Art Seen: International

THE FLUIDITY ASPECT // NETHERLANDS 2014

By Dominique Moulon 

TodaysArt in the Netherlands was founded by Olof van Winden, and is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. After residing in the city centre of The Hague for nine years it has now moved closer to the edge of the North Sea, notably with an exhibition entitled The Fluidity Aspect.

Organized by curator Petra Heck, The Fluidity Aspect takes place a few meters from the beach—a location where Constant Dullaart has installed Jennifer in Paradise. The piece begs the question: who is Jennifer, photographed from behind on a beach? Her image has relentlessly been worked over with a “Fluidity” filter in Photoshop, fitting for the exhibition. Through the source code of the digital page jennifer.ps, we learn that this particular Jennifer’s last name is Knoll, and that the photo pictured by Dullaart in the full room installation was accompanied the first distribution of Photoshop in 1987, in floppy disc format. Talk about media archaeology. Biographically, the woman was married to one of the leading developers of the image processing software. She is also the first individual to have been “photoshopped”.

To date, there are over 64,000 results on Google for this query. What was once an attempt at paradise, the application has progressed since 1987—now we have tutorials that explain how to turn a Pepperoni pizza into a model in a bikini. Re-appropriation and photo editing in art are not new, but they have gradually become everyone’s business. To the point that beauty, like the strange, only reveals the manipulations in images we see circulating on the Internet. Though a photograph may capture the real, its treatment is moving farther and farther away from it.

Constant Dullaart, “Jennifer in Paradise”, 2013.

Constant Dullaart, “Jennifer in Paradise”, 2013.

If we look at the concept of the media archive—deposits of unsorted documents of the past are more valuable, just as in the eyes of archaeologists. The “waste” on our computers, from the desktop to the Internet, is also greatly enriched with countless treasures. It is from this bottomless landfill experienced in Jon Rafman’s sequence Mainsqueeze. The samples assembled by the artist are comparable to the links we exchange through social networks. When they are augmented, comments such as amazing or disgusting, allow us to keep our distance. How many of us have entered subjects like terrorism or execution in this regard? To the irony and despair that is spreading through our servers, the Canadian artist adds some historical and pictorial representations of human cruelty.

Jon Rafman, “Mainsqueeze”, 2014.

Jon Rafman, “Mainsqueeze”, 2014.

Our access to images and documentation is questioned throughout the exhibition. While The Louvre still allows photography, it prohibits the use of flashes or tripods—and as for the images on the institute’s website, they are all protected by intellectual property law. It is necessary to go to Paris to fully experience the works. It is not, however, necessary to go to Lincoln, UK, to experience the sculptures of the Usher Gallery. Contemporary artist Oliver Laric was given access to the collection so that he could scan each work order to distribute it online, in the form of three-dimensional models. The project is called Lincoln 3D Scans and it is full of 3D files that are available for viewers to handle, edit, and/or print. The stereo-lithography that is presented in The Hague is only one component of the work, which also exists in the form of a resolutely interactive website.

Oliver Laric, “Lincoln 3D Scans” 2013.

Oliver Laric, “Lincoln 3D Scans” 2013.

Technologies such as these, just like the evolution of Photoshop pictured in Dullaart’s piece, is perfected by its democratization—here, changing our perception of sculpture without actually making any of us sculptors.

In this journey, going from the image to the object, there is the rather strange assembly of proposals within the exhibition—including Transcend by Kianoosh Motallebi. In this piece, two objects, symbolizing the digitization of the World—a USB key and a 12v charger—fit together perfectly. A little further from this piece, a refrigerator with its door wide open faces an electric heater. This provocation, by Charbel-Joseph H. Boutros, is entitled My answer to ecology # 2. Both devices unnecessarily consume each other’s energy and cancel each other out, confronting the viewer with their own responsibilities. The average citizen is situated precisely between these two devices, as if in the face of a duel without a foundation or a future. This installation encourages us to reconsider our share of responsibility, commitment, and involvement in everyday life. When alone, we must humbly participate in changing the world.

Kianoosh Motallebi, “Transcend”, 2012.

Kianoosh Motallebi, “Transcend”, 2012.

In an adjacent gallery is a work by Stefan Tiefengraber, where hammers are connected to a server—spectators have a great responsibility to choose whether to activate the work. Entitled User Generated Server Destruction, users can release the hammers on a click, through an online interface. Two by two, they hit the server hosting the application that controls them with all their weight. Should one activate this piece, they destroy it—or should they refuse by not participating, do viewers preserve the piece, or render it incomplete? It is perhaps this dilemma that comprises the work.

Stefan Tiefengraber  “User Generated Server Destruction”, 2013-2014.

Stefan Tiefengraber “User Generated Server Destruction”, 2013-2014.

Uranium glass, which was especially utilized in making cookware in the late nineteenth century, disappeared as a common material during the Second World War. As such, the origin of its fluorescence, exhibited in The Hague, is not a very reassuring one for viewers of the lumino-kinetic installation Lead Angels 1.0 by Frederik De Wilde. The piece is bathed in ultraviolet light that reveals its usually invisible radiation. The piece begs the question—are not all of our prevalent contemporary fears also those of the invisible? The undulations of the Uranium glass tubes in this installation are as harmonious as the scrolls of mushroom clouds. Even in extreme toxicity, there is a form of beauty to this piece. The public is offered the opportunity to participate in the work by being given the option to power it with a variable amount of uranium salt. The radiation, though infinitely small, is magnified by the presence of this kind of energy, the control of which sometimes eludes us.

In one of the final galleries, in the darkness of an exterior black box, there is a video installation, entitled A versions [26 unknowns] by Norimichi Hirakawa, presented by the Japan Media Arts Festival. In the video, one can perceive the faces of women rapidly appearing one after the other. Myriad horizontal lines in the frame blur the image, giving it a unity of style over time—as if it were an infinite transition merging the portraits of those who have previously looked into the lens of the artist’s camera in his studio. But here, the machine has eradicated all forms of difference; the figures become a single person, which emerges in a type of relative serenity. In the darkness of the image space, they address their viewers in unison, with resigned silence.

Norimichi Hirakawa, “A Versions [ 26 unknowns ]”, 2013.

Norimichi Hirakawa, “A Versions [ 26 unknowns ]”, 2013.





TodaysArt ran from September 25 to October 5, 2014.

Founder of MediaArtDesign.net, Dominique Moulon is an art critic and independent curator. He has recently published the eBook Contemporary New Media Art and teaches at Parsons, The New School, and at the University of Paris 1, Panthéon Sorbonne.

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