Brace for Impact is the final project of De Appel Curatorial Programme 2017-18. It unravels the relationship between technology and affect. The digital age emerged with techno-positive promises of seamless transactions, unfettered global connectivity, and of the chance of being here then elsewhere in no time. We are surrounded by technologies that both aid and pressure us–from smart alarm clocks that optimise our sleep patterns to logistical infrastructures that keep increasing the speed at which people, cargo, capital, images, and ideas are mobilised. The extent to which humans are part of an immersive networks of a computational ecology is made visible in the event of a breakdown.
As generations pass and more “digital natives” are born, the utopian enthusiasm for technology has begun to ebb. The conversation has begun to shift towards concerns about netizens’ dependency as well as their political complicity in the infrastructures and flows that sustain silicon giants and big data. Pessimism looms over contemporary culture. The mood oscillates between flat acceptance to panic and anticipation of a breakdown–both tinged with a sense of impending collapse. Unreleased tensions imprint on our bodies and subjectivities, simmering and growing into a latent and ambiguous force.
Taking this setting as the point of departure, the artists in Brace for Impact bring attention to the lasting, semi-conscious influence that contemporary technology and its politicised representations exert on human life. The nodes in this project challenge and complement one another to unfold the divergent ways in which technological environments shape our affective dispositions.
Although we, as individual and collective bodies, remain subject to the influence of these factors, this sort of impact is not necessarily a dramatic or mobilising force. One need not brace for it, as the impact lies in the bracing itself—in anticipating dangers and misfortunes that often remain potential or imaginary.