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Waterfront Festival

Preview: Silk to Silicon at Backlit Gallery

14 February 22 interview: George White

We chat to artist Sebastian Koseda, whose exhibition Silk to Silicon shines a light on the potential challenges of technological change...

This is your debut solo show. How does that feel?
The show is mid-set-up as I am talking to you. Two years of thinking, writing and designing around technology coming together in the wild feels good to see. I’m starting to believe it might be finished for the launch.

It’s coming to Nottingham’s Backlit Gallery this month. Why was this the perfect venue for the exhibition?
The building itself has a rich history. It was commissioned by an important figure of progressive change, the Nottingham-born nineteenth century woollen manufacturer - and political radical - Samuel Morley, who was deeply committed to pressing for change towards anti-slavery, workers' rights and adult education.

Backlit Gallery’s aesthetics are reminiscent of the workspaces that were common in Nottingham's silk-weaving industry. The spirit of the space matches the spirit of the works perfectly.

There are quite strong Notts links to the show - the Luddites are a key focus of your work. What is so fascinating about the myth of Ned Ludd and his followers?
From the very start, Nottingham was the place for this show to come to life. Textiles are in the DNA of this city, alongside, of course, the rebellion against the automation of their manufacture. 

Ned Ludd may or may not have been a fictional character but he was certainly as real as the invisible forces he contended with. Ludd summoned workers to reject oppression and to challenge their fates - an attitude commonly mirrored in today's urban tensions.

In 1811, the Luddites waged war against machinery, their craft threatened by automation. Mechanical apparatus across England were destroyed in protest against machines ‘hurtful to commonality’. The Luddites’ revolution is a tale of fiction and fact, both absurd and insightful in equal measure. 200 years later, it is acutely relevant.

The show acts as a sort of museum of the future, where historical artefacts and facts are mixed with speculative fiction and irreverence

You explore the relationship between technology and morality. Why is this something you wanted to look into?
In the last few years I've seen entire teams of graphic design workers wiped out to automation. I've also visited a kebab shop in north London and watched a robot cut the doner meat. This made me question - how long will workers and machines continue to coexist in peace? 

In an age where endless production and unlimited growth is prioritised, what happens when human error is applied in batch actions to create mass scale mistakes? It is important that our morality is progressing at the same speed as technology as we behold the next industrial revolution. 

In true Notts fashion, there’s also a focus on rebellion and defiance. Why is this important?
When you are young they call it imagination, as you get older they call it delusion. Questioning, challenging and reimagining existing infrastructures can be both violently destructive and wonderfully progressive. This show is a celebration of that energy, a celebration of the flowers in the cracks of the concrete. 

How do you approach visualising what are rather complex themes in an engaging and thought-provoking way?
The show acts as a sort of museum of the future, where historical artefacts and facts are mixed with speculative fiction and irreverence. This is the format I'm using to tell stories in a non-linear but contained fashion.

I have worked as a graphic designer for the last 10 years so it was important to me that the hierarchy of information and the identity for the show was distinctive. The aesthetics of the punchcard, featuring holes and solid spaces, informed a versatile graphic treatment which houses both information and imagery and creates a sense of visual unity amongst an eclectic body of work.

In the next ten years we are likely to see more change in automated technology than the last 100 years combined

Why is this an important piece for the modern day? What current socio-economic issues inspire your messages and your work?  
In the next ten years we are likely to see more change in automated technology than the last 100 years combined. Things are moving so fast that I’m worried the ideas in this interview will be obsolete by the time it’s published. I am inspired by this pace, this acceleration - what a time to be alive!

The Silk to Silicon exhibition is a flag in the ground on this exponential mountain of technological progress. It is a chance to stop, look around and ask - what has actually happened here? Is this exciting? Is this scary? Is this sustainable?

Why else should LeftLion readers come and see the show? 
The show is aimed at everyone that will be affected by automation in the next 100 years, which is literally everyone, so come by and have fun and enjoy it - that is, before the robots come and take all our jobs…

Silk to Silicon is coming to Backlit Gallery on Friday 25 February. More information is available on the Silk to Silicon website.

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