[Photos: Achim Kukulies]

Mary-Audrey Ramirez creates imaginary beings that invade our space by means of digital installations and sculptures tailored from shiny synthetic fabrics. Ingrained since her childhood in gaming – the world of electronic video games – the artist lures us into her cosmos where virtuality and reality, digital design and skilled craftsmanship coalesce. Whether hand-sewn creatures, team-developed animated figures or images of aliens designed with the aid of artificial intelligence that look as cute as they appear mutated by environmental toxins: to concoct her altogether individual futuristic aesthetic Ramirez draws on the pictorial language of video games, sci-fi movies and deep-sea documentaries, whose visual vocabulary is anchored in our collective memory. Her eschatological yet humorous, as well as constantly sensual pictorial language throws into light our pleasure in escapism as much as our dread of apocalypse, not to mention the thrill immanent to the potential of new technologies. The outcome of all this is the dreamlike atmosphere of a non-human future, home to artificial intelligences and creatures born from a destroyed world – which at the same time are also reminiscent of mythical beings such as those that have enthralled people since earliest antiquity.

The exhibition Unsolicited Awakening in KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION brings together previous works and others that Ramirez has created especially for the show, which further expand the constantly proliferating cast of her work. The exhibition title refers to the somnambulistic atmosphere generated by the assembled characters – and to the fascination, but also potential menace, created by their “unsolicited awakening”.

Our encounter with these creatures – Ramirez calls them critters – is accompanied by a specially composed soundtrack and colourful light effects.

Tailored specifically to the architecture of the exhibition space, the artist’s mise-en-scène transforms the venue into an immersive parkour divided into different segments, bearing imaginative resemblance to the experience of entering a video game. The various areas correspond to biomes – in gaming jargon, these are a kind of environment marked by certain characteristics and home to various kinds of creatures. As in any video game, certain segments are accessible, others – such as a hologram that for the first time has been created expressly for the exhibition – can only be viewed at a distance. Located at the hub of this site-specific ambiance is a game that Ramirez and her team have developed, entitled Forced Amnesia (2023–2024). The artist invites viewers to play interactively and become immersed in her magical, meditative world.

Nowadays, gaming is the largest entertainment industry worldwide – bigger than all TV series, film and music together. Over 3 billion people around the world play video games every day. Since the 1990s, gaming has also found its way into contemporary art. Boosted by the internet and accelerated by smartphones and social media, the influence of virtual realities on our world is used and challenged by artists who modify commercial video games and transform the games’ aesthetic into their own pictorial language. In this context, Ramirez’s work stands out by virtue of her unique artistic aesthetic which symbiotically combines beauty and dystopia, monstrosity and cuteness, digitality and reality. In an original and innovative way the artist addresses cutting-edge developments in technology, nature and society; by – quite literally –playfully allying them with techniques of craftsmanship she transports them into the art of the future.

Mary-Audrey Ramirez, born in 1990 in Luxembourg City, lives and works in Berlin. She has previously had major solo exhibitions in Casino Luxembourg, in the Kunsthalle Gießen, in the Trauma Bar und Kino in Berlin and in the Dortmunder Kunstverein. In addition, she has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, includ- ing the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION in Düsseldorf and Haus Mödrath in Kerpen. She has been awarded various prizes and selected for artist residencies, among others in 2022 with the ISCP in New York City and in 2024 at Schloss Balmoral in Bad Ems. Mary-Audrey Ramirez is repre- sented by Galerie Martinetz in Cologne.

[Text: Gesine Borcherdt]

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