In October 2022, Mark Zuckerberg (b. 1984) unveiled the latest iteration of the metaverse: avatars with legs. The new feature was described by the CEO as “more expressive and detailed than anything else today.” As the digital realm continues to blur reality, the question remains: what will become of the body? This investigation has been at the heart of Anthony Aziz (b. 1961) and Sammy Cucher’s (b. 1958) partnership for 30 years.
XXX, from La Fábrica Editions and Gazelli Art House, features photography, tapestry, sculpture and video from an oeuvre that owes its surrealist intrigue to digital editing tools, such as Photoshop. Faith, Honour and Beauty (1992) challenges ultra-conservative politicians, including Senator Jesse Helms (1921-2008), who attempted to censor art on the human form. Nude figures holding guns, mirrors and sports equipment are rendered smooth and sexless, like plastic dolls. The faintly nauseating, uncanny quality of these airbrushed portraits challenge traditional American ideals and gender stereotypes, rhetorically asking: Are you happy now? The theme of digital mutilation continues in Dystopia (1994-1995), with subtle nods to the canon of Western art. Iconic images, from Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) to Man Ray’s Black and White (1926), are reimagined in an ode to the strangeness of life in the flesh. Sitters’ eyes, noses and mouths are glazed over by a film of skin. This, Aziz explains, is an imagined outcome of evolution: “maybe your eyes will disappear because they’re no longer useful.” When sensory experience becomes passé, its orifices will go out of commission.
This focus on the body in conjunction to global issues weaves throughout the chronology, with further projects on the HIV/AIDs epidemic, financial crashes and the prevailing power of the one percent. The 2019 video installation, You’re Welcome and I’m Sorry, for example, is a hallucinatory vision of late capitalism’s crime scenes. Professionals in shamanic suits dance erratically, in communion with the incomprehensible forces of the stock market. XXX is a cautionary tale for the modern world, foreshadowing a probable march into techno-authoritarianism.
XXX: Aziz + Cucher 1992 – 2022
La Fábrica Editions and Gazelli Art House | Book launch on 25 March
Words: Miranda Gabbott
Aziz + Cucher join Future Now 2023 to discuss the representation of the body in the post-human digital age and portrayals of the natural world understood through new technology.
Talk in York, UK, on 23 March | Book your Pass
1. Aziz + Cucher, You’re Welcome and I’m Sorry, Installation view.
2. Aziz + Cucher, the Lobby, (2022).
3. Aziz + Cucher, Pyramid Scheme, (2021).
4. Aziz + Cucher, You’re Welcome and I’m Sorry, Installation view.