Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wiesbaden: 1963 and 2006

More from Professor Everywhere and the on-again, off-again 2006 Euro Tour:

Flying into Frankfurt, artists Tjark Ihmels and Julia Riedel pick up VJ Persona at the monstrous international airport and proceed to take him to Wiesbaden where Persona will have his next live gig in nearby Mainz. And, as long as we are on our Nam June Paik kick, we might as well mention that Paik participated in "Fluxus. Internationale Festspiele neuester Musik" in Wiesbaden in 1963, the same year that he had his first video art exhibition in Wuppertal (although as mentioned, he was still referring to the work as "experimental television"...)

...but back to the hosts of the Persona gig, especially Ihmels. Ihmels and Persona first met in the early 90s in Leipzig at Ihmels studio where he was sharing studio space with an unknown and underappreciated painter named Neo Raush. Another artist hanging out with us in Leipzig in those days was Olaf Nicolai. There was also an upstart young gallery dealer who Ihmels, Raush, and Nicolai showed with named Gerd Harry Lybke whose gallery was (and still is) alled Eigen+Art. To my mind, Ihmels was always the wildest of the bunch ("naturally stoned," as his friends like to say), creating multi-media installations, public illumination art, and digital theatre performance. Of course, this meant that he was never meant to become absorbed in the hottest trend in all of international art these days, that is, the Leipzig School of Painting, led by the provocative Rausch, his Champion-in-Chief the resilient Harry Lybke, and all of the derivative painters who have since moved to Leipzig in search of fame and fortune. But that's another story altogether...

Ihmels new project is huge. Entitled "Posing at Three-Thirty", Ihmels has created a "generative" net art movie that uses a database of almost 12,000 small movie sequences (approximately 30 hours of material). As you'll see when you launch the site, these sequences are very short and composed of only one take. Programmed by several generators that have been networked, the distributed "machinic" system not only develops the storyline in a continuously new and 'never-ending" version, but also makes aesthetic choices on what scenes to include in what order while remixing all of images and sounds contained in the film library. For example, there are dialogue generators, camera generators, mood generators, and sound generators. The central storyline takes place in the Central Eden hotel (which is visible from the large window inside the Institute for Media Design and Kontrastfilm where Ihmels is Director). In the hotel are 12 people who do and do not meet each other but whose lives overlap and allow for various interactions and confrontations, although how these all play out over time and a create a semiotic stream is never certain, always in flux, and open to interpretation.

This work looks and feels different than soft cinema. Instead of imposing a singular theoretical vision over alienated tourist videos, here the film director (Ihmels) is scripting characters played by professional actors and allowing for all kinds of improvisation on the set which, being professionals, they are able to adapt to as necessary. In this way it is something like a cross between Mike Figgis' Hotel and the old Hypertext Hotel from Brown University. The actual net art or generative film plays like a stream and so the uninformed viewer might think of it as just a quicktime movie that plays on your web browser, but that would be a slow take on the discreet design of the operating narrative framework, database architecture, and basic aesthetic premises of the piece which challenges much of today's conventional new media theory. This has led to both intentional and unintentional misreadings of the work's value, and like so much interesting work available today, it falls in between the cracks of net art, film, generative art, and theatrical performance. This blurring of the disciplinary boundaries presents problems to conventional new media curators, i.e. since many cutting edge digital film works are not easily absorbed into the theoretical visions of those who write or curate contemporary new media art, oftentimes this kind of work does not get the recognition it deserves in the sometimes closed world of so-called new media. For example, you will not read about the Wiesbaden School of Generative Cinema at a major European media art festival nor will you hear about it in Artforum. Besides, there's already a Frankfurt School of Philosophy - and now there's a Leipzig School of Painting too...

What else matters?

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