Aram Bartholl, Clara Boj + Diego Díaz, Martin John Callanan, Olia Lialina, Kyle McDonald, Román Torre + Ángeles Angulo, Carlo Zanni
Curated by Pau Waelder
Casal Solleric, Palma (Spain)
September 21, 2018 – January 6, 2019
“The internet is, in its essence, a machine of surveillance. It divides the flow of data into small, traceable, and reversible operations, thus exposing every user to surveillance—real or potential. The internet creates a field of total visibility, accessibility, and transparency.”
When writing a document using the text editor on Google Drive, every few seconds a discrete notification appears on the toolbar: “all changes saved in Drive”. The software confirms that the document contents have been automatically saved on one of Google’s servers. It is not necessary to save the document, the platform does it on its own. This automatic save function is a comfort, as it prevents us from losing data through computer failure or carelessness. However, it also reminds us that everything we do on the internet is stored automatically, whether we like it or not. As Boris Groys points out, the internet is a network where data packets circulate that are constantly tracked, labelled and stored. Everything we do when we use a digital device connected to the internet is registered and stored on a remote server. And increasingly we are using connected devices for many of our daily activities, from the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to bed at night and even whilst we are sleeping. The data that is automatically gathered by the devices that surround us is added to the information we voluntarily provide by publishing contents on social networks, writing lists of things to remember on digital notes, using password managers or deciding to wear an activity tracker.
All Changes Saved is a collective exhibition with the Google Drive notification as its title, alluding to the way in which our lives are affected by the automatic save function. We trust our data to large companies and we write our biography in real time, but we are unable to control these files or what others do with them. The artworks of various national and international artists pose questions as to the construction of our personal history through the data we share, the use made of that data and the strategies to recover some sort of intimacy.
Forgot Your Password? (2013)
8 books, bound in hard back
21 x 27 cm, 800 pages each
In the summer of 2012, the social network LinkedIn was attacked by hackers who managed to copy its entire user database. A few months later, part of the complete list of user passwords began to circulate on the internet. Bartholl has copied this list of 4.7 million passwords, arranged in alphabetical order, into eight printed volumes. Visitors can consult these books and find out if their password is among them. This work reveals the vulnerability of our data on the internet, as well as the ease with which information circulates that has been taken from the databases of companies that have been attacked. The volumes created by Aram Bartholl play with the concept of telephone directory and give files that are usually hidden a physical form that is easy to understand. By only including the passwords, these books do not violate the privacy of the users but show them that the combination of letters and numbers they so zealously guard and think no one knows is within everybody’s reach.
Clara Boj and Diego Díaz
Data Biography (2017)
365 books, shelf, tablet, screen
Artists Clara Boj and Diego Díaz decided to automatically gather, in real time, all the data generated by using their mobile telephones during 2017, coinciding with the last few months of pregnancy and the birth of their second child. Data Biography is a library of 365 volumes that reflects on paper the artists’ digital footprint over the period of a year. These books contain their emails, text messages, browsing history, location and even photos shared on social networks. The intimate life of this young family is thus exposed in detail. The piece reveals the amount of data gathered daily by the devices we use every day and how these data originate from the user, by sending texts, sharing photos or publishing on social networks, and from the smartphone itself, as it constantly communicates the user’s position and provides other information whilst it is switched on, even though it is not being used. Data Biography addresses the need to write our own biography in real time and the enormous amount of data we provide almost without realising.
Martin John Callanan
I Cannot Not Communicate (2015)
100 books, table, sheets of A3 paper
Courtesy of Galería Horrach Moya, Palma
In this work, Martin John Callanan has gathered together the first 100 books recommended by Amazon, based on everything he has read and bought since the company launched its recommendation algorithm more than 15 years ago. The title refers to how users of any internet service are involuntary transmitters of information, given that the data relative to their actions is registered automatically. It is no longer possible to be a mere receiver of information. There is a constant exchange of data that modifies the actual contents being accessed. This reflection is not presented as a complex technological installation but as something as simple as a library, that has become a register of the subjects the artist is interested in, even though this register was not created by him but by an Amazon algorithm. These books are not necessarily ones that Martin John Callanan has read but ones which he would supposedly like to read.
Hyves Body Class Pimp (2013-2017)
Six digital prints on plexiglas, 150 x 84 cm
Between 2010 and 2011, Olia Lialina explored the public profiles of Hyves users. Created in 2004 and active until 2013, this social network was very popular in Holland, particularly among young immigrants, and even competed with Facebook. The artist was particularly interested in the way this platform allowed its users to personalise their pages and how codes were established as to how to present themselves to the world through the images they chose for their profile picture and wallpaper. Using these elements, she created a series of compositions that contrast the wallpaper image and the profile picture, selecting ones where the person cannot be recognised. Presented as a series of digital prints, Hyves Body Class Pimp reveals a creative use of the contents published by these young users and tries to create a portrait of them. In these compositions, the observer can see themselves reflected and consider how they project their own image on the internet and how the elements they use to do so can be gathered and manipulated.
Exhausting a Crowd (2015)
Installation, projector, computer
In 1974, author Georges Perec, a patient observer of daily life, decided to describe everything that occurred in a square in Paris over a period of three days. The resulting text, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1974), inspired Kyle McDonald to create this piece, which includes a recording of a public space and software that allows the people found there to be labelled and comments about them to be published. The work is stored on a website, allowing users to try out this method of surveillance and create short narratives and dialogues about an everyday scene. Nowadays Perec’s literary experiment would be perceived as an act of surveillance and could even be considered suspicious by the authorities who, monitoring the square, detect the presence of an individual observing the place and systematically taking notes. An attempt at exhausting a place can now be carried out automatically thanks to computer vision and artificial intelligence, whilst the possibility of labelling other people reminds us that we are always exposed to the eye and comments of other people, even those who observe us without being seen.
Román Torre and Ángeles Angulo
Custom devices and software
THERO is a device in the form of a sculpture, a router, open-source software and a freely-replicable 3D printed object. Inside a casing in the form of a truncated cuboctahedron is a Raspberri Pi 3 processor that manages the internet connection of any device connected to one of its ports or accessing a wireless network created by the sculpture. On the front, a mobile part allows the user to decide, at any time, the type of connection to the internet they want: secure (encrypted), without access to social networks or completely disconnected from any internet access. Using this device, the artists suggest a reflection on the conditions of privacy of our internet access and promote solutions that users could freely use thanks to the development of open-source software and an object that can be made using a 3D printer. At the same time, the intriguing presence of this sculpture, which the artists describe as a talisman, leads us to think about how we trust technology and glorify its products almost to the level of cult objects.
Sculpture, clay, incense and sweets, 26x40x40 cm
With support from Marsèll
Carlo Zanni finds inspiration in an accessory that allows the web cam or any computer to be covered, creating a sculpture that leads us to reflect on user privacy and the way that computers store a tiny piece of our lives. Hunping (soul jar) is a ceramic urn found in the tombs of the Han dynasty. The urn is placed in the tomb, next to the deceased’s belongings to hold their soul, which would enter it through one of the openings, and supposedly contained fruit. Zanni’s sculpture evokes this urn with its complex shape and fragile but heavy materiality, making it difficult to use. Like the Hunping urn, this piece becomes a ritual object, destined to preserve the user’s intimacy as if it were storing their soul.
Artcast // Autumn 2018
Martin John Callanan (UK), Gregory Chatonsky (FR), Ben Grosser (US), Thorsten Knaub (UK), Antoine Schmitt and Delphine Doukhan (FR), Carlo Zanni (IT)
Curator: Pau Waelder
In his influential book Expanded Cinema (1970), Gene Youngblood stated that, while cinema had been, until then, created with all sorts of technological devices, these were no more than tools under the control of the artist. But computers are able to go beyond such passive participation: images and sounds are introduced in the computer or created with software and therefore converted into data, that can be endlessly processed, copied, reconfigured, mixed and displayed according to fixed parameters or algorithms. The computer becomes an active participant. Inspired by the term “data cinema”, coined by Carlo Zanni to refer to the use of cinematic language to create a fiction based on the data obtained in real-time from the Internet, this selection of video and digital artworks explores the possibilities of using the content of a film as raw data that feeds a process partly or fully controlled by a computer, as well as new forms of understanding cinema in the digital age.
Martin John Callanan, Simon Faithfull,
Rebecca Partridge, Katie Paterson, Richard T Walker
20 July – 15 September 2018
Parafin is delighted to announce a group exhibition, curated by Rebecca Partridge. ‘In Pursuit of Elusive Horizons’ continues a series of exhibitions featuring the same core group of artists, curated by Partridge with various co-curators, including ‘Scaling the Sublime: Art at the Limits of Landscape’, Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham (2018), ‘Reason and Emotion: Landscape and the Contemporary Romantic’, Kunstverein Springhornhof, Germany (2013) and ‘Reason and Emotion: Landscape and the Contemporary Romantic’, Baroniet Rosendal, Denmark (2012).
Pursuing an elusive horizon conjures an image of the romantic figure in a lone and distant landscape, both longing for and questioning the existential relationship between self and nature. A decade ago, to describe an artwork, or an artist, as ‘romantic’ would be to suggest the absurdity of this scene, the romantic hero lost in his own subjective illusion. However, despite the dismissal of subjective states as serious subject for artistic enquiry, the impulse towards feeling and imagination remain. As one of the artists in this exhibition recently remarked, ‘I am, I guess, a wonder junkie’, one of a generation of artists who are increasingly returning to grand narratives and timeless themes, though embraced with a simultaneous sense of distance, critique and irony.
This exhibition brings together five artists whose practice is expressive of this emergent sensibility, all of whom use landscape as a platform for exploring larger ideas. Each of the artists, in their own way, occupies the border between emotional experience and objective reasoning, often fluctuating between multiple and contradictory positions, drawing on a wealth of art historical languages. In 2010, cultural theorists, Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen defined this emerging cultural climate as Metamodern, describing a pervading shift in contemporary culture from detached irony to a desire for sincerity, to wanting to believe in something, to ‘resignify the present’. This re-engagement with feeling and meta-narratives manifests through juxtapositions, collaboration, interdiscliplarity and a pervading sense of simultaneity and flux. Romanticism, they propose, be defined by a sense of oscillation; between projection and perception, and attempts at transcendence which ultimately, can never fully be realised. Contemporary romanticism functions in full awareness of it’s failures, yet carries on ‘as if’ there is a possibility for alternative futures, investing, to quote Novalis, ‘the commonplace with significance, the ordinary with mystery and the finite with the semblance of the infinite’.
Through shared concerns for meta-narratives of scale, time and perceptual relationships to landscape, the artists here have found ways of combining languages, from the scientific to the sublime, that generate both ambiguity and intellectual clarity. ‘In Pursuit of Elusive Horizons’ articulates a sense of exploration and curiosity, demonstrating that ultimately, our need for wonder is part of the human condition and affective experiences cannot be dismissed as being mutually exclusive to critical rigour. Instead these artists, through a variety of strategies and a diverse range of media, incorporate and embrace the contradictions and uncertainties of our time.
Martin John Callanan
b. 1982, UK; lives and works in Scotland.
Martin John Callanan’s artwork has been exhibited and published internationally. He has recently been awarded the prestigious triennial Philip Leverhulme Prize in Visual Art 2014-17 for outstanding research, and in September 2015 he was awarded Alumnus of the Year for Excellence in the Arts by Birmingham City University. His was the first artist-in-residence at the Bank of England from 2015-16. Recent solo exhibitions include: Noshowspace, London, Horrach Moya, Palma de Mallorca, Baltic 39, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Or Gallery, Berlin. Recent group exhibitions include Es Baluard Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, Mallorca, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany; Ars Electronic Centre, Austria, Kunstverein Springhornhof, Neuenkirchen, Germany, Riga Centre for New Media Culture, Latvia and Imperial War Museum North.
b. 1966, UK; lives and works in London and Berlin.
Simon Faithfull is Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London. His wide-ranging practice is well known internationally and his works are represented in many public collections including the Pompidou Centre in France and the Government Art Collection, UK. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at the Musée Des Beaux Arts, Calais, Fabrica, Brighton and Kunstverein Sprinhornhof, Germany. His practice, combining video, digital-drawing, writing and performing, has been described as an attempt to understand and explore the planet as a sculptural object-to test its limits and report back from its extremities. Recent projects include a journey across Africa tracing the Greenwich Meridian and the deliberate sinking of a ship to create an artificial reef.
b. 1976, UK; lives and works in Berlin and London.
Rebecca Partridge studied at the Royal Academy Schools, and is currently a Lecturer in Fine Art at West Dean College, UK. Recent solo exhibitions include In The Meantime at CCA Andratx, Mallorca, and Notations at Kunstverein in Springhornhof, Neuenkirchen, Germany. Recent international group exhibitions including ‘Inorganic Landscape’, GIG, Munich (2017), Nature Art Biennale, Gongu, South Korea (2016), ‘A Planetary Order’, Galerie Christian Ehrentruat, Berlin (2014). Grants awarded include Terra Foundation for American Art Summer Fellowship and residencies from Kunsthalle CCA Andratx and The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. In 2017 she was awarded a residency from the Nordic Artists’ Centre where she made the works for this exhibition. She writes for several contemporary art journals including Berlin Art Link, Hyperallergic and Sculptorvox.
b. 1981, UK; lives and works in Scotland.
Katie Paterson studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Paterson’s work is known internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include Utah Museum of Fine Art, USA, Somerset House, London, Cenbtre PasqArt, Biel, The Lowry, Salford, FRAC Franche Comte Besançon, France; Kunstverein Springhornhof, Germany, Mead Art Gallery, University of Warwick, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, and BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna. Her works have been exhibited in major exhibitions including ‘Light Show’, Hayward Gallery, London and tour (2013-15), ‘Dissident Futures’, Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, San Francisco (2013), ‘Light and Landscape’ at Storm King Art Centre, New York (2012), ‘Marking Time’ at MCA, Sydney (2012), and ‘Altermodern’ at Tate Britain (2009). Her work is included in important international collections including the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Arts Council Collection, London, Arts Institute of Chicago and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
Richard T. Walker
b. 1977, UK; lives and works in San Francisco.
Richard T Walker studied at Goldsmith College, London. He has exhibited and performed world-wide, including solo and group exhibitions at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, The Contemporary Austin, Austin, Texas, Times Museum Guangzhou, China, Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeir, Hiroshima City of Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan, Witte De With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands. His work is held in collections including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Kadist Foundation, San Francisco/Paris, and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.
Across the centuries, what has brought people in Europe together?
What traces can we find of these past interactions in our lives today?
“INTERACTIONS” reveals stories about people moving and meeting, about travelling ideas and goods, about encounters and exchange, into a kaleidoscopic view of Europe’s cultural history.
“INTERACTIONS” is a meeting place: It invites you to interact in different ways, just as previous Europeans did, when they were trading, fighting, or negotiating. Come and interact with the exhibition, play games with other visitors!
“INTERACTIONS” invites you to discover using all senses: You will see beautiful objects, play musical records, listen to stories of people meeting, smell perfumes, touch cloths and discover the history of pizza and croissant!
Παρασκευή / Friday
Balkan Can Kino
Video Art Panorama | International Selection
Διεθνής επιλογή από τις σύγχρονες τάσεις του video art.
International selecion focused on contemporary approaches of video-art.
Σκην. / Dir. Florencia Levy / Argentina
2017 – video art
The camera gets as close as possible to capture the repetition of a gesture. While a hand replicates a movement, the faces illuminated by the light of a screen are anchored at a fixed point, and even when they are asleep, a reflex movement continues to recur. The danger is imminent.
Serge Bulat: Walker
Σκην. / Dir. Michael Rfdshir / Moldova
2015 – video art
“Queuelbum” is a 2-part experience project by NYC music artist Serge Bulat. The time-inspired album is an experiment in instrumental music, visuals, philosophy and conceptual art. “Walker” – is the first experience piece from “Queuelbum” and serves as an introduction to the darker side of the project, entitled “Q25”. The creators of the music video unveiled “Walker’s” code name “IIWABOYS”, which stands for “If I Were A Bug On Your Shoulder” and hints at the message of the video.
Σκην. / Dir. Rakel Jonsdottir / Iceland
2016 – video art
A mesmerizing voyage into the realm of the psyche. Silently flowing movements due to alternating attractive and repulsive forces, generated by a periodic magnetic field originated from within. Resonating between two extremes.
Σκην. / Dir. Ryan Wicks / United States
2017 – video art
A network of circuitry and geography oppose one another as the boundaries between symbols and co-existence.
Watch by being watched
Σκην. / Dir. Sangwon Lee / South Korea
2017 – video art
The film is told self-identity in a digitalised modern era. Through the character, it tells about a lost of balance between everyday life and confused reality with cyber space. In terms of digital totalitarianism, traces in digital platforms are recorded and collected. It links to analysis of behavior and life pattern of human even thoughts. Actually, government or governmental organisations have used to specific purposes such as big data, face recognition, location detection and mass surveillance. Unconsciously, these silent imbalance and invasion to privacy of human could contribute to shape self-identity. Intentionally, it can be fabricated arbitrarily or by others.
Journeys through Space and Time
Σκην. / Dir. Ankita Panda / United States
2017 – video art
Journeys always involve some form of change, be it physical journeys involving change in location or appearance; or spiritual journeys that affect and change state of mind. Irrespective of the kind of journey, there is a literal and figurative association with change in space and time.
My animated short film explores change in direction, perspective, and repeating patterns nature by placing the viewer in the center of a virtual 3D kaleidoscope.
Banknote Reconstructed: Bank of England G Series Five Pounds
Σκην. / Dir. Martin John Callanan / United States
2017 – video art
A Bank of England five pound note reconstructed from shredded production waste. Am animation made form the security shredded remnants of misprinted new polymer Five Pound banknotes (G series), which never made it into circulation. Made possible with the support of the Leverhumle Trust and the Bank of England.
Strnager in the City
Σκην. / Dir. Himanshu Kamble / India
A stranger wanders around in an unfamiliar city.
I’m going where I am (Je vais où je suis)
Σκην. / Dir. Muriel Montini / France
2014 – video art
A football field seen from different angles. A man who watches the game, who will watch it or who watched it?
songs of fortune
Σκην. / Dir. Veronika Burger / Austria
2015 – video art
In the course of a planed solo exhibition at the Artists Unlimited gallery in Germany I consulted three different fortune tellers instead to tell me my artistic fortune. Every fortune teller got the same three questions: What is the vocational fortune going to be? What is the financial future going to be? Is the exhibition going to fail? The collected material is the textual base of my video ’songs of fortune’. It operates with the structure of an opera and was re-arranged and re-sung. On the visual layer I analyze the white cube situation of the Artists Unlimited gallery and question power structures. The Artists Unlimited Gallery replaced by a venue of a Greek tragedy/comedy.
My Internal and External world
Σκην. / Dir. Ananth krishnan / India
2016 – video art
Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of digital chaos, places and things from around India. From chaotic cities to Lumiere brother’s theatre in France, the movie takes viewers around the globe to witness a variety of spectacles in both natural and technological realms. , the production doesn’t shy away from the dark side of surveillance, and ultimately shows how much of the world is interconnected by the camera the creativity and the vibrancy of image.
Indicios / Inkling
Σκην. / Dir. Laura Cabrera Díaz / Spain
2017 – video art
Someone wanders through space and time looking for a new way of relating to the world. It is a woman with automaton movements, multiplied, divided and ubiquitous, walking without progress, in a broken time and impossible, contrasting and opposing spaces. All synchronized by a music that directs the events. Signs of something that is going to happen? It suggests to us to look for a new role for the human being within the universe. Stop exploding and destroying life on the planet, to empathize and immerse ourselves in Nature as one among all beings.
Hell Test 7
Σκην. / Dir. Alex Lanau-Atkinson / Australia
2017 – video art
A visual interpretation and journey through the upper layers of hell where reality and an eternal inferno merge and flow into each other.
Σκην. / Dir. Lena Moustaka / Greece
2017 – video art
The reality and its degradation reveals the reflection of its authenticity within us. Shredding the image by removing it from temporal and logical continuous. The viewer-recipient follows the memory of his memory and eventually surrenders to a fragmented perception that corresponds to the neat modern environment. This is how the title of the “FrACTals” Audiovisual Works, fragments.
All images result from the simple approach of objects we use everyday. Α simple approach transforms them.
Photos Pau Wealder
Banknote Reconstructed, a Bank of England five pound banknote made from production waste, in the official selection of Athens Animfest 2018
Banknote Reconstructed was awarded a Distinction in Experimental category
art at the limits of landscape
Saturday 24 March – Sunday 17 June 2018
This exhibition explores affinities with Romanticism in contemporary art practice, and the continuing fascination of the Landscape Sublime. Drawn to subjects such as mountains, glaciers, the icecaps, forests, the ocean, the moon and the remotest stars, the artists included have found new ways of reflecting on our relationship with the unimaginable forces of nature, even in our age of technological advance and the unprecedented expansion of knowledge.
Working across a variety of media and often drawing on expertise from other disciplines through collaboration, these artists embrace the newest processes and techniques as well as traditional methods of image making. The resulting works move through registers of wonder, melancholy, futility and absurdity.
Scaling the Sublime includes work by: Martin John Callanan, Simon Faithfull, Tim Knowles, Mariele Neudecker, Rebecca Partridge, Katie Paterson, and Richard T Walker. Curated by Nicholas Alfrey and Rebecca Partridge.
Riga, 19 – 21 October 2017
VIRTUALITIES AND REALITIES is the theme of this year’s RIXC Art Science festival in Riga, Latvia, that aims to establish a space for artistic interventions and conversations about the complex implications of immersive technologies.
RIXC Festival is internationally renowned gathering for artists and scholars working at the intersection of arts, digital humanities and science. This year’s festival programme features Public Keynotes, the 2nd Open Fields Conference, Exhibitions, Performances and AR/VR Showcases.
The main festival events will take place from October 19–21, 2017, in some of Riga’s most visible art venues – the Conference will take place in the Art Academy of Latvia, and the Latvian National Museum of Art, while the exhibitions – in kim? Contemporary Art Centre and RIXC Gallery spaces.
October 19 – November 28, 2017
Venue: kim? Contemporary Art Center, Sporta iela 2, Riga
The main festival exhibition will feature the most innovative artworks that experiment with augmented and virtual reality, create immersive environments, and explore complex relations between the “virtualities” and “realities” of our post-media society with its networked communities and migrating cultures.
VIRTUALITIES AND REALITIES exhibition artists: Marc LEE (Switzerland), Jacques PERCONTE (France), Juuke SCHOORL (the Netherlands), Brenna MURPHY (USA), Hans BREDER (USA), Clement VALLA (USA), Matteo ZAMAGNI (United Kingdom), Zane ZELMENE (Latvia), The Swan Collective (Germany), Annie BERMAN (USA), Felipe CUCKER and Hector RODRIGUEZ (Hong Kong), Gunta DOMBROVSKA (Latvia), Martin John CALLANAN (United Kingdom), Nina FISCHER and Maroan EL SANI (Germany), Santa FRANCE (Latvia), Greta HAUER (United Kingdom), Martin HESSELMEIER and Andreas MUXEL (Germany), Raphael KIM (United Kingdom), Michal KINDERNAY (Czech Republic), Christopher MANZIONE and Seth CLUETT (USA), Andrew MCWILLIAMS (USA), Melodie MOUSSET and Naem BARON (Switzerland), Martin REICHE (Germany), Hanns Holger RUTZ (Austria), Julia SOKOLNICKA (Poland/the Netherlands), Danielle ZORBAS (Australia).
Curator: Raitis SMITS / RIXC
Intense political climates such as Trump’s Administration and Brexit negotiations often mobilise visual, performative and conceptual responses among artists an. In an age of the closely documented and widely circulated, consumers are often inundated with updates and headlines, discussing a breadth of facts and fiction. Centrum’s group exhibition ‘Shades of Today: Picking Up the Pieces Post Truth’ not only addresses this either/or dynamic but looks to physical and online spaces that seek to keep specific narratives hidden from public consumption. The small interactive project space, through smell, image and sound, calls into question our own understanding of agency and accountability.
Curated by Kate J Davis, the exhibition consists of six standout artists directly and excitingly dealing with the unreported and the unspoken. Martin John Callanan’s ‘Wars During My Lifetime’ (1982-2013) is a prime example regarding tone and intent of the exhibition space. His small newspaper publication lists a number of wars across 30 years, without footnote or commentary. Although this piece could easily be disregarded in terms of it size and aesthetic appeal, arguably, its purpose is to point out media bias and media accountability when reporting incidents are often supported if not enforced by state and media groups. Its simple and accessible form allows readers to impart their own experience, or lack thereof with the content and as a result come to term with their own moral agency and consciousness.
Quite often we desire the headline and not the story.
Callanan’s use of the printed format as opposed to online sources such as the internet or smartphones subtly addresses the shift in news consumption. Production of the broadsheet has depleted in favour of being first to report the headline, even if this means neglecting the truth. The simple nature of the work is a direct response to the simple ways in which wish to digest news; quite often we desire the headline and not the story. The publication in itself does prompt the questions, what do we desire from the media? Furthermore, are we willing to look beyond? In effect, Callanan’s piece is a nod towards the uncertainty or responsibility in so-called ‘honest journalism’, moreover, whether or not we as consumers actually desire the truth.
In a similar style of presentation, Benedikt Partenheimer’s ‘Business As Usual’ (2016) looks into issues of clarity among bureaucratic powers regarding issues of pollution and climate change. Spanning across the space of a wall are printouts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change overseeing picture frame of smog. Stacked next to the backdrop are a pile of papers representing the extensive report and research gone into investigating climate change. In a sense, this work is a representation of fact versus fiction. Evidence of climate change surrounds us; unpredictable weather patterns, migrations and deaths of species, even unexpected natural disasters; both visually and physically we are victim to these changes.
Partenheimer’s work, much like Callanan’s piece focuses on addressing why we give precedence to bureaucratic officials when evidence of their findings are lived experiences for many communities.
It seems only darkly funny, that a picture of smog covers the factual information gone into investigating climate change. Partenheimer’s work, much like Callanan’s piece focuses on addressing why we give precedence to bureaucratic officials when evidence of their findings are lived experiences for many communities. Much like the pieced backdrop, we as global citizens should not be clouded by jargon smog or ‘official findings’. Again, without providing, additional criticism, I would argue that both artists are asking us to reclaim our own investigative interests. In doing so, we put the destiny of our futures back into our own hands and into the hands of the generations to follow.
Continuing on with the theme of agency, Jae Jyung Kim’s piece extending from her ‘2+2=5’ (2016) project focuses on transparency versus privacy. Upon entry, viewers are greeted with three stereoscopes showing carefully collaged images of houses blurred on Google Street View. Each stereoscope is attached to a pulley system, next to which are three words pertaining to different states of time, being and remembering.
For most, Google is a one-stop-shop for answering all our inquisitive needs, often at the expense of our right to privacy. What’s most intriguing about Kim’s piece is the link between image, representation and memory. How much is constructed about our identity beyond our control? Furthermore, when we deny digital access to personal images, do we in some ways cease to exist? Living outside of Facebook, Youtube and Instagram almost seems like an alien concept in a society where’s it possible to stay connected and even make a living by simply being on the internet.
With that as a backdrop, refusing to contribute to the monetisation of images that aren’t self-curated is very much a radical idea. Of course, we rely on images to tell a story, but so often these images are manipulated or purposefully constructed to support biased narratives. Much like the smog of climate change, or the monstrosities of war, the truth is always evident somehow. Kim’s work so expertly challenges the idea that self-curation is beyond our control and moreover, asks that we take pride in who we are and what we choose to display or even hide.
As a whole, ‘Shades of Today’ is a poignant example of future possibilities that allows us to call out law enforcements, media spaces and biased narratives to uncover the simple, often messy truth of societies and communities today. It means coming to terms with both sides of the coin and using that balance to move onwards and upwards.
It has become almost something of a cliche to reference the 1992 Francis Fukuyama book, The End of History and the Last Man, which argues that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the communist dictatorships that ruled Eastern Europe during the Cold War signaled the triumph of liberal democracy and vindication of market-orientated capitalism, as a supreme moment of hubristic punditry. In some ways this is unfair to Fukuyama, the book is essentially an exercise in the art of the political subjunctive, but the basic critique holds. History did anything but end in the winter of 1989; indeed, as some of Fukuyama’s critics have subsequently suggested, it is perhaps the period of the Cold War itself that represented a pause in history and pre-Bretton Woods business-as-usual returned to the geopolitical discourse as a result of the fall of the Soviet Empire. These kinds of heady thoughts came to mind reading Martin John Callanan’s work “Wars During My Lifetime” at the group exhibition, Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces of Post Truth, at Centrum in Berlin. Callanan is a youthful 35 and his adult life more or less tracks the post-Cold War period of global political conflict. The wars of Callanan’s lifetime are recorded on a largish booklet of newsprint listing the dates of the conflicts and the names by which they are known. If one turns to the year of the publication of Fukuyama’s book, one can find armed conflicts in South Ossetia, Bosnia, Croatia, Somalia, Transdniestria, Abkhazia, Afghanistan, Chad, Algeria, Sierra Leone, and a region of Russia known as Prigorodnij just to name a few. If this is what the end of history looks like, one is tempted to grab Paul Klee’s wonky angel — postulated as “The Angel of History” by Walter Benjamin — by the wings and drag him toward the ground to intervene. There are a number of striking aspects to Callanan’s work, not least the choice to use his own lifetime as the baseline metric from which the work originates. Could the vaunted solipsism of the millennial outlook be more neatly satirised? Probably, but I want to see it when it happens. More somberly, Panglossean books and articles are constantly appearing telling us how much safer, less violent and more pleasant life is becoming, even in these ostensibly troubled times, Callanan’s work serves as a riposte to such macro-reasoning about concepts as intimate as violence: the world may be getting statistically more peaceful, but many sins can be hidden behind the smooth bell curve of a normal distribution.
Talking of “business-as-usual”, I also found myself caught by the grimly precise language of the International Panel on Climate Change’s report, sections of which were posted on Centrum’s back wall as part of Benedikt Partenheim’s work bearing that exact title. The work is obviously too big to take in, a babel tower of reams of packages of printer paper stand at the right of the work representing the number of pages in the complete report. The fragmentary presentation of the report’s content, scattered over printed A4 pages overlain with a photograph of a smogged up landscape, drives home the implications of the scale of the crisis faced by humanity. Reading the words of the panel, I was struck by its odd moments of poetry, not least in the description of the correction process contemporary researchers use for accounting for antiquated methods of measuring temperature in earlier ages which used less precise tools. It is, in part, a biography of our epistemology. Jae Kyung Kim’s “2+2=5” was another engaging aspect of a wide ranging and crowded show—in addition to the in situ works, the show also included performances, a discussion on the gallery’s tumblr page, and screenings of two films by Louis Henderson at the forthcoming finissage. “2+2=5” consists of a set of stereoscopes dangling on cables in the gallery’s front window. The viewer holds the object and flips through a series of landscapes and urban images obscured behind hazy geometric shapes. The claustrophobia of our heavily surveilled world is palpable, and the visual disruption feels like a meagre, but potent expression of resistance. The work is a reminder that while more of what will become “history” is being recorded than ever before, this is no guarantee that future histories will be any more true or complete than those of the past.
Exhibition opening: Friday, 30 June, 7pm
with a performance by Kirstin Burckhardt, 8pm
The concept of distorted representations and perceptions of reality may date as far back as Plato’s allegory of the cave. However, in light of Brexit and Trump’s election, the manipulation of information seems to have reached new heights (Oxford Dictionaries dubbed ‘post-truth’ as 2016’s word of the year). Amidst the confusion between true facts and fake news, heightened by 24-hour news cycles, social media and a populist rhetoric, artists play a pivotal role in warning and reminding of reality’s different shades and how they can be exploited by those in power. For Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces Post-Truth, Centrum have invited ten artists to shed light on this issue through a series of sound, scent, text-based, and video installations, and a suite of events.
The group exhibition Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces Post-Truth will open on the 30th of June with a performance by Kirstin Burckhardt: Grow a Body (2017) centres around a rhythmic, pulsating reading of a text which poses the question: When is your body complete? This question is echoed in the feeling of some people who disidentify so strongly with a ligament that they self-amputate (‘Body Integrity Identity Disorder’). In the performance, this feeling is carefully embedded within the sensation of completely dissociating from your body when in a traumatic situation, raising questions about subjective and alternative truths, the relationship between alienation and violence, and the prevalence of emotion over reason – questions considered to be at the core of our post-truth era. Included in the exhibition will be Archaeology of a Smell (2008), a scent installation by Erkan Öznur which uses ‘Wofasept’, a cleaning liquid produced by a former GDR company which until today was primarily used in the former East. The persistent smell makes the city’s former division apparent today. As an alternative to the iconic Berlin wall Archaeology of a Smell offers a symbol for the reality of the slow, on-going process of reunification. Martin John Callanan’s Wars During My Lifetime (1982-2013) is a newspaper that lists all of the wars fought during the artist’s lifetime (up until 2013). Listed without comment, the newspaper acts as a potent reminder of media bias and sensationalisation. With her sound sculpture Ram-tam-tam! Rat-a-tat-tat! (2014), Emma Waltraud Howes utilises a resonating cast iron pot as a symbol of resistance, both acknowledging historical protests by recalling the ‘Cacerolazo’, a cacophony of banging pots and pans, while humorously evoking the feeling of help- and speechlessness in the face of recent political developments and the impossibility and lack of rational debate. In a similarly ironic gesture Benedikt Partenheimer’s Business As Usual (2016) draws attention to one of the most debated yet controversial topics in politics: pollution and climate change. Printouts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change line the wall and act as backdrop to a dramatic photograph of an urban landscape concealed by smog. Covering the factual information on climate change, the picture itself fails to serve as photographic evidence with the pollution having rendered the photograph illegible. As part of the exhibition Jae Kyung Kim will show a set of three stereoscopes showing pictures of houses blurred on Google Street View related to her project 2+2=5 (2016) in which the artist explores questions of privacy, transparency, visibility and social control, and also speculates about the effect the blurred images have on our collective imagination, emphasising that it relies on what we think we know and what we imagine we see.
To support and expand on the exhibition in Centrum’s physical space, our Tumblr is a virtual space to further develop and explore notions of post-truth and for six weeks we will post starting points for further research here. The material will be grouped into themes and will show how people, including artists and thinkers, are experiencing the world right now and communicating their most pressing concerns. The themes will include the subjectivity inherent Information Systems, Alternative Realities, Protest, Sensory Experience, and acute insights into How we Live Now.
11th May – 10th June 2017
This exhibition comprises a trilogy of interconnected works that examines the role of technology and data and how it relates to the human condition in an age of hyper information. In a world dominated by digital media and the instant accessibility of information, his practice crosses the boundary between art and science to reveal the paradox of the promise of infinite knowledge and an absolute vision against its impossibility due to the transient nature of human perception.
The Fundamental Units: The lowest denomination coin from each of the world’s 166 active currencies are photographed to vast scale using an infinite focus, optical 3D microscope. Printed to a size of 1.2 x 1.2 metres from files with over 400 million pixels, the hyper-real level of detail, beyond normal vision, reveals the material construction and make-up of the coin together with the marks and traces from their circulation and use as tokens of exchange.
A Planetary Order: This is a 3D scale model of the earth showing cloud cover from one single moment in time. Raw information from one second’s worth of readings from all six cloud monitoring satellites overseen by NASA and ESA is transformed into a physical visualisation of real-time scientific data that delicately outlines and profiles the clouds emerging across the sphere. The sphere, or globe, has no added colour, only the sculpted whiteness of the raw material that throws a maze of faint shadows across the structure.
Text Trends: This looks at our perception of words and data when displayed in graphical form. Through animation, it uses Google data to explore the content generated by search queries and reduces this process to its essential elements: search terms -vs- frequency searched over time, presented in the form of a graph. The viewer watches the animation plot out the ebb and flow of search terms generated by internet users around the world. Pairs of words such as ‘now and later’ and ‘summer and winter’ play out matter-of-factly, with all the passion of a market index. Originally an animation, it has also been commissioned as a series of prints.
I Wanted to See All of the News From Today: collects everyday over 600 front covers of newspapers from around the world.
Martin John Callanan, Data Soliloquies
In his short story “The Library of Babel”, published in 1944, the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges imagines the whole of human culture brought together in a labyrinthine library. The books it contains represent the obsessive organisation of all conceivable human thought, in every language and from its beginnings. The concept harks back to the idea that knowledge could ultimately be grasped in its entirety, leading to mastery and omnipotence.
The artwork of Martin John Callanan (Birmingham, 1982) inevitably recalls this literary allusion, but it is immediately clear that it illustrates the way in which our relationship with technology has exactly reversed the terms of its argument. In contrast to Borges, who imagined that all knowledge could be made visible in one place, Callanan acknowledges that today we live in a decentralised information network that irrevocably determines the way we live. When he describes himself as “an artist researching an individual’s place within systems”, the “place” he refers to does not describe an aesthetic relationship in the traditional sense, in which the observer is dissociated from the things observed; it assumes that we are inextricably connected with them.
The exhibition Data Soliloquies establishes a relationship between three works that are clearly complementary in this way. The sculpture A Planetary Order features a 3D scale model of the earth, on which a series of satellite data is combined to show the exact state of the Earth’s cloud cover on a given date. It stands on the floor, making it seem vulnerable, and demonstrates that a phenomenon that is so transitory, while at the same time represented by “hard” data, is fundamentally impossible to grasp, and always beyond complete human perception: technology has not overridden what is incommensurable. The printed series Text Trends is a statistical comparison of Google searches for pairs of words, from 2004 to the present. The self-referential nature of the relationships between the chosen words (winter/summer, buy/sell, etc.) and the fierce humour that emerges from them, reflect the expectations embodied in these statistics: they represent actual searches of users. Something that might be taken as a single measurement reveals itself to be also an oracle, whose performativity determines our behaviour. Lastly, The Fundamental Units is a series of images each of which shows the smallest value coin used in various national currencies, photographed using a 3D optical microscope at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK. These images are then expanded and printed in extra-large formats, so that they show the all traces of the handling they have undergone, and thus the paradoxical physicality of money, whose exchange is now entirely dematerialised.
Despite their power and clear visual precision, these objects sometimes appear cold, as if placed at a distance: the white earth, statistics, coins. They are the product of a conceptual, minimalist approach that emphasises protocol. In addition, they contain no trace of the artist: unlike other recent conceptual works which compare human physicality with repetitive systems, as in the case of Roman Opalka or On Kawara, Martin John Callanan does not introduce his own actions into his work, or only very rarely. Moreover and strictly speaking, it hardly matters if we know the positions of the clouds on a given date, the development of Google searches or the way in which the coins in our pockets have aged: in themselves these facts and these objects include nothing that would give them the status of an artwork. In that case, where do we get the feeling that these works speak so profoundly about ourselves?
It is at once clear that what these artworks have in common is that they talk about value, and its direct connection with the way generalised quantification has become the dominant paradigm and the universal criterion for representing and evaluating human affairs. Callanan also addresses the idea of value from a very specific point of view, namely an almost deliberate focus on representing totalities. An overview of his work reveals the consistency of that approach, seen even in their titles: every flight departure, every internet search, every war waged during the artist’s lifetime, all his actions when using software, every telephone number, the number of people who have ever lived, the number of days of his life, every newspaper front-page, every cloud present above the earth at a given moment, to visit the whole of London, and so on. This approach may seem simplistic but it selects precisely those phenomena to which our sensory experience never gives us complete access. Given that the world of data is characterised by the very fact that the global calculations performed by systems are beyond human perception, can artworks reverse that relationship?
We then see that each of these artworks takes a specific physical form, which reflects a profound knowledge of coding, networks and computing, applied to a wide range of forms: sculptures, prints, artists’ books, objects or performances. Using this vocabulary, Callanan offers a parallel set of “aiming devices” that connect the various totalities in order to show more clearly that we can never have complete control over them: having departure times appear briefly on a screen or a town crier proclaim the dates of wars; printing the clouds on a 3D sculpture that cannot be seen as a whole; demonstrating the performative nature of statistics and opinion polls and the physicality of money, or creating a publication that cannot be read due to its enormous scale. Each of these situations creates a paradox: they open up a divide between, on the one hand, the promise of omniscience and a totalising vision, and on the other, its impossibility, due to the inevitably fugitive and local nature of human perception. It is in this gap, this falling-short, that the agency of Callanan’s works resides.
In this way, by creating a very specific relationship between these successive stages –value, totality, promise and falling-short – Callanan reveals what we expect from these representations. It is a question not so much of value itself, than the desire for value; less one of totality than the dream of totality, less one of control than of what eludes it. All of these issues bring us back to the human condition, its desires and its limitations. This is where we find the poetic but also the profoundly critical aspects of a body of work that brings us face to face with the multiple manifestations of the infinite, only to assert our inability to embrace it. The artwork also emphasises the radically futile nature of all approaches that place an excessive emphasis on technology. What differentiates us from the “systems” invoked by the artist is that we also find meaning in things we do not understand.
This brings to mind the writer and critic John Berger, who showed that one of the specific characteristics of art is not to represent things in themselves but to identify the way we see them, enabling us to interrogate the ways in which that experience is formed and determined, including politically. At a time when many projects facing the issues raised by digital cultures fall into the trap of the figuration (of data, artificial intelligence, surveillance and so on), Martin John Callanan assumes the vain character of such an approach and positions himself at a point where his research leads us to a vertigo. With his characteristic modesty, with his works, their “data soliloquies” and the way they suggest that we would never seize them, he illuminates the specificity of the human’s condition vis-à-vis the immensity of the world.
Aubervilliers, April 2017
Thierry Fournier is a French artist and curator. He also co-directs the curatorial research group Ensad Lab Displays. He lives and works in Aubervilliers.
Translation Imogen Forster
Dans sa nouvelle La Bibliothèque de Babel publiée en 1944, l’écrivain argentin Jorge Luis Borges imagine la totalité de la culture humaine exposée dans une bibliothèque à l’architecture labyrinthique. Les livres qu’elle rassemble contiennent toute la pensée imaginable, dans toutes les langues et depuis les origines, obsessionnellement mis en ordre. L’ensemble évoque la promesse d’accéder enfin à la totalité de la connaissance, à travers le rêve d’une maîtrise et d’une toute-puissance du savoir.
Si le travail de Martin John Callanan (Birmingham, 1982) évoque immanquablement cette image littéraire, c’est pour constater aussitôt qu’il témoigne de la manière dont nos relations à la technologie en ont précisément renversé les termes. À l’inverse de Borges qui imaginait que l’ensemble du savoir puisse être visible en un seul lieu, Callanan prend acte que l’humain contemporain est pris dans un réseau d’informations décentralisées qui conditionnent en permanence son existence. Lorsqu’il se décrit comme « an artist researching an individual’s place within systems » (un artiste explorant la place de l’individu parmi des systèmes), la « place » qu’évoque l’artiste ne décrit pas une relation esthétique au sens classique qui dissocierait l’observateur des objets observés : elle prend acte que nous sommes pris dans leurs logiques.
L’exposition Data Soliloquies met ainsi en relation trois œuvres dont les propos sont particulièrement complémentaires à cet égard. La sculpture A Temporary Order figure le globe terrestre en impression 3D à petite échelle, sur lequel est gravé l’état exact des nuages à une date donnée, obtenue par la combinaison de séries d’images par satellite. Posée au sol, comme vulnérable, elle met en évidence qu’un phénomène aussi fugitif, même figé et représenté par ses données, demeure radicalement insaisissable et continue à échapper à notre perception : la technique n’a pas désactivé l’incommensurable. La série d’impressions Text Trends montre quant à elle des statistiques comparées de paires de mots issues des requêtes sur Google de 2004 à nos jours. Le caractère tautologique des associations de mots choisis et l’humour féroce qui s’en dégage (été-hiver, acheter-vendre, etc.) témoigne des attentes que reflètent ces statistiques : il s’agit bien de requêtes formulées par des utilisateurs. Ce que l’on pourrait prendre comme une seule mesure est aussi un oracle, dont la dimension performative conditionne nos comportements. Enfin, The Fondamental Units est une série d’images montrant chaque fois les plus petites unités de pièces de monnaies internationales, photographiées au microscope électronique au National Physical Laboratory de Teddington (Royaume-Uni). Ces images sont ensuite démesurément agrandies et imprimées sur de très grands formats, révélant alors toutes les traces des échanges dont elles ont été l’objet – et, par la même, la physicalité paradoxale d’une monnaie dont les échanges sont aujourd’hui entièrement dématérialisés.
Malgré leur force et leur précision plastique évidente, ces objets sont parfois froids, comme mis à distance : globe blanc, statistiques, pièces de monnaie. Ils héritent d’une approche conceptuelle et minimaliste qui privilégie les protocoles. En outre, toute trace de l’artiste en est absente : par opposition à des démarches qui, dans l’histoire de l’art récente, ont confronté l’humain et sa corporéité à des systèmes répétititifs, comme celles de Roman Opalka ou de On Kawara, Martin John Callanan – à de très rares exceptions – ne met pas en jeu ses propres actions. En outre, à strictement parler, peu nous importe de savoir quelles étaient les positions des nuages à une date donnée, de connaître l’évolution de requêtes sur Google ou encore comment vieillit la petite monnaie : ces faits ou ces objets en eux-mêmes n’évoquent rien qui les rapprocheraient du statut d’une œuvre. Comme extraits du monde, ils semblent être des objets trouvés dans un champ de données. D’où nous vient alors le sentiment que ces œuvres nous parlent aussi profondément de nous-mêmes ?
Le premier constat qui émerge alors est que ces œuvres ont toutes en commun de parler de la valeur, qui interroge directement la manière dont la quantification généralisée s’est imposée aujourd’hui comme paradigme dominant et comme critère omniprésent de représentation et d’évaluation de l’humain. Callanan convoque en outre cette notion de valeur à travers une perspective très spécifique, qui est de viser presque systématiquement la représentation de totalités. Un regard sur l’ensemble de ses œuvres témoigne de la constance de cette démarche, que l’on retrouve même dans leurs titres : toutes les partances de vols, toutes les recherches sur internet, toutes les guerres pendant ma vie, toutes mes commandes sur un logiciel, tous les numéros de téléphone, le nombre de tous ceux qui ont jamais vécu, le compte de tous les jours de ma vie, toutes les unes de la presse, tous les nuages présents en un instant au-dessus de la Terre, voir tout Londres, etc. Cette démarche de all-everything pourrait sembler simpliste mais elle sélectionne justement des phénomènes auquel notre expérience sensible ne nous donne jamais totalement accès. Alors que le régime des données se caractérise justement par le fait que des totalités calculées par des systèmes échappent à la perception humaine, des œuvres peuvent-elle renverser cette relation ?
On voit alors que ces projets déploient chaque fois une matérialité spécifique, qui témoigne d’une connaissance approfondie du code, du réseau et du numérique tout en embrassant un très large répertoire de formes : sculptures, impressions, livres d’artiste, objets, performances… À travers ce vocabulaire, Callanan propose autant de dispositifs de « visée », qui relatent des totalités pour mieux mettre en évidence l’impossibilité de leur maîtrise : faire fugitivement défiler les horaires de vols sur un écran, faire déclamer les dates des guerres par un crieur, imprimer les nuages sur une sculpture en 3D dont la perception globale est impossible, démontrer le caractère performatif des statistiques et des sondages, mettre en évidence la matérialité de la monnaie, créer une publication devenant illisible par son échelle gigantesque, etc. Chacune de ces situations crée alors un paradoxe : elle ouvre un gouffre entre d’une part la promesse d’une omniscience ou d’une vision totalisante, et d’autre part son impossibilité même, due au caractère irrémédiablement fugitif et local de notre perception. C’est dans cet écart, dans ce manque, que réside fondamentalement l’agentivité de ses œuvres.
Ainsi, par la relation très spécifique que Martin John Callanan élabore entre ces paliers successifs – la valeur, la totalité, la promesse et le manque – il met en évidence ce que nous attendons de ces représentations. Il ne s’agit pas tant de la valeur, que du désir de la valeur ; de la totalité, que du rêve de la totalité ; de la maîtrise, que de ce qui lui échappe. L’ensemble nous ramène à la condition humaine, à son désir et et à ses limites. Ici se revèle la dimension à la fois poétique et fondamentalement critique d’un travail qui nous place face à de multiples manifestations de l’infini pour pointer immédiatement notre impossibilité à l’embrasser, en même temps que le caractère radicalement vain à cet égard de toute démarche techniciste. Ce qui nous différencie des « systèmes » qu’évoque l’artiste est que nous trouvons aussi du sens dans ce que nous ne comprenons pas.
On peut penser ici enfin à l’auteur et critique John Berger, qui relevait qu’une des spécificités de l’art est de ne pas représenter les choses en elles-mêmes mais bien le regard que nous portons sur elles et, par la même, de pouvoir questionner les enjeux de sa formation et de sa détermination (y compris politique). Au moment où, en prise avec les questions ouvertes par la culture numérique, de nombreuses démarches tombent dans le piège de la figuration (des données, de l’intelligence artificielle, de la surveillance…), Martin John Callanan assume ici l’impossibilité radicale d’en venir à bout et s’installe là où cette recherche ouvre sur un vertige. Avec la pudeur qui le caractérise, par ses œuvres, leurs monologues de données et l’incapacité qu’elles évoquent de nous en emparer complètement, il éclaire ainsi la spécificité de la position humaine face à l’infini du monde.
Aubervilliers, avril 2017
Thierry Fournier est un artiste et curateur français. Il co-dirige également le groupe de recherche curatorial EnsadLab Displays. Il vit et travaille à Aubervilliers.
Der britische Künstler Martin John Callanan zeigt bei Horrach Moyà das Wechselspiel von System und Mensch, Von Brigitte Kramer
Eigentlich müssten wir alle unter Atemnot oder Platzangst leiden. Denn immer dichter legen sich die Fäden des weltweiten digitalen Netzes um uns. Immer mehr Stun- den verbringen wir vor kleinen oder großen Bildschirmen, geben Daten ein, hinterlassen Spuren. Einen Teil der Zeit im Internet verbringen wir mit Dingen, die nicht unbedingt lebensnotwendig sind. Martin John Callanan geht es nicht anders. Nur verbringt er sei- ne Zeit im Netz mit Sinnvollem. Er macht Kunst. Derzeit zeigt er sie in der Galerie Horrach Moyà an der Plaça de la Drassana.
„Martin has been alive +12858 days“, schreibt er auf seiner Web- site. Für alle Leser, die das Spiel mit Zahlen weniger lieben als Callanan: Er wurde 1982 in einer Kleinstadt bei Birmingham gebo- ren. Seit mehr als fünf Jahren lebt er in Berlin und wird als Künst- ler von der ehrwürdigen Royal Society of Arts gefördert. Damit steht er in einer Reihe mit Charles Dickens, Karl Marx oder Benja- min Franklin. Nach Palma hat ihn der Kunsthistoriker Pau Waelder gebracht. Es ist die vierte Ausstel- lung des Briten auf der Insel.
Callanan interessiert das Thema Individuum und System. In seinen Installationen unter- sucht er die Interaktion zwischen Mensch und Netz, zeichnet die Interaktion nach. Oft übernimmt oder verändert er die Funktions- weise von Programmen, Syste- men oder Anwendungen und deu- tet sie neu. Damit hinterfragt er die Zustände, demontiert unsere Gewohnheiten und sorgt auch noch für Witz und Überraschung. Der Effekt sitzt auch deshalb, weil seine Arbeiten so clean, so zurückhaltend und unterkühlt wir- ken: Bildschirme, Kleingedruck- tes, ordentlich Aufgereihtes. Im Gespräch mit ihm wird schnell die Tragweite seiner Arbeit deutlich. Dem uninformierten Besucher der Ausstellung „Actions“ entgeht sie aber, ist zu befürchten.
Drei Arbeiten, alle schon ein- mal ausgestellt, bilden die Schau. Da ist „I Cannot Not Communica- te“ von 2015: Eine Reihe von hun- dert Büchern auf einem blanken Holztisch. Daneben liegt eine Lis- te mit allen ausgestellten Titeln. „Das sind die Bücher, die Amazon mir zum Lesen empfiehlt“, sagt er mit einem leichten Lächeln in den Mundwinkeln. Er hat tatsächlich den Spruch „Kunden, die Artikel in Ihrem Einkaufswagen gekauft haben, haben auch Folgendes ge- kauft“ ernst genommen und die hundert ersten Empfehlungen in den Einkaufswagen gelegt. Da- runter sind Fantasy-Romane oder ein Buch auf Französisch, „dabei kann ich gar kein Französisch!“, sagt Callanan. Andere Empfeh- lungen sind einleuchtender: Bü- cher über Kunst, Soziologie, Phi- losophie, von Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck oder John Berger.
Seitdem er im Mai 2015 auf Amazon gehört hat, ist Callanan nicht mehr normaler Kunde des Online-Geschäfts. „Ich bin mit dem System in Beziehung getre- ten“, sagt er mit leiser Stimme, „vielleicht lüfte ich irgendwann das Geheimnis seines Algorith- mus.“ Callanan wird weiterhin auf Amazon hören, immer wieder Empfehlungen kaufen und dabei versuchen, das System zu ent- schlüsseln. Das Ziel dieser Spie- lerei wäre in dem unwahrscheinli- chen Fall erreicht, wenn Callanan schon vorher wüsste, was Ama- zon ihm empfehlen wird. Es wird immer schwieriger, den Beweis zu liefern, dass der Mensch dem Computer überlegen ist.
Noch mehr witzige Tüfteleien gibt’s im zentralen, mit gepfleg- ten, alten Bodenfliesen ausge- legten Raum. „Each and Every Command“ heißt die Arbeit von 2016. Sie zeigt auf sechs hellen Tischen elf dicke, graue Ordner. In ihnen sind auf hellgrauem Re- cyclingpapier „4.144.676 Wör- ter in 198.605 Zeilen“ gedruckt, wie Callanan sagt. Inhaltlich sa- gen sie gar nichts: Es ist die vom Programm Adobe Photoshop ge- speicherte Chronik der Arbeit, die Callanan in den vergangenen zwölf Jahren geleistet hat. Das Programm hat jeden Schritt bei seiner Bearbeitung von Fotos für die Nachwelt aufbewahrt: Callanan zeigt dieses Bemü- hen nun der Welt. Fast schon rührend sind die unsinnig vie- len Seiten, „acht Mal so viel wie Shakespeares Gesamtwerk“, sagt Callanan wieder mit diesem leich- ten Grinsen.
Die exponierte Emsigkeit des Programms wirft Fragen auf, zu Sinn und Unsinn von Archiven, von Erinnerung, von Lernen. Und die Installation hinterfragt auch den Mythos vom kreativen Prozess, dem Work in Progress: Wie wichtig ist es, die Arbeitsschritte eines Künstlers zu dokumentieren?
Trotz aller Ironie und Selbstre- ferenz gibt es „Each and Every Command“ als digitale Version in der British Library, und im Ama- zon Kindle Store kann man das Werk für zwei Pfund zum Lesen auf einem E-Reader kaufen: Nicht ganz so spannend wie die Lektüre eines Telefonbuchs.
Die dritte Arbeit „Departure of All“ aus dem Jahr 2013 schließ- lich stimuliert die Fantasie des Betrachters ungemein – wenn man weiß oder intuitiv erfasst, worum es geht. Callanan hat eine Anzeigetafel mit Abflugzeiten an die Wand montiert. Bei längerer Betrachtung bemerkt man, dass es sich um einen fiktiven Flughafen handeln muss. Nein, es ist die An- zeige aller Flüge, die in Echtzeit von einem internationalen Flugha- fen abheben. Die Anzeige scrollt immer weiter oben, immer neue Flüge rutschen von unten nach, sie sind alle real und die Maschinen rollen im Moment des Betrachtens irgendwo über eine Startbahn. „Man bemerkt, wie eng alles ver- knüpft ist am Himmel“, sagt Pau Waelder, „und dabei kann einem schnell ein bisschen schwinde- lig werden.“ Der blaue Himmel taucht vor dem inneren Auge auf, durchzogen von weißen Kondens- streifen, immer dichter werden sie, irgendwann ist das Netz so dicht, dass man kaum noch das Blau des Himmels sieht. Man könnte Atemnot oder Platzangst bekommen: Das Netz ist überall, nicht nur hinter einem Bildschirm.
Galería Horrach Moyà
25/3 – 7/5/2017
The work of Martin John Callanan focuses on the relationship between individuals and the systems that determine their existence, whether natural, economic, social, political, or that invisible and omnipresent data network in which we all participate. Placing himself at the centre of this research, not as a protagonist, but as a simple individual who is affected by the same systems that dominate us all, the artist elaborates patient and laborious processes with the data that he collects from his interaction with the world. The result of these processes are works that refer to both a personal experience and a condition shared by a large part of the inhabitants of the planet.
As Robert Musil states in The Man Without Qualities (1930), “living permanently in a well-ordered State has an out-an-out spectral aspect: one cannot step into the street or drink a glass of water or get into a tram without touching the perfectly balanced levers of a gigantic apparatus of laws and relations…” This apparatus, which according to Musil becomes so invisible that we deny its existence “as the common man denies the existence of the air,” is what Callanan explores in his work: each action of an individual is recorded by the system and produces some reaction, which becomes visible in the artworks selected for this exhibition.
Horrach-Moyà presents in this, Callanan’s second solo show in the gallery, a selection of recent works that explore diverse forms of representing the relation between the individual and the data that he generates, either through what he consumes, produces, or even where he goes. The works move fluidly between the intimate and the impersonal, between the analog and the digital, capturing a small part of a set processes that will not stop until the individual that generates them or the systems that sustain them cease to exist.
Pau Waelder, Curator
I Cannot Not Communicate
In this work, the artist has collected the first 100 books recommended to him by Amazon, based on everything he read and bought since the online retail giant first launched its recommendation algorithm over 15 years ago.
The title refers to the condition of the user of any service on the Web as an involuntary transmitter of information: since the data concerning the actions of the user (day and time of access, duration, contents browsed and so forth) are registered automatically, it is no longer possible to be a mere receiver of information. Rahter, one constantly participates in a data exchange that leads to modifying the same contents that one is accessing. This reflection is not presented as a complex technological installation but as something as simple as a library, which becomes a record of the subject that have interested the artist, although this record was not created by him but has been elaborated by Amazon’s algorithm. These books are not necessarily those that Martin John Callanan has read, but those that he supposedly wants to read.
Each and Every Command
This piece shows all edits done by the artist on the photo editing software Adobe Photoshop during twelve years, from December 23, 2003 to February 7, 2016. Registered automatically by the program, they are presented as a long list on 15,873 pages in DIN A4 gray paper, bound in 11 volumes. There are altogether 4,144,676 words in 198,605 lines of text, which corresponds to eight times the complete works of William Shakespeare. A record of this file is preserved in digital format at the British Library.
With this work, Martin John Callanan suggests the possibility of recording each of the actions performed in a computer, while exploring the romantic myth of artistic creation: the fascination for the creative process of the artist and the conception of the studio as a magical and intimate place where his inspiration is gleaned, translate into a sober file that methodically collects every action carried out by the artist on an image editing software. Reading this register, it is possible (if one can take an amount of time that perhaps exceeds human capacities) to follow the steps of the artist’s working process, both in the elaboration of a work and when editing his website or retouching a holiday photo. The deep knowledge of his work can be found here, buried among thousands of banal data, in a diary as comprehensive as it is, paradoxically, absurd.
Departure of All
Displayed as an airport information panel, a screen shows all flights that are taking off from all international airports in the world, in real time. The time of departure, flight number, city of origin and destination are displayed in a sober list. Every five seconds, two or three new flights appear on the screen, as the list continues to slowly scroll upwards. The global air traffic is summed up in a small set of data that invite us to reflect on the fact that, at all times, there are approximately 500,000 people flying at forty thousand feet.
The speed with which the list is updated indicates an incessant need to move that forms a picture of our globalized society and the impact that our restless lifestyle (particularly nomadic in the art world) has on the environment. The relatively daily act of catching an airplane is actually an action that is part of a precise machinery that works on a global scale: as passengers, we participate in a flow of coordinated activities whose effects are transmitted from one hemisphere to the other. Altering this flow (as occurred, for example, with the eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010) is chaotic, and therefore it can not be stopped, as the endless list on the screen never stops.
I Cannot Not Communicate with Horrach Moyá, ARCO Madrid 2017
My Berlin Studio, November 2016
Exhibition, November 2016
Photos by Anastasia Muna