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Ripping & Becoming: Robin Orams & Marcus Encel

Ripping. A common enough term. Too often the poor relation of the tear, the tear, the strategic cut & the fold. But today want to rehabilitate the rip.

Ripping increasingly talks of technology & democracy, of decrypting and deciphering, of democratising the private. Ripping, in its technological use today, refers to the decoding and recording of one format into another; a ripped cd, a ripped DVD etc. Taken out of the language of criminal intent however, the rip today refers to the proliferation of the singular image or object. Its is an unencrypted formatting of a previously restricted and protected world. It liberates the imprisoned image from a language of avant-garde acquisition, rarefaction [and dear I say ‘of the authentic’] and democratises it through the reformatting, condensations and compression, distribution and dissemination of the private image.

At its best, the rip is a good image, it is an image that is of the world shared with the world. At its best, the ripped compensates. The ripped, as artist and writer Hito Steyerl reminds us, is the enemy of high fidelity, the restricted fields of viewing and consuming. (‘In defence of the poor image.’) It is of the Museum, gallery; it is of a private world.

The ripped image is the poor image according to Steyerl; it is of the hard disk, email, YouTube, street corner, garage sale. But its proliferation only reminds us, I like to think, of our own struggle to retain ownership of our interior, private world.

Robin Orams and Marcus Encel are both, in my poor reading, a struggle of the ripped and the ‘to be ripped’. The personal surfaces and interiors of private worlds are brought out into a world of public becoming.

In different ways the speak of the futility of restriction, of the impossibility of privacy. They lay bare the fantasy of an interior world, confessional, individual memory, aside, soliloquy. Their works are ripped images of a private fantasy, translated and disseminated across formats and platforms; the public commons.

Hannah Arendt in her fantastic work The Human Condition reminds us that the great triumph and tragic myth of neo-liberal democracy is to convince us that the private world of the individual can in some way be obtained and secured by the individual. By convincing us that we are all individually powerful, that we each own our image, our own likeness and its power, we are weakened by our isolation. Power is, according to Arendt, created by the public and shared by the public. The divide of private and public had, since the time of the ancients, been directed toward the control of individuals. Public spaces were, even now, spaces of restricted activity and conditional entrance.

What might this mean today? Marcus Encel and Robin Orams explore the private and public realms with the view of challenging the authority of both. They take the private world – which in fact is an amalgam of public becoming – and bring it into view, exposing the apparatus of becoming public. They are decoding the encrypted world of monologues & soliloquies.

They are works of ripping and becoming.

Toby Juliff (March 2014)