ourselves what it means to be a human today.”

Novitskova’s Spirit, Curiosity and Opportunity exhibition (2014) was held in Berlin as a continuation of her first solo show, MACRO EXPANSION (2012). The name is formed out of the titles of the Mars rovers, which gather information about the planet and relay it back to Earth. One of the robots has cameras attached and as photographs of the planet’s surface are sent back, they are disseminated through the internet and re-evaluated. Novitskova draws attention to the human inclination to interpret information through reliance on prior knowledge; often people unconsciously attempt to perceive images and recognisable subjects in abstraction. Novitskova investigates the complexity of human behaviour, our engagement with the physical and digital world that surrounds us, and the online circulation of visual forms. Her work is both integrated in the digital world and provides analysis of it.


Novitskova interrogates the positions and locations where the technological and physical coincide, understanding them as two facets of the same ideological continuum. Blurring distinctions between media, she is interested in the interpretation and perception of visual material and works with digital collages, sculptures and installations.

In the foreword to the book, Novitskova asserts that “the notion of a survival guide arises as an answer to a basic human need to cope with increasing complexity.” She describes it as an essential tool that addresses the space “where we ask ourselves what it means to be a human today.”


Katja Novitskova
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition