Our world is chock-a-block with selves. Animation shudders through the universe. It is the principle of life and life is a quality held not just by those who can name it. Nature is animate: animals chatter, leaves give out signals, petals recoil, crystals reproduce. Even inorganic matter is animate, if not alive, though it was surely, once upon a time, the kick-start ingredient of life. Animated beings are everywhere. They are manifest in the iridescent sheen of silicate minerals, in the polycarbonate plastic of a CD, in the super-glossy reflection of a chrome drum set or in the shiny surface of Jeff Koons’s Rabbit (1986). They are there in the jerky dots and lines of live-streamed TV programmes, or in the movement of organic light-emitting diodes on a touch screen. It has all been about animation all along, animation in the expanded field. Leckey’s works chase it out from its lurking places, in objects, histories and otherwise cast-off human beings.
[…] How do they ‘come to life’, and become beastly? How does technology find ways to create an illusion of depth out of flatness, and through that roundedness, animated beings?
There is a line in Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment(1944) that reads: ‘Animism had endowed things with souls; industrialism makes souls into things.’ It suggests that in the old animistic world there was an abundance of agency. Things were lively, and so were humans. The industrial world, by contrast, has exchange as its principle. Every self, every subject is valued only in terms of its thingliness, its capacity to be objectified and thus exchanged with any other self. […] The objectification of human life marks the endpoint of rationalisation. And yet, the Frankfurt School thinkers would be the first to insist that rationalisation does not expunge enchantment. Rather, it has converted into the magic of entertainment and the fetish of the commodity. The commodity is a dead and objectified thing, and, at the same time, it is also an enlivened entity that reigns over mere producers. Both technology and its outputs are enchanted. From film to television to the computer, technology, a product of rational invention, enchants users, drawing them into myth, distraction and the desire for commodities.
[..] Leckey attempts to tap the animist potential of the modern industrial world while conceding again and again that it might all be a rotten fetish, matter trapped in the system and converted into an immateriality which has appropriated life from the living. Often in his practice potentiality emerges from visual affinities. This thing is just like this other thing, and when applied upon it, magical action — or the sorcery of art — will test out how much all might be reconfigured, reimagined, reclassified or unclassified.
[…] Leckey’s The Long Tail is landscape painting of a new nature. BlackBerry(s), Apple(s), Orange(s), Raspberry Pi(s): these are the new fruits of a digital age. Leckey throws into the mix the seed, the torrent, the swarm. The seed has all the data. The leech takes it and becomes a new seed. The torrent is the large file broken into little parts like raindrops in a storm. The seeds sharing the torrent are a swarm. All this banal activity of peers, non-hierarchical groups of prosumers, generates a landscape of endless possibilities and dimensions. At least in our dreams, our strangely engineered dreams. For all this is stuff of the clouds, of vaporous fuzziness, of bits of light and liquid crystal, flashed on screens and buzzed over networks, passing through vast but unseen high-security, power-hungry data centres. Dystopia threatens. But it is the clouds, the heavens, that have the last word in Lecky’s ecstatic, animistic procedures. The Long Tail culminates in an orgy of effects and a tall tale of digital spasms of delight. Humans and the machine engage in an incessant grinding action.
Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image.