Dejan Marković’s exhibition State of Nature focuses on how nature is currently being constructed. It connects traditional museological surveys of nature with its recent technological hybridization, and brings into relation collections of natural history with newly emerging machinic agencies.

Introducing the perspective of increasingly autonomous machines, the exhibition questions the political implications of these transformations. As we enter a deep state in which transactions, the prediction of human behaviour, political and climate change are ruled and analysed by the deep algorithms and neuronal networks of global corporations and secret services, artificial intelligence becomes the basis of most contemporary software and autonomous systems.

The exhibition is spatially structured around the scientific model of “a state of exception” as a simulation of a training centre for autonomous machines composed of wooden boards, plastic barrels, children’s dolls, bricks, hand-written signs and lighting objects. Didactic tools are here geared towards preparing the machines for the real world, before leaving the safe zones of laboratories, universities and ‘discrete’ surroundings of military industry.

Shapes of Things Before My Eyes is the title of the four-channel video work developed at the depot of the Natural History Museum Joanneum in Graz (Austria) where the bountiful archive of artefacts from nature spanning over two hundred years is sub-divided into four parts: mineralogy, palaeontology, botany and zoology. The collection is both a laboratory in which restorers and researchers work together and a testament to the scientific vision of modern society as a constant process of constructing images of nature.

An autonomous robot, through the eyes of which the display of artefacts is observed, enters an archive looking for information and developing its machinic consciousness. With all its sensors and various cameras, it reveals, learns, records and defines the space of its actions. A machine without humans and a space without life are a constant confrontation with the apocalyptic image of the human construction of the world.  The combination of infrared cameras, night-vision cameras, cameras programmed to track and detect human forms, 3D scanners and kinetic cameras create the appearance of the contemporary non-human entity. Although this recalls science-fiction, it is exactly a non-fiction film which poses the question of the present-day image of the relation between nature, man and machine.

This exhibition is the outcome of a collaboration with experts working on developing autonomous robots, independent machine learning, a machinic comprehension of images, artificial intelligence and neural networks, at the Graz University of Technology, and the curators and restorers of the Universalmuseum Joanneum. It was conceived in the framework of the research project The Incomputable which investigates the frontiers of computer logic, neural computing and the notion of “machinic unconscious”.

The exhibition is organised with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia and the Austrian Culture Forum.

Dejan Marković
 is a visual artist who lives and works in Berlin and Graz. Currently he is working as a lecturer and researcher on the project The Incomputable at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Graz University of Technology. His long term and discursive work focuses on the political conditioning behind the construction of digital and analogue space, and the possible ways complex institutional and social relations can be comprehended. Marković graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade and holds a Masters degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Fine Arts in Berlin. He has widely exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally. As a member of different artist groups and initiatives, he has conceived and curated, several international exhibitions and artistic projects.

Curator: Zoran Erić