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by Dominique Moulon [ March 2011 ]
The Transmediale Festival focuses on the role of digital technologies in our society, while Club Transmediale is devoted to the "adventurous" music and related visual arts. This year, the Schering Foundation and the [DAM] Gallery were associated with these two events in Berlin. And we should not forget the Hamburger Bahnhof which has nothing at all to do with the Transmediale, but which presented the work of a resolutely digital artist.

spacerGenetic Fingerprints

Suspect Inversion Center

Paul Vanouse
"Suspect Inversion Center",
2011. Source Axel Heise.
spacerThere is an installation at the House of World Cultures by Paul Vanouse that carries on the theme of the "Fingerprints" exhibition organised by Jens Hauser at the Ernst Schering Foundation with images. The work, entitled "Latent Figure Protocol" exists in the form of performances, installations and photographs. The artist uses the technique of electrophoresis that in particular allows biologists to sequence DNA in order to produce visual signs ranging from copyright to the symbol for infinity. He uses his own DNA in the installation performance "Suspect Inversion Center" in order to reproduce OJ Simpson's DNA imprint. Through such an act, it is more the notion of genetic fingerprints themselves that Paul Vanouse is criticising than their relative reliability and use in legal contexts. The notion of an imprint refers to the skin of our fingers, which make us unique and implies there is contact. Whereas obtaining what is abusively referred to as genetic imprints follows upon the execution of protocols that the artist appropriates for representational ends.

spacerBacteriological Orchestra

Intelligent Bacteria

Honf - The House Of Natural Fiber
"Intelligent Bacteria", 2010.
Source Jonathan Gröger.
spacerEvery year, the Transmediale Festival gives out a prize. This year, the members of the jury nominated seven works out of more than a thousand proposals and it was the artistic research project "Intelligent Bacteria" initiated by The House Of Natural Fiber at the University of Gajah Mada that won. The members of the HONF Collective had been alerted to the growing number of deaths related to adulterated alcohol in Indonesia following a recent price hike resulting from the implementation of new regulations. They worked together with researchers to produce alcohol in complete security based on open source procedures. The fermentation resulting from their installation, which is relatively effective from a visual standpoint, produces carbon dioxide that the artists amplify in real time to obtain sounds that participate in a random, electronic sounding acoustic music. In performance, they are dressed in light and their installation praises the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture.

spacerClosed Circuit


Bram Snijders & Carolien Teunisse
"RE:", 2010. Source Jonathan Gröger.
spacerIn video art, the closed circuit is a tradition that artists Bram Snijders and Carolien Teunisse carry on in the digital era with their installation "RE:" An almost ordinary video projector is bathed in light, but in its own light, because it emits as much light information as it receives that is transited via its own electronic components from a computer that remains in shadow. The mirrors, which make up an integral part of the work, have to be very precisely regulated so that the virtual grid perfectly covers the video projector, which is thus augmented by a layer of information. One recalls the video installations of the 1970's of Peter Campus and more especially of "Kiva", who featured a video camera filming itself. There are spectators with "RE:" as with "Kiva", who interact with the work by interposing themselves as though to untangle the real from the fake, or quite simply to better understand the deus ex machina at work behind the installation. And when the projected grid of light to which we have become accustomed disappears, it seems there is something missing with this machine that has suddenly been rendered naked.

spacerSoft Torture

Face Visualizer

Daito Manabe & Ei Wada
"Face Visualizer", 2008.
Source Jonathan Gröger.
spacerTransmediale was born of an event dedicated to video art that was initially called Videofest. It is therefore quite natural in such a context that young artists like Ei Wada should carry on the research of pioneers like Nam June Paik, because Ei Wada also plays with the magnetic fields of cathode tubes. But it is with his hands that he works when playing the television screens like a percussionist during his improvised performance called "Braun Tube Jazz Band". And in the evening, he accompanies Daito Manabe in another performance entitled "Face Visualizer". The two Japanese artists face the public, their faces magnified by projected video images behind them. They are equipped with electrodes that convert the sounds of the minimalist electronic music into electrical charges. Stimulated in this way, their face muscles lose all control and are synchronised with the music. What follows is a series of grins and contortions that do not fail to elicit audience response. The small pains they inflict upon themselves produce strange grimaces that provoke laughter in the room.

spacerMeeting with Facebook

Face to Facebook

Alessandro Ludovico & Paolo Cirio,
"Face to Facebook", 2011.
spacerAfter having initiated the purchase of Google through its own advertising network in collaboration with the Ubermorgen Collective, and then honestly purloining a few books from Amazon, in each event with the complicity of Hans Bernard and Lizvxl, Alessandro Ludovico, the media theoretician and Paolo Cirio, the artist, have recently confronted another American giant of the Internet industry. The two Italian 'hacktivists' began by downloading nearly a million profiles from Facebook before making a selection with the help of face recognition software in order to keep only 250,000 to classify them within an online database called "lovely-faces.com". It did not take Facebook's lawyers long to intervene and the intended meeting site is now closed. But who does the data uploaded by the 500 million Facebook users belong to, if not themselves? Can the company claim ownership, and under which law other than Californian, even though the platform is among the most global? The "Face to Facebook" project of Alessandro Ludovico and Paolo Cirio has the merit of raising such questions about privacy in the era of social networking.

spacerA Return to Oil Painting


Ubermorgen "DeepHorizon", 2010.
Courtesy [DAM] Berlin/Cologne.
spacerWho would forget the explosion of an oilrig belonging to British Petroleum in April 2010? What followed, day after day, was the indecent spread of an oil slick of crude oil floating on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico brought to us by aerial images similar to those that the members of the Austrian duo Ubermorgen have adapted. But they have treated them digitally so that they evoke oil painting, the disciplinary summit of all artistic disciplines, before exhibiting them at the [DAM] Gallery in Berlin, the partner of this 2011 edition of the Transmediale. The title, "DeepHorizon" of this series of "oil painted digital photographs", heralds the return of painting as much through its subject as its style. It refers to the rig that sank two days after its explosion releasing the tragic flow that has initiated a new type of "pictorial subject". Robert Smithon, in another era, (1969), poured out several tonnes of orange glue, to, in his own way, ironically evoke the colorfield painting of the artists that had preceded him. The irony of the act was more important than the possible environmental impact.

spacerIn the Bethanien Arts Quarter


Bram Vreven
"Spin", 2010.
spacerThe main exhibition of the Transmediale Club was held in a former hospital converted into a contemporary art centre, the Kunstquartier Bethanien. Fifteen or so installations, including "Spin" created by Bram Vreven, were grouped there. The particularity of "Spin" resides in the fact that it is presented in two distinct pieces because it is composed of two parts that are resolutely indissociable. There are nine spheres at the entrance that are comparable to Ping-Pong balls that are spinning very fast, hence the name of the installation. We see that black dots have been drawn on them, though concentric circles appear on our retinas. Further away in the exhibition an alignment of nine flat screens present what we perceive as nine animation films. There is something hypnotising in this endless kinetic video installation that represents nothing other than itself. Ones regard is obliged to wander over the surface of a fragmented image, in search of a centre, while the beauty of the circular movements blurs the memory we have of their origins.

spacerAt the Hamburger Bahnhof


Cory Arcangel
"Untitled Kinetic Sculpture #2",
2010, source Team Gallery.
spacerThe old train station, having itself become a contemporary art museum, presents another kinetic sculpture within the exhibition dedicated to Cory Arcangel: "Untitled Kinetic Sculpture #2". It is majestic and almost as banal as it is intriguing. Banal because it is composed of two columns of shelves on rollers and intriguing because these literally dance, synchronised in their bending. It takes a bit of time to get used to the work. The time needed to convince oneself that it is not an hallucinatory vision but shelves very much like every day ones, except for the fact that they are not inert. Powered by electricity, they are animated by perpetual undulatory movements that sublimate them while conferring upon them their status as a work of art. Though made of metal, they seem as supple and graceful as dancers and almost fragile, but with a regularity that is entirely robotic.

Written for "Digitalarti Mag" and translated by Geoffrey Finch.