Acting at the End of the World: Ed Fornieles at Galerie Wedding, Berlin

Ed Fornieles is interested in the ways that people create and inhabit identities. How susceptible are we to importing preordained, packaged identities? And how vulnerable are we to fantasies and stories morphing into our existing selves? These questions surface time and again in Fornieles’ multidimensional practice. Over the last decade, he has thrown frat parties, fabricated lovable cartoon characters, and created a Facebook sitcom that entails case studies in the mechanics of identity formation. His recent body of work titled SIM Vol 1. includes a series of simulations done over a five-month period with a group of four young people.

When initially viewing Test Studies (2017), a film in which the participants reflect on the experience, one might guess they were immersed in a VR simulation. In fact, the youths were simply having a conversation and role-playing, while seated around a table with Fornieles acting as “Project Director.” Building on simple suggestions made by Fornieles, the participants made the imagined scenarios dimensional. Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenarios were chosen as starting points, because of their inherent opportunities for re-examining the world and pushing participants to their ethical breaking points.

“With the alien invasion,” Fornieles explains, “I started off the session with a simple statement, ‘several months ago, an unusual object was spotted in the sky,’ and asked them to describe it. Everything else in the scenario came from them.” The youths’ testimonials reveal just how real this imaginary world became.

“The act of killing her—I wanted to keep it as non-messy as possible,” one participant recalls as she describes murdering a little girl to ensure the safety of the group. “It was strange because she was in such an innocent situation: she was playing… I felt a sense of relief; she felt like a source of danger.” Another participant describes the death of her father from a flu epidemic, followed by her own death.

In the gallery, a manual accompanies the film with detailed instructions on how anyone can stage such simulations at home. “Even if it’s premised on very violent circumstances,” Fornieles notes, “simulating these scenarios can help people to reflect on their moral, ethical parameters, and perhaps do things differently after this reflection.”

Ed Fornieles’ Test Studies (the film) and SIM Vol.1 (the manual) are on view until July 15th, 2018 at Galerie Wedding in Berlin, as part of the group exhibition, “I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes.” Upcoming exhibitions include two large-scale immersive performances, “Absolute Community” at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin from July 13th-15th, 2018, and “The Group” at the Athens Biennale on October 24th, 2018.

Ed Fornieles, Test Studies, 2017, looped HD video (18:17 minutes). (Displayed on a split screen with participant interviews on the left and computer generated imagery on the right). Exhibition Documentation by Trevor Lloyd. Courtesy of Galerie Wedding.

Ed Fornieles, Test Studies, 2017, looped HD video (18:17 minutes). Exhibition Documentation by Trevor Lloyd. Courtesy of Galerie Wedding.

Ed Fornieles, Test Studies, 2017, looped HD video (18:17 minutes) and Sim. Vol.1: Existential Risk, 2017, A4 Book 30 x 21 cm. Ed Fornieles, Test Studies, 2017, looped HD video (18:17 minutes). Exhibition Documentation by Trevor Lloyd. Courtesy of Galerie Wedding.