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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
The oldest of digitalfestivals has returned to its preferred sites at the Ars Electronica Center,the Brucknerhaus, the Lentos and OK Centrum (where another exhibition was beingheld, the Hohenrausch) after a very brief turn at the Tabakfabrik. Meanwhile,the symposium for this 2011 edition, entitled Origin, was organised incollaboration with the CERN.
There is a piece that isso quiet and fragile placed high up at the Ars Electronica Center, protectedfrom the rest of the exhibition by the obscurity of its own environment thatone might easily miss it. “Lost #2” payshomage to pre cinema in a museum dedicated to the most innovative technologies!It is easy to image the artist Ryota Kuwakubo meticulously placing everydayobjects on a horizontal plane. The lights have been turned off so they cannotbe switched on and a small electric train equipped with an electroluminescentdiode converts its close surroundings into a fantastic landscape, evolvingslowly and smoothly like the image of a 35mm projector. It is like this that hetells us a story of a trip based on the contrasts between shadow and light.Rubber erasers depict a city; crayons, which have definitively lost theircolours aligned like standing stones represent a field of obelisks. Fartheralong in time, a simple colander becomes a light dome, while light-bulbs alongthe track look like so many water towers. Then suddenly, the reduced model goesback at great speed along its trajectory. The film is then rewound in fastmode. It is an excellent metaphor for evoking the fact that perhaps in theurgency of imminent death, there are stimuli that can trigger the rewind buttonsfor our entire lives.
Cinema in the end is anaffair of light and until only just recently, it was essentially an affair offilm, if and only if you omit the stories, the emotions, the trends and thestyles. And the filmmaker, Paul Sharits, who has devoted a part of his life tomaking films that flicker, would not deny this. The installation “Continuization Loop” by Wim Janssen, whichis presented at the Cyberart exhibition at the OK Centrum, is an interminable loopof 35mm film where there are only black and white images or frames. From top tobottom, as from bottom to top, they scroll before our eyes one column overanother while alternatively masking the powerful light that is an integral partof the work. The cinematographic installation, even though resolutelyanalogical, could easily contain a message encoded in binary language. But whowould even want to decode it when we are simply captivated, literallyhypnotised by the uninterrupted flow of images of shadows and light. Cinema isalso an affair of scale so one steps back to only see noise in the imagewithout being able to turn away.
Continuing along at the OKCentrum we ask ourselves whether we are allowed to walk through this sculpturethat looks like a corridor at a time when practically every kinetic or minimalpiece, even participative, has become untouchable in the museums that housethem. But it is indeed in walking through this piece that has been judiciouslyentitled Tunnel by the Brazilian duo Cantoni-Crescenti,that it takes on meaning. The ground gradually slips away under our feet whilethe portal frame corresponding to the sunken slats tilts. The body of the workcontorts itself like that of a snake eating its prey. The spectator meanwhileobserves this architectural space that literally becomes fluid as they walkthrough. It is hard not to think of pre-digital special effects when one reliedon ingenuity, or of the art of engineers who build tunnels and bridges thatcombine laws of physics with those of aesthetics. When there are several peoplein it at once, the experience becomes more complex as the participants alsocompete with ingenuity to twist this resolutely participative kinetic sculpturein even more imaginative ways.
There are ideas that aretrendy. So today, the profusion of existing images encourages certain artists tono longer produce new ones. We speak of cinemasampling or found footage, depending on the contexts. The work, The Clock, by Christian Marclay, has tobe linear to be presented in a contemporary art biennale like that of Venice whereasJulian Palacz’, “Algorithmic Search for Love”,is as interactive as it ought to be for a digital art festival like that ofLinz. But there are, in both cases, a vast collection of film sequencesmentioning the hour in The Clock and wordsin Algorithmic Search for Love. Wheretime predominates in the first, it is words that are entered by spectators inthe second piece that are taken into account by the machine that is carryingout the editing it is broadcasting in real time. It is thus samples of I love you, or holy shit that follow one after the other in the image from onefilm to another. Two forms of writing and language are superimposed on oneanother – that of the Austrian artist who created the algorithm and that of themachine carrying out the orders of the public.
Biology in Art
Ars Electronica is amongthe digital art festivals incorporating artistic practices that question theliving. It is in fact one of the reasons for the Golden Nica award for HybridArt that was this year awarded to members of the French collective, Art OrientéObjet. Their project, May the Horse Livein Me, began a few years ago. Since then, Marion Laval-Jeantet hasgradually been preparing to receive the dose of horse immunoglobulins thatBenoit Mangin injected into her at the Kapelica Gallery of Ljubljana, inSlovenia, during the performance of February 22, 2011. We see Marion putting onprostheses so that she can be at eye level with the horse in the video thatdocuments this fusion that goes beyond the symbolic. She even goes as far ascovering the animal’s eye with her hand without it really reacting, so trustingit is during the experiment. Later, she confides having detected in herselfstates she had hitherto not known, well after the momentary rise in her bodytemperature. But what today might the animal part be that the artist’s body hasnot been able to eliminate? At the end of the performance, the artist puts onthe white lab coat again that transforms the human guinea pig she has been intoa scientist in a staging that has been meticulously worked out in advance. WithBenoit Mangin, she looks at the “half blood” he has just sampled from her. The blood of a Centaur!
There are coloured lineson the floor of the OK Centrum. Following them, they indicate the cohabitationof artists from two distinct exhibitions within the same space. This is thecase in the main room that Stefan Banz has flooded to convert into an inlandsea, while the HeHe Collective have placed a scale model of an oil rig there.The title of this second installation, Isthere a horizon in the deep water? reminds us of the recent catastrophe thatpolluted the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is precisely this sad event thatHelen Evans and Heiko Hansen reconstruct with the help of fireworks and smokewhen night falls. We are used to the idea of reconstructing things and everybattle, even the most bloody, has been replayed again and again. One can easilyobtain a miniature Napoleonic soldier or a combat airplane, whereas scalemodels of oil-rigs and nuclear reactors are reserved for the Hollywood filmindustry. Is the general public better prepared for the reconstruction of humanrather than industrial catastrophes? Is there indeed a kind of urgency toforget the errors that we can consequently repeat more easily?
Theory of catastrophe
Even more catastrophes areevoked in the basement of the Lentos occupied by Ralo Mayer. The Austrianartist invites us to resolve the enigmas of fragments coming, one from deepspace in the form of a meteorite that is more than 4 billion years old, and theother from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Then there is this “magnificent”plume of white smoke caused by the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle,without actually reconstituting that of the Columbia on the ground. “Obviously,a major malfunction” caused these two space catastrophes. Perhaps there werealso a few human errors, even minute and therefore comparable to the beating ofa butterfly’s wings, which followed after one another during the assembly ofwhat Ralo Mayer qualifies as the “the most complex piece of machinery ofall times”. Unless we believe, like PaulVirilio, in the inherent potential for catastrophes in inventions themselves because,“Inventing the ship implies inventing the shipwreck, the plane, the crash andthe train the derailment”.
Up above Linz
The other exhibition atthe OK Centrum is entitled Hohenrausch and extends above the rooftops ofbuildings that can be observed from suspended wooden bridges built by the Bow-Wowworkshop. Wandering about like this high above the city, we feel kind of closeto the clouds and our bodies disappear when engulfed by those createdartificially by Fujiko Nakaya. But only the cause is artificial because it isjust water vapour from atomisers being dispersed around the spectators. TheJapanese artist has thus been sculpting clouds whose only artifice is themechanism that creates them since her world premier in 1970 at the universalexhibition of Osaka. But what a pleasure it is to disappear here, to reappearthere, and to play with this artificial nature. What an intense pleasure it isbecoming hypersensitive to every little sound as soon as we find ourselvestemporarily in a fog. And one’s head becomes lighter by the body’s disappearancewhile the hands ceaselessly reach out to scrutinize the invisible and theunknown. Half submerged, it is the visible part of the world that we observe,just like the Wanderer Above the Sea ofFog by Caspar David Friedrich.
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