Quasikunst at STWST48x4 in Sept 2018: 4 coordinates from art-agens to body-movens: Windlines – Movement A – 48 Hours of Drifting – Disappearing (50.000)
Also in 2018 Quasikunst was systemic-performative research, Immateriality was pushed forward. The focus was on the medium wind, on air, transparency, intangibility and distance.
Processes that do not understand themselves
Tanja Brandmayr writes about several STWST Quasikunst projects of the last years, about wind and dissolving projects that refuse their own performance and, finally, about entropy.
Quasikunst has been systemic-performative research for some years now. Depending on the project, it establishes coordinates, and performs and intensifies contradictions. In 2015, with the project “I like Trees and Human Rights“, Quasikunst dedicated itself to trees: Humans were turned into trees, collectives of trees as well as living and dead people were built. In the subsoil of a forest floor, out in the woods, people are stuck with their heads in the ground, interrelationships were investigating contexts, among other things, in order to question the moral of history and the levels of contamination, the degree of pollution, of a world under the cleaned surfaces.
In 2016, the “Fog Ballet” equated the actor with the network: a human figure was projected onto fog, as a projection and fiction of a three-dimensional figure in a space permanently filled with fog. Within dissolution and tendential levelling states, which all tends to be equated, imbalances were maintained by air streams, i.e. the spatial zones filled to varying densities with fog made a projection possible at all. So to say, zones within space maintaining different densities of fog were enabling such a projection in the first place. A contrapunctual „dialectic turn“ of a human assertion was proclaimed. On the one hand a hypothetical assertion, fog itself was the true actor – beneath the figure that got projected. On the other hand, those fragmentary and, within the fog, permanently condensating and dissolving figure could have been taken as a melancholic as well as an affirmative assertion of man per se, highlighting a refusal to disappear.
In 2017, “Iceberg/The Entity”, a 2-ton block of ice, was staged in the darkly lit workshop of the Stadtwerkstatt, and, hence, a „Bedeutungstheater“/“Theater of Meaning“ of irresolvable contradictions. The project was based on the connections and contradictions that go along with ice within contexts of nature and technology, and showed a 48-hour meltdown with the massive entity of ice, which the audience could attend. The material „performed“ itself as it melted away. In the systemic-performative sense, however, the expanded, in many directions contextualized cold to melting materiality meant increased coherence and contradiction: in the global-ecological contrast, this meant nothing less than a statement that our polar caps are melting away, while our technological world increasingly requires enormous amounts of energy and data refrigerators to manage its digital transactions from smart homes to blockchains. It does not come as a surprise that not only the energy needed for freezing an ice block involved unexpectedly high costs, also the amount of energy needed to run server farms causes enormous costs – in cash and in an environmental sense. In addition, the block of ice displayed some kind of closure and materiality that reflects on the materiality and closure of nature and technology, as an exhibited, self-contained and inaccessible territory, from eternal ice to hybris. As concerns the 2-ton block of ice: It was impressive to see that freezing water forms a wide variety of structures, the layers were ranging from bruteness to fragility. And as delivered, first of all the block of ice busted ist shell, and then, broken into itself, the melting water ran into the crack and immediatly was frozen again then by the crack, so the block began to reestablished itself again. And apart from the melting process on the surface, small capillary-like tunnels formed within the ice structure during the melting process, which filled themselves in an inexplicable manner with air bubbles. This air could then escape into the room as soon as these tunnels opened to the surface – one of several “phenomena” the audience got fascinated with. Another astonishing fact is that neither the process of melting nor freezing – at least in not ideally closed systems and generally difficult – can be exactly calculated via physics. Another thing worth to be mentioned is that melted ice is a classical example for entropy in the sense of an irreversible process, also as concerns the balance of temperature between material and its surrounding. The fact that the nine tenths or seven eighths of the masses of ice below the water surface of an iceberg is the invisible part that prevents the iceberg from sinking is a beautiful symbol of the resources beneath the surface, and a massive image coming close to a manifesto against the equally distributed mixed state and a permanent dictatorship of visibility. And, as a cold final: the fact that coldness opens up further associations on the adiabatic system of a quantum computer, driven downwards in the direction of absolute zero, may perhaps already go a little far, but the fact seems to be that quantum computers only function in a shielded manner, in a high vacuum and a little above minus 270 degrees, only to process information states in a strangely different way. So understanding the world with total exclusion of the world – a bizarre, mind-expanding contradiction. In any case, in textual reflection and with a systemic-performative approach, in “Eisberg/The Entity” all these associative contexts that accompany the material ice were, so to speak, immanently given to the block ice. An existing definition of negative entropy, namely the increase of complexity, was extended into all these simultaneously existing and partly very widely associative systems between nature and technology. That was turned into the keyword of an “increase of contradiction” of these contexts.
What followed such almost immaterial materials soil, fog and ice, was, in 2018, wind. In that year, the art- and contextresearch showed „four dissolving coordinates between art-agens and body-movens“. The focus was air, transparency, the intangible and the increase of distance. Air and wind stood equaliy for breathing and thinking, the bodily and the abstract at the same time, for spirit and invisible masses of molecules – unconnected and extensive. In „Windlines“ air was meant to be blown through the building of the Stadtwerkstatt as an air draft of the liberated perception in a world increasingly dominated by rigid networks. Questions about different forms of organisation of thinking and feeling were proposed, in the meaning of a confession of „better been blown than networked“. In the end the idea of a strong air draft through the building, created by a wind machine, was abandoned in favor of a ventilator. The ventilator created only a static circulation in the nearby surrounding – in the sense that molecules should not even get organised to a stream of air, whereas wind as a „matter of air“ that can move over large distances, as a sensually approachable, incalculable force got in any case associated with the huge machine, and therefore could be left in its original place, namely in nature and in its own freedom; respectively, no organisation of an artefact of wind, imitating freedom and nature, should have been offered. Instead, within the concept of air turbulence and a wild and random circulation of molecules, a conceptual video was added, which exemplarily referred to a physical movement in a sandstorm at the far-off place of a sandy desert. The video captured a body movement driven by wind. Other such actions of movement were then undertaken at other places, e.g. at the sea. But these videos were not shown – since freedom, being on the lose, the experience of distance and vastness are beyond space and time. The references were placed beyond an exhibited present, the experience could only be remembered inside a body that does not exhibit itself. This experience is now in the past, somewhere else, and cannot be approached by anyone any longer.
Three more coordinates within the context of wind: „Movement A“ was a reference to Walter Benjamins Angel of History who stares with eyes wide open at the explosion of history, like a cosmological happening, while being blown backwards into the future in the face of catastrophy. In a video – actually shown here – a figure is walking in reverse over a place, after a primordial storm of history – for eternity and in geometric patterns. The figure draws a trace of memory that is remembered in the moment. The impact is, nevertheless, not a huge catastrophe. Instead you have loops of ahistoricity per se, as a potentially even more severe catastrophe.
„48 Hours of Drifting“ was another coordinate oft he project. A nearly transparent flag was waving in the wind – for a land of great inner and outer distances, for a drifting land without territory, for a Land of Unconsciousness, for undefined relationships and indeterminate conditions beneath the network.
However, particular attention is paid to the fourth project coordinate “Disappearing (50,000)”, in which nothing was shown at all, and that anchored a project that did not want to be done and that, already in the way it had been conceptualised, refused its own performance. As the title already implies, the project referred to a huge number of actors and their invisibility, dissolvement and transgression and was not worked out programmatically. In that sense, it represented the greatest immateriality, as it did not become, or had not become or will not become realized – with references to project fictions that should be left in the underground of the realm of the imaginary. That means a profound rejection of wanting to make something visible that should NOT be lifted to the surface. And this is a true longing for the dark, for shadow, the calm and inner shifts, but, above all, a critique against totality, relentlessness, against a visible surface, against the acts of violence of production and rationalisation. With this counterstatement against visibility, it is probably about a critique against the large number, and certainly a critique against rationalisation and big data control-ramming of the world and a critique against a tendency that the map is becoming the realer-than-real-1:1- model of reality. It is a counterstatement against the potential possibility of observation and digital surveillance of any single thought and any single atom in this world, as a totalitarian zero-sum game of the existing and presence where it should be a non-zero-sum game with open systems, for example, with the hereby introduced systems of non-presences, as this world generally dissolves into a dystopia of visibility. Some references to immateriality and non-presence have already been made above. In the sense of the non-zero sum game, however, I sometimes think of placing the reference points even further outside the present and/or reality, respectively to channel the topic of big data through fiction without form and through absurdity. In the sense of a dystopia of monitoring the large number and a normally invisible underground, I sometimes think of a claimed “project” with about a large number of insects, preferably all the insects of the planet. But this „project“ is already going on as a systemic dystopia – for man, yet in the long run probably not for insects – and any approach to a realisation would be euphemistic.
In a bizarre thought I also sometimes think of burying a discarded aircraft in a sand hole in the wind- and sand-blown surroundings of a desert. Michel Serres, for example, described sleep during a long-distant flight as a quasi-death, what means in a way a contradiction between a state of rest and highly accelerated technology. I associate this image as a strangely coherent map, as far as these coordinates of meaning are concerned – from sand as former life to quartz sand for the semiconductor industry. I also associate the amorphous sand dunes and the aforementioned shapelessly sand hole with a permanently blown away counterstatement to the ore-and-iron history of our civilization, slipping down in its innumerable smallest sand particles; I think about the ore-and-iron history of our civilisation, and about a counterpart to this gain of profit or meaning out from material – because, as known, the knocking out of culture out from nature seems the core competence of our more recent industrialized social and cultural history. This, more or less, mythological as well as social-philosophical approach one can also find in the various Ring-mythologies that commonly are about the transformation from pre-modernity to the modern era: At first you knock out ore from the mountain, than you create, via some technological voodoo, a ring out of it, which is followed by treaties and by capital – and at that point of the story already all people are unhappy. Now we seem to witness such cycles at ever higher frequency, like in high frequency trading and parts of systems that aren´t even monitored by anybody anymore. All that, those contradictions describe in a certain way a high end of the decline, a quasi-death of a sleeping air passengers society, the permanent drifting and slipping of solid and inflexibly constructed objects in a sandlike subsoil, on which we slide and that we try to cultivate anew with outdated tools… and all that signifies a policy at the end of the existing treaties and on the edge of their liquefaction.
Many of these projects and intellectual approaches make use of concepts like levelling, dissolution, uniformity, totality – and hence mark the critical idea of all those works. With such a critique against totality they approach a definition of entropy, in the sense that, when a state of maximum uniformity within a system is reached, on the one hand the level of entropy is high, on the other hand, due to its uniformity, the system does not offer any information, and, apart from that, having become problematically indistinguishable in relation to its environment, it faces its own demise. With all these projects of Quasikunst that have been mentioned, systemic contradictory contexts, in which initial states which are ever more closed in themselves and get mixed up in themselves in their both uniform as well as highly contradictory contextuality, including an elimination of their historicity, are described, are driven towards ever more levelling, dissolution, uniformity, totality or towards an economic or ecological breakdown. The strategy within Quasikunst-projects is to break through, within such dystopian dynamics, the uniformity and the always present yes/no binary states in their contradictory nature, such as that in projects like „I like Tress and Human Rights“ or the „Fog Balett“ the work is executed via subsoil, degrees of contamination or with fog as a redefinition of agents, or with systemically preserved imbalances. By taking in the world, ethics, technology, historicity, and interpretation in a system of art, these projects also work with degrees of contamination of an aesthetic discussion of „pure art“ which, within contemporary movements of art, often prove to be just art conventions at all. Quasikunst-projects therefore understand themselves as art and at the same time not as art (Quasikunst = Art = Yes/No), in the way that they negate systems and subsystems of society in their yes/no-states simultaneously, in which they create an „aesthetics“ of logically paradoxical derivations and systematic juxtapositions beyond ordinary conventions. The systems already perform their own deconstruction in reality anyway – especially within the intrusion of capital and technology in the smallest niches of human existence, or in the grand sectors of ecological/economic global contexts. The above mentioned plea for contamination, imbalance, etc. gets enriched within the Quasikunst-projects „Eisberg/The Entity“ and the diverse aspects of immaterality in the above mentioned „four blown and dissolved project coordinates“ and become a general plea for enhancement of contradictions – and an enlargement of distance, or a plea for invisible undergrounds, systemic inaccessibilities, creating reservoirs or states or fields of consciousness that refuse access to rational-mechanistic-technological grasps. Enhancement, respectively the untouched, non-performed, hidden and probably unkown immaterial resources of imagination are a central factor within this concept. Without these reservoirs beneath the surface everything will drown. These storages must not become ever more rationalised and capitalised. The resource question is, at any rate, one of the great topics of our time, as concerns provision of energy, data capacity, environmental topics and, because of the general exploitation a global point of no return seems to be reached. But there are also other resources that need to be (re)produced against the equalized surfaces: also the storages of passivity and of darkened projects should also be kept shielded, the storages of creativity, of emotions and of autonomy, other different states of consciousness and unconsciousness – all that must not be colonised, needs to be sacrosanct in itself. Especially in order to make a plea for a kind of resource whose maintainance is ultimately relevant for nothing less than a dialectic of life/non-life.
I will finally come back to the concept of entropy. Entropy is commonly referred to as a degree of disorder, of chaos, or irreversability. The dregree of irreversability of processes is easy to understand: e.g. a melted piece of ice, a burned piece of wood, one´s own death or also the arranged mess created by information society. However, the application of the term entropy in everyday life is problematic. Often a dough is cited as an example of entropy. This Dough cannot be reversed into its ingredients, but in the correct way to define it, nevertheless, dough is not messy or chaotic, yet, if it is well kneaded, it is at a maximum state of uniformity. The degree of entropy is high because every smallest part of it is equal to the entire entity. The system no longer offers any differences in itself and its parts do not contain specific or further information. Negative entropy, on the other hand, is something quite different from a high or low degree of entropy. It seems to lie as “free energy” outside of an own system. Erwin Schrödinger, who wrote of negative entropy as “free energy”, defines life as something that, according to Wikipedia, “absorbs and stores negative entropy. This means that life is something that exports entropy and keeps its own entropy low: Negentroy-import is entropy-export.” This can be read as a conception of life in a very intuitive way. Life emerges above uniformity, as it is able to create differences, by being able to import free energy from other systems and to export entropy ( = uniformity). Anyway, if everything gets uniform, it is dead. But at least the “dead” dough of one could become the free energy of the other – by simply being eaten, because one’s uniformity is the other’s reorganization, at least as long as the systems can be kept open and the imported free energy can form itself anew. I am aware that these thoughts are very illustrative and that entropy is a term that, outside the domain of physics, often is used in heterogenous ways that may even be a bit ridiculous. I am also aware that only someone who can reasonably calculate the famous second law of thermodynamics may understand how interpretative and far away these, rather interpretative and symbolic, ruminations are.
I also know that the concept of entropy is used in many ways, ranging from information and system theory to art and cultural theory. Nevertheless, the simple equation that life is import of negative entropy i.e. taking in free energy from an exterior into the own system while exporting entropy from it, is fascinating. I understand the idea in that way that any completely uniform system is dead, or totalitarian, and that life is the ability to establish differences against uniformity. I like the thought that the creation of differences i.e. the organisation of entropy within a relationship between interior and exterior may be read as consciousness. Maybe consciousness can be read as a procedure of life to organise entropy, i.e. to negotiate an „energetic“ or „informative“ interior and exterior, whereas conscious life constitutes itself via the ego, as a difference to other egos, or in a general contrast to „the other“. Whether such ruminations already exist is something I do not know. Likely yes, likely better somewhere else.
All in all: I understand the necessity of such free, dark, contaminated, contradictory, immaterial undergrounds or resources in the sense of a negative entropy, that I reflect upon also in my Quasikunst-projects. In addition, working on those projects – including this text – means catching the thoughts that, apart from the obvious elements, emerge from a vacuum, from a subsoil of corporeality, of mind, experiences, memories, of indifferent meanings within the reservoir of consciousness – i.e. from other sources, and then no longer give rest. After all, not only life, but also inspiration is what makes the difference. From the grand dark zones of nature, body and mind, and the other states of consciousness in general, I suspect that this resource, or consciousness as the organizer of this “free energy,” or as the organizer of information, or rather of knowledge and greater context, together with the sources of irrationality, the dark, the physical, or a nature that has evolved together evolutionarily over millennia to millennia, from ontogenesis to phylogeny and the starry sky, I suspect that this consciousness on another level is able to understand and use these resources much better than the cultivated and educated waking consciousness of the human being thinks possible … In that sense there remains in the end once again a plea for the in/stable underground, the dark meaning and a multitude of states of consciousness as the organising force of free resources – within the necessity of a determination between life and non-life.
With this new dialectics of Life/Yes/No I return to the initial state of Quasikunst: I am in my own third person. Entropy, those are the others. True are only those processes that do not understand themselves.
Quasikunst by Tanja Brandmayr. All texts to all Quasikunst projects mentioned above her on this site: I like Trees and Human Rights = Trees, Fog Ballet/Nebelballett = Fog, Eisberg / The Entity = Iceberg, 4 blown coordinates from Art-Agens to Body-Movens = Wind.
Tanja Brandmayr has worked as a freelance artist for many years and in different contexts between text, staging and art. Art and context research Quasikunst. Involved in the STWST. Editor and author. Lives in Linz. quasikunst.stwst.at, stwst.at, versorgerin.stwst.at, referentin.at, brandjung.servus.at
The title “The processes that do not understand themselves”, or the sentence “True are only the processes that do not understand themselves” at the end of the text – is a reference to Theodor W. Adorno, who wrote: “True are only those thoughts that do not understand themselves” (“True thoughts are those alone which do not understand themselves”), Minima Moralia.
The term quasi-death by Michel Serres used in the text was quoted from the book by Matthew Fuller: “How to Sleep – The Art, Biology and Culture of Unconsciousness”, p 8. Source there: Michel Serres, Variations on the Body, Minneapolis, Univocal Press, 2011, p 9
All other references known to me are disclosed in the text.
And: The Quote of Erwin Schrödingers Negative Entropy is taken from the german version of Wikipedia – and translated in english here.