The Cermâ (FLOAT) exhibition space occupies that fascinating area between internet appearance and cultural institution. It exists in both the built and the virtual environment. In the virtual part, which happens on the internet, everything is digital. Cermâ explores the possibilities that arise through this and look into a digitalised future.

SPAMM @ Cermâ  it’s a guest exhibition curated by SPAMM (Thomas Cheneseau), which displays tendencies within the current digital art. Anthony AntonellisJasper ElingsEmilio Gomariz Michael Manning will present their work in the first part of the two-part exhibition in SPAMM’s virtual project room. They all create animated GIFs and sculptures for a virtual space.

Augmented Mimesis
#1: GIFs – new sculptures of the digital avant-garde

»Vi­su­al arts have en­t­e­red a new era. It’s a place where im­me­di­a­cy rules, where vi­su­al arts be­co­mes vir­tu­al«, pro­mi­ses the Super Art Mo­dern Mu­se­um, or SPAMM for short. Michaël Bor­ras aka Sys­tai­me and Tho­mas Che­ne­seau foun­ded the on­line mu­se­um in Fran­ce, al­beit that geo­gra­phi­cal in­for­ma­ti­on is prac­tical­ly ir­re­le­vant in the in­ter­net era. Bor­ras and Che­ne­seau pre­sent more than 50 works from the `com­mu­ni­ty´, ano­ther con­cept that does not fol­low geo­gra­phi­cal fron­tiers. Eight of these works can now be seen at CERMÂ in two parts. The new `Di­gi­tal Art Avant-gar­de´ dis­co­vers each other, re­cei­ves and pro­du­ces, com­mu­ni­ca­tes and grows. This is a scene that is not ac­ces­si­ble to ever­yo­ne, ne­ver­the­l­ess ex­tre­me­ly pro­duc­tive.

All over the world, new ar­tis­tic po­si­ti­ons arise that evade the ›White Cube‹: ani­ma­ted GIFs, Glit­ches, web based con­cep­tu­al art, three-di­men­sio­nal ani­ma­ti­ons. In­sti­tu­ti­ons have grown around di­gi­tal art, real and vir­tu­al spaces such as the Rhi­zo­me at the New Mu­se­um in New York, the MACBA in Bar­ce­lo­na and the Ber­lin based Trans­me­dia­le give these po­si­ti­ons a stage and an au­di­ence. Pi­xels are the ma­te­ri­al ar­tists use to paint and shape, rea­li­zing their aes­t­he­tic vi­si­ons.

But can we he­rald the be­gin­ning of a new era, or is this just a hand­ful of nerds who place some vir­tu­al ar­te­facts here and there on the web? It seems quite apro­pos to use a com­mon­place cli­ché: one ima­gi­nes pale, so­ci­al­ly awk­ward crea­tu­res suf­fe­ring from a lack of sun­light who sit in a dar­ke­ned bas­e­ment sta­ring at bright­ly il­lu­mi­na­ted screens, typ­ing fu­rious­ly and mo­ving pi­xels. The re­a­son why di­gi­tal art has not yet found its way into loun­ges, the ›white cubes‹, the li­ving rooms of the post­mo­dern so­cie­ty, may par­ti­al­ly be ex­plai­ned with this ste­reo­ty­pe.

Howe­ver, there is not­hing wrong with being seen as a nerd. This ste­reo­ty­pe al­lows young ar­tists to ex­pe­ri­ment and can also be­co­me the ma­te­ri­al for hu­mo­rous self-re­flec­tion. Je­re­my Bai­ley, who was part of the pre­vious CERMÂ ex­hi­bi­ti­on, likes to poke fun at the ty­pi­cal nerd and the whole spec­trum of media art. He crea­tes pixel sculp­tu­res, which he in­te­gra­tes in video clips as over­lays to his body and com­ments iro­ni­cal­ly.

A guest ex­hi­bi­ti­on cu­ra­ted by SPAMM dis­plays ten­den­cies wi­t­hin the cur­rent di­gi­tal art. Four ar­tists work in the first part of the two-part ex­hi­bi­ti­on in SPAMM’s vir­tu­al pro­ject room. They all crea­te ani­ma­ted GIFs and sculp­tu­res for a vir­tu­al space.

An­t­ho­ny An­to­nel­lis lives and works on the in­ter­net, as his short bio­gra­phy sta­tes. His work is cal­led ›be­hold­be­hold‹ two GIF sculp­tu­res pla­ced next to each other. They adapt the ty­pi­cal art ex­hi­bi­ti­on to a di­gi­tal en­vi­ron­ment. An­to­nel­li dis­plays dan­cing pat­terns, Win­dows em­blems and ra­di­ant dots cha­sing in the view­er’s di­rec­tion in a vir­tu­al show­ca­se. This hyp­no­tic screen­s­a­ver aes­t­he­tic be­co­mes art.

The se­cond work can­not be in­ter­pre­ted at first sight. On top of a marb­le tex­tu­re pe­des­tal, a rectan­gu­lar box ro­ta­tes slow­ly around its axis, around the edges, stri­pes of a pic­tu­re with flowers can be seen. Maybe a pho­to­graph, maybe a pho­to­rea­lis­tic il­lus­tra­ti­on – in the di­gi­tal era rea­lism re­pla­ces rea­li­ty. Much more than the flowers, the struc­tu­re of bricks or pie­ces of con­cre­te cha­rac­te­ri­zes the ap­pearan­ce. An­to­nel­lis toys with the pos­si­bi­li­ties of com­pu­ter il­lus­tra­ti­on, the brick cha­rac­ter of vir­tu­al rea­li­ties, the vir­tu­al mi­me­sis, which means not only the re­mo­del­ling of rea­li­ty but also the ex­pan­si­on of it.

In an email to Ma­nu­el Ross­ner, the foun­der of CERMÂ, he de­scri­bed his in­spi­ra­ti­on: »I went through a pe­ri­od of time where I felt real ob­jects should be­co­me GIFs. Sort of like found ob­jects that were re­pli­ca­ted, pho­to­gra­phed, or re­crea­ted di­gi­tal­ly. The sculp­tu­re on the right was an ob­ject built to mimic so­me­thing I saw in real life, an ob­ject that I felt loo­ked as though it must have come from the in­ter­net. Ba­si­cal­ly it is si­de­walk tiles in a dis­play at a Bau­markt in Wei­mar. The dis­play case was just a metal frame, but the frame had a giant pho­to­graph of flowers prin­ted on it. I re­crea­ted it as a solid shape using images from the in­ter­net, and used a pho­to­graph of the real tiles for the cent­re. So­me­day I’d like to see a real 3D ver­si­on of it being built, but for now, the in­ter­net is a good home.«

The ›objet trou­vé‹ re­ver­be­ra­tes also into di­gi­tal art, al­beit as a vir­tu­al re­pli­ca of the ob­ject. In 1917, Mar­cel Duch­amp star­ted a dis­cus­sion about what can be art with ›Foun­tain‹, a uri­nal pre­sen­ted as a sculp­tu­re; this de­fi­ned the start of a new era in fine arts.

»In­vi­si­ble “O”bject« is the title of Emi­lio Go­ma­riz’ work. It is vi­si­ble (dis­re­gar­ding the title), but only on se­cond sight: In front of the gray and white che­cker­board back­ground from the image edit­ing soft­ware Pho­to­shop, which is the ate­lier of many di­gi­tal ar­tists, a trans­pa­rent ring, al­most like a dough­nut, ro­ta­tes. This re­qui­res some con­cen­tra­ti­on be­cau­se the ring does not ma­ni­fest its­elf at a ca­su­al glan­ce. The lon­ger one fo­cu­ses on the ro­ta­ting ring, the more one would like to grab it. In CERMÂ’s pro­ject room this sculp­tu­re gains some height, it al­most re­aches the floor and the cei­ling – a gi­gan­tic vir­tu­al Op Art ob­ject.

Mi­cha­el Man­ning gives room for in­ter­pre­ta­ti­on, the title »She was ever­y­thing« does not cor­re­spond with the five plains lying over each other, flat rectan­gu­lar pa­nels that float with some dis­tan­ce bet­ween them and move syn­chro­nous­ly. On the sur­face of the slight­ly trans­pa­rent plains wood, water and a sky with white clouds can be seen. Be­si­des its shape and array, the se­cond panel ir­ri­ta­tes the view­er. It looks like a nubby steel sheet, but in its cent­re, a drop of water seems to cause con­centric waves. All the other pa­nels also have this con­centric wave pat­tern, which crea­tes an ef­fect as if water had see­ped through the sculp­tu­re.

Man­ning wrote to Ma­nu­el Ross­ner about his po­si­ti­on: »The piece con­cep­tual­ly is about the col­lap­se of the na­tu­ral and tech­no­lo­gi­cal. the idea being that they are one in the same. Each layer of the GIF re­pres­ents a dif­fe­rent na­tu­ral ele­ment and the 5th being hu­mans or tech­no­lo­gy. The ani­ma­ti­on is meant to show their over­lap, blen­ding and per­pe­tu­al in­ter­con­nec­ted na­tu­re. My work fo­cu­ses on the aug­men­ta­ti­on and dis­tor­ti­on of our per­cep­ti­on of rea­li­ty by tech­no­lo­gy and the de­con­struc­tion of the false di­vi­de bet­ween the na­tu­ral and tech­no­lo­gi­cal.«

Man­ning turns na­tu­re into a flat vi­su­al trace, the con­struc­ted aes­t­he­tic and its ar­ti­fi­ci­al mo­ve­ment con­trast the af­fec­tio­na­te title and do­mi­na­te the work. The vir­tu­al ele­ment, to which our rea­li­ty is gra­dual­ly mo­ving, is stron­ger.

The fourth work is of a more con­cre­te na­tu­re: a three di­men­sio­nal skull ro­ta­tes quick­ly around its axis, in the back­ground there is a free­ze of English­man Da­mi­en Hirst’s fa­mous dia­mond-en­crusted skull. Jas­per Elings tit­led this work »For the Love of God» which al­lu­des to re­li­gious fan­ta­tism. With his ex­pli­cit ap­pro­pria­ti­on of Hirst’s mas­ter­pie­ce, he hints at the art mar­ket. Fa­na­tism is part of the art mar­ket – a kind of mad­ness that dies out in a new era of art?

Di­gi­tal art on the in­ter­net can often be ac­qui­red for free. This chal­len­ges tra­di­tio­nal con­cepts of aut­hor­ship, aes­t­he­tic and re­cep­ti­on. These con­cepts root in Mo­der­nism and have ba­re­ly been chal­len­ged by Post­mo­der­nism. Di­gi­tal art does not quite fit these con­cepts. The SPAMM ma­ni­fes­to has found an an­s­wer to this: »(…) if ›con­tem­pora­ry art‹ isn’t ›from today‹ any­mo­re, but just a con­ti­nuing pe­ri­od of the XIX° cen­tu­ry ›mo­dern art‹, we can pro­claim – wi­thout he­si­ta­ti­on – the exis­tence of the Super Mo­dern Art.«

Text: Sa­bi­ne Weier

Exhibition location (online only)

From 27/08/2012 to 01/10/2012

Thomas Cheneseau 

Anthony Antonellis 
Jasper Elings 
Emilio Gomariz 
Michael Manning

Sponsored by: Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach

(The Offenbach University of Art and Design), 706





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