Artist Timur Si-Qin creates installations and sculptures, both in the material and immaterial world. Concerned with the dynamics of advertising and image culture, he explores human reality within the upholdings of human’s fabricated worlds. His complex online and offline landscapes give truth to the way we materialize externalities, ever-falling into the repetition of exaggeration in context. In our reflection, nature is always a nature that is abstracted into the far-deeper, or the less-abysmal. Our memory only ever lives a consciousness of continuation, images forever ingrained in our past and future. The works of Si-Qin intend to put in context these very conservations, proposing an endless type of newness. And an endless way to remember. Because the only thing we ever do, is remember.
Timur, you work with softwares to make intricate landscapes that often depicting settings of nature. They are almost painting-like, just done digitally. Why have you become so drawn to using a computer as your tool, and not traditional means of drawing and painting?
It may seem paradoxical to use software to make images of nature. But part of what I am trying to express is that they are a part of the same thing. That the separation between the two is arbitrary. The simulated and virtual are just another branch on the tree of reality.
In many ways the processes of nature resemble software. The ways that plants grow their leaves, how they are distributed, how erosion occurs. These are all processes that can be simulated fairly accurately and speak to the simulational and programmatic quality of nature.
I also like the deliberate quality of a render as opposed to a photograph. In a render the things you see are closer to 100 percent controllable, as opposed to a photograph which involves a large element of unintended randomness. The function this has is to turn the entire image into language.
You also question the stereotyping of images. Is it almost impossible to not stereotype the thing we’ve come to learn and understand, like popular imagery for our daily consumeristic needs?
I grew up partly in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran desert. The Sonoran desert is among the biomes with the highest biodiversity in North America. Growing up in this environment I noticed how the depictions of deserts in media didn’t match the real thing. Deserts were always depicted as being life-less, desolate, made of mute browns with goofy cactus. But real cactus are nothing like that. They are ornate and graceful, If you look closely, you can see that they are composed of iridescent greens and deep purples with every color and material property in-between, every millimeter revealing a galaxy of structure and detail.
In many ways this connected with me to the experience of being a minority. My father is ethnic Mongolian born and living in China, my mother is German. When I was 8 my mother married a Native American from the San Carlos Apache tribe and that's how I ended up in Arizona.
One thing I learned from my exposure to very different cultures was that the depictions of other cultures were usually as compressed, distorted and stereotypical as the depictions of the deserts in popular media. Cultures on a whole couldn't perceive the specific diversity, the indescribable, and magical beauty of other cultures, of other people and their racial differences. (Some people like my mother naturally could and naturally I have inherited my ethics from her.)
To me this has always pointed towards an ethically necessary materialism. Only through accepting the notion of truth, eg. real cactus are more interesting than their stereotypical depictions, can we honor the differences and unique identities of people and cultures, organisms and environments. Truth is not manufactured and constructed, it is independent of us, our cultures and our languages.
For this reason I don’t think it is impossible not to stereotype. Because we can learn not to. And the process of learning not to is opening yourself up to the detail and mystery of the real.
You once said that you’re interested in questioning the model of art producing meaning, its inherent associations with psychoanalysis. How do you want to challenge this model? How would it manifest?
While the tools and models of psychoanalysis have opened up critical discourse to the territories of the unconscious, latent meanings, and hidden connections. Psychoanalysis is laden with its own western, dualistic, and anthropocentric biases.
The subject/object duality of psychoanalysis traces back to the christian dualism of Descartes - spirit vs matter, mind vs body, consciousness vs external world. However this dualism propagates the anthropocentric misinterpretation of reality that humans, and specifically human thought, is at the center of reality.
This is why critical theory tends to reduce everything to signs and meanings. It sees everything as a text to be read, signified and interpreted by humans. And yet the world does not exist for humans. Other organisms don’t operate for the significance of humans. Climate change is not a text to be reinterpreted, it is carbon in the atmosphere.
Since it began as a 19th century clinical practice, psychoanalysis has a natural tendency to pathologize, vigilantly detecting and exposing systemic disease and latent complexes. Today almost all artworks are expected to function this way, to uncover and critique the hidden dangers of contemporary society.
But maybe a 19th century Austrian model of disease, obsessed with repressions and desires, is not the most appropriate metaphor for the suffering of living beings, let alone a broad and dynamic model for art production and interpretation. It is in itself a reactionary and conspiratorial mode of analysis. Perhaps a vestige of the christian tendency to expose and exorcise the workings of the devil.
What I think we need to start with is updating our conceptions of the mind, to situate the mind as embodied and arising from the material history of our becoming. There is a reason that psychoanalysis is hardly taught in contemporary psychology departments. Today we know the mind is not a monolithic thinking, general processing machine as suggested by the model of the subject. Instead we know that the mind and our sense of self is emergent from many independent mental processing functions that combine to give us the sensation of a singular consciousness. These mental processing ‘modules’ are the results of our evolutionary history and define and constrain the ways in which we can think.
With this knowledge it is no longer as simple as thinking of an artwork as a dream, whose signs can only be deciphered by the viewer. Instead artworks can be thought of as living systems, who navigate and explore the possibilities of reality.
Images courtesy of TIMUR SI-QIN
interview LARA KONRAD
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