Toby Ziegler: The Genesis Speech

3 out of 5 stars
Toby Ziegler: The Genesis Speech
Courtesy The Artist and Freud Museum London

Taking the show’s title from a soliloquy delivered by a super-intelligent computer in Lindsay Anderson’s 1982 dystopia ‘Britannia Hospital’, Toby Ziegler casts an eye over the murky relationship between man and technology in his exhibition at the Freud Museum. He’s deposited a number of characteristically slick sculptures throughout the rooms of the Hampstead house where the Austrian psychoanalyst spent the final year of his life.

The sculptures are mostly of hands, and mostly made of transparent plastic polygons riveted together. They’re incredibly striking, not because they’re so flawlessly executed, but because of the way their faceted shells glitter and shift as you walk around them. You’re reminded of the hall-of-mirrors nature of psychoanalysis: where no image or archetype should be taken at face value; where there’s always another layer of meaning to plumb.

Upstairs, another sculpture sits spectre-like on Freud’s daughter Anna’s bed, this one of a Klein bottle (a kind of mathematical conundrum: an object with only one side). In a nearby room, a video plays. A slideshow of, yep, more hands – a robotic prosthetic, the severed one from ‘Evil Dead II’ – all chosen through the algorithmic free association of Google’s similar image search function. A cool idea, but it does little except confirm Ziegler as one of those artists who never got over the novelty of looking at weird shit on the internet.

The work resonates most among Freud’s vast collection of ethnic objects – masks, fertility symbols, figurines of Egyptian deities – where, by contrast, it looks like artefacts from a future in which artificial intelligence has usurped God. Freud might have been a non-believer, but he saw religion and mythology as rich portals into the human psyche. He surely would have had something to say about Ziegler’s curious additions.

By: Matt Breen

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