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Hidden layers: All the intermediate layers of a neural network, where most of the elaboration of external stimuli and/or information takes place. It is also known as the "black box" of the network because of the inability to explicitly determine the operations that are performed in order to produce the final output.*
In Polina Zioga’s body of work, the concept of duality appears in contradictory and/or complementary pairs such as natural/artificial, real/imaginary, interior/exterior, hidden/visible. We could also say that the same happens when the artist uses the appropriate media in order to express the non-expressible and gain access to the non-accessible. Photographic prints and videos bring to light or deliberately conceal/disguise the composition’s elements that appear to move between the different layers, generated inside the artworks. By using digital images from inside her own body, she constructs spaces with different levels of reading. Are they organic landscapes composed of neurons and human organs or natural ones composed of animals (human, insects) and plants? The answer is not sufficiently clear. What seems to be real is stronger than what is truly real, like in the artwork Brain-Angiography 1 (2007), where reality and its reflection, divide it into two separate levels. The duality is apparent. What is it trying to express though?
For the artist, her inner body becomes the perfect place, where truth and desired truth coexist. By making mental "domestic flights" within her very existence, she merely or superficially discovers a second, three dimensional space, the one that constitutes her. By realizing that this space belongs to her, she doesn’t hesitate to express her creativity and transform it into the most safe and friendly scenery for herself. She uses the technique of collage, in order to reshape reality in her own way. Very often she places her own image in fetal position or in a subtle way, inside her manufactured shelters/landscapes. Is she hiding from herself or does she feel safe inside the grid that has created around her, like a spider builds its own cobweb, distancing us (Imperceptibly…, 2009)? In the mean time though she is being exposed, because she invites us to discover the hidden layers of her interior world. In this way the allusion to the human need for coming to terms with her existence and fully understand her inner functions like those of the human brain, becomes even more intense (Brain-Angiography 1, 2, 3, 2007 and 1997-2007, 2007).
According to the neural network and neuroscience theories, we know that we are not able to fully comprehend the way human brain operates. We have only a general descriptive overview of how it looks like and how it works. The primary stimuli and data are filtered by the neurons and enter the hidden layers, the part of the neural network where they are going to undergo the appropriate processing, so that the final result will come. Our knowledge of the exact mode of operation of this neural network’s part is limited. The artist, however, by skipping the initial phase of collecting stimuli, takes us to the almost impenetrable area of the network. Her aim is to fill the gaps left by reason and science. She remains with absolute consistency in contact with reality, by using photographic material and MRIs, while intervening in it in order to present her own imaging interpretation. Art complements science.
By respecting the boundaries of the existing truth, she tries to extend it through her artistic practice. She uses the most appropriate technique, that of collage, in order to create balanced and often deconstructed compositions (Fragments, 2011) with elements from both the present reality and that which we fail to understand. Her intention is to reveal/discover the well hidden secrets of our inner world, so she gives them dimensions, colours and form. She puts them into a seamless space, full of lines, dendrites and central processing units that are passing from one level to another, from the obscurity and the unknown, to the formation and the symbolic representation. So they are transformed into natural or artificial grids, colourful restless butterflies and protective cocoons. All together and each one separately, joined together as one (collage), in dense (hidden) and sometimes in sparse (unhidden) structures (complexity), interact with each other, forming the computational heart of each network. The amount of the energy that permeates every time the vessels or the dendrites is being translated into variations of colour and light. We could also notice references to the scientifically yet incomplete view of brain the during sleep (My dream will be my only shell, 2009 and Memento mori, 2007) or even to the possible case of “dead” or dysfunctional networks (Natura morta 1, 2, 2011).
Each work of Polina Zioga retains its autonomy, presenting integrated spaces that are characterized by an autonomous function, whether are artificial landscapes or just networks. This is the first level of reading her works. The second consists of reading her artworks within a unified frame-collage, where one completes the other, creating a bigger network, which operates independently and in a more complex way. The space gets bigger. From the isolated inner landscapes, we are passing to the creation of a larger scale network, which is made possible due to the dynamics of the exhibition space. The constant motion towards the internal structures is not interrupted but is an extension of a new tendency towards three-dimensional structures. The artist reveals herself, she is not hidden anymore. Imperceptibly… (2009) the walls came down. The input was realised. The hidden layers are now unhidden. Now it is the turn of the output and somehow this is held in her latest video installation The Shelter (2011), while maintaining those appropriate elements from her previous artworks that make the transition easier.
The safe and welcoming landscape which until now was functioning as a hidden shelter exclusively for the artist herself, gradually obtains an extroversion which doesn’t alter its initial usage, but on the contrary it enhances it. Everything created inside it is being transformed, spread, poured outside and then obtains sound, speech. It pervades into the space and it is denatured into the ideal shelter for each and every one of us. The concept of duality once again functions as a safety valve as the artwork’s dynamics sum up the most requisite premises, in order to frame the artistic subject itself. (Un)hidden artist. At the same time the installation functions as a rituals’ scenery for our induction into the sanctuary of the human brain, where through the self-knowledge and the meticulous input, aspires the preservation of its autonomy (artistic subject) but also its interaction with the external stimuli (us), the final output.
* J.W. Kay and D.M. Titterington, Statistics and neural networks - Advances at the interface, Oxford Press, 1999
Zoe Fragoulopoulou, 2012
Independent curator and Art critic