Worked so hard to be forgotten, from Set In Stone, Tamara Kametani, 2019

Set In Stone,

Tamara Kametani

As part of GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union) ‘the right to be forgotten’ means a person can have negative information about themselves removed from search listings under certain arguable instances. Set In Stone therefore forms a poetic meditation on the effect of materials on often immaterial-seeming aspects of translocal cultures. While debates rage about legitimate uses and abuses of both privacy and freedom of speech online, this work presents phrases about the life of data etched by hand onto Athenian marble, to provoke a historic reflection on or even memorialisation of the consequences of actions on and offline.

About the Artist

Tamara Kametani is a Slovak born London based visual artist working across a variety of media including installation, video, photography and sculpture with an emphasis on site-specificity. Amongst the underlying concerns in her practice are the topics surrounding power relations, surveillance, privacy, and access to information. She is particularly interested in the role that technology plays in the construction of contemporary and historical narratives and the new experiences it enables. She received her master’s degree in Contemporary Art Practice from the Royal College of Art in 2017. Kametani has participated in a number of artist residencies and exhibited internationally. Recent commissions and exhibitions include Swayze effect, Platform Southwark curated by AGORAMA, London (2019); 404- Resistance in the Digital Age, RAGE Collective, CFCCA, Manchester (2019); For the Time Being, The Photographers’ Gallery, curated by CCA Royal College of Art, London (2019); Digital Diaspora, Studio 44, Stockholm (2019); Summer Show, Florence Trust, London (2018) and Triennial of Photography, Hamburg (2018).

Huma Kabakcı in conversation with Tamara Kametani for Translocal Co-operation Exhibition

The Gift by Tamara Kametani, Engraved Limestone, March 2019, 51°08'15.1"N 1°22'06.3"E”

Due to universal restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, like many public spaces the Furtherfield Gallery has had to close. Because of this the Translocal Co-operation Exhibition is on hold until further notice. However, we can still communicate through the Internet, so this is a good opportunity for one of the co-curators Huma Kabakcı to interview artist Tamara Kametani. Kametani is a Slovak born London based (currently based in Slovakian countryside) visual artist, working across a variety of media that includes: installation, video, photography and sculpture with an emphasis on site-specificity. Thiscurator and artist talk discusses the importance of translocality in the context of now and about Kametani’s artistic practice and work selected in the exhibition.

Huma Kabakcı: 12th of March was not so long ago, yet so much has changed since then. We live in uncertain times within our confined spaces, yet the need for translocal solidarity has become all the more pertinent. Can you talk a bit about your practice in the context of the exhibition and this hyper-connectedness?

Tamara Kametani: My practice revolves around my interest and research into surveillance, privacy, our digital footprint and biopolitics. I have to admit that this is a very interesting time for me, as the issues surrounding my practice feel especially relevant now. One thing this health crisis has brought to the forefront, is the rethinking of this hyper-connectedness that has become the norm in the past decade or so. It has also raised questions around the very real physical environmental footprint that is connected to this, as we have witnessed the air pollution decrease dramatically in some areas and animal species spotted in places where they have not been seen in years. At the same time, moving everything online is going to have its own set of consequences. While I am of course worried about the uncertainty of the future, it is also an interesting time to be witnessing and thinking about these critical contexts.

HK: Since you explore a variety of media in response to site-specificity, how would you say your marble slab works titled Set In Stone exist within your other body of works? Worked so hard to be forgotten, from Set In Stone, Tamara Kametani, 2019. Furtherfield Gallery, London, March 2020.

TK: Issues around digital footprint, privacy and surveillance have been present in my work in varying degrees for a long time, regardless of the form and medium these works manifest themselves in. So it would be true to say that the underlying thread that connects my works together is usually the subject matter, not the medium. There is an element of sculpture in a number of my works, although I don't think of these works as sculptures per se. I did this piece last year called The Gift on the occasion of the first proposed Brexit day that was an engraved limestone plaque installed at the White Cliffs of Dover overlooking France. Formally, the work looks similar to the marble plaques in Set in Stone, but the location and where it is installed is very much part of the work itself, it cannot exist outside of the context of that location.

HK: Can you talk about your choice of marble as a material in your residency in Bios, Athens? I would also love to hear more about the process behind the installation.

TK: I knew I wanted to explore ideas around the digital footprint and the issues many of us are facing now, as we become more aware of the many uses of our data. The idea of digital permanence, that’s sometimes very much undesired, interests me. The issue is very global as it affects us all using the internet, despite varying privacy laws in the different jurisdictions in which we operate. I wanted to connect the work to Athens though, specifically, as I was there, and I also wanted to include a local element in the work. One thing that’s very apparent in Athens, is the sheer volume of marble that’s been used to build the city. I, as many people I would imagine, think of marble as a luxurious stone and not one you would use to pave a sidewalk, but that’s exactly where you would find it in Athens. Being there now after all the austerity measures, the marble is one of the many reminders of more prosperous times in the past. I like to play with opposites in my work and etching marble by hand seemed like an appropriate approach to talk about issues that are digital and very contemporary but not easily and physically tangible.
Guest at the opening night of TransLocal Cooperation, Furtherfield Gallery, London, March 2020. Photo by Julia Szalewicz.

HK: Since ‘the right to be forgotten’ means a person can have negative information about themselves removed from search listings under certain arguable instances, your work gains more significance and meaning in the current climate then ever, where we are increasingly dependent on the virtual in order to connect with the world.

TK: What this forced isolation has done is move everything online. Projects that would normally take months or years to transition into the digital space have now appeared online in a span of weeks, sometimes even days. Take the example of teaching. In many countries where online teaching wasn’t really a thing prior to the lockdown, teachers have managed to move most of their classes online, or government agencies moving a lot of their service centres and resources online. It is quite astonishing to watch this unfold in such a quick manner, but such quick adaptation has its drawbacks, as is evident with Zoom’s privacy fiascos, to name the most obvious.

There is a reason why things usually take a while to change, requiring careful consideration and testing, which isn’t really happening right now. Not to mention the digital tracking and data collecting that has been implemented in many countries in order to curb the spread of the virus. It will be interesting to see just what happens once we come out of this crisis. I think most of us don’t have a clue about the real digital repercussions of this lockdown. Permanence no longer desired, from Set In Stone, Tamara Kametani, 2019. Furtherfield Gallery, London, March 2020.

HK: Yes and whilst there are definitely a lot of technological advancements, we are dependent on these digital platforms more than ever. It is really scary for that reason. Going back to your Set in Stone works, can you explain further how you came up with the sentences engraved on the marble and what they mean to you?

TK: Some of them employ the terminology that’s used when discussing issues around digital footprint and privacy rights, whilst others speak more of human desires and insecurities and how they often don’t make sense. For example ‘Digital Legacy Management’ refers to both posthumous management of the deceased’s data, but is also understood as a clean up - removing any unwanted information for a living person. The latter is now even offered as a service used by parents for their children applying to universities that check the social media accounts of their applicants.

There is a certain level of irony in the text, I see many of them as an oxymoron - ‘Worked so hard to be forgotten’ speaks both of our desire to be remembered, whilst sometimes needing to work hard to make sure we are remembered the way we want to be, in other words, have a part of us forgotten.

HK: During the lockdown are you reading or contemplating on future projects at the moment?

TK: The lockdown has coincided with a planned digital artist residency with Off Site Project that I have been doing since March. Initially, I had very different plans for what I wanted to work on during the residency but the current situation has affected it a bit and so I decided to use this time to look into the different measures that have been adopted by governments and telecommunication companies to curb the spread of the virus. Many of these measures are very questionable from a point of view of privacy.

I only managed to bring one book with me into isolation, but should have a few more on the way that I ordered from Verso a month ago now! When they finally arrive, I am looking forward to reading James Bridle’s ‘New Dark Age’ and ‘Future Histories’ by Lizzie O’Shea.

Set In Stone, Tamara Kametani, 2019.installation photo 2020 by Julia Szalewicz

Set In Stone, Tamara Kametani, 2019.installation photo 2020 by Julia Szalewicz