Human beings have always been fascinated with destruction. That much is evident in the way we swarm movie theaters to see violent, post-apocalyptic blockbusters and mercilessly slaughter our enemies in video games. Now, Berlin-based artist Nik Nowak has presented works that offer his commentary on a very different kind of destruction and death, and it's one that maybe hits closer to home. Though Nowak's latest piece for Berlinische Galerie is a chock full of war imagery—"two autonomous drones shaped like miniature tanks . . . roam the cavernous white hall," reports Hyperallergic—his latest exhibition deals more with our relationship to technology than anything.
The two drones in his "Echo" sound installation have been programmed to detect and approach gallery visitors. The autonomous tanks are built with "sensitive microphones which record virtually any noise made by this audience," which then transmit the recorded sound to two loudspeakers at both ends of the exhibition space. That much goes according to plan. However, the drones have also been programmed by Nowak to stay within a designated roaming area. That's why the fact that one drone managed to escape and travel into the main exhibition space speaks volumes. Nowak "insisted that despite our ability to 'teach' technology . . . something unexpected almost always happens."
Another highlight from his exhibition is a work he calls Delethe, a play on the word "delete" and a reference to Greek mythology's Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. This work is Nowak's way of asking whether or not one can truly remove himself from the Internet after death. The only way humans can control what happens to their data after death is by writing a testament through Delethe.com, which provides visitors the option of hiring a lawyer to write up a will of sorts.
Kinda sinister stuff, huh? "Echo" is on view at Berlinische Galerie until June 30.