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ZKM, Transmediale, Ikeda and Bartholl
TodaysArt, Almost Cinema and STRP
The Ars Electronica Festival in Linz
54th Venice Biennial
Elektra, Montreal, 2011
Pixelache, Helsinki, 2011
Transmediale, Berlin, 2011
The STRP festival of Eindhoven
Ars Electronica repairs the world
Festivals in the Île-de-France
More blog entries
Juha Huuskonen founded Pixelache in Helsinki in 2002. Since then, a truly international network has emerged around it. The curator, Mathieu Marguerin along with Kevin Bartoli, one of the members of the RYbN group, have prepared the French version, Mal au Pixel, which will take place in Paris next June. But lets first return to the latest edition of the Finnish festival, which was held primarily on the Suomenlinna Islands in March 2011.
Cartography and territories
Strange shapes appear on the maps that are video projected behind the independent curator Susanne Jaschko when she opens the symposium “Map me if you will”. They are the graphic and animated works of the members of the Jodi Duo, of whom we can know but little if we content ourselves with visiting their website, because one is quickly lost in the depths of code. They are in fact more involved in creating than in documenting their hackings of operating systems, video games or Web services. Going to the address “globalmove.us” amounts to observing the map of a territory of which we know nothing because it is the machine that chooses in our stead. We can make out a seafloor here and a desert there. But the place itself matters little, as it is the Google Map icons that create a design, one icon after the other. The application the artists have appropriated is extremely precise, moving the map within the window of the browser like the non-drawing hand does. Here it is the entire planet that passes under our eyes, while the gatherings of icons cover territories that are so vast they would satisfy the most ambitious Land Artists.
All the participants of the symposium, on the initiative of Christian Nold, have a privileged relationship with maps or territories. Nold, after having mapped the emotions of ordinary people during the experiences of “Bio Mapping”, has taken an interest in local currencies. He grew up in Lewes, in Sussex, and currently lives in Brixton in the south of London. He is therefore familiar with local currencies like the Lewes and Brixton Pounds. But it was in a quarter of Amsterdam, the Bijlmer, that Christian Nold decided to track every little exchange of a novel form of money with a view to mapping it. The idea he came up with to achieve this was to temporarily stick the RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) microchips from used transport tickets on to five and ten euro notes. Each chip is unique so these bills, thus transmuted into Bijlmer Euros, can be scanned by participating merchants who can offer reductions to those in possession of this local currency. The interactive maps that result from the movements of such bills show the potential for possible associations between local businesses at a time when we are more and more sensitive to the carbon footprint of the products we consume.
You have to go from one island to another, though without leaving the maritime fortress of Suomenlinna, which is classed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, to get to the Augusta Gallery. Passing through the entrance to the exhibition means hearing the sound of the Computer Numerical Control, CNC, around which Vincent Guimas from the Ars Longa Gallery, members of the Studio Lo group and the designer Sten Ridarch are busying themselves. Their collective project follows in line with the concept of the fabrication laboratory, fablab, which sprang from the course “How To Make (Almost) Anything” at MIT. The objects they design together with the help of their fabbot are documented on the site of the laboratory site magazine, “maglab.fr.” Among these is a strange wooden brick entitled “Decision Maker” with a hole bored through its upper part. The metallic marble one drops into the hole has to make its way through the inner twists and turns the machine has memorised and drilled, which is hollowed out in the front so as to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the decision one should or should not take. “Should I speak to this young artist who appears to be bombarded by his metal creatures?”
The little robots that gesticulate at the feet of Niki Passath, their designer, evoke spiders. And yet it is Leonardo da Vinci’s automated lion that inspired this Austrian artist. “My little things”, as he affectionately refers to them, are equipped with only one bit of memory. This makes them the least intelligent robots in the world as they only know how to go forward or backward. However, spectators easily ascribe them all kinds of intentions, notably when they seem to insistently “rub” up against them. But they can move around on snow where humans would be engulfed. They are even able to reach Helsinki without breaking the layer of ice that covers the Baltic Sea at this time of year. They would “survive” all kinds of catastrophes that might befall us or wipe us out. As for Leonardo’s lion, he disappeared a long time ago, but it is said that he stopped in front of François 1st and offered him a fleur de Lys.
We now leave Suomenlinna to return to the continent, to Helsinki, where there are places such as the Muu Gallery that are associated with the festival. The “Computational Photography” exhibition brings together the work of eight artists and among them are Andreas Schmelas and Stefan Stubbe. They have come up with a rather unusual camera that they leave freely in the hands of the spectators. The subjects photographed recognise themselves in the projected video image, though there is something monstrous in their faces. The camera, which is equipped with a facial recognition application, incrusts the smiles of other people in real time so that everyone is smiling. It makes one think of family and political reunions where good humour is obligatory, especially when pictures are being taken. The trafficked images of these young German artists also remind us of the forced smiles of those who have undergone plastic surgery. Not to mention as the French ad says, “Sony la fait”, as they have now added an automatic smile detector to their most recent cameras.
From the South to the North
At the Myymälä2 Gallery, the fourth edition of the “Signals from the South” programme is devoted to Jean Katambayi Mukendi. He is exhibiting three pieces expressive of notions tied to energy. “Simulen” addresses the dangerous manual manipulations the inhabitants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must make to re-connect their electricity, whose voltage is among the most unstable. During his presentation, the artist goes back to his childhood to explain his interest in numbers, his immoderate use of carton and his knowledge of metals and electricity. The installation “Ecoson” is even more complex. It establishes a relationship between nature and energy. On a map where the continents have been reorganised, a matrix of electro-luminescent diodes is connected to an assemblage of jars containing various organic materials. The public is encouraged to grab hold of a handle to activate the work through a set-up created by the artist. But we are acting upon a representation of the world without realising it, without knowing the consequences of our operations while our cell phones, among other gadgets, burst with components that necessitate the extraction of minerals, which are not without consequence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Noise and musicality
When the evening comes, the festival-goers all meet at the Club Dubrovnik where Yann Leguay gives his performance entitled “Quasi Static Crack Propagation”. The French artist is equipped with pick-ups for vinyl records and tracks, on stage, the sounds that would ordinarily worry us if they were coming from our hard-drives. Sound loops mix with the rhythm of the record’s revolutions and other tape-recorders. Throughout the performance, he meticulously positions and repositions the pick-ups, thus capturing the little sound accidents that, when repeated, participate in a definitively electronic brand of music. We are inevitably reminded of John Cage’s sound experiments where randomness was an essential element and his advice that, “If a sound annoys you, listen to it”. As for the spectators who do not see the gestures of the instrumentalist, they are instantly submerged in a sonic maelstrom where all the sounds seem to be right, without any superfluous expression.
It would be quite unreasonable to go all the way to Helsinki and not visit its Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kiasma, where the exhibition devoted to Saara Ekström also brings up questions of unpredictability. The countless small-sized plastic discs of the installation entitled “Disturbance” are subject to the incessant flow of air being blown by two fans. Their shapes change like the surface of a tranquil pond when the wind blows gently upon its surface. There is no gust of wind, not even the time to recognise anything figurative at all. Lastly there is “Dust” where dust moves about in a projected video image that appears to have been unfolded like a Rorshach test. As soon as a shape appears, another with its own symmetry replaces it. The work has the look of a vast mandala that would seem to evolve without any human presence. Unless it were that of the spectators who are powerless to even hold the dust, in the image, which seems to be subjected to some kind of magnetic force, and is therefore invisible by definition.
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