Win! Win! Win!
Gnosticism in the broadest sense is a constellation of belief systems and cosmologies which hold that the material and spiritual world are tragically separate. Gnosis is a hermetic form of knowledge that may allow one’s ascension away from the evil physical realm. Different levels of hope for the attainability of gnosis depend on a particular sect’s demeanour, but the odds are never in our favour.
Everybody loses in The Gnosis Show. We wait for various doors to open as if behind, a prize awaits the patient, the curious, or the strapped for fate. You can win but each door you open leads to another: a room within a room within a room, the eternal nonconsequence.
In Olga Tokarczuk’s 1996 book Primeval and Other Times, the Count finds a manual to a game (the Kabbalah, in fact). In it, life is a sort of a sprawling puzzle to be solved or a game to be played: a collection of eight worlds that unfold through a diagram, a Borgesian labyrinth or a spiral indefinitely running out of itself. God has different capacities in each of the worlds: sometimes, he’s already left the world, sometimes he’s invasive and can’t keep his artisanal hands away from his creation, sometimes he’s senile or dying. Time can be linear or circular, forgetful or stopped. In some, the false god is morally burdened with a world that shouldn't have been – through a hermetic screen, we see our world as a fatal blunder.
The online show
One of our worlds is the desaturated world-as-screen: a glass pane through which we never quite interact with the outside, a world of attempting to pierce the membrane and finding that direct touch was never attainable.
At the heart of Gnosticism is the untouchability of knowledge. The divide between the material and immaterial means that we are fueled by a haunting longing for something that we believe exists behind a screen. A bitter not-enoughness of what we see leads to a staggering set of mythologies needed to structure the lack.
The digital images used by artists in The Gnosis Show are found, scrapped and scavenged through different avenues, then modified, warped and remade through screens and membranes. They are not real like you can touch them but real like you can watch them. They suggest voyage, and portals, and the murky in-between – always trying to push at the edges of one’s physical location, attempting to move through a map to a desperate elsewhere.
At the same time, there is a level of trust in the interface as the only lens at our disposal. The way Craigslist can be a digital marketplace of dislocated dreaming, or a game can mediate a familial longing for childhood and home. A symbiosis of the artificial and the visceral can give a face or a character to spurs of mythology, and a map can piece together and coat the scraps of what has been disrupted. Somehow, it is the opposite of transcendental: an un-overcoming of our limitations, the indefinity of our bind released as a spiral.
This is an online group exhibition featuring Alessia Gunawan, Avalon Hale-Thomson, Jack Jubb, Daniel Stroh, Georgia Rose Weaver Mathiason, Kenneth Winterschladen and Maria Manow. It was curated by Tosia Leniarska and the website was made by Jan Almonkari. There is also an IRL rendition which you can see at Daisy's Room, London, between 7 and 29 August 2021.
Tosia Leniarska (b. 1997, Warsaw, Poland) is an independent curator, writer, and cultural worker. Leniarska lives and works in London, where she is currently studying for an MA in Contemporary Art Theory. Leniarska graduated with a BA in Philosophy and History of Art from University College London in 2020. Leniarska is an editor of ART WORK Magazine, a coordinator for Kem School, a contemporary art study program in Warsaw, and is the founder of Poradnik Sojuszniczy, a Polish grassroots political education and translation project. Leniarska has been featured in AQNB, AnOther Magazine, and i-D Magazine.