Ryan Kuo​: Yes, or else then

Contemporary Art Club, URL

December 12 2018 to 31 January 2019

Invited Curator 

Art Contemporary Club is thrilled to present Ryan Kuo’s latest online exhibition Yes, or else then, curated by Marie-Charlotte Carrier. The exhibition comprises a new commission unfolding over a web of ever-evolving self-destructive pages.

Kuo’s universe follows the smooth lines and colour palette of millennial design and deploys a multitude of attractions to beguile users. Viewers are naively attracted to its comforting downy interface. Soon, they start experiencing a shudder, or maybe even an intensity around scalp and neck; a warm tingling, like a subliminal message reaching all the way to our fingers.

It seems targeted… familiar and agreeable, heimlich.  The lure of a comforting sensory experience is palpable, yet is never actualised. Something is concealed and kept out of sight. We are compelled to endlessly search for some kind of resolution, an answer. But we are left with an empty stomach. One that induces nausea, or something like the heightened exhilaration felt after withholding our breath for too long. It’s the contradiction at the heart of punitive and intrusive “wellness”. This discomfort permeates the porous cavities of our skin.  

Then, the page’s spongy disguise slowly melts and distorts, infinitely mirroring itself. Reassuring headlines take on an aggressive twist, becoming short and imperative.

Have we come too far?

                              Is it me you are talking to? 

      Trust us.

                                           We know what you need. Let us help you.

It feels like a whispered scream, or is it simply white noise? It will attempt to force its therapy on you. It seems like the optimal neo-liberal self-care product, but for whom? We’ve been there. We’ve noticed it a thousand times; activated by marketing-like incantation, the birth of a collective, mass-media subjectivity.


For Kuo, the project really is to define the parameters that characterize this mass-media subjectivity. Here we notice a constant thread in Kuo’s practice: a commitment to reveal what underlies the assumed universality, neutrality, and purity of software interfaces, design and marketing. It discloses the ascendancy of whiteness over other subject positions.

Kuo’s project undermines this mass-media serialism by returning it onto itself. Automated conversations follow schizophrenic loops and the circuitous interface loses itself into a chaotic vertigo. The platform succumbs to its universalizing impulses and oscillates at the abyss of solipsism. As the machine gets lost in this narcissistic loop, users have to make a choice, some will get lost in it themselves and some will opt for a self-imposed exit. In doing so, Yes, or else then ultimately offers users new ways of distancing themselves from normalised subjectivity.

It all began slowly. A silence, a click, a whisper, an invitation to enter. Then, it became more serious. A punchy headline, an inquisition, an homogenizing call out. You opened your mouth to speak. Nothing came out.

Text by Marie-Charlotte Carrier

Ryan Kuo lives and works in New York, NY. His most recent solo exhibition, The Pointer, was presented at bitforms gallery. Kuo utilizes techniques gleaned from video games, web design, motion graphics, sampling, etc. Recent interests include containers, motivation, and whiteness. He holds a Master of Science in Art, Culture and Technology from MIT. His works and writing have appeared at the Queens Museum (NYC), bitforms gallery (NYC), the Current Museum of Art (NYC), Left Gallery (Berlin), Goldsmiths (London), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Cambridge, MA), and MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, MA), among other venues. He has recently been a resident at the Queens Museum Studio Program (NYC) and Residency Unlimited (NYC).


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