Inspired by a quote from TwentyThousand Leagues Under the Sea, curator Zoe De Luca describes the exhibition’s premise as being divided into two topics: “the utopia of the defined archive in digital era” and “the claim of cultures shelved by dominant visual culture.”**
He holds an object that looks like a smartphone and dutifully records every detail of the exhibition, much like most of the other patrons at the gallery. But upon closer inspection, his “smartphone” is revealed to be the most advanced portable device available in the late 1950s, during the era of the artwork displayed – a rapidcalcolo, or predecessor to the calculator.
Six months later, the Museo del ‘900 exhibition wraps up, and Pozzi presents his video, “a performance closely linked to the mimetic aspect, to a visual short circuit, and therefore to an unavoidable physical reality”. To add another layer to the experience, he uploads the video to Instagram. In a sense, he is doing what everyone of Instagram’s 100 million active users does, but the layers of self-awareness and irony add the sheen of art, a reflective surface as opposed to a purely consumptive one.
Time and how it manifests in art is a key theme of a 14-page, print-only written exchange between curatorial project km temporaer‘s Elisa R. Linn and Lenart Wolff and curator Hicham Khalidi. It forms the basis of the One step ahead moving backward group exhibition held at Berlin’s LEAP, running October 31 to November 22 and features solo and collaborative works from 12 contributors, including Andreas Greiner, Armin Keplinger, Wolfgang Laib and Paolo Thorsen-Nagel among others. The outcome is an eclectic exhibition of art and artist ideas made up of disparate, at times conflicting elements that somehow coagulate under the notions of contemporary artwork as gesture, curation as process and communication as value.
Outlines of human figures and drawings of organs cover thin fabric, half stretched and hanging from the ceiling in Mariechen Danz‘s ‘Tower Vessel Tooth, Book B / Book C’ (2013). It explores information transmission through a combination of Mesoamerican art and contemporary technical language in drawing and print, while another sculpture, ‘Modular Glyphic System’ (2013) – made in collaboration with Genghis Khan Fabrication Co. – resembles a PC computer case of thin metal that can be taken apart and recombined into other forms.
In the background the grafitti inspired wall painting overlaid with a video projection is Kerstin Brätsh and Debo Eilers‘ collaborative project KAYA + n.o.madski. It’s an installation using a certain ‘street’ vernacular more visible in the public rather than private space, yet dominates a LEAP gallery wall in ‘untitled – rewind’ (2014). Meanwhile, a zoom-out in scale presents Adriana Ramić‘s text-based work ‘The Return Trip is Never the Same (After Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid, M. Victor Cornetz, 1910)’ (2014) across three touch screens. Recently shown as part of the Never cargo terminal… exhibition at LA’s Smart Objects in July and based on French civil engineer Victor Cornetz’s studies of insect movements, the work follows an ant pathway across multilingual translations and crowd-sourced dictionaries using an Android Swype. Navigating through their pages, the audience follows their nonsensical logic via colourful abstract lines that are the sequential index of keyboard gestures.
Language and its interpretations and barriers is again explored via Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater‘s ‘Modest Livelihood’ (2012), as the two artists of British Colombian ethnolinguistic heritage screen a hunting trip with Jungen’s uncle within the bounds of a First Nation territory since restricted to within “moderate livelihood”. Tina Kohlmann‘s own reinterpretations of ethnological artefacts are realised in her brightly coloured textile installation named after the inuit sea mammal specialty ‘Mattak’ (2014), while Fabio Marco Pirovino‘s ‘Drawing (Scribble) VIII’ (2014) presents abstract drawings using its eponymous digital ‘Scribble Pen’ that allows its user to scan colour in the ‘real’ world and transfer it to a tablet or mobile device and thus a virtual one.
Documenting the performance of holding a bubble-level tool straight while jumping out of a plane to the tune of ‘Theremin Queen’ Dorit Chrysler‘s cover of The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ is ‘Untitled (Leveling a spirit level in free fall feat. Dorit Chrysler’s BBGV dub)‘ (2009). It’s a video work by João Onofre examining the relationship between physical performance and cinematography, screened from a TV and propped in a corner, while Luca Pozzi‘s curved ‘Wall String #8’ (2013) crosses the art and science divide most succinctly, where pieces of diamond plate aluminium is curved into organic shapes that are poetically ended by balls that stretch out and almost touch each other. All the while Tiril Hasselknippe’s series of five flat sculptures are spread out in ’29 Palms’. Working with nature, the forms are made of thin synthetic material and earth becoming hybrid islands that dot the suspended non-space of a neutral-grey gallery floor. **
Gil Kuno points to the moon explaining that the filmy aura around it is the result of the salty atmospheric haze of Neve Midbar, at the northern basin of the Dead Sea and over 400 metres below sea level. It’s our first night at the lowest point of land in the world, the shock of the busy car park and compound-like resort still resonating as the mosquitos start to sting. Kuno is an artist, spending the last two months across the Dead Sea coast for some comparatively brief respite from eczema, his skin now dark and leathery, lips burnt to a peeling crisp. He sets a laptop on a plastic chair and plays his past projects: an impressive tower of single-string-picking people playing the sideways composition of The Six Strings Sonics and a music video featuring a porno-ish CGI cyborg flouncing to Japanese lyrics screamed over the cracked and looping tech-metal of ‘Daisuki Me’. This is “probably” the first ever net-band to come into existence. It’s called ‘Wiggle’, was signed to Universal Japan in 1996 and was produced remotely between Kuno and an Australian teenager called ‘Kwook‘ who may also be a furry. There’s a group of us watching it, sat on a brown and sandy incline with the orange glimmer of lights reflecting off the water emerging from a craggy shadow to the east, and we’re all well aware that this is an exceptional situation.
Neve Midbar: it’s meant to mean ‘oasis’ but to my ears it suggests its situation as a mid place, a perpetual limbo –even a kind of purgatory –positioned at a crossroads between Jordan, Palestine and Israel. There’s certainly an unreal quality to the region and, although I have no doubt hindsight has a lot to do with my dreamy glance back to a time equal parts therapeutic and uneasy, that The Eternal Internet Brotherhood is a special place to be.
It’s a nomadic residency that floats in the cloud-based ether for most of the year, finding form for ten days when artists, technologists and writers; an actor, architect and urban planner, converge in a location with spiritual, therapeutic or mythological properties. Here the multidisciplinary group are free to work together, interact and bond over their diverse and divergent backgrounds brought together by a common blanket of networked culture. As temporary aliens, perpetual ex-pats and explorers, #ETINTERBRO (as Twitter understands it) descends on a neutral space with limited Wi-Fi to sometimes talk, sometimes stare silently at their smartphones.
Except that this is hardly neutral space. It’s one fraught with a history of conflict, uncertainty and injustice that is hard to ignore, whether it’s through distant gunshots coming from Jordan, too-late warnings that after dark dips could attract the unwelcome attention of Israeli patrol boats and complicated stories on how to see Eminem live in Tel Aviv as a Palestinian. On any given day –beyond the low-rising fencing of the shade cloth covered wooden ‘China Huts’ where we’re staying –there’ll be Palestinian school groups in the week and Israeli revelers on Shabbat; Malay tours and Nigerian pilgrims visiting Neve Midbar, all seeking their own specific answers tailored to their own particular questions.
“Jean, why you hate the internet?” founder and intrepid organiser Angelo Plessas asks me in slightly broken English as part of his ‘Golden Question’ series. He’s sat on a now familiar gold sheet, the symbol of the trip that swathes a hut, an Arabian horse, a manicured kibbutz lawn and the black mud of Neve Midbar. Stunned and slightly embarrassed, I say I was being facetious; part of an offhand comment while stoned and seeking answers via Meir Kordevani’s ‘Vision Quest’ card readings –read in the light of birthday candles jammed into the seven arms of a mini-Menora. But I kind of do hate the internet, or at least am wary of its existence. Otherwise I wouldn’t have opted out and offline for the duration of the trip, not just as an ironic gesture but as much-needed rest from the over-stimulation of constant connectivity. The true irony though is that there’s no real escape from the internet’s influence, whether logged in or not.
“Man’s relationship to technology is bipolar”, curator and gallerist Ché Zara Blomfield says to me, paraphrasing an article channelling Bruno Latour during one of our inexplicably existential bedtime conversations in a shared No. 23 shack. That’s probably part of the reason a handful of tech-savvy creatives would elect to rough it on the Dead Sea as an extension of a largely online practice. Luca Pozzi would realise the “suspended moments as frozen in time” of his ‘Big Jump Theory’ in a series of photos featuring the artist leaping into the rectangular void of a sheet that resembles a PhotoShop pixel grid, framed by awesome nature. He insists we stop the car and run up a rocky mountain to do so on more than one occasion. Vincent Charlebois marries the experience of the harsh conditions and isolation of seasonal tree planting in the Canadian forest with a cloud-based art practice to develop his idea of anti-utilitarian “contemplative software”. It’s a duality that manifests itself quite literally in his physical body dotted with tiny Unicode tattoos.
The idea of the body as canvas, sculpture and mode for self-expression extends to Elcin Pia Joyner’s practice, where the double-meaning of the Sanskrit word for ‘thing’ as also ‘event’ inspires her yoga-as-sculpture exercises for ‘Breath’. Anastasios Logothetis makes up for the lack of an image projector with a different kind of energy transfer via the group’s mud-smeared hands on his nude form for ‘The Possibility of a Beach’.
Therein lies the persistent question characterising #ETINTERBRO’s Dead Sea residency: how does one distinguish the artist from the person, the event or the experience from the artwork? Danai Anesiadou and Alkistis Poulopoulou insist there is a distinction between their Pranic healing sessions and their chosen fields as artist and “mostly theatre actress”, respectively. The former going as far as to jokingly inscribe “no work only play” in my notebook when asked to write down what art she intends to make over the week.
The border between life and art is further blurred by someone like Mirko De Lisi whose online presence barely exists beyond Instagram and Facebook. His focus is perpetually on the idea of the spontaneity of art-making through dynamic social relationships and identity-creation. He and Mai Ueda use a voluntary ‘lottery ceremony’ for allocating shared sleeping arrangements in an attempt to initiate, experiment and observe individual reactions to randomised inter-group connections.
Beyond that, there are opportunities to see how an artist’s personality comes through in their work and how their work comes through in their personality. Mike Calvert, ever independent in his attitude to group excursions, takes an almost contrarian approach, choosing painting as his medium for representing a “new style of computer aesthetic” at #ETINTERBRO, while –during an obliviously dangerous first night swim in the buoyant salt water of a pitch black Dead Sea –he describes a Milan gallery’s outrage over an exhibition with fellow brotherhood member Miltos Manetas in 2001. There the latter long-established artist’s paintings upstairs were met with Calvert’s adorable ‘strawberries and pizza’ animation below.
But then, testing boundaries is what the dynamic fields of art and technology thrive on. If it isn’t Israeli Kordevani calmly crossing into Jericho to meet with some newfound Palestinian friends, then it’s Israeli-born, Brighton-based artist and philosopher Aharon (hands down the strangest and most sincere member of #ETINTERBRO) literally skateboarding between cities to bring Palestinian artists to us. That’s all via a localised pop-up internet hub called the ‘CommunityBox’ carried in his bumbag. Eventually a handful of the Dead Sea group make the trip to Ramallah to see the artwork and meet the artists for themselves.
But communication isn’t limited between people, but human, beast and object too. Urban planner and horse owner Mia Lundström takes us to meet and ride Arabian horses at the Yasser Arafat-founded Jericho Equestrian Club. From there, the comical and sometimes rather dramatic outcome of clashes of character between #ETINTERBRO members and these famously temperamental horses are later laughed at by instructors Hussein and Amer over coffee and a narghile that night. As for the seemingly inanimate, some people joined Andreas Angelidakis for a visit to Zvi Hecker’s Ramot Polin housing in east Jerusalem. It’s a neighbourhood designed around the Metabolist principle of what Andreas calls in his blog “buildings as living organisms”, a sort of modulated architecture that could continue to grow after its initial construction. These dodecahedron pods have since lived up to the promise of extension and evolution thanks to its Haredi Jewish inhabitants, except that the new additions and extensions involve square walls, stairs and awnings –not just more pentagonal windows. It’s the sort of customisation, corruption and disruption that leads Andreas to dryly suggest that this could in fact be the IRL expression of “a post Metabolist internet hood”.
The #ETINTERBRO post-internet hood on the other hand, with its 15-plus people from Japan, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, exists as a dynamic cluster, uprooted and dotted across the globe in the nebulous online vortex of the Easyjet generation. That’s a freedom of movement not everyone has, as we’re reminded by towering red signs flanking the roads and warning against Israeli entry into Jericho, Palestinian movement ruled out of areas via checkpoints, permit regulations and uncompromising concrete walls. Hire-car insurance clauses and a GPS message cautioning, “selected destination is in the West Bank Territories. Entering these areas might be risky. Proceed?” sends a message that our own is restricted to the sanctioned spaces and motorways of a highly controlled urban landscape.
But that restricted infrastructure goes well beyond the physical geography of our immediate surroundings; further still from that small pocket on the Mediterranean Sea nestled precariously between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. There, beer-fuelled late-night conversation centres around surveillance, Google search engines and Facebook; mailchimp mail tracking and unnervingly pre-informed border police. Here, the distant flutter of dread still lingers. **
Starting in Italian Art History and ending in Loop Quantum Gravity, Luca Pozzi is a product of his background. Working across science, nature and philosophy, the Milan-based artist cites Renaissance artists Tiziano and Leonardo Da Vinci, Mantegna, Tintoretto and De Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Gianni Colombo and many more as influences. That’s while collaborating with the likes of electronic engineer Janick Simeray on levitating sea-sponges in ‘The Star Platform’ and exploring the infinite potential of drawing using experiments by Professor Nicolas Gisin, responsible for teletransporting a photon in 2003, as a jumping off point.
It might look like Pozzi’s sci-art obsession, rooted in the past, is a contradiction in terms but there’s a clear logic to his work, whether it’s a three-dimensional recreation of the mysterious ‘hanging egg’ of the 13th century ‘Montefeltro Altarpiece’ in ‘Schrödinger’s cat through Piero della Francesca influence’ or his Supersymmetric Partner series. The latter features photos of the artist leaping in to the frame of Paolo Veronese’s banquet scenes, making his own pilgrimage into the past, becoming frozen not only in but across time.
“Veronese pushed me to visualize both approaches as the same ‘field’ influenced by different forces, conceived as different grammars,” Pozzi writes, rather lyrically, during a real time Google doc conversation about the evolution of his hybrid practice crossing art and science. “I’m not interested in science in general. I’m interested in Quantum Gravity that is studying the reality at very high energies! This is so far from our scale that is truly poetic”.
Luca Pozzi, ‘The Big Jump Theory’ (2014). 3D Animation: Massimo Russo. Music: ‘black hole orchestra’ by AIGO.
Pozzi uses a lot of exclamation marks, and there appears to be a lot that excites him about his work, giving it a sense of awe and ritual that one suspects has a similar effect as the sense of fulfilment you’d get from a more traditional spiritual pursuit. That’s probably why his latest work ‘ORACLE: The Big Jump’ consists a series of performances with a UV laser to occur at sunset (“every day a different question, every day a new ritual in a very special space where our culture was born 2, 000 years ago”). It’s also happens to be a good reason why Pozzi would be such a good fit for the third edition of the Eternal Internet Brotherhood this April.
Counting himself among the handful of net artists travelling to the Dead Sea to explore the metaphysical value of a manmade tool, it makes sense that Pozzi should take his work to a religious crossroads at the centre of disputed territory. That’s particularly when the place where he plans to draw is called Rift Valley, split between territories, in a moment where past and present, the spiritual and political, converge.
It’s interesting you draw from so far back in history. It makes total sense but I’ve heard people from Italy complain how antiquated the country can be culturally. Yet you seem to use that as a catalyst for a practice that is incredibly progressive.
LP: Sure, the point is that if you start to study theoretical physics, looking for the deepest description of our reality, you see that time itself is not just a stage were things happened, it is also an actor. So not working on time but working with time is much more interesting, in my opinion. The best part is that the Italian attitude to this is pretty much familiar and normal, probably because time is something that influenced us lot.
What do you mean by the Italian attitude was influenced by this approach to time?
LP: Dante for example, the creator of our modern language. In the Divina Commedia [The Divine Comedy], he jumps around in history to connect the knowledge that our culture had accumulated in the past centuries…it’s normal! It’s part of us.
It makes sense now that you put it in those terms. Because, visually, there’s a noticeable contrast between something like ‘Dragon’s Eyes’ and the Supersymmetric Partner series but I suppose that juxtaposition, that kind of tear in the fabric of time, is central to your work.
LP: You touch the point exactly. Both works focus on the fabric of time. Supersymmetric Partner is doing this by a citation of a parallel world it’s representing, in an indirect way, using the societal knowledge. ‘Dragon’s Eyes’ is more pure.
The starting point is the Quantum Gravity approach that postulates the existence of time as something that emerges from a quantum fluctuation, in the drawings made by UV light on phosphor [U-Drawings], you are visualizing the building blocks of this fluctuation. It’s made by light that is actually made from quantum particles. At the same time the work is called ‘Dragon’s Eyes’, that actually is another reference to the mythology of the past. So again, it’s playing with what people believe to know.
It’s interesting that you mention the ‘poetics’ of Quantum Theory. I was just watching a video with Metahaven where they talked about the political side of their work but also the “dreamy, romantic” side. They’re interested in conveying, not just information but a clear, lyrical aesthetic as well.
LP: Flatlandia [a Victorian satirical novella exploring dimensions] could help me to answer here. You should imagine a world were things happen only in two dimensions, right? And one day you discover, by looking for a circle that augments its diameter in a very strange and never seen way, the tridimensionality of a sphere. From this ‘natural’ event, you feel that something goes out from your ‘normal’ knowledge.
‘A Square’ tries to convince the people of his country that the reality is bigger than what they supposed but he will be imprisoned because this option is very dangerous. Poetics is another never seen direction. The never-seen direction is revolutionary and, in terms of politics, that makes problems.
So ‘A Square’ in Flatlandia is pretty much Galileo right?
LP: Hehehehe, there are many people in history that are so similar to ‘A Square’, yes! Galileo is one of them for sure. I mean I can’t separate Galileo from Caravaggio. The light on a piece of bread in Caravaggio is the same as the light on the moon of Galileo. They are both poetic because they discovered a different way of using light.
It’s remarkable this persistent human need for reification, despite it being challenged throughout history. It’s like the tragic-comic reality of human existence. We’ll never learn.
LP: Yes, fortunately never. And you know why? The system is always bigger than its constituents. The first question is whether we feel a part of it or outside of it. But it’s incredible that this limit is supported by the amazing capacity of the imagination.
It also exposes this duality (but I wouldn’t want to limit you to two dimensions) that’s so central to your work; this push and pull, a volatility that maintains some sort of core balance.
LP: Yes the core balance, I love it. The fact is that everything happens in a chaotic way but we are created by such an amazing number of connected variables. This connection is a mystery, so strong but at the same time so fragile.
The heaviest particles, for example, they evaporate and collapse in a very short time. But they are part of it, part of the connection between more complex structures. These metastable moments are so important in my opinion and these moments are like key points in the time-line of our evolution. I love to imagine these suspended moments as frozen in time, to visualise them as the final picture.
In terms of ‘post-internet’, I don’t know if you identify with the label yourself, but it’s interesting to note that many artists associated with it tend to have a rather myopic perspective of art history, if any at all. Perhaps that reflects the narrowing effect of networked culture on our subjective experience.
LP: I don’t feel the Internet has a narrowing effect. I look at it as it was originally, as a bridge to share information and to stimulate discoveries. But post-internet is something that will bring us to the future of the Internet, the Quantum Internet!
In that sense, I’m totally with the post-internet generation. I’m looking for a new technology and so a new experience of the Internet, which is much more related to nature and organic substances.
It does feel like your approach is quite unique in a broader context. If you consider the fact that post-internet spans a more diverse demographic, comparative to earlier generations, it makes sense that it would reject a largely patriarchal historical narrative. Is this something you’ve thought about working with and as a direct descendent of artists and theorists that are mostly male?
LP: I can assure you that I used also to discuss and to reference my works also in relation to female scientists like Francesca Vidotto and Fotini Markoupopulo, they are really amazing!
But, yes, if you are talking about my work related to the past, unfortunately our past culture is pretty much monopolised by men. I have to do something explicit as soon as possible in my work to clarify this, because it’s not the result of choices but the result of the past.
I suppose you can’t change the past, so some people choose to disregard it entirely. After all, perhaps our conception of the world would be entirely different if it weren’t for this imbalanced and binary distinction between members of the population.
LP: That’s a good suggestion. I used to work with the past as common knowledge but rewriting history using different markers is probably less powerful in terms of icons, but I love the idea to create new female icons.
When you talk about this cross-disciplinary hybrid art practice, where you draw not only from art and science, but mythology too –while reaching that level of science theory that it becomes transcendental –then the Eternal Internet Brotherhood is a fairly good match for you.
LP: That’s one of the points that usually creates problems between me and the scientists. Most of them are totally far from spirituality, and mythology, and religion. For them those things are the result of ‘small’ behaviours. In my personal opinion our third eye is spiritual and very much related to the capacity that we have to redesign the world, creating imaginative characters.
Mythology and ritual is part of this talent and The Eternal Internet Brotherhood is one of these rituals, it’s part of our natural practice to say that the network is natural.
It’s bizarre that a scientist should be so opposed to the metaphysical, especially considering that science itself has had a history of being persecuted for being a function of the ‘black arts’. It’s just semantics anyway. If you ask me, the nature of the Internet is pretty fucking magical.
LP: I agree, 100 per cent. I think that the problem is that they deny the necessity to postulate the existence of something beyond, but it’s amazing they do that all the time. **