Regional Group study visit Switzerland

MuDA – Museum of Digital Art, Zurich

In context of our newly founded Swiss based regional group, three of us (Emma, Jane, and me) got together rather informally in Zurich to meet f2f for the very first time, to visit some shows and to have a nice lunch together. 

We visited the very first Swiss digital gallery, founded two years ago as a kickstarter project, at muda.co (13 Oct 2018 – 02 Feb 2019). On show were digital online works of Vincent Morisset (b. 1976) – https://muda.co/vincentmorisset/  and a larger team behind the creation (especially with Caroline Robert (b. 1983) and Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit (b. 1989). Most of Morisset’s works are available through his website at: http://aatoaa.com/

Quite a few works were created for internet and online presence relating to works (interactive music videos) developed for the Canadian Indie-rock band Arcade Fire. As the first work on display Neon-Bible, 2007 title from the album of Arcade Fire, and with a dedicated interactive online presence at: http://www.beonlineb.com/  This as well the other sites are flash based, thus not working on iphone and one need to see it on a computer, best with headphones on. Another interactive music video was Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) from the album The Suburbs, 2010 and justareflektor (album Reflektor, 2013) The first one inviting the viewer to dance and ‘to control’ to some extent the speed of the movements of the performers in the video.

The question arised how these works were developed, and the gallery assistance mentioned that they were re-created especially for viewing in the gallery space. Although, the digital work as such stayed the same, the gallery installation as transformation was done afterwards, with the unique addition of a suspended fresh apple centered above three tablet pillars.  I find this transformation quite fascinating, as purely digital online works ‘had to’ transformed ‘back’ into physical works (‘back’ if one could consider digital as post-material reality, what in this case might be just the other way round). I am wondering how much of my own work, especially coursework is at the threshold of digital and physical, as most of what I am doing is seen on screens, only those works I submit for assessment or a few assignment works for my tutor are actually looked at physically.  Unfortunately, the music as a key element of the initial music album was hard to hear.

Other works used motion detectors to either detect or monitor body or facial movements of the viewer aka sitter, or were build around interactive controls through touch, e.g Neon-Bible, 2007 or buttons, e.g. Way to Go, 2013 (at: http://a-way-to-go.com/) The latter one an interactive game like projected video, that invited the viewer top control a simple drawn avatar to jump, to run, to fly, and to look/to do things. A seven minutes interaction that we played and discovered with great fun.  

The two works with a mirror image aka avator reflecting, but not fully, more with a glitch, the sitter’s movements reminded me strongly of Alexa Wright’s earlier work Alter Ego, 2005. 

I was asking the staff before about digital painting and was positively surprised to see a large interactive projected work in the last room: Côte à Côte, 2017 – A proposal and commissioned work for a skate park in Montreal. Motion detectors control body movement as convergent and divergent forces in a colorful movement of abstract shapes in a flow. The visual flow reminded me of thickly poured paint flowing across a surface, or lava. Reminding me also of the puddle paintings of Ian Davenport .

This ‘painterly’ interactive work, a process work, stood out for me at this exhibition. Besides one other work BlaBla, 2011 (at:  http://blabla.nfb.ca/#/blabla ) . What was shown in the gallery was chapter 5 ‘Together’ on a touch wall (through projection), through touch one could add a new character and let those together interact, talk to , and singing a song after rain started to come. The characters embodying some social human features, e.g. being nice or nasty. As this work filled an entire room wall, the interaction was a quite physical one, as it was for the engagement with Côte à Côte, 2017 .

Stefan513593 - ideas - visit Muda.co

Fig.1: ideas – visit Muda.co

Overall, it was an interesting experience to see how online screen based works (typically looked at on a computer screen) can be transformed into physical viewing and engaging installations. For me the difference is really about installation, art in a gallery always need to be installed. The walking in and through viewer expects more than just looking at one computer screen.

Bildhalle (picture hall) Gallery, Zurich

Afterwards, we went to Bildhalle.ch with photographic reproduction of the Swiss mountaineer and photographer Robert Boesch (b. 1954) Some large pigment inkjet prints, framed with no glass, fascinated me through a certain sharpness of shapes and edges. The deep blackness on larger areas had quite a tactile, vellum like appeal. A closer viewer turned the massive snow-covered mountains into rather abstract shapes that reminded me of some of my own drawings. When I compare those tactile prints with e.g. C-prints as seen recently at the Andreas Gursky exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel, I can relate more to pigment prints. To notemark just in case I want to print some of my works as works (as Helen Chadwick or Boo Ritson are doing as non-photographer artists) 

We discussed how one could prevent such non-protected prints from dust and scratches. Although the surface itself seems to be rather robust against smooth wiping, the decisions whether not to add a glass protection might depend on the hanging place. 

Not on the walls, but on a nearby podest where some works by the Spanish artist duo Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera (both born 1969, based in Barcelona) , named Albarrán Cabrera. Photographic tonal works, that reminded my partly of the black drawings on yellow paper of Georges Seurat (1850 – 1891) alongside a surreal juxtaposition of various objects and forms. For the duo the handcrafted touch is of importance. They apply classical methods as platinum and silver halide. They also use new experimental methods as pigment prints on gold leaves. Through this process approach the works become unique and original.

«We are our memories. They define what and who we are and help us to understand our reality. … 

We visualize the future: imagining what will happen and how we’ll react. When we think about the future, we do the same mental work as when we remember. .. The two activities, remembering the past and remembering the future, are deeply connected and never stop.»

 – Albarrán Cabrera, Barcelona 2017

I find this quote from them intriguing, the past and the future as gap compositions, that we fill with our imagination. In visual art, these gaps might be filled by the viewer.

Interesting parallelism occured today when I posted one of my digital-narrative-paintings on Instagram and Sarah-Jane responded to that with sharing the reference of Albarrán Cabrera – a mere coincidence? 

Stefan513593 - vertigo - testing

Fig. 2: vertigo – testing; still from my series of enacted paintings – posted on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs2-ffrD5na/ 

 

Mai36 Gallery, Zurich – Robert Mapplethorpe

Last step for the day was a visit to Mai36 gallery and a retrospective (18 Jan – 02 Mar 2019) view on Robert Mapplethorpe‘s (1946- 1989) intimate nude and still life pictures, made and printed mostly in the standard square format of his Hasselblad camera. 

I looked at some his works in context of my UVC studies, tended at that time more to photographic works of John Coplans (showing masculine vulnerability) as Mapplethorpe’s works are looking more closely at an aesthetic appeal through close up views of nudes, various awkward body poses, and a conscious comparison with gendered and erotic connotated still lives. The works seem to me in a quite 1950s/1960s fashion style approach, reduced not only through black&white prints, but also through a stark formal composition of shapes. The nude becomes an abstract shape, and by that an object void of context. The white frames alongside the white walls of the gallery emphasises this impression. But I have to admit that my idea of the artist was influenced by secondary sources, often criticising him. 

There was one work that kept my attention immediately: Ken Moody, 1983 (50.6×40.6cm), a portrait of a black nude from half back view against a marbled backdrop. The body shape resembled a cut-out layered above another image of an abstract backdrop, a quite painterly backdrop. Emma explained how this could have been achieved technically – by placing the model at a distance to the wall with seperate lightening of the wall and the body. No shadows or reflected lights in the shadow are helped to discern a spatial organisation. Fascinating, that I could immediately related to painting (in layers). I was happy that this work was reproduced in the gallery flyer at large. 

Mapplethorpe’s black nudes was one key point of critique already at his time, considering that gay and blackness were at the bottom of the cultural acceptance scale and at the top of objectification scale. Mapplethorpe worked also with white male as well as with female models. The direct exposure of the male sex was quite offensive as his time. I can relate his gendered still-lives with works more known by female artists, eg. Georgia O’Keeffe. Overall, the diversity of the works made me think of how I would see the artist and I left with a feeling that I need to do a deeper research in his life and motivation if I want to take his works as a future reference for my own works. 

 


Learnings and Take Aways – ideas:

  • Transformation of digital art into physical engaging objects that invite the audience to interact
  • Technical issues with perhaps the more sophisticated technology, e.g. motion detectors, heavy hardware-software load , did and could always sacrify or even completely stop a viewing experience. 
  • How much to digital art build on mere effects versus a deeper role of questioning learned cultural and social patterns? I felt that some works were commissioned works, either for the music band to deliver a different experience while listening to music and as a rather entertaining approach like Côte à Côte, 2017 for a skate park.
  • Installation as key aspect when considering screen based, digital art in a gallery space.
  • Intersubjective parallelism – when we as distant learner are coming up with similar ideas, thoughts or references.
  • Body in artwork; between nude and formal abstraction through closer up view. A view that conceals, but at the same time reveals by triggering thoughts and association in the viewer’s mind. Something to look at in my coursework, especially when relating this to the fold painting of Alison Watt.
  • Bottomline, I need to explore further my approach with painting at the liminal edge to digital and online presence. Either I ignore the fact that my physical works are viewed on screens (and consider it merely as a practical reproduction tool) or I embrace that same fact by making work that needs both ‘worlds’ to exist (if that makes sense at all). The third and more jumping-out approach would be to go the way of Alexis Harding (paint forming a skin almost falling off the surface), Angela de La Cruz or Simon Callery (dismantled paintings) => embracing the materiality of paint but with a exploration of flatness (as in screen) in space. I do have concerns that more ‘screen-focus’ isn’t going to help at all.

Reference:

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3 Comments
  • Jan 21,2019 at 1:33 PM

    All the reflection can only lead to clarity at some level, and that permeates through in whatever the outcome is.

  • Jan 21,2019 at 12:04 PM

    ‘… I need to explore further my approach with painting at the liminal edge to digital and online presence. Either I ignore the fact that my physical works are viewed on screens (and consider it merely as a practical reproduction tool) or I embrace that same fact by making work that needs both ‘worlds’ to exist (if that makes sense at all). The third and more jumping-out approach would be to go the way of Alexis Harding (paint forming a skin almost falling off the surface), Angela de La Cruz or Simon Callery (dismantled paintings) => embracing the materiality of paint but with a exploration of flatness (as in screen) in space. I do have concerns that more ‘screen-focus’ isn’t going to help at all.’

    This is seriously interesting. The questions were highlighted for you by these exhibition experiences, but I now also wonder if, as distance-learning students, we’re having to face them in a way that conventional-on-campus students don’t have to at this stage of their studies. Spending time in various galleries looking at the people visiting them also makes me wonder about this – how seeing original form work retains a particular significance for viewers / visitors, just because of the digital surfeit?

    • Stefan
      Jan 21,2019 at 12:16 PM

      glad it is not me only thinking about it. The more I get exposed to all sorts of communication and interaction channels the more I feel that I can’t stay or hide inside my studio space and ‘just painting’ as painting. On the other hand, to write it out helps also to think how weird things might end up. Guess, next visits need to be flat painting and drawings only. Remembering you wrote on another post that it is an up and down, high and low, at times one need tension and challenge, other times one need to calm down and relax

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