Concretely Immaterial

Eloi Puig, Thomson & Craighead, Geoff Lucas, Samuel Cepeda, Nina Czegledy & Marcus Neustetter, Darko Fritz, Andreja Kulunčić, Edita Pecotić, Transfer, Goran Trbuljak
25. 07. 2011. - 11. 09. 2011.
Kustos/i: Darko Fritz, Geoff Lucas
U suradnji sa: HICA Highland Institute for Contemporary Art
Potpora: The Henry More Foundation, kor::net (Korčula Network)

Gradski muzej Korčula, HICA Highland Institute for Contemporary Art
Izložba u dva protora: u Korčuli, od 25. srpnja do 7. kolovoza, i u HICA u Škotskoj, od 14. kolovoza do 11. rujna 2011.

HICA, the Highland Institut za suvremenu umjetnost, Inverness-shire, Škotska i siva) (zona - prostor suvremene i medijske umjetnosti, Korčula zajednički su ostvarili grupnu izložbu Concretely Immaterial.

U Korčuli se predstavljaju radovi umjetnika: Eloi Puig (Španjolska), Thomson i Craighead (Velika Britanija) i Geoff Lucas (Velika Britanija).

HICA predstavlja slijedeće umjetnike i radove: Samuel Cepeda (Meksiko), Nina Czegledy (Kanada) i Marcus Neustetter (Južnoafrička republika), Darko Fritz (Hrvatska), Andreja Kulunčić (Hrvatska), Edita Pecotić (Hrvatska), Transfer (HRT, Hrvatska) i Goran Trbuljak (Hrvatska).

Izložba istražuje fizičku narav misli, nematerijalnog i virtualnog. Virtualna stanja i procesi uključeni su u raznim vidovima u umjetničkim djelima, posebno kroz računalne tehnologije. U skladu s naslovom 'konkretno nematerijalnog', izložba ispituje realnost tih procesa, kao što su učinci umjetničkih radova u galerijskim i drugim prostorima te iskustvo gledatelja. Takav proces možemo uočiti na primjeru instalacije Darka Fritza '204_NO_CONTENT' koja je napravljena od kaktusa i vulkanske lave a proizašla iz tekstualne poruke o grešci u internetskoj komunikaciji.

Obje galerije, HICA i siva) (zona svoj redovni izložbeni program ostvaruju na udaljenim lokacijama (HICA na planini a siva) (zona na periferiji Korčule), gdje dio gledatelja doživljava njihov program kroz elektronske medije, a ne kroz fizičku prisutnost razgledavanja izložaba.

Odnos tjelesnosti i misli također je istražena u umjetničkim radovima. Samuel Cepeda u radu 'Oblaci nemaju naciju' usporedno provlači naše znaje o stvarnosti i fizičkoj prirodi oblaka, o kojoj znanost ima poteškoća u određivanju. Rad 'Temporary Internet Files' Edite Pecotić su time-lapse video zapisi koji kroz pretvarajući krajolik prikazuju različite slojeve informacija, i pravi i virtualni. Nina Czegledy i Marcus Neustetter kroz umjetničku knigu iz projekta 'Visual Collider' odnose se na Large Hadron Collider, najmoćniji svjetski akcelerator čestica i kvantnih učinaka. Njihov je cilj stvaranje analognih reakcija otvorenih za gledatelja, stvarajući neizvjesne odgovore kroz uspredne fotografske slike. Vrijeme, kao bitan aspekt ovog odnosa, ističe uprojektu 'Komercijalizacija povijesti' Andreje Kulunčić koji uključuje stanovnike i posjetitelje Korčule i njihov stav prema gradu kroz povijest, te rad Geoffa Lucasa, animirani tekst nastao obzirom na slike Jacksona Pollocka konkretizirajući individualne radnje u vremenu i prostoru.


Essay by Sarah Cook

“I couldn’t believe you could get from there to here in such a short time”
Sarah Cook

In an age of hyper-global biennials and swingeing cuts to government funding for education and the arts, it feels peculiar to be one of very few people on the planet to have been fortunate enough to visit and feel that I know personally two ‘remote’ artist-run spaces, the Highland Institute for Contemporary Art in Scotland and Grey)(Area in Croatia, as part of my academic research work and art euro-jet-set tendencies. Both are venues in areas of seemingly intense tourism, but complicated to find – sites which must be sought out because of an interest or personal connection, or because their online manifestations and publication activities have come across one’s radar. Both are sites of experimentation; places where it is understood that art is instigated, supported, and realized in a spirit of interpersonal conversation and exchange. They are places that ask you to take your time in being there, to stay awhile.

The exhibitions that these two venues mounted together and apart (separated by a week or so rather than simultaneously in both countries) brought artworks connected with the programmes of each of these spaces into the other’s building. But it is more complicated than that. None of the artists actually got to see their work in the other’s space. Grey)(Area’s show of work from HICA had to be held in a third, borrowed, building due to changes in availability of its usual more out-of-the-way venue. Both included artworks by their artist-founders-organisers, Darko Fritz and Geoff Lucas (or artist-curators as they might wish to be known). But mostly, the works in these two separate exhibitions manifest exactly the conditions described above: the mediation of place through technology, or through the network.

The programme of HICA has been in part based on Hegelian ideas of concrete content, of what could be understood as the “conceptually concrete” – not the medium but materiality itself. The activities of Grey)(Area, while based on Darko Fritz’s longstanding connections to artists and curators working with conceptual media spaces, are about bringing people into material contact with the ad-hoc conditions of temporary exhibition-making. Given this partnership, it would be easy to suppose that works of art that address technological networks might themselves be immaterial, but those selected for exhibition disputed this. As Geoff has written, the works demonstrated a “less apparent order of materiality … our title for the show developed from feeling there wasn’t an appropriate word for this, i.e. immaterial, insubstantial, intangible, etc., all seem the wrong implications.”

For instance, I was particularly glad to see, spread across a table at HICA, the collaborative bookwork by Nina Czegledy and Marcus Neustetter, Visual Collider. The piece is a lovely manifestation of a remote working exchange process. Not to be deterred by lack of access to expensive and high-tech equipment for the collaborative creation of new media art, nor the geographic distance between their respective locations of Canada and South Africa, the artists used digital photography, and email, to exchange key words and images, resulting in a concertina-ed and Mobius-looping image stream, evoking the exchange of particles, spun at high speeds, around the Large Hadron Collider, below the feet of those on the continent of Europe. As a book work, the piece doesn’t need a steady supply of electricity to circulate, a physical consideration of the politically-charged and site-specific work that Marcus Neustetter makes, and a metaphoric consideration in the work that Nina Czegledy makes, fascinated as she is by the electromagnetosphere we inhabit. Similarly the physical materialities of the network were brought to light in Transfer’s Theoretical Films, single channel videos (experiments, rants, poems) glitchily collected together and shown, untranslated, on a compilation tape, divorced from their television broadcast context. Looking at both of these works, one felt an outsider, witness to a live process, recorded for posterity, disseminated after the fact. Both of these works suggested a certain economy of production, a physical system determining what particular forms might take shape, where the content necessitated its concrete form (if you’ll pardon my riff on Geoff’s take on Hegel).

“Every node is thus in principle always a transmitter-receiver, whether on the simple connection level of the Internet or on the level of applications that make interpersonal communication possible.” – Armin Medosch

While it was a deliberate conceit of the curatorial exchange that visitors would have to imagine the physical other half of the show, with the help of the medium of the web, one wonders if this provocation was a kind of prop to hang these ideas of the concrete and the immaterial from – as, after all, viewers almost always have to imagine the ‘other half’ of the art work – its creation. Furthermore, works that are made from networks, or exist within networks, are nevertheless physically-sited, and conditioned by protocols, hardware, software and the ‘wetware’ of the minds and bodies of those who are experiencing them. For Darko Fritz to emblazon the familiar internet-surfing message 204 No Content (other of his works feature the ubiquitous 404 File Not Found) across a mountainside, many people had to labour under hot sun to plant the vegetation in which it was written. For Andrea Kuluncic to create her text, photo and video archive about the island of Korcula, where Grey)(Area is based, she spent many long and tiring days in the open market talking to passers-by about tourism, and trading their stories for strange tatty objects on which she had printed excerpts from the island’s peculiar ancient constitution that in theory refutes the commercial impulses the island economy now thrives upon. Paradoxically it was Andrea’s project, titled Commercialization of the history, which was the most “popular” of Grey)(Area’s programme that year, with a large number of curators and artists choosing to travel to Korcula, to participate in it, and, by extension, in the tourist economy.

Thus, what role does economics play in these technologically savvy artworks, and in how their successive remote showings are manifest? Is economics here also a kind of system determining the reconciliation of content to form? Low-cost flights from across Europe to the coastal islands of Croatia are in contrast to relatively expensive train journeys to the Highlands of Scotland, where cars are needed to go the last few miles. But working at home in your studio, which might consist of nothing more than your laptop, internet connection and coffee pot, frees you from having to live in the expensive central cities of the artworld. Looking at these works as they are distributed or documented online costs you little but time. Drawing physical audiences to far-flung venues for contemporary art has historically relied on critical mass – a biennial as an economic turnaround for a post-industrial, or underdeveloped geographic area. Is it possible for a single (by which I mean unique, individual or standalone), mostly seasonal, ad hoc and personally-subsidised art project to participate in these global economies? Do we have to think at a different scale? For both of these boutique spaces, more than ten people at the opening is a fair turnout.

In this regard one could consider the different projects from Korcula presented in Inverness-shire as not so much of their place but in contradistinction to the idea of place at all, functioning in a fluid, critical questioning of the economics of place. HICA and Grey)(Area as venues, for all their excruciatingly picturesque sited-ness (two perfect holiday destinations), tend in their activities to almost ignore, or exist irrespective of, their settings. Grey)(Area makes no effort to market itself to the hoards of tourists descending from the cruise ships, as, for the curator, that is not what the project is about. Those visitors who embrace the setting while visiting the venue – who hike in the hills, jump in the loch, swim in the sea, wander the cobbled streets – do so because they want to spend their money and time doing so, and because of their networked connections to the people, the organisers and the artists, as a by-product of being in the place.

Is this last claim true? As I write and reflect back, I wonder if I am making it up; my memory is hazy with the pleasures of having been half on vacation in my visits to each place, and later refreshed by re-reading information online and on screen about the exhibitions. As with all things in our so-called modern world, the myriad ways in which experience is mediated by technology are not to be discounted. A few of the works which were ‘exchanged’ and shown in Croatia were ones in which the work itself was mediated or, more concretely, processed through technology, witnessed on screen. And yet the works were actually embodied and sited within their screening conditions, as it were (as opposed to being work which takes place elsewhere and is documented through technology, as in many of the works from Grey)(Area shown at HICA).

“…art works are becoming processes capable of constituting and modifying the institutional framework: the connections between the institutional framework of art and the communicative frameworks of art works, and between the ‘art network’ and net-works can be shown as connections between two levels varying in transparency: whatever one level lacks becomes apparent when we move to the other.” – Thomas Dreher.

This idea of making evident the formal considerations of technological systems – its economics and its materialities – is demonstrated in media art, where the work potentially offers different structures, alongside ideas of how structures work. Geoff Lucas’ text-based animation loosely based on a Mullah Nasruddin story, and involving Jackson Pollock, and Thomson & Craighead’s single-channel video Time Machine in Alphabetical Order embody this. They both enact a kind of systematic instruction on to their material – drawing or film – media which we think we know well. Their visual disruption of linear narrative is obvious and deliberate but that makes the works very much of their medium, present in their technological and concrete manifestation. They are works which could be shown anywhere, and so are frankly placeless and digitally ephemeral, residing on hard-drive, file, and screen.

Perhaps this discussion of the placelessness or sitedness of technology and its corresponding economics, is too easy. It is a both a contradiction within and a connection to the works chosen for exhibition. Like the exhibition’s title, Concretely Immaterial, it is an affirmative paradox. It is reminiscent of Marc Auge’s seductive idea of the non-place, a super extra space of placelessness – the airport transit lounge. As Geoff commented, the particulars, i.e. placelessness and sitedness, might not be in competition or mutually exclusive, but rather required and necessary aspects of the truly concrete. Therefore, it is not enough just to think of technology as facilitating transcontinental connection – shortening the distance between art made and/or shown in Scotland and art made and/or shown in Croatia. After all, it takes the same amount of time to reach either from a nodal point such as London (a long train or flight, a ferry or a car) and when you get there you can be sure that the key feature of your networked connection will be the time you spend with the art, encouraged by the hospitality shown to you by the gallery’s host, which really, is what visiting an exhibition is all about.