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by Dominique Moulon [ May 2009 ]
The ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) of Karlsruhe is incontestably the most important international Centre for Art and Media while the Berlin art and digital culture festival Transmediale draws artists, performers, curators and critics from around the world each year.

spacerBetween surveillance and celebrity


Marie Sester,
“ACCESS”, 2003.
spacerWhen you cross the threshold of the ZKM in Karlsruhe, you are taking the risk of being selected by Marie Sester’s installation entitled “ACCESS”. It then becomes impossible to detach yourself from the beam of light that follows each of your movements. Visitors amuse themselves by trying to escape the beam by going forward, backward, running, only to realise that there is but one way to escape: moving outside the installation’s camera field. Some return to the light, already missing the fifteen minutes of celebrity Andy Warhol predicted we would all enjoy. Others, anxious of preserving their privacy, flee this invasion that reminds them of video surveillance systems that have spread round our cities and are now even creeping into the countryside. But the artist’s work continues on the Web as it is also possible to choose one among the targets “ACCESS” proposes on line. You can then lie in wait behind your screen, tasting the power of deciding who will be spotted by the light, as it is very difficult to resist the temptation of such a click.

spacerShadows and light

1st Light

Paul Chan,
1st Light”, 2005,
© Jean Vong
spacerPeter Weibel, the director of ZKM, got together with Boris Groys to conceive the “Medium Religion” exhibition by suggesting that “religions have moved from the private sphere of personal belief out into the public sphere of visual communication”. The New York artist Paul Chan exhibited “1st Light”, a piece from 2005, on the bare ground. What we see in the rectangle of light that is video projected are the shadows that evoke Plato’s allegory of the cave. A telephone pole, a streetlamp and wires structure the image in which a flock of birds fly away. But what are these birds flying away from? Perhaps an explosion that silently scatters the silhouette of everyday objects into the air as though in slow motion. We see train wagons, vehicles, a scooter, a bicycle, a pair of glasses and cell phones. And in the opposite direction, we see human beings who, unable to escape gravity, pass briefly through the image during their fall. In these images we are reminded of the horror of those who leapt from the towers of the World Trade Centre to escape the flames of 9/11.

spacerFantastic voyage


Daniel Canogar,
2001, © Vegap.
spacerThe curators Claudia Giannetti and Antonio Franco, along with Peter Weibel, created the exhibition “Arts in Spain, The Discreet Charm of Technology” which focuses on five themes. The first, entitled "Acting on the Formal Code”, is dedicated to research dating from the end of the Middle Ages by the Catalonian Ramon Llull who is considered today to be the precursor of combinatory logic. The second part begins with the scientific work of Ramon y Cajal whose contributions to microphotography enabled the development of a theory on neurons that would revolutionise the neurosciences. It is naturally in this zone of the exhibition that we discover the installation “Teratologías” by Daniel Canogar who also reveals the invisible by projecting human microorganisms on the walls. Spectators are thus immersed in an environment of viruses, bacteria and other parasites whose colourful lights are no less seductive for all that. We become here like part of the crew of Proteus, the submarine that was miniaturised in the film “Fantastic Voyage” by Richard Fleisher, injected into the blood stream of a human as a foreign body.

spacerWaves and wavelets


Daniel Palacios Jiménez,
“Waves”, 2006, © Rubra.
spacerNot far from Daniel Canogar’s installation is an “interactive sculpture” that can almost be described as “Low Tech”, triggered by foot like a lot of Jean Tinguély’s pieces. A long cord starts to spin and with the help of retinal persistence, a number of images come to mind. What looks like a jump rope to begin with turns into a wave that becomes many waves as it grows smaller. The immaterial three dimensional shape that develops before our eyes evokes the inherent perfection of computer generated images while the interlacing of the curves photographed by the artist himself remind us of the print negatives of the 1950’s, themselves analogical of the work of Ben Laposky. The cord of the “Waves” installation by Daniel Palacios Jiménez, also generates sounds by beating the air so that we perceive the sound of wind. The piece also reacts to its close environment when it pulls free from the agitation of spectators as though to defend itself from the possible threat of outside elements.

spacerPoints of view

Anar-hi anant

Eugènia Balcells,
“Anar-hi anant”,
2000, © Vegap.
spacerPoint of view is not an exclusively Spanish issue, though Diego Velasquez, who painted “Las Meninas” in 1657, explored it very thoroughly. Eugènia Balcells’ installation “Anar-hi Anant” is grasped differently according to one’s position in space. Right from the entrance we see the projection of an abstract video sequence that is all reflections and sparkles. It seems to repeat itself according to the loops that are nonetheless, slightly different. And then there is the sound whose graininess, like the repeating images, evokes the incessant movement of waves breaking on a shore. Penetrating this installation means entering the image through our projected shadows. Getting to the bottom of the installation provides us with answers to our questions. We discover that the image is nothing more than the rotation of a water drinking fountain shot through by the light of a projector. As for the sound of the sea, it is made by the movement of glass beads inside plastic water bottles that are also rotating. At times, imagination clashes with understanding.

spacerThe Great North

The Ice Cube Project

Marco Evaristti,
“The Ice Cube Project”,
spacerBy calling this 2009 edition of the Transmediale Festival “Deep North”, Stephen Kovats is making an allusion to the “intense fragility and inherent instability of human interaction with global systems”. Art in extreme milieu and global warming however count among the main themes addressed at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. So we are hardly surprised to find Marco Evaristti’s photographic series “The Ice Cube Project” there. In 2004 the Danish artist brought together a team of fifteen people to paint the visible surface of an iceberg in Greenland red with a pigment similar to what is used for food colouring using a fire hose. In 1969, the viscosity of the orange glue that the Land artist Robert Smithson poured onto the ground in Vancouver was only a reference to the colours inherent in American Colourfield Painting. Today, the red used by Marco Evaristti operates more as a warning. The practices are similar but the times, along with the climate, have also changed.

spacerNuclear winter

Post Global Warming Survival Kit

Petko Dourmana,
“Post Global Warming Survival Kit”, 2008.
spacerThe general lowering of temperatures of the nuclear winter presented by Petko Dourmana constitute an alternative, which is horrifying at the very least, to global warming. Once equipped with infrared binoculars, the installation “Post Global Warming Survival Kit” by the Bulgarian artist is explored in total darkness. Your eyes are thus subject to your arm’s stamina as the only way to see the shoreline, video projected right on the wall, is with infrared technology. In the centre of the room there is a sort of caravan inside which we discover an arsenal of objects for survival and communications following a cataclysm. As the arms tire rapidly, you try to do without the binoculars. But the total darkness is soon unbearable. Our field of vision limited by the prosthesis restricts us in our movements within this narrow outfitted vehicle. Human beings have always adapted to the most extreme environments even when it isn’t they who have chosen or created them.

spacerGlobal cinema

Man With A Movie Camera:  The Global Remake

Perry Bard,
“Man With A Movie Camera:
The Global Remake”, 2007.
spacerLastly, there is a film entitled “Man With A Movie Camera: The Global Remake” that provides a hint of hope for our capacity to collaborate as citizens of the world through the resolutely participative procedure it stems from. It is a film whose editing evolves day after day according to the sequences Internet surfers post on the server. The documentary, “Man With a Movie Camera”, by Dziga Vertov, occupies the left side, while the right is devoted to the interpretation of this work of the Russian filmmaker by the participants of this “Global Remake”. It is Perry Bard who is behind this proposition pairing images separated by eighty years through a database that supplies the automatic editorial application specifically developed for this. The American artist asks herself on the project’s site: “What images translate the world today?” before continuing with: “Instead of the mining scene, if you’re living in Silicon Valley you might film inside Apple headquarters.”

Written by Dominique Moulon for "Images Magazine" and translated by Geoffrey Finch for "newmediaart.eu", this article is also available in French on "nouveauxmedias.net".