Selected excerpts from reviews and catalogue texts

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Kynan Tan is an artist who works with installation, video, sound, performance and code. In short, he is a media artist in the truest sense of the word – interested above all else in technologies and systems of mediation. His most recent body of work emerges from a sustained interest in data and algorithmic processes, and the ways that they increasingly determine our daily lives. Contemporary media art tends to try to show the complexity of computation by visualising or representing data flows. Tan’s work seeks to show the problem with reducing complex processes to simple representations. For Tan, algorithmic culture – that which governs almost every aspect of daily life, affecting the way we bank, shop, travel, socialise and, increasingly, the way we come to understand the world – is an interplay between hardwares, softwares, humans, non-humans, programs, materials and networks.

Despite their ubiquity, data and algorithmic processes remain largely unseen and unknown — invisible forces with impactful effects. The power of Tan’s work is to make us feel the effects of these processes without reducing them to representations or metaphors. What is apparent and perceptible in his work is the complex, multidirectional and relational flows that constitute algorithmic culture. In Polymorphism (Data Centre Simulation) (2016), for example, we are shown a computer-generated, simulated interior of a data centre. Data centres are enormous, unmarked and tightly controlled buildings that companies (like Google) and governments use to house their computational infrastructure. Given the importance of algorithms and the sensitivity of corporate and governmental data, these centres are highly securitised and inaccessible. The simulation shows endless rows of rack-mounted servers, blinking lights and surveillance cameras, accompanied by an ambient, droning soundtrack of low-frequency hums. What is perceptible in this work is the extraordinary scale of infrastructure and the enormous resource consumption that underscore network culture. Importantly, we don’t ‘see’ the data flows or algorithms at work; instead, we feel the intensity and the physicality of such systems.

Tan’s practice is informed by his knowledge of computation. Motivating his work is a genuine desire to share this knowledge, a desire at once educational and political. Automated Reasoning Paradigm (2015), produced for the Didactic Tools exhibition (and associated program) at Fremantle Arts Centre in 2015–16, brought together interview material, text, and audio-visual renderings that suggest different ways of understanding our embeddedness in large-scale networks. This work is indicative of Tan’s educational focus, as well as his commitment to collaborative projects that bring together artists across a number of disciplines and into diverse communities. Always responsive to the world we live in, his work offers up an affective idiom which articulates the experience of living in the networked era. Tan’s work gives a poetic, multisensory account of media and mediation, showing information to be a network of embodied relations, from the smallest scale to the largest.

— Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange, Primavera Catalogue, 2017

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“This is the astounding and original work. One hopes that Tan’s phenomenal and prescient installation is seen the world over”
“Microscopic particular static crackles like the communiqués of distant sirens. Moaning modems and granular glass orchestras whir into life as quickly as they cease. This is a truly immersive experience where the sounds and visuals are inseparable. The eyes and ears can only discern the art and ground themselves by referencing the other sense.”

– Steve Paraskos, Partial Durations, review of perspectives [macro] solo exhibition, December 2013

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“Kynan – a prodigious music-meets-art-meets-science wizard – has been blessing esoterically-inclinced audiences in Australia, Germany and Japan for the last few years with his audiovisual experiments. Tonight he’s offering live iterations of tracks off his latest album, rætina, with Shy Panther bandmate Ben Santostefano accompanying on acoustic drum kit. Kynan himself handles electronics and visuals, using a laptop and his home-made software patches I can’t profess to understand. What I can tell you is that the result is unique, beguiling and uncanny, sitting at the intersection between instrumenta, left-of-leftfield hip hop, electronica noise, melody, and abstract sound art. The familiar sound of drum kit provides a reference point from which to appreciate the curiosity of Kynan’s compositions, emphasizing unusual time signatures, shifts in tempo and accent. Meanwhile Kynan elicits drones, patters, swells, modulations, glitches, clicks and booms to envelop us in an otherworldly gauze of synthetic resonance.”

– Lyndon Blue, Cool Perth Nights, review of Oneohtrix Point Never, Actress & Brilliant Locals @ The Bakery, March 2013

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“a series of audiovisual ‘vignettes,’ that are by turn dramatic, pensive, beautiful, intriguing and confronting”
“I grin with delight. I’m experiencing art and music as not only exciting, but as dangerous, and that hardly ever happens. It’s like I’m hearing Hendrix for the first time or something”
“Kynan’s performance was one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen for a long while”

– Lyndon Blue, Cool Perth Nights, review of ‘fractal shale’ concert – Kynan Tan + Robin Fox, December 2012

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“a celebration of everything great art should be, powerful and confronting, yet thought-provokingly cerebral at the same time”
“The relationship Tan draws between sight and sound always favours the obtuse, while never being entirely unpredictable. This results in a work that immediately and clearly communicates its ideas while playing with the audience and their perceptual expectations. Ultimately, it is Tan’s ability to play with tension and expectation that makes Multiplicity such an original and engaging work”

– Sam Gillies, RealTime, pleasures synaesthetic & crystalline, February 2013

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“Spatialising audio is by now a fairly common technique in new music but spatialised visual material is something I have not seen before. The sound and images here do not merely reflect one another but rather create a sonic-visual counterpoint, constantly in motion toward or away from each other”

– Henry Anderson, RealTime, slippage of sound and sight, September 2011

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“The entire album is more structured than any other release of Tan’s to date, and yet this seems to help him funnel these influences into something truly unique and expressive. From the evolving dark drones and noise bursts of ‘Gleichzeitig’ to the skittering textures of ‘Sleepy Solemn’, everything feels deliberately crafted, the product of an artists vision while exploring the possibilities of sound.”

– Sam Gillies, Cyclic Defrost, review of rætina, May 2012