Crush Machine

Galerie mladých 03 08 — 17 09
opening— 2 8 2022

Almost ten years have passed since we watched with raised eyebrows the massive wave of post-internet art that gradually but decisively swept away rationality as the prevailing paradigm of contemporary art. The inclination towards imaginativeness, intuition, expressiveness, authenticity, affect or emotion as signs of emerging generation was described, among others, by Václav Magid in his text O neuchopitelnosti: V čem (ne)spočívá romantizmus současného umění (On the Elusive: What Is (Not) Romanticism in Contemporary Art) in one of this year’s Art+Antiques. In an excursion into the contemporary background of 19th century Romanticism, he explains the collapse of the Enlightenment concept of rationality, which caused alienation from the surrounding world and from oneself, from which stems feelings of melancholy as an unfulfilled longing to find reconnection just as unity with nature. Rather than escapist melancholy, however, he sees the qualities of the new Romanticism in its capacity for critical irony. We might consider the human condition in the context of contemporary crises and the turn towards emotionality to be quite logical. It can also be seen as an analogy of the contemporary condition of a Romantic person, and thus accept the assumption that worldview cyclically oscillates between reason and emotion. In crises, we are always more prone to form a unified voice.


A large portion of the material in Aurélie Bayad’s video Crush Machine was created during the global quarantine measures in the wake of the pandemic. In direct response to physical isolation and interaction being limited to the online environment, it conveys a sense of alienation, dissociation, even panic attack. The handling of jelly or anti-stress slime and the whispering voice familiar from the content of ASMR videos stimulate strategies of instant online relief and relaxation. However, the content of the words and swallowing of the jelly is more unsettling than comforting. The way the author exposes details of her face or body in front of the camera rather contrasts with the popular Instagram stylization and aesthetic, in which we can read feminist overtones and gender fluid sympathies. The collage-like and associative nature of themes and expressions is furthermore present in the text, which, in addition to the voice, appears in the video as typographical slogans, reminiscent of snippets of hit pop song choruses. Behind the distinctive techno sound of the videos is a collaboration with the musician CryptiQt. Václav Janoščík in his article, which also thematizes emotionality, writes that emotions are more often associated with music than with visual arts, listing several examples of connections between pop and contemporary politics: from Joy Division’s depression and depressed female celebrities, to the economic crisis of Lady Gaga, Adele or Lana del Rey, to Lil Peep’s Xanax rap, thematizing the inability to socialize, but also more generalized social anxiety.

Hey baby
Come here
come to me
why are you so sad
you don't need to worry anymore
i'm here for you
Come here
Come to me
I'm gonna make it all ok