Profile — 23 Nov 2018
Through installations and performance works that incorporate a variety of media, Rory Pilgrim creates spaces where people of diverse backgrounds can come together and develop new forms of understanding and caretaking. For Software Garden, Pilgrim composed a full-length music album together with singer-songwriter Robyn Haddon and poet and disability rights advocate Carol Kallend. A constellation of other elements grew out of this collaboration, including music videos, performances, and participatory workshops working in collaboration with choreographer, artist and performer Casper-Malte Augusta. The full series of eleven music videos will be presented together for the first time at the Stedelijk Museum, where they will be screened as a single looped film.
In addition to these music videos, Pilgrim will present a full live concert of Software Garden that brings together an intersectional group of participants—both human and robotic—to propose the creation of an embodied system of nurturing and kindness. Narrated by Kallend via Skype with a robot named Pepper in her place as a physical avatar, the performance explores connections between technology, disability, and care as a way of examining larger political frameworks. Interweaving poetry, speech, song, and choreography, the concert will also feature Haddon, Augusta, and Utrecht-based singer/rapper Daisy Rodrigues.
The project in many ways responds to the political climate of recent years, which has become increasingly polarized and vitriolic since Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election as the president of the United States. For Pilgrim, these events, among others, revealed that new algorithmic technologies used by online platforms such as Facebook have created online echo chambers. These contribute to the deep political division and consequent distance between groups of people perceived to exist in oppositional relation to each other, whether old or young, rich or poor, conservative or progressive. With Software Garden, he provides an alternative model for how technology could be used to facilitate compassionate interactions that merge both online and offline spaces. Operating from a strong belief in the necessity of looking toward the future rather than reveling in nostalgia, Pilgrim draws upon feminist theorist Donna Haraway’s embrace of the cyborg as a metaphor for how hybridized thinking can lead to a non-patriarchal, posthuman condition. In his work, the artist similarly eschews binaries and fixed categories, preferring instead to find their limits and intersections.
Pilgrim is critical of the way that technological advances championed by neoliberal governments have often exacerbated inequality. Noting the diminished state funding available to people with disabilities, he wonders to what extent robotic devices could be used to provide new forms of care, and offers the “software garden” as a space governed by technologically-informed practices of nurturing and compassion. Emphasizing affinity and underlining the importance of mutual respect, Pilgrim’s practice asserts itself as a means to resist the dehumanizing, alienating effects of neoliberalism.
About the artist
Rory Pilgrim (b. 1988, United Kingdom)
Rory Pilgrim studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London and has been in residence at De Ateliers in Amsterdam. His work has been presented and performed at venues including TENT, Rotterdam; Oude Kerk, Amsterdam; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; South London Gallery, London; the 1st Asia Biennial/5th Guangzhou Triennial; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; De Hallen, Haarlem; and Cobra Museum, Amstelveen. Pilgrim’s work is also held in various institutional collections in the Netherlands, including De Hallen, Haarlem; Stichting C.o.C.A., Rotterdam; and Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht.