Of Stuff and Dreams

Text by Christabel Stewart and Ajay R.S Hothi

At some point during the mid-’80s, artist John Stezaker had a dream in which he was floating under a bridge. He very rarely dreams with such vividness, he explains, which is why this one particularly stuck in his mind. Stezaker began reading first-hand experiences of people who had been temporarily dead. Jarringly, a recurring pattern among these recollections was the image of journeying down a river and under a bridge. The comparisons were so alike that Stezaker began collecting photographs of bridges to incorporate into a new series of collages, The Bridge, which have been ongoing since 1985. One image, especially, remained with Stezaker and he returned to it often:

“This was similar to my dream… I suddenly realised that by mistake I had turned [it] upside down – but then I knew that this was not a mistake but the correct placing of the image. When I turned all the others upside down, I realised that in all of them, unconsciously, I had been aware of this reflection… the whole series fell into place.”

Floating beneath the curved arch, in his dream, Stezaker had been looking at the world upended. If the oneiric image of a bridge signifies a threshold or passage, this act of artistic happenstance gave Stezaker permission to proceed and room to manoeuvre. He recognised something he didn’t even know he knew.

This section looks at what happens when artists unwittingly pass control over creation into the hands of circumstance. Are there conditions under which glitch thrives, and what are the effects on authenticity, methodology and aesthetics?

Ubiquitous technological living nowadays is not just the terrain of the post-industrial western city. Mediation between the digital and the analogue occurs at the border of every social sphere and the art that is created within this has the virtue of necessity. The question that remains for these artists is, how do you define something that is beyond the limits of control? And even if you could, why would you want to?

John Stezaker’s show One on One is at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art until May 18

VALERIE SNOBECK

Valerie Snobeck’s work – either purposefully or by accident – results in confusion. Composed of semi-transparent netting, mirror, steel, paint, wall and depressed glass, its form shifts with the glance of an eye or prism of light. At a recent solo show in LA, her works practically disappeared between the shadows from the gallery’s fluorescent lights and the bright California sun bursting through the windowed façade.

The Chicago-based artist creates her work in the language of structure. We know the words, Snobeck rearranges the grammar. We can take a pretty accurate guess at the effect of hanging net on a wall, but throw in some glass and paint (perhaps a brick or two), and suddenly the language becomes a lot more complex. Take the series Grand Beauty Salon, for example. Pictures lifted from Wikimedia Commons were printed onto the laminate pulled from the surface of inkjet print papers. The resulting images were then rendered with varying degrees of saturation. They typify how the mundaneness of Romanticism can be stylised or distorted through simple, yet deliberate, misuse of the technology that has been made to serve the image itself. As an art that is about constructing visual spatial limitations, Snobeck’s is a very modern form of post-minimalism. There is so much “stuff” available to us nowadays, it just takes a small amount of nearly everything to say something that will last forever and mean different things to different people.

It is art such as this that supports the argument that postmodernism has never been replaced. The sculptural aesthetic, the texture of form, is as traditional as a piece by American sculptor and theorist Tony Smith. Drawing upon so much material, there is a multiplicity of meaning that a viewer can bring to bear upon Snobeck’s work. She realises that she is simply the author and it is the audience that completes the life of the artwork.

Valerie Snobeck’s comissioned work American Standard Movement (2012) will be at Chicago’s Smart Museum until 6 October 2013. bit.ly/WLwLhl

WILL BENEDICT

Sometimes, glitch can be a lifestyle choice; a creative decision that intrigues you enough to draw you in, before confusing the hell out of you and leaving you lost in a terrain of your own imagination. Will Benedict’s artworks appear deceptively simple. These mid-scale photographs place a range of everyday characters in a series of poses before a painted wall upon which is pinned a naïf painting or photograph, arranged to refer to a more classical work. These may look like high-quality stock images that have been warped to a recognisably surrealist temper, but are actually highly complex compositions that, if caught unawares, can tie you in knots.

Take his series of postcard works. Reversed so we see the inner, the postage stamp has been replaced by a gauche gouache representation of Paris, Italy or the Taj Mahal. Scribbled on some are barely there messages of forced greetings:

“Lucie, see you when I see you. Will”

“Josefin, read this bitch. Will”

Benedict was born in Los Angeles and studied art in nearby Pasadena. He did further studies at Städelschule in Frankfurt and now lives and works in Vienna. He is a tourist, picking up keepsakes of influences and fleeting beauty – moments of affected sentimentality and single-serving friends. Mash them together and the memories will inevitably be more romantic than the actual experience. And, let’s not forget, memories differ between people.

Will Benedict has solo shows with Balice Hertling, Paris and Dependance, Brussels and the Halle für Kunst, Lüneberg. Mousse publishing will release a new catalogue.

AIDS-3D

Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas, aka Aids-3D, participated in the critically lauded 2009 exhibition The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, at New York’s New Museum. Three years later and both still a few years shy of their 30th birthdays hasn’t hindered their de facto status as punk squatters of the new generation of artists who grew up with Nickelodeon and Clarissa Explains It All. The work displayed at the New Museum, OMG Obelisk, exists (at least conceptually) as a sculptural installation and, digitally, as a .gif file. They are remarkably pragmatic for young artists already enjoying a degree of visibility.

“Can an obelisk be monumental if it’s on the web?”

“Sure, like the Dancing Baby.”

“Isn’t that kitsch?”

“Well, so are monuments sometimes.”

More than actual artwork, Aids-3D provides us with options: a series of different perspectives through which to view their artwork. Their digital, sculptural installations are fortified with confidence. One of the reasons that Aids-3D became so popular so quickly was because their work withstood a rigorous critical examination and the scrutiny of an art world that is always looking for the next big thing.

Aids-3D react to the affirmation of the establishment with characteristic apostasy. Recently, they have been purposefully obfuscating direct views of their art and each dropped out of their respective art schools. Recalling the latter:

“People talked about nothing and made nothing. They were amazed because we managed to bring in some piece of shit every two months.”

The only definition you could apply to the work of Aids-3D is a sense of rebellious independence, which is really no definition at all. When the duo were asked to select a work for the exhibition Younger Than Jesus, Aids-3D originally wanted to install the planned sculpture, but the foam elements would not adhere and it burst into flames during construction.

soundcloud.com/aids3d

ANDREW NORMAN WILSON

There is an inherent glitch involved when an artist’s work utilises interventions. One such intervention inadvertently forced Andrew Norman Wilson to become an artist. In 2011, he was fired from his job at Google for a personal project he created while there. “Workers Leaving the Googleplex (2009-2011)” is a two-screen installation. The left screen shows the entrance/exit to the organisation’s San Jose headquarters. This door allows access to white, red and green badge holders. The right screen is strictly reserved for yellow badge holders. Security there is tighter and workers are dismissed daily at 14.15pm. This class-based system is stringently applied. Holding a different coloured badge creates differences in people’s movements.

“Workers Leaving the Googleplex” refers to two versions of “Workers Leaving the Factory”. One by the Lumière brothers, created in 1895 and hailed as the first motion picture ever made, and another by German filmmaker Harun Farocki, which turns the camera on as many variances of the theme as possible.

Wilson presents us with the dictionary definition of control. Google is one of the world’s most secretive and security intense companies. Wilson describes how his film depicts workforces in organised motion, in thrall to methods of command both overt (coloured security passes denoting levels of access) and covert (security gates limiting the number of people who can enter and exit at the same time). Of his time at Google, Wilson notes:

“Google allows a lot of room for its white, red and green badge workers to engage in free play [the company is renowned for the in-office leisure facilities afforded to their workers]; however, movement and action that exceeds the boundaries of that scripting and poses a threat to the company, such as my activity around the exterior of the yellow badges building can set Google Security and Google Legal into specified movements around that atypical behaviour.”

Investigative protest as a form of play? There are no rules in Wilson’s game, and anything can happen.

The Refrain: Medfield/Walpole – A Play by Andrew Norman Wilson, will open in March 2013 at threewalls gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA. In April 2013, The Uncertainty Seminars will debut on the American Medium Network. andrewnormanwilson.com, americanmedium.net

This series of images by Andrew Norman Wilson is based on Google Books scans in which the intended whole is made inoperable by a series of inherent glitches: software distortions, the scanning site and the hands of the scanner are composited into the overall picture. The aesthetics of the individual images are rematerialised through their apparatuses. Wilson describes these as “treated as photography” but “compiled in a mobile book sculpture”. Overtly medium-specific, they are the postmodern, postminimalist, architecture of today’s multimedia artist.

NICOLAS CECCALDI

Nicolas Ceccaldi is a child of the ’80s. On the verge of being a “proper grown-up”, he was raised on PCs and is an avid explorer of the web. Whether you have used it or just heard about it, 4chan is an online anonymous message board and image forum that covers everything geek galore. Boards are dedicated to anime, gifs, television, music, video games, science and its most infamous page, simply titled “Random”.

The anonymity that posting online allows means that everyone can live out their fantasies incognito, which of course necessitates taking everything you read there with a pinch of salt. Ceccaldi experiments with webcams furtively installed in children’s toys. He installs computer terminals in galleries and creates an eternal feedback loop made of surveillance within the built environment. He relies on chance encounters, which he then revives in the gallery on specially installed computer terminals.

Imagination plays an important part in Ceccaldi’s artistic practice. Taking the stories that people place online, he recounts these distorted encounters and presents them as adolescent, handwritten letters, from Anonymous to Anonymous; the pages peppered with doodles and pencil sketches.

Ceccaldi’s materials are as random, from the video footage that he captures to the inane, self-aggrandising and erratic messages posted by nameless internet users.

A student of Städelschule, its methodically discursive mode of learning allowed Ceccaldi to explore concepts around the homogeneity of subcultures. Something along the lines of the rhetoric of tomorrow’s revolution will no doubt be led by the haphazard ramblings of the eternal cycle that is set to random.

Nicolas Ceccaldi is exhibiting in Version Control at the Arnoldini, Bristol until April 2013

LUCIE STAHL

The work of native Berliner Lucie Stahl takes a traditional approach to the avant-garde and skews it so that it not only references history but also updates it for 21st-century audiences. Her works are produced in a methodical and systematic manner. Stahl arranges objects (that might include high heels, liquids, clothes or books) and then scans them. These scans are blown up as large-scale prints that she covers in polyurethane and hangs, unframed, on the gallery wall. This type of process marks and freckles both the original objects and the final print. The results are luxuriously modern but also wonderfully unreal.

Both with her technique and end result, Stahl harks back to the work of the original surrealists and the artists they influenced, among them Len Lye and Stan Brakhage. If Man Ray had had Instagram, he would probably have made pictures like hers.

Stahl lives and works in Vienna. The featured artists in this section all deliver varying samples of shared concerns and each has a role to play. To echo Brakhage’s epic Dog Star Man (1961-1964), Stahl is Thor, God of Thunder, over her subjects, submitting contemporary culture to degradation with the wave of her axe and inkjet scanner/printer. Her pictures are beautiful to look at, often captivating the viewer through their own morbid fascination.

Lucie Stahl will show with Will Benedict at Tomorrow, Toronto in 2013.
She also runs Pro Choice in Viennna with Will Benedict. prochoice.at

 

 


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