Watching a video of “|¦¦|,” a “collision event” installation by Armin Keplinger
By Otis Chatzistefanou, December 16, Berlin 2014
On the 6th of December, at Lehrter Siebzehn, “unrender: the beauty of impermanence” was the third in a series of exhibitions organized by the in-house curatorial duo of Stefanie Greimel and Johanna Wallenborn, who operate as SEEMS professional, in collaboration with Create Digital Music/Motion.
The show featured installations by Armin Keplinger, onformative w/ Frouke ten Velden & Nick Verstand, Jan Goldfuß, Studio Twins and Gaspar Battha, as well as audiovisual performances by Abe Pazos, James Leahy, Ramin Soleymani, Raphaël de Courville, Fredrik Olofsson, akkamiau aka hiT͟Hərˈto͞o, Klara Ravat & Circuit Splash, electr°cute (Pani K), Peter Kirn, Andreas Krach and David Abravanel.
“Patterns of Harmony” by Gaspar Battha, Mirrored projection mapping installation, 2014
The common denominator of all agents that participated in this one-night event is a preoccupation with technology in dialogue with art, or techno-art, for want of a better terminology, a conceptual plateaux that is currently dominating the discourse about contemporary creativity.
This preponderance of technologically invested art shown and discussed on an unprecedented frequency today is also a reminder that technology in itself is a parameter too generalized for incisive critical language. This imprecise infinity of what the concept of technology signifies ultimately impedes the accurate delineation and analysis of the formal and theoretical territories mapped by the work practices, research goals and intellectual or aesthetic investigations in evidence in a show like “Unrender: the beauty of impermanence”.
The form of the work presented assumes the form and disciplinary logic that is dictated by the “non-artistic” strands of their creative DNA, i.e. the scientific processes, technological hardware, digital software and all manners of production technicalities necessary for the existence of each piece. The conceptual content though must be examined beyond the blueprints, calculations and measurements.
In order to overcome the dazzle of technical savoir faire and cut through the laboratory jargon one must, if only momentarily, ignore the rigorous rationality and allow interpretation to ricochet randomly down the multiple mirrored corridors created when such vast gnostic territories as technology and art collide. The multiplicity of meanings generated from a momentary suspension of awe in the presence of technical achievement unveils a plethora of philosophical questions whose force ultimately transcends the limited understanding of the work shown as merely beautiful technical achievements.
“Patterns of Harmony”, a projection mapping installation by Gaspar Battha, manifests itself as an elaborate 3D meta-screen illuminated by codified meditations about quantum physics, optics and geometry. It’s as much a result of the research informing its quasi-scientific quest for beauty, as it also is a spectacular totemic object announcing the potential of machines to achieve the sublime object status of sculptures, their material nature dispensing with usefulness and existing independently of any extraneous role assigned to them.
At first glance “Patterns of Harmony” is a powerful aesthetic statement, emanating a soothing, appropriately clinical, grey glow as its internal mirrored structure blooms in the dark like a mesmerizing alien ornament, filling the room with its sumptuous phospholuminescence. The projection lens/screen hangs suspended, gong-like, at a hypnotic eye-level height, its innards animated by the geometrically defined reflections of mirrored pyramids whose edges refract a pre-programmed laser beam.
The assumption that commodification should be the sole purpose of engineering is, perhaps unwittingly, questioned by “Patterns of Harmony” in a manner reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical lion, which also magically embodied both wonder and dilemma. Both pieces establish themselves as a luxurious aesthetic experience, dazzling their audience with a fascinatingly complicated mechanism which animates an automaton. Their sole purpose is ostensibly art, which amounts to a declaration of technology itself as a form of art kept too long under the oppressive regime of necessity. Ultimately, both pieces can also be understood as a particularly subtle comment about power and its ability to dictate the applications of technological sophistication, perhaps presenting beauty as a shield behind which the critical apparatus of science is fighting against its servitude to utilitarianism.
When questioned about the imposingly seductive aura of “Patterns of Harmony” and particularly about its formal dimensions, Gaspar Battha answered: “I had a very long process of researching quantum physics, etc. and was actually struggling a lot with finding a form that contains every little idea that was in my head. Eventually I came to a decision not to make it very didactic or not to make it didactic at all…it is the aesthetic that is important, I took all the weird beauty that I found in nature and science and built the shape upon the unity of them.”
Entirely different enunciations of beauty in nature could be witnessed in other works exhibited at the Unrender show.
“|¦¦|” by Armin Keplinger is a graceful video depicting the orchestrated collision between two vertically suspended mirrors confronting each other until they are left to swing, meet for a split second of perfect linear alignment, then smash and disappear in a cloud of glittering shards. An explosive event illustrating the principle of action=reaction, the mechanical drama unfolding in high-res super-slow motion is as much a poetic illustration of basic laws of physics but can also be observed as a admonishment against the inevitable dead-end met when lost in the endless corridors of vacuous self-reflection. After all, two mirrors reflecting each other are the most immediate visualization of infinity known to us, their empty self-regard endlessly iterating its independence from idols.
“Symmetrical essence (of a point cloud)” by Jan Goldfuß observes, from three different perspectives, millions of pixels representing water molecules that are encased in a spherical volume with a gravitational point in its center. The languid formations that the “molecules” create as they influence each other progressively diverge from symmetry to chaos, demonstrating the inherent momentum of complex systems. Solemn, vertical and monochrome the three views of this artificial yet dynamic field of interactions reads like a telegraphic statement about the impossibility of predicting and prescribing order. They also defy the validity of any static representation, ultimately making a case for any fixed form, and the idea it is extrapolated from, as nothing more than the frozen evidence of a process decontextualized through the editorial concerns of subjective observation.
“Symmetrical Essence (of a Point Cloud)” by Jan Goldfuß (installation preview)
“Anima 2”, an interactive installation by Onformative with Nick Verstand & Frouke Ten Velden, is the second version of a sphere (the first was shown in Amsterdam) whose surface changes according to the movements and sounds made by onlookers, as they are interpreted by motion sensors and translated as audiovisual projections that fluctuate according to the varying environmental stimuli, animating the surface of the orb with patterns reminiscent of sci-fi planetary surfaces. A simple yet effective installation demonstrating the real – and reciprocal – impact of digital technology on our immediate surroundings, the piece also has a playful attitude to the issue of surveillance, suggesting that whatever we might choose to project on any surface, including ours, the control of consequences remains out of grasp.
ANIMA 1 – by Nick Verstand, onformative, Frouke ten Velden
“Saltation 010” by Studio Twins & Romain Ronflette takes the humble shape of a rock-like formation that projects abstract films when a trigger hidden within is activated through movement. The title is a geological term based on the Latin word for “leap”, signifying the gravity-defying momentum achieved by particles when swept by the wind. Again, the recurrent and mutual relationships between humans and nature are mirrored in a technological arrangement that demands contemplation beyond the perfunctory appreciation of its mechanical wizardry.
“Noise Film Test 3.1” by Klara Ravat
The sound-artists performing at the “Unrender” show share an experimental background in the fields of recording production and studio technology, obviously informing their intricate mind games created by mostly custom or self-designed software and hardware whose performance is dependent on fluctuating human interaction and environmental influence. Their practices and results, fluid and non-linear though meticulously specific, regard music in the same way man-made sounds relate to the natural sonic; that is, they remain inspired yet divergent, getting bolder the further away they remove themselves from the source and travel to the outer reaches of their widely dispersed repercussions.