The Shock of the Now Issue 27
Featured Exhibition Text
Louis Morlæ
'Machinochrome Dreams' Solo Exhibition
Moarain House
9th February 2022

For those who spent the recent lingering lockdowns eager for escapism or longing to let go, craving clubbing or desperate to dance like no one is watching, Louis Morlæ‘s current solo exhibition Machinochrome Dreams provides the perfect antidote to isolation-induced agoraphobia. Like many, the artist was made acutely aware of his own mortality, and inevitable end, during the continuous confinement triggered by Covid-19. Suddenly defenceless against disease, and forced to confront impending infirmity, Morlæ set about creating a cast of sculptural surrogates who could inhabit and interact with the now predominantly digital world. These 3D-printed, androgynous, achromic avatar’s line the walls of Moarain House, life-sized yet lifeless they hang limp and at ease, powered down, awaiting activation.

Before them plays Morlæ’s new animated simulation. Ecce, the central surrogate, swaggers down a sewer-pipe staircase, sporting a Moncler Maya jacket (the gallery floor is painted maroon to match) and Balenciaga trainers, a knowing nod to the ease with which big brands are able to co-opt and commercialise even the digital ether. That familiar air of anxious anticipation arrives as Ecce approaches a nightclub security checkpoint, seeing scores of lesser droids despondently turned away. Upon entry, however, we descend into a perhaps not-too-distant future, a probable parallel reality or metamorphic metaverse in which surrogate subculture reigns supreme. Here cigars are smoked in gloriously grimey, graffitied toilets; neat rows of avatars dance in euphoric unison; a droid DJ mans the decks while a droid drug dealer transmits transcendental pleasure via ethereal orbs. Ecce vomits by the bins behind the club. 

Ecce in Semper Aeternum‘s second half seems to deteriorate into a drug-induced dream sequence, a frightening fugue state that sees Morlæ’s paranoid android ride in a Great Glass Elevator, complete with mind-numbing melodic Muzak, to a dystopian desert island. We accompany Ecce during their 'trip’, past humanoids in hooded sweatshirts who barbeque next to nuclear-esque sewage spills and through a wasteland woodland with empty tented encampments. The camera bounces to and fro, Blair Witch-like, the scene lit by smartphone torchlight. Finally, a minimart mirage forms at the edge of the forsaken forest, guarded by further sinister security surrogates, followed by a second suspicious toilet scene. The anthemic accompanying score, composed in collaboration with the artist’s friend Charlie Dobney, throngs and swells, as visions fill the screen of Ecce’s oversized body parts bobbing across the ocean eternal.