TECHNOLOGY WON´T SAVE US
12TH ISTANBUL BIENNIAL
Art Suites Gallery, Beyoĝlu-Istanbul
On the occasion of the 12th Istanbul Biennial 2011 September 15 - October 15 2011
Gábor A. Nagy
Alejandro Rodríguez González
Curated by Uwe Goldenstein
Catalogue Part 1 (türkçe/engl/dt)
Catalogue Part 2 (türkçe/engl/dt)
Exhibition view / Ausstellungstext auf Deutsch
I’m a king in my head. I cripple in the world. Malcolm Middleton
The codified world which we inhabit no longer signifies process or becoming. It tells no stories, and inhabiting it does not mean acting. That it has ceased to mean this, is what is known as the crisis of values. For we are still largely programmed by texts — programmed for history, for science, for political programmes, for art. We read the world, for instance logically and mathematically. But the new generation, programmed by techno-images, no longer shares our values. And we don’t yet know which meaning the techno-images surrounding us are programming for.
The crisis of values quoted here, presciently foreseen by the philosopher Vilém Flusser in 1978, has since evolved into a permanent crisis of a social lifeworld which is today determined by the simultaneity, banality and randomness of the images that incessantly program us. The participants in this exhibition are members of the new generation described by Flusser, since almost all the artists were born in the 1970s. Their work — mostly painting — is a response to the techno-images that have by now created a parallel and self-contained digital world.
The break with history, as described by Flusser, is radically echoed by Gábor A. Nagy: in his paintings, all historical texts which we are potentially still programmed with are ultimately condemned to be meaningless. Composed of lyrical fragments, these paintings reduce the world to a black monochrome surface, upon which figures appear to float like ciphers — they have become an intangible motive. The paintings’ revocation and negation of both image background and figuration results in a general, symbolically charged sense of distance and placelessness, that suggests an ahistorical relationship to the world. The narrative context and relationships appear to loose themselves in this blackened-out environment. Thus Nagy’s images, lacking a horizon and perhaps even a space, comment on an uprooted, demystified, and hyper-technological civilisation, whose overall out-of-focus state is almost impossible to represent. Like the other artists in this show, Nagy rises to the challenge with comparatively archaic technical means.
With his image of a club (see below), Adam Bota forcefully demonstrates where painting is superior to other artistic genres, notably (digital) photography: in opposition to the sober and utterly schematic reproduction of the world as a grid of bits and bytes, he proposes a deep and many-layered representation by means of paint. The light is cast so as to melt all figures in this scene together, into an inscrutable, anonymous grouping; while the colouring, mainly shifting tones of blue, unites the blurred bodies in a shared, melancholy mood. The dancing individual is transformed into an anonymous model of itself; individuality is lost in the depths of the canvas. Bota thus visualises a dilemma of a lifeworld increasingly colonised by technological progress: rather than relishing life in the world of the club and allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by trance-like techno music, the experience turns into a novel form of retreat and isolation, paired with involuntary self-awareness.
Adam Bota - Club I, 2011, oil on canvas, 200×170cm
In response to a society pulsating and advancing to the beat of techno, artists such as Bota or Nagy affirm the distinctly different pace of painting. They force us to pause and bring time to a standstill, so as to allow for a deliberately slow-motion immersion into the layers — and ambiguities — of paint. In this sense, the exhibition’s title carries a positive message: it is a summons to contemplate and come back to ourselves, our own, suggestive ideas of and desires for individual freedom. In this show, the desire to loose oneself and strive for identity in sublime, artificially secluded, parallel realities comes to be the leitmotif of a contemporary, perhaps even romantic attitude and mindset.
For their aesthetic reflections, the artists resort to depictions of absence and employ the dissolution of space as a visual strategy (see for instance Franziska Klotz). Likewise, a topical concern with technically altered forms of perception and experimentation with non-linear notions of time (see for instance Deenesh Ghyczy) question our world-views at a sensual level. The purely functional world is kept at bay or even reconquered with artistic means, as can be seen in Anne Wölk’s abstractly overlayered landscapes, or Simone Haack’s seemingly meditative figures.
The different states of selfhood explored in TECHNOLOGY WON’T SAVE US correspond to an ultimate state of — mental and physical — being, capable of aesthetically reappropriating the last remains of analogue experience, in a world packed to the brim with technology and forever repeating itself in never-ending digital loops. The Berlin-based artists seek out a magical atmosphere of deep immersion and searching, and subscribe fully to a withdrawal into the spheres of art — an alternative form of space that may only be aesthetic, but in which individuality can nonetheless flourish undivided and mark a silent opposition. The unconscious, too, comes into its own and plays a particularly dominant role. It is perhaps the last power capable of resisting the clutch of technological conditioning, the endless, affirmative flickering of techno-images, as described by Vilém Flusser.
This exhibition is very much in his spirit: it challenges us to imagine a new world view, to critically examine our technically saturated lifeworld, and thus ultimately ourselves:
We no longer stand before a riddle. Instead, we are in the midst of a secret: in the mystery of the absurd. And this is a secret which we no longer seek to decode, for it is illegible. Instead, we seek to give it a meaning, to project our own signs onto it. In our newly emergent world view, there are no more backgrounds: the world is but an up-front surface that has nothing to conceal. A cinema screen, onto which we conjure meaning. Though not as projectors, but as knots contained within the fabric of the screen. This as yet inconceivable world view is that of the coming information society. (Flusser 1995)
To speak in terms of Flusser’s imagery: to comprehend how the individual is immanently knotted and woven into his or her technologically determined surroundings, and to imagine an existence without background — once again, see Gábor A. Nagy —, requires a considerable effort and degree of self-reflection. It also needs strong and not least mysterious impulses, and I believe this is precisely what the artists in this show provide.Uwe Goldenstein