Mediamatic Magazine vol 3#3 Geert Lovink 1 Jan 1989

Kunstforum 97 & 98

florian rötzer (ed) Keulen Nov/Dec 1988 & Jan/Feb 1989 DIETER BECHTLOFF (pub) Tel. 06441/80414,
D, 364 PP & 352 PP DM 29,80


Kunstforum 97 & 98 -

In his 1973 book An and the Future DOUGLAS DAVIS comments: the information generated within the art system has to do with matters above both sociology and politics. It is in fact metaphysical. This early survey of artists working with modern techniques (KLÜVER’S Nine Evenings and Eat, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, SEAWRIGHT etc.) ends with the statement that art will be dematerialized. Art will not die but in the future will fuse with technology and science. The Artist-Engineer Machine will achieve this final fusion by means of the computer.

international to complete a survey, the results of which appear to confirm these predictions. A situation, however, that no-one seems to be very happy about. The title of the two issues devoted to this subject is modified by a question mark: Asthetik des Immateriellen? The sub-head the relation between art and technology is dominated by a sense of uncertainty. It is still by no means clear what concrete changes the introduction of the new technologies will produce, RÖTZER says in his introduction. It’s still mainly a matter of speculation, a kind of science fiction.

That’s no due to the theoreticians who were invited by RÖTZER to contribute, VILÉM FLUSSER, PAUL VIRILIO, FRIEDRICH KITTLER or JEAN-PIERRE JEUDY are certainly not the wingeing on the one hand, on the other hand type of thinkers. They and their texts have long been exploring what DAVIS calls metaphysics. Their aim is not reflection or criticism but the production of realities. In that sense they are not far removed from those artists who employ modern techniques, despite the fact that they still express themselves in the GUTENBERGIAN medium of writing.

As in Französische Philosophen im Gesprach (Munich 1986) RÖTZER goes into some depth and it is a useful introduction for outsiders. However, his choice is far too obvious for the cognoscenti. All too dreary and too worthy. We are led in a vague kind of way through the works of the various authors. It in no way resembles the character of a laboratory. And RÖTZER’S proposal to discuss the extent to which technology has changed perception is still too cautious. It would be exciting to hear travel experiences in these artificial realities of the immaterial, but the technology simply remains too distant. There is the constant danger or futurism. The glorification of technology which resulted in the horrors of the Materialschlacht during WW I still determine our thinking, RÖTZER begins and ends his essay with this explosive paradox but refrains from drawing conclusions.

Seen in this light it is completely incomprehensible the way JÜRGEN CLAUS is allowed once again to deliver his hysterical plea for an Elektronisches Bauhaus. It is riddled with the Angst that Germany will lose the battle for media reality to her traditional enemies France and America. And what should one think of GILLO DORFLES’S call for: the rediscovery of the eternally fertile sources of positive thinking in the highest reaches of human imagination, the most innovative domain of thought...? And yet RÖTZER emphatically distances himself from an obscure melange of vague New Age spiritual and holistic ideas and instrumental rationality.

RÖTZER classifies FRANK POPPER’S jubilant survey of techno-imaginary exhibitions and RENE BURGER’S utopian challenge of axiomatic information science (from Part I) with great caution in his introduction to Part II, as being social compensation. Conversely PETER WEIBEL and VALIE EXPORT exphasize the aggressive character of technology’s intervention in daily life.

Although there is no way back, RÖTZER opposes the euphoria of cable and satellite communications of the Global Village and its subscribing individuals.

He rejects collaboration with politics and large-scale capitalism. Even the alternatives to this only serve for the system’s improvement and increased efficiency and artists can simply discuss the innovations of arms research in retrospect and must deal with cultural aims (an old autonomous wisdom!). At present, art can scarcely unravel the tangled strands of aesthetic, perceptual, political, social, economic and philosophical dimensions. Unfortunately his issue of Kunstforum fails to reflect this pluralism. Influences from outside the world of the artist and his theoretician are not permitted.

The computer can serve as an example and it is at the centre of this thematic issue. But as is typical of post-modern reading matter, there simply is no centre. There is not one single article devoted to this digital calculating genius. The cause of this is quite possibly the shame of those who have to work with video equipment and computers that are completely obsolete even at the time of purchase. The technological revolution is moving so fast that the artist doesn’t have the time to feel like a member of the avant garde playing with the latest gadgets. An exception to this is FRIEDER NAKE’S story of artificial art. He demolishes his own field of computer an. This exorcism of meaning by means of a constant attack on the senses always produces the same image that is each time presented as something original. The only message it has is its artificiality, its calculability.

Kunstforum 98 is a video special compiled by dieter Daniels and friedemann malsch. Included is an interview with nan hoover (in which she explains why she has stopped making video art) and a discussion with ingo günther from World Space Corporation who as a super-average citizen with his fascination for the makable wants to introduce some order into the profusion of facts and information. Finally there is a worthwhile interview with rabotnik tv from Amsterdam. To conclude daniels provides a summary of a number of video installations. Inevitably nam June pair is the one individual who appears both in davis’ book, which was published in 1973, and the 1988 Kunstforum survey. He said to davis -.lam always overwhelmed by my engineering. My TV’S are more the artists than I am. I can compose something through technology that is higher or lower than my personality. In painting you can compose as much as you want, but DE KOONING cannot make anything deeper or more profound than what he has, inside himself. But in engineering there is always the other, the Other is not you.

And it is precisely this strange and alien aspect that Kunstforum lacks.