Returning to the UK with a ground-breaking new solo exhibition at East Quay in Watchet, Somerset, internationally-acclaimed artist Nye Thompson presents Vertigo, which will open our eyes to the world of surveillance, satellites, and the new frontier–space. Vertigo is Nye Thompson’s biggest solo show to date and will present two major projects, including the world premiere of a new performance piece CU Soon and a reprise of the 2019 video installation INSULAE (Of the Island).
Vertigo is curated by East Quay’s George Harwood Smith. East Quay is Somerset’s brand-new cultural venue, which was awarded National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status by Arts Council England in November and focuses on nurturing creativity and curiosity.
As a software designer turned artist best known for her experimental software architectures, Nye Thompson’s work is included in major international institutions including Tate Modern, The Barbican, The Lowry, The V&A, and The Louvre, as well as international and UK private collections. Described by Vogue as “the new Big Brother” and dubbed “a contemporary Jacques Cousteau” by legendary Bob & Roberta Smith, Nye Thompson received the 2021 Lumen Prize Gold Award for a short film UNINVITED in collaboration with UBERMORGEN, and she was recently shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Futures Awards 2023.
In this exhibition, Nye Thompson continues to push boundaries. Her fascinating work bridges the gap between technology and art with her use of machine learning/AI, bespoke software architecture, data archiving and mapping in the creation of film, drawings, live machine performances and mixed media installation. Vertigo explores different aspects of our relationship with the burgeoning ecosystem of satellites– hidden machines orbiting far above our heads – that we cannot see for ourselves but are deeply connected to.
Premiering as part of the exhibition, CU Soon is a performance for satellites and humans, and continues Thompson’s trajectory of making artworks for a machine audience. Here she is using space as her gallery. For this performance, Thompson has transmitted a series of affectionate postcards out into space using radio signals. During the brief transmissions these postcards can be received by passing satellites. The satellites collect and broadcast them back to Earth. During this human-satellite dialogue each postcard image is entirely deconstructed and created anew – transformed by its extra-terrestrial journey.
Additionally, having already toured the world since 2019, Nye Thompson will also present INSULAE (Of the Island) – a tour around British coastal waters, generated from AI-reconstructed satellite mapping imagery. Using footage created in Google Earth, this video installation contemplates the impact of island geography on national identity, taking the viewer on a journey endlessly circling the entire British mainland, obsessively patrolling our watery borders.
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Commenting on CU Soon, Nye Thompson says: “I’ve long been fascinated by the hidden domain of earth orbit and the satellite ecosystem that voraciously inhabits it. This infrastructure has an ever increasing impact on our daily lives but is so invisible, so technically complex and so heavily gatekept that it’s really hard to engage with. I wanted to find a way that someone like myself – without any specialist engineering expertise – could have a more direct relationship with a satellite that isn’t mediated by government or telecoms organisations. And also explore how a satellite could be an active participant in a work of art.”
George Harwood Smith, Curator of East Quay, comments: “We are delighted to be working with Nye Thompson on Vertigo. This exhibition is the third time Contains Art CIO has partnered with Lumen Art Projects to present works by an award-winning digital artist – and the first time in our new galleries at East Quay. It’s exciting to commission brand-new work by Nye and bring her artwork to new audiences in West Somerset and the South-West. East Quay and Contains Art aim to facilitate social, economic, and environmental discourse through culture. Nye’s digital work reflects our objective to platform new and exciting artists, raise new ideas and open minds, creating informative, immersive, and fun exhibitions.”
Carla Rapoport, Lumen Art Projects’ founder, comments: “Creating opportunities for artists and sharing art made with technology is at the core of what we do at Lumen. We are so pleased to return to East Quay for our third exhibition here, this time with 2021 Lumen Prize Gold Winner Nye Thompson. Working with Nye over the last few years, it has been a pleasure to see her practice develop and get the recognition it deserves. Having enabled the original commissioning of INSULAE it’s wonderful to see this exhibition come to life. We are excited to see VERTIGO, which is sure to be an incredible exhibition”.
This exhibition is commissioned by Contains Art CIO, presented in partnership with Lumen Art Projects and funded by Arts Council England.