arebyte presents Rock Bottom, an exhibition by Abe Sugarman, the winner of hotel generation 2022, arebyte’s yearly programme mentoring the next generation of UK digital artists during the critical early stages of establishing a career in the arts.
Set inside a bottomless zone with no light, deep inside a cryptic ocean trench, Rock Bottom is a choose-your-own-adventure journey composed of games, video works and sculpture. Through this meandering twilight zone, concepts of queer time, queer survival, and Jellyfish Temporality escape and converge into animated characters and their unsettling environments. The exhibition implements emergent ecological systems, the materiality and power of restarting, and non-linear lifecycles as metaphorical pointers to introduce the narrative of survival; encouraging players to understand how (un)localised deep-rooted trauma and catatrophe can be comprehended.
Bridging societal, interdependent and environmental parameters, the exhibition installation encourages players to become entangled within the game world and its material replication, through life-size monsters and theatre-esque props surrounding and backdropping the playable works. This newly commissioned exhibition concludes arebyte's 2022/23 programme Sci-Fi which looks at fictioning and alternative futures through a series of exhibitions, live performances, online experiences and educational activities.
The gallery is divided into zones dedicated to different areas of investigation within the exhibition: Northern values and patriotism, the possible productive power of the transitory Jellyfish lifecycle, and reconciling with fear and temptation of the unknown. The installation forms a web of locations within Rock Bottom; provincial garden centres, your ex's house, and a bodiless town centre in post-Industrial-somewhere all feel familiar but otherworldly.
The exhibition questions how to live at death's door with cataclysms of many scales using seemingly non-compatible sites of discussion. Eutrophicated seas trigger blooms of the undead survivor in Jellyfish Fields, SpongeBob Squarepants’ enemy Mrs Whiskers journeys to an uncanny time in Rock Bottom, and the depths of the Calder Valley’s flood system come together to mirror a time of instability in crises of the environment in the River Calder Roblox environment. Eutrophicated seas trigger blooms of the undead survivor in Jellyfish Fields, SpongeBob Squarepants’ enemy Mrs Whiskers journeys to an uncanny time in Rock Bottom, and the depths of the Calder Valley’s flood system come together to mirror a time of instability in crises of the environment in the River Calder Roblox environment. Science-fiction-esque in its nature of imagining significant environmental change and portraying the meaning of time at the bottom of the ocean, Rock Bottom encourages us to understand worlds we don’t yet know, resisting engendered stereotyping and silencing of cast-aside voices.
Adopting the Freudian notion of the Death Drive, the works in the exhibition examine the dominant push towards pessimism through behaviours such as aggression, self-doubt and self-destruction often accounted for by way of agendas outside of personal control.
Abe Sugarman is a multimedia artist based in West Yorkshire, who operates as an agent within a game. Abe uses their political proposal ‘Jellyfish temporality’: as a non-linear model of queer time and survival against geological stratification. Abe combines the circular and entwined web of bodies and systems that exist in the bio-membrane, where a diagrammatic tissue of lies and life cycles emerges through reverberation, compulsion, and restarting. In this newly formed ‘Anthrobussy’, the rehearsal assembles. Abe enjoys SpongeBob SquarePants, cuttlefish, and Gordon Riggs Garden Centre. Abe graduated from the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Previous solo and group exhibitions include: Unit 1 Gallery Workshop, London; Ruskin Project Space, Oxford; Five Folds, London.