Insider Series: Eli Muro
When we consider the term “technology,” we often imagine sleek yet complex computational devices or systems: the latest Apple products, surveillance cameras, virtual reality experiences, and more recently, no-contact infrared thermometers. Eli Muro suggests that the term can also be used to refer to more simplistic tools like a hammer and a nail. Muro’s assessment of “technology” as something tangible and affective can be mirrored in philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s pivotal writing from the 1960s; McLuhan states that any technologies (including menial tools) have the capacity to alter the human subject psychically, socially, and even physically. In other words, technologies are not detached from the human body nor the societies in which we reside.
In their work, Muro investigates not only how computers, electronics, and software are manually constructed, but how they can more broadly affect individuals and societies. Muro, then, uses technologies as an artistic medium to visualize and experience these concepts. In Distance Poem, they implemented a generative design using a dataset based on two articles from 2018 that describe differing results from Apple Inc.’s mass sales; where one article discussed the billions of devices sold, the other revealed the inhumane working conditions for Apple employees in Shenzhen, China. Muro presents this poem in a way that detaches each word visually, reflecting the ideological disconnection between the two disparate information sources that provide information about an identical cause. In many of their works, Muro considers the relationship between technologies, human labour, and the environment – for example a computer cannot exist independently of the resource extraction and labour exploitation inherent in its manufacturing.
Muro often contemplates the notion of a technological utopianism – the fantastical premise that, with the assistance of advanced science and technology, our society, laws, and government could reach a state of justice and harmony. By utilizing these very technological devices and processes in their critical and artistic work, Muro draws awareness to the possibilities and challenges associated with 21st century utopian visions.
Their work frequently reveals, rather than conceals, the human hand. Whether Muro uses materials such as transparent plexiglass to uncover the inner workings of a touch interface, or sketchy, illustrative techniques within the visual dimension of a generative video installation, their desire to bridge the alleged disconnect between the artificial and the organic is apparent.
Burrard Arts Foundation’s ten-week residency provides Muro with the space to achieve larger-scale, interactive works, particularly at a time where the concept of “space” and “interactivity” is increasingly more precarious. Overall, they strive to continue making work that reflects our current environmental and political climate using technologies/tools that have the potential to continue destroying us – or, more optimistically – have the ability to resuscitate us. Muro’s work begs asking the questions: do technologies have agentic capacities? Who (or what) is responsible for rewiring the system?