Rachel Ara: Reactive Systems

Rachel Ara: Reactive Systems

Technological innovation is the signifier of our times. The question remains: how do we make sense of a digital world? As perceptions of reality change, artists respond through conceptual pieces that both use and critique new media to address wider social and political issues.

One such example is 2016 Aesthetica Art Prize winner Rachel Ara’s This Much I’m Worth ­– a self-evaluating artwork that continually displays its own sale value ­– sources its value from the internet, assisted by complex data mining algorithms called “the endorsers.” It seeks to question the values we place on objects and people, and who has the right to apportion these values.

Ara’s work is deeply rooted in issues of gender inequality and information networks, as she explains in the 2016 Future Now Anthology: “Conspiracies of silence, of hidden agendas and of their repercussions, particularly the inequalities faced by women in our culture, are the driving forces behind my work. In a world where disinformation has become normalised, I feel compelled to keep scratching at the surface.”

Since winning the prize, Ara has been awarded a Near Now Fellowship, an initiative championing pioneering artists. The programme facilitates new research and the realisation of bold ideas to make sense of technology in everyday life.

The practitioner is now Artist in Residence at the V&A, where her work – which spans film, sculpture, paint and drawing to electronics, programming and CAD – is also foregrounded as part of London Design Festival (from 15 October). Current exhibitions include The London Open 2018 at Whitechapel Gallery, London (until 26 August), a responsive collection of pieces that consider life in global cities, and Measures of Life (until 30 September), a group show at Humber Street Gallery, Hull, which considers life in a hyper-connected world.

Offering timely dialogues, American Beauty (a Trump L’oeil) ­­­– now on display at Barbican Centre, London (until 14 October) ­­- uses film, poetry, humour and CGI to create a shifting image that considers the history of cinema, architectural forms and contemporary politics. In 2018, Ara has been featured in publications including the Financial Times, as well as speaking at events including the Aesthetica Future Now Symposium and the Lumen Prize and V&A Digital Futures.

The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries until 31 August. Find out more here.

1. Images courtesy Rachel Ara.