FUTURA PROXIMA curated for Gucci

Aria Dean: Life As Scene

Words by Vere Van Gool

Untitled (Obscenities), 2017

Questioning the boundaries between virtuality and reality, American artist Aria Dean discusses her work as featured inside FUTURA PROXIMA with the issue’s art editor Vere Van Gool, ahead of the artist’s participation in the 2022 Whitney Biennial.


A red silk bow chained to galvanized steel— a simulation staged in a dark, mirrored box — a black blob of silicon on a white pedestal. The emerging oeuvre of Los Angeles-born artist, curator and writer Aria Dean is a coalescence of cinema and sculpture. Dean’s literal structuralism, often taking Blackness as the point of departure, challenges networks of power and visibility embedded in society today. Her theatrical work, ranging from performances to screenplays, questions the philosophy of virtuality and self. Together, Dean probes into an uncanny yet corporeal set of futures, absolved from real-time, montaged as new ways of seeing.

King of the Loop, 2020

Vere Van Gool: What would you do if you could live forever?

Aria Dean: If I knew I would live forever, I would be way less interested in the world. I would become more aware of how much information I would have to take-in for an extended period of time, rather than the bound amount of time that is a human life. And probably, I’d read a lot more fiction.

VVG: What are you currently working on?

AD: I am examining the work of Robert Morris for DIA Art Foundation’s Artists On Artists Lecture series coming this May. It’s an in-depth dive into Morris’s body of minimalist work, which allows for a new way of seeing, which feels really exciting.

VVG: How does (his) minimalism correspond to current times?

AD: I see minimalism as incredibly relevant today, as it’s the last time that art thoroughly went ‘structural’ and made structures of the world a project to grapple with. Like structural racism and structural inequality. Minimalism is the materialisation and sculptural form of questions that structuralism is posing. A sort of intensive investigation of what being an American artist meant to American artists. And structurally asking, what is it that we are? What’s the history we’re part of, where we’re going? What does any of this mean?

VVG: You often speak of your work being influenced by the structuralism posed by Deleuze and Guattari, can you elaborate?

AD: Deleuze and Guattari’s two-volume work Capitalism and Schizophrenia is a primary source to me— the dissolution of subjectivities, or body-fed organs, feels like pure poetics. I’m interested in how that intersects with virtuality and the embodiment of what it feels to be real. Like how in Cinema 1: The Movement Image, Deleuze allows the image to sit or cut into reality. In my work, I remind viewers of their position in relation to an image, and increasingly destabilise that relationship by either fixing it, or breaking it apart.

VVG: Can you imagine a future of such virtuality?

AD: I don’t see the future of virtuality shifting. We are on a warpath of how thoroughly embedded we are in our virtual lives.

VVG: What about the structures that operate our virtual realities, how will they evolve our reality?

AD: I see the internet as something similar to the American westward expansion; where everyone is on the Oregon Trail, and some people drop off in Wyoming, others continue to California. While the Internet might seem this empty space, it does have a colonial mechanism to it, one where people are so convinced of their own reality. But it’s not real, it’s just how it seems to you – now technologically supported in one way or another.

Work (tout son col secouera cette blanche agonie), 2021

VVG: Can you talk about the term Blacceleration — the binding of Blackness and accelerationism, both inextricably intertwined with one-another— you defined?

AD: Notes on Blacceleration is a piece of writing that I still very much refer to. It’s the bedrock of what I have been doing and it continues to operate as a framing mechanism. It’s with me all the time. But these days I’ve become more interested in where Blackness crops up unrelated to Black people’s actions or agency. I’m invested in mobilising Blacceleration beyond its critique, through objects and artworks, towards an aesthetic concept.

VVG: Can you talk about how this resonates in your theatrical work?

AD: I became interested in theatre out of my frustration with the inability to arrest the attention of a viewer or audience through sculptural work in a gallery. For a long time now, I’ve been interested in the relationship between theatre and film, and I am also a writer. So organically, as I was getting tired of critical writing, I turned my focus to fiction and screenplays and found it fascinating how the cinematic image and live action, or live streaming, awkwardly sit next to each other. In a way, I see the internet like a theatre, where the browser window is a scene. How can an exhibition be a scene? How can we cut an image into reality or cut reality out of an image? In that way, I like to create awareness of people’s position in relation to visual culture, and destabilise the viewer’s experience by undercutting it.

VVG: In terms of transforming reality, what do you think art can do?

AD: Art is a way of thinking through objects and gestures. Like thinking-in-action or thinking-in-disorder. Art is really good at that, and people should let it be good at that. Culture right now wants things to be resolved, but art is best when it’s allowed to not resolve itself.

Artwork courtesy of Greene Naftali and Chateau Shatto

Suite!, 2021 (Ed. 1 of 5 + 2 Artist Prints), featured inside FUTURA PROXIMA




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