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Enlightenment and Ascension

Is individual and/or collective enlightenment possible? This question lies at the heart of the post-modern experience. Modernism takes ‘enlightenment’ as proof of progressive collective development, but the social and moral failures in the 20th Century associated with the Second World War and dual challenges of communism and liberalism meant that both intellectually and historically, simple progressive modernism became impossible to defend. At the same time, as buy-in into organised forms of religion and their parallel claims to authority waned, interest in the idea of individual enlightenment came to the fore. Two works in this year’s RCA2020 show grapple with these issues in very different ways.
Tere Chad’s ‘The ReEnlightenment’ is a collaboratively constructed sculpture that looks like a cross between an ancient totem and a small tent. Using recycled materials, it gently challenges enlightenment concepts of form, progress, sculpture, image, and the sole artist, with an earthy and earthly sensual sensibility. Whether, and if so what, it contributes something novel to the field of 'outsider art' is a difficult question to answer without experiencing it first hand, but perhaps the very measure of ‘novelty’ is an enlightenment concept that Chad would have us reject.
Arman Ataman’s 'Ascension', on the other hand, takes aim at the concept of individual enlightenment. 'Ascension' is an 8-bit like video game with visual references to Herman Hesse’s Siddartha. Ataman’s statement claims that Ascension “tries to create opportunities for reflective experiences. It aims to communicate philosophical themes influenced by authors such as Herman Hesse, Henry David Thoureau, Nietzche, Graham Harman, and Federico Campagna.” The inclusion of MIDI adds to the possibility of a dreamily interactive sonic experience within the game, but begs the question – why? And yet the game itself reads as a critique of the project of individual enlightenment by superimposing the imagery of a journey of personal salvation on a conventional and outdated gaming experience based on running and jumping.
Maybe a game of running and jumping amid weighty symbolism is all that there is to our human lives, and the enlightenment and our individual projects of enlightenment are just levels within this game, but this is a bleak vision which, for me personally, only adds to the appeal of Chad’s 'The ReEnlightenment' as it feels rooted in the lived experience of real friendship.

Roland Lamb

Roland Lamb

Roland Lamb is one of the leading musical instrument inventors of the 21st century. Founder and CEO of ROLI, he has created three music-making systems that are acclaimed for their technological innovation as well as their design: the Seaboard, BLOCKS, and LUMI. LUMI, an illuminated keyboard and app that helps beginners learn how to play, will be widely released this year.
Roland created his first instrument, the Seaboard, while at the RCA earning his PhD in Design Products. A pianist from an early age, Roland considered the limitations of the piano keyboard as a mechanical interface for creating sound. He explored the concept of a new, tactile surface would allow a much greater range of sonic expression. Working with Ron Arad and other RCA advisors, Roland developed the first Seaboard prototype with its iconic, rippling silicone surface. He founded ROLI, and established the ROLI design ethos, in 2009.

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