Tribe City, 2022
4k digital animation
Length: 7 minutes 27 seconds
Tribe: When the Group is King
Mass behaviour, violence and our perception of ourselves are put under a kind of microscope in Tribe, the latest project by the Dutch art collective SMACK, presented for the first time in June 2022 in Madrid in the Colección SOLO space.
Three digital works — Tribe City, Tribe War and Tribe Tower — form the backbone of a broad project that brings together around 300 characters and encompasses both digital media and physical formats, such as sculpture. The renowned trio of artists has presented its new project at the Colección SOLO (Madrid) while one of the pieces of the artistic proposal, Tribe Tower, will be presented exclusively at the reopening of the Evoluon museum in Eindhoven in September 2022.
Hybrid beings -half camera, half gorilla-, PPE overalls turned into fashion items and baby heads with little legs fighting beasts, are some of the characters that exist in Tribe. Hundreds of beings and dreamlike and dystopian elements inhabit the digital and autonomous works that are part of this project. “It’s a portrait of the masses,” summarise the artists, whose fascination with group dynamics, technological phenomena and the ego are expressed in Tribe with an eclectic selection of individuals who bring to life deeply recognisable social attitudes.
Collective behaviour and manipulation are recurring themes in SMACK’s work, which often uses popular visual references and light-hearted aesthetics to present us with an uncomfortable reflection of who we are.
Videos like Kapitaal (2006), Transparency Suit (2010) and Branded Dreams (2015) addressed the omnipresence of commercial brands in our societies. Witch Doctor (2015), a piece made for the rock group De Staat, anticipated, for its part, the interest in group behaviours developed in greater depth in Tribe. These questions were the focus of SMACK’s first solo exhibition, Dreaming of Mass Behavior (2017).
The work SPECULUM (2019), meanwhile, represents a contemporary interpretation of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The digital triptych places the viewer before a crude mirror of our time. The work presents an environment populated by lonely individuals obsessed with images, invasive technologies and icons of contemporary popular culture. The work has been exhibited in London, Seoul and Rotterdam, among other cities. It has also been visited by more than 90,000 people at Matadero Madrid in the exhibition at The Garden of Earthly Delights Through the Artworks of Colección SOLO.
Tribe: The Power of the Group Before the Mirror
For Tribe, SMACK developed a population of approximately 300 digitally animated characters, ranging from walking periscopes and swastika-wearing bugs to multi-headed aristocrats and muscle-bound machos. Each allows for variations in texture and colour, enabling the artists to deploy customised versions in different scenarios including Tribe City and Tribe War, while individual portraits are brought together in collections such as Tribe: Golden Circle Characters.
Many of these characters were developed during the Covid pandemic and reflect behavioural tropes associated with this time. “People were living in their own safety bubbles,” explains Ton Meijdam. “A lot have suits on because they’re afraid to interact with other people,” while others are walking hand-sanitisers, robot cleaning products and super-hero medics.
Various characters are recurring favourites, already present in SPECULUM. These include an oversized head with robot legs and SMACK’s updated version of the Venus of Willendorf, created by blending images of the Palaeolithic fertility figure with footage of Kim Kardashian. What they all have in common, says Meijdam, is an inflated ego: “They carry this message saying, “Look at me! I’m very important.”
Tribe by Smack from ONKAOS:
SOLO TALKS: Tribe presentation with Smack, Valerio Rocco and Rebekah Rhodes