Karin Ferrari (1982, IT/AT)
Occasioned by the question as to what print will look like in sixty years’ time and what part it will play then, Karin Ferrari developed an iconic story that has similarities to her earlier work, a story about the ‘magic warfare’ in 2016–2079. It’s about the Internet war between Lana Del Rey as ‘supreme’ and the dark digital powers that have controlled the world since 2016. The Great Meme War can only be won by a secret coven taking back control by activating traditional printed media types and distributing the word of truth and freedom. Underlying her story is the concept of ‘Trash Mysticism’, referring to the trashed Corpus Hermeticum—a collection of esoteric treatises from late Antiquity. It is ancient wisdom, transformed into various guidelines to understand and deal with our difficult existence on earth. The Corpus is supposed to guide readers to liberation and mystical, intuitive knowledge. During the Enlightenment these treatises sank into oblivion, the ‘lost knowledge of the imagination’, as the quantifiable became the norm: numbers, the 0 and the 1 that today define and control the world. The term Trash Mysticism is now used by Karin to describe a sort of DIY spirituality that is emerging from our screen culture.
The woodcuts she made for her installation are based on motives from books in the Allard Pierson Special Collections. Ferrari combines them with digital icons and the logos of powerful companies such as Starbucks. These collages tell a hidden meta-story about the battle between dark powers and redeeming mystics. Chiro Digitalis, the hand as a meditative tool, the redeeming act of placing the hand, has now been replaced by the everyday act of using our smartphone. This replacement tells us something about the relationship between hand, head, and tools—or rather, what consequences this relationship has for our thoughts and actions. In Ferrari’s work, print also has an important role as an interface, but a mystical one: ex-votos that are the liberating interfaces in the Great Meme War. They constitute a contemplation of the importance of information distribution and the reality beyond the quantifiable.
Karin Ferrari’s artistic work can be read as a quest for symbolic meaning in our contemporary, popular, digital image culture—as an attempt to deal with our hesitant attitude toward cyberspace. It can also be viewed as a lament over the disappearance of all that is mystical from our experience of the world, while at the same time capitalist strategies are putting the mystical at the service of the powers that be.
Ferrari’s digital works of art can literally be called an analysis of imagery that takes place behind the façade of the Internet and the digital world. Karin builds her works from hidden symbolism in pop culture and social-media platforms. Since 2011 a large part of her work can be found on the YouTube channel ‘DECODING (THE WHOLE TRUTH)’. Her documentary and semi-scholarly research focuses on speculative stories of political paranoia, esoteric utopias, and the occult. Karin creates layered work that is characterised by a critical approach, while on the other hand it playfully embraces subjects such as conspiracy theories, ancient aliens and monsters, opening the third eye, journalists transforming into reptiles, and subliminal messages in music videos.
By speculating on the possible connections between symbolism and contemporary icons such as the world wide web and theories about the mystical, Ferrari creates fictional documentaries that try to answer the question about the influence that this symbolism and the cyberworld have on Western society as it is now. Karin’s work is an artistic contribution to fake news, disinfotainment and visual consciousness.