Curated by Passing Fancy
Opening: 2018.10.13, 16:30PM


Peer to Peer takes its title from the decentralized computer network paradigm made infamous through early internet platforms such as Napster and BitTorrent. It refers to the decentralized computer networks in which each computer, or “peer”, acts as a server for others, allowing shared access to various distributed resources (e.g., files or peripherals) without the need for a central server. Peers are equipotent participants in the network application, and the failure of one peer does not jeopardize the whole network. This plinth of early internet architecture instantiated conditions under which particular aesthetic sensibilities and socio-political relations emerged, which continue to influence current modes of social behavior. The dynamics of peer-to-peer networks’ inherent relationality speak to larger political, ethical, and psychological configurations that mediate internet social bonds; providing an acute lens in which to view such topics as reciprocity, neighborliness, animosity, and even the demarcations between human and nonhuman intelligence.

Using the operations of peer-to-peer networks as a catalyst, this exhibition takes a ludic approach to perceptions of “decentralization”, particularly in regards to systems of power, and to notions of “peer”- considering it as a body, a server, a buddy, a buyer, a host, a virus, a player, a grunt, a mirror, a verb, a noun, and so on. Works in this exhibition take playful jabs at both concepts, exposing ideological hiccups and proposing alternate ways of engaging in such structures, shedding light on how behavior (on and off line) is inherently bound up with others and how it might be externalized, otherwise.

The proposition of having peer-to-peer relations also acts metaphorically for how we relate to the virtual. In the vernacular use of peer-to-peer, “peer” denotes that each user as being of equal status within a network of peers. However, the term is also etymologically entangled with the act of looking or peering. We propose that a peer-to-peer relation is a confrontation of the self: a peer, a particular relegation of bodies, simultaneously peers at other peers and is peered upon by individual peers, including itself. The works in this exhibition embody the crux of this psychoanalytic reflexivity, proposing that this anxiety is inherent to the construction of bodies in virtual space and IRL.

Through conceptual and physical gestures, material-virtual manipulations, literal decentralized network strategies, musicking, and other gamesmanship, this exhibition propose a similar question about how we conceive of ourselves deep into the Information Age- is there a more anxious subject than the peer that simultaneously enacts and frames her own ontology?

Peer-to-peer network only works if users are willing to contribute resources, and these resources may be legally, ethically, or otherwise repugnant because peers are connecting to untrusted sources and forfeiting a core logic that might police network activities along the lines of an ethical consensus. Several works in this exhibition pick up on the paradoxical ambitions of “decentralized” power structures, especially decentralization as political ideal. Can participation (human or nonhuman) in decentralized networks be thought of as a reciprocal action? If so, what does this reciprocity imply about the shared conditions of vulnerability and exposure in social life well into the Information Age? How does participation in decentralized paradigms require a reconsideration of our understanding of intelligence, of production, of information processing?

Peer to Peer is as much about the politics of how we conceive of the Internet, as it is the eternally anxious, interpassive subject. Through different tactics, the works in this exhibition expose the ideological coordinates of Internet society, and consider the ways in which bodies, or peers, are split into on-line bodies vs. the flesh and blood beings that make the Internet a reality.



 Passing Fancy consists of Xiaorui Zhu-Nowell and Freddie Cruz Nowell who live and work in New York.

Xiaorui Zhu-Nowell is currently an Assistant Curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she contributes to the research and implementation of a wide range of exhibitions including Radical Politics, Process, and Performance in the 1970’s (forthcoming) and Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World (2017-2019). She holds a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the School of Architecture. Prior to joining the Guggenheim Museum in 2014, she assisted Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev on the 14th Istanbul Biennial SALTWATER: a Theory of Thought Forms and held positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Freddie Cruz Nowell is a musicologist, theorist, and artist, and is currently a PhD candidate in Musicology at Cornell University. He also holds an MFA in Art, Theory & Practice from Northwestern University where he was a University Fellow. His research interests range from the interplay of text as musical device in Conceptual Art, to affect and ornamentation in Mumble rap. He also researches music in relation to the history of thought in aesthetics, psychoanalytic theories of the voice, digital rhetoric, and transgender studies.




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