Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art presents an exhibition by the Belgian photographer Jonas LeRiche whose art explores the collision between nature and technology and its influence on our life
The fundamental elements of soot, coal, dirt, and water combined on the canvas of the human body
A natural scientist’s view of the limits of human capabilities and ways to transcend them
An invitation to ponder the prospects of our survival as a biological species
The Belgian artist Jonas LeRiche, living and working mostly in the United States, is an unusual phenomenon on the international stage of contemporary art. While some artists create forms and images that reflect actual or imagined reality, and others use art as a tool to express a personal position on pressing life matters and encourage viewers to determine their own views, Jonas LeRiche is akin to a natural scientist, who closely observes global transformative processes in a way worthy of a true artist, who gives himself over to these processes with admiration and embodies the experience acquired through images that amaze the viewer’s imagination with their incredible beauty.
Nature created humans, who in turn went on to create technology, and now both these forces, nature and technology, are jointly creating a new kind of human. Whilst nature has always been viewed as inevitably dominating human evolution, be it through meiosis, atmosphere, or climate, we have now arrived at an inflection point in our biological progress – the dawn of the transhuman, leading to posthumanism. It is this journey that LeRiche seeks to encapsulate within his works by making the human body the location where technology meets nature. It is neither a battleground, nor a clash of two opposing forces – in LeRiche’s works we are able to see the harmonious entwinement of two elements that makes humans different, yet also beautiful.
It is the collision of the influence of technology and nature that LeRiche seeks to explore within his works. In his Posthumana series both nature and technology feature prominently, engulfing the various human bodies they come across, dividing the invisible spheres of influence. LeRiche’s series Immortalis on the other hand alludes to extropianism, which fundamentally focuses upon the way in which science and technology will allow for humans to live indefinitely. Most extropians foresee the eventual realization of indefinite lifespans or immortality, due to future advances in ‘mind uploading.’ This and biomedical technology will allow for human bodies and brains to be preserved by cryonics and rehabilitated in the future at the same level of consciousness as at the time of freezing. LeRiche’s namesake work depicts a woman cocooned in Delft ceramics, with the conjoining veins being gold. Not only does this symbolise the artist’s interpretation of cryonics as that of the stalwart porcelain, but also to the Japanese art form of kintsugi (金継ぎ). Also known as the golden joinery, this practise aims to repair broken pottery by conjoining the broken pieces with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The ‘scars’ of the pottery become even more visible than if you were to simply glue the broken pieces together, thus the act of reparation is celebrated and a new ceramic object is created. For LeRiche, perhaps our broken civilisation can only be saved by natural elements, the symbol of which is an element such as gold, as opposed to technology. But that leaves one with the question of nature and how it fits within the concept of human immortality, as we are not able to live indefinitely on the world’s resources whilst procreating and expanding our population.
In the long run, humanity as we know may find itself on the verge of extinction, which is also the name of one of the series that LeRiche has created. Here, all the fundamental elements of soot, coal, dirt and water are combined on the canvas of a human body. A further element – gold – is added to create a pattern on the woman, reminiscent of a honeycomb structure. In this way, LeRiche also alludes to the global phenomenon known as ‘Colony Collapse Disorder,’ whereby the majority of worker bees in a honeybee colony disappear, leaving behind all their honey, the queen and a few nurse bees to care for the infants. This in turn leads to crops being unpollinated, affecting global food supply for humanity and causing world-wide starvation, leading to the potential of the human race to be extinct. However, advances in science promise to find a solution to this problem. Having entered the phase of posthumanism, our society will cease to depend on natural resources, or at least the mechanism of this dependence will become different. And if we, as transhumanism promises us, live to see this time, we will certainly want to discover the new works of Jonas LeRiche in order to find out what new factors of global transformation will unite thanks to posthuman. Some artists may depict the future no worse than scientists.
Born in 1976, the contemporary artist Jonas LeRiche was first introduced to photography by his mother in Antwerp, Belgium, where he grew up. LeRiche started his career as a fashion photographer, working for established publishers globally. Continuing his artistic education in the US, LeRiche also started working with printmaking and sculpture and relocated to the United States over eight years ago.
Since 2015, his works have been showcased in a number of established art fairs and exhibitions such as: Rotterdam Contemporary Art Fair (Netherlands) in 2016, Art Wynwood (Miami, Florida) in 2019 and Cube Art Fair (New York, USA). For the 2021 edition of the Cube Art Fair, Jonas LeRiche collaborated on the creation of an NFT titled Dance of Eternity. The piece was made available on makersplace.com. His creations are highly sought after by major collectors worldwide.
‘The driving force behind my work is the desire to inject the rawness of nature into the seamless, controlled perfection of my photographs to undermine the facile gaze of viewers unaccustomed to scratching any deeper than the surface.’