Rachel Pimm excavates the digital landscape
March 18, 2015

The artist exposes the invisible structures that underpin our online and offline worlds

The built environment today references not only the physical architecture of the cities that surround us, but raises increasingly our relationship to the online world. With its real and imagined spaces, post-utopian and cybernetic discourses are quickly evoked in relation to this networked digital realm. The often invisible realities that underpin these parallel material and immaterial worlds are brought to the surface in Rachel Pimm’s work, focusing on commodity fetishism, labour processes, and the ergonomic structures present in a predominantly capitalist-driven system of production. Exploring also our sensual relationship to the natural environment, she focuses on the potential of biotechnological perception. In Pimm’s sculpture, performance and video pieces, the ecology of contemporary architecture in the public sphere is both embodied and undermined.

Garden City (2013), exhibited as part of Pimm’s MFA in Art Practice at Goldsmith’s College, bears witness to labour condition and our inherent relationships to capitalist superstructures. “It is an interdisciplinary set design, a sculpture park set in a kind of kitchen and bathroom show room,” she explains. Combining ideas from the radical 1960s Italian Architecture practice Superstudio, who sought to plan low culture aesthetics into high value status objects, the sustainability of a seemingly progressive vision is brought under scrutiny. Work and leisure construct “utopian visions which are subsequently turned into capitalist dreams,” she says, ‘which are apparent in trade show features such as The Ideal Home Show.”


It is an interdisciplinary set design, a sculpture park set in a kind of kitchen and bathroom show room


The tension between natural and man-made, authentic and synthetic, are inherent to Pimm’s practice. In an age of digital simulation and hyper-real appropriation, visceral engagement is no longer aligned solely with our physical experiences of the world. “For example, the milestone of a successful Turing test has now been passed, while biologists can successfully and commercially hybridise, say, a plum and an apricot,’ Pimm notes. Inviting her viewers to question their own relationship to the ecological superstructures of the natural world, she instigates a realm for the creation of a new mode of living.

The ever-conflicting ideals of consumerism, capital and business emerge in Pimm’s work, meditating on the philosophical premise of materiality, environmentalism and first world attitudes to our everyday realities. In her recent Zabludowicz collection commission, Natural Selection, the autonomous qualities unique to each binary material within the artwork are displayed. “The exhibition meditates upon Herbert Spencer’s’ 1864 term ‘Survival of the Fittest’, pointing to manmade technological interventions which seek to mimic natural forms, via the platform of retail, domesticity and nature,” she explains. Alluding to the friction between interior and exterior, real and unreal, Pimm explains she employed ‘natural motifs and posters as a kind of rebirth or regeneration.’


In an age of digital simulation and hyper-real appropriation, visceral engagement is no longer aligned solely with our physical experiences of the world


The amalgamation of opposites is the fundamental principle in Pimm’s practice. An interwoven excavation of inside and outside takes place, while natural and artificial collapse into one another. Taken together, they highlight the temporary status of much of our occupation of the environment around us, reminding us of our dependence on the materials made available by natural resources. “Our buildings are semi permanent, like landfill or the Great Pacific garbage patch. If we change the scale, the ‘indoors’ is still a piece of detritus in the atmosphere,’ she says. The interface of Pimm’s work allows the dominance of the digital age to restructure our place within online and offline spaces, balancing the possibilities of a newly virtual environment with the shifting, shrinking reality of the physical world.

Rachel Pimm is currently working on a new project which references Darwin’s worm and the skin of the soil as a site for human architecture and waste for an event as part of the Chisenhale Gallery’s 21st Century programme, August 20th, 2015. For more information, click here

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