The Ghost in the Machine, Installation View at Montague Contemporary
“The Ghost in the Machine” introduces the work of contemporary Kenyan artists, Peterson Kamwathi, Florence Wangui, and Elias Mung’ora, who challenge the idea of hierarchy and instead imagine their work through the lens of “holonarchy”: whereby everything in the universe is simultaneously both a whole and a part.
Every “holon” is torn between two impulses – to be an individual and to become part of something bigger and more communal. The show’s theme, inspired by Arthur Koestler’s 1967 novel The Ghost In the Machine and building on philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s genesis of the term, pulls together three distinct views on what it means to be an individual, to be part of a collective, and the tension between the two.
The “ghost in the machine” exhibit theme pokes fun at Cartesian dualism—the idea that the physical body is inhabited by a non-physical mind and that there exists no causal link between the two. This mind-body dualism is the perfect analogy for how humans struggle to understand the causal relationship between the individual and the community. Which takes precedence, the collective or the individual? Must we choose between either extreme or is there some middle ground – as physicist Tyler Volk suggests in his neologism “combogenesis” – whereby biological evolution ultimately leads to cultural evolution
“The Ghost in the Machine” features the works of Kamwathi, Wangui, and Mung’ora – each of whom attempt to answer this dilemma. Works from Peterson Kamwathi’s recent Noble Savage Series tackles themes dealing with self-identity, fragmentation, hierarchy of oppression, and how the individual is part and parcel to the collective. Florence Wangui’s latest series tackles the liminality between the power of the ego and the unknown, highlighting the fragile psyche’s struggle between the two states of being. Elias Mung’ora addresses how urban fragmentation reflects our societal fracturing, demonstrating that inclusive access to social space and to the collective is often at the whims of the power elite, embedding different spaces with different levels of humanity.