A preliminary attempt to summarize The Open Workshop:
consumption/ concealment/ seeing/ imprinting/ digesting/ failure/ convergence
which begets a more coherent summary, namely the body’s encounter and entanglement with systems, whether ones of signs shared, transmuted, and aggregated by intimacy (Bani Haykal); social architecture as spectacle (Cao Zhiyi); failure to mobilize/ mobilized failure (Teow Yuehan); botanical and social cross-pollination (Denise Yap); or material extensions of the body’s boundaries and memory (Joo Choon Lin). But perhaps such a summary is too conclusive for The Open Workshop, even as it presents an open circuit the viewer is invited to close, whether in encountering the works or participating in the complementary workshops.
This invitation is central to Umberto Eco’s The Open Work, which was first published in 1962 as Opera aperta. An open work leaves certain elements of itself up to the public or to chance (perhaps the two are synonymous), and in doing so facilitates possibility and plurality. Given the technological affinities of Supernormal and this cast of five artists, the principle (or should we say, sensibility?) of openness leads us to soft technological determinism.
The meaning of the phrase is captured in its mood, which is mathematical and aggressive (“technological determinism”: the many syllables, the small-mouthed “e”) and yielding, of the flesh (“soft”: the mouth-widening “o”, the sibilant “s” and “f”, the landing contact of “t”). More plainly: soft technological determinism proposes that the impact of technology is subject to our interactions with it, as opposed to hard technological determinism, which sees technology as an all-consuming factor beyond our control which organizes us and determines our lives according to its principles. Soft technological determinism still believes that society’s technologies mold our social systems and cultural values, but it leaves room for chance. It leaves room for us to make choices about the future, about meaning.
To narrow the frame to form an entryway rather than a sprawling panorama: The Open Workshop takes the pulse of systems, whether biological, social, ecological, or material, and imprints a series of technological fingerprints. It invites you to engage, make sense, rewire, remap, reconnect.