Willoh S. Weiland
Born 1980, Seine Bight, Belize. Lives and works Hobart
Willoh S. Weiland is an artist, writer and curator. Her work is concerned with creating epic impossible ideas and trying to fulfil them, working with non-artists, the possibilities of liveness and destroying the white male patriarchy. Over 2010–18 she was artistic director/CEO of the artist-led experimental arts organisation Aphids, Melbourne. Currently she is a Creative Associate of the MONA Foma festival, Hobart, and an Honorary Fellow at the Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces, University of Melbourne. Her works Forever Now, Void Love and Yelling at Stars (2008–15) explore the relationship between art and infinity by sending artworks into outer space.
Photograph: Bryony Jackson
by Emile Zile
Willoh S. Weiland’s cinematic intervention locates the viewer as the sole protagonist and antagonist of cinema culture. Seated in a cinema alone, your expectation of a social film experience is overturned. Removed from the civil rituals of consuming salt and sugar snacks to inflame a nervous system, the polite shuffling to your seat and the communal sniggering at corny ads, the space is laid bare. You are a ticket stub. You are the discrete individual that has one place in the world right now: seat 43F. Sat between rows of empty seats, you are watched and watching. The red velvet upholstery that lines the walls begins to feel claustrophobic. The plush interior feeds your vision to the screen. The sound from the screen seems more impactful, less bodies to soak up the frequencies. You are being addressed, you are being located. There is nowhere to hide. Viewer and viewed.
A ritualising of technology and a fascination for its ability to be read and misread are central to Willoh S. Weiland’s artistic strategy. Weiland accepts that we are mediated beings, defining ourselves by our electronic veils, social placemaking and urgent desire to communicate. Focusing on the individual and their use of technology allows one to see modern life keenly. Weiland’s practice has isolated moments of human interaction with technology, with all its unavoidable hubris and folly. She has created new gold records within her Space Trilogy series (2008–15) in response to the utopian Voyager mission of 1977, a eulogy for the mobile phone-maker Nokia, which also functions as a family portrait of the Finnish national psyche, and a community celebration for the coastal Melbourne suburb of Frankston in The Drive-In Project (2014). She creates work with a wry humour and deep materiality. Her interest is in the human contact and friction with technology by its users, us. In this way, each project is an emotional map of the human interactions and daily mediations enabled by technology.
Emerging from a series of large-scale performative events over the last 15 years, Weiland’s practice privileges shifting tempo, locations, modes of address and authorial voices. She has been artistic director of Aphids from 2010 until 2018. Working between theatre, live art, the club, new technology and artistic collectives, her drive to elaborate on what it is to be human is immediate and ecstatic.