Eva and Franco Mattes

Carroll / Fletcher
56 - 57 Eastcastle Street
June 10, 2016–August 27, 2016

View of “Eva and Franco Mattes,” 2016.

Who watches the watchers? It’s an interesting question in the context of Brooklyn-based Italian duo Eva & Franco Mattes’s investigation into the seedier side of the Internet. Their current exhibition takes on the darknet, the so-called Wild West of the digital realm, where all manner of illicitness and nightmare hide. In the video series “Dark Content,” 2016, the artists interview workers who spend their days as gatekeepers, scrubbing the Internet in a Sisyphean effort to remove beheadings, cat killings—you know the score. Rendered anonymous through voice-altering software and stock images, their harrowing tales are relayed in jarringly emotionless tones. These people mostly work alone, with little to no psychological support. The majority of these pieces, displayed in the front gallery, broadcasting from the undersides of overturned office furniture, resemble the aftermath of one big desk flip. It is an awesome wasteland, depicting what could happen should any of these invisible sentinels be pushed over the edge by all the poison they’re forced to absorb endlessly.

There is, however, playfulness: “Image Search Result,” 2014–, provides us with screenshots from the artists’ browsing histories, emblazoned onto cheap novelty products. And nearby, we encounter a group of screens (“By Everyone for No One Everyday [BEFNOED],” 2013–15) showing people performing random tasks requested by the artists, such as feeding fish strapped to their naked torsos. You laugh at these fools, huh? Well, with the works placed or angled oddly, the artists have you performing, too: gamboling around on your tiptoes, or belly up, back against the gallery floor. The Matteses have created a bracing display—clever, witty, and wholly disturbing. If you dare enter this cave of twenty-first-century wonders, just remember: Ceiling cat sees everything.

Anna Wallace-Thompson