Thu, 22.10. – Sun, 25.10.2009
The Exhibition at Shift 09 presents artistic projects that address in various ways the nexus and interface of magic and technology: the ghosts that manifest as flaws in technical equipment and other facets of the spectrum of extrasensory perception; modern-day magic wands, tricks and tricksters; programme codes as incantation and centuries-old rituals in the media age.
German: Thu, 20.00 h, Fri/Sat, 13.00 h and 21.00 h, Sun, 13.00 h
English: Sun, 16.00 h
AIDS-3D – Craig Baldwin – Zoe Beloff - Lindsay Brown – Erik Bünger – Jim Campbell – Center for Tactical Magic – Susan Collins- Bill Domonkos – The Einstein's Brain Project – F18 - Atelier Hauert/Reichmuth/Boehm – Christoph Keller – Julien Maire –Tatjana Marusic – Jane D. Marsching - Shusha Niederberger - Ruth Sergel - Harm van den Dorpel – Apichatpong Weerasethakul - Patrick Ward
(Daniel Keller, *1986, Detroit/USA; Nik Kosmas, *1985, Minneapolis/USA – live in Berlin/DE)
(2007) Closed-Circuit Videoinstallation
“Aids-3D's “Ghost Throne” is a primitive hybrid-reality artifact, that digitally superimposes information from the spirit world over a live surveillance feed. The installation is directly inspired by Spiritualism, a quasi-religion that used early technologies, such as photography and the telegraph, to pseudo-scientifically study the afterlife. With camera and VJ program as seance-gear, the user participates in a banal “necromantic information exchange” (Erik Davis, Techgnosis, 74) with a ghost-king, whose spooky image is loosely assembled from various archetypical super-villains that haunt our collective memory."
Shift Talk: Fri, 14.00 h, Lounge
(*1952 lives in San Francisco/USA)
Spectres of the Spectrum
(1999) Video (93 Min.)
Craig Baldwin's film tells the history of electricity and electronic media as a dramatic tale of rivalry, war, power and entanglement in magic practices. The work is composed of countless found-footage snippets from early TV shows, feature films, commercials, and industrial and educational films. The frame for all this is a dystopian science fiction story in which BooBoo, a young girl with telepathic powers, and her father Yogi, who runs a pirate radio station, challenge the dictatorial “New Electromagnetic Order”. “Spectres of the Spectrum” mixes sci-fi with documentary, B-movie parodies with agitprop and conspiracy theories, and was quickly hailed as a classic.
(*1958, Edinburgh/UK, lives in New York)
The ideoplastic materializations of Eva C.
(2004) Stereoscopic 4-channel video installation with Surround Sound
Zoe Beloff has addressed spiritism around 1900 in several of her works. In “The ideoplastic materializations of Eva C.” one sees stereo-projections of life-size figures that appear to inhabit the three-dimensional space. These phantoms generated by technical media perform the re-enactment of ten séances that were conducted – presumably also with the aid of a few technical tricks – by renowned medium Eva C. in Paris and Algeria between 1904 and 1912. The work employs impressive strategies (similar to those used in a séance), yet simultaneously exposes its own media-technological structures. A gender perspective is also important to the artist. Many spiritual mediums were female, yet they became famous neither for their own voice nor own identity but only for transmitting the voices of others.
Shift Talk: Sat, 17.30 h, Lounge
(*1969, lives in Edinburgh/UK)
The Electric Chair
The “HMS Saucy”, a British Marines lifeboat, sank in 1940 with 26 people on board after hitting a German mine off the Scottish coast. Divers tell that strange things occur around the wreck: flashes of light can be seen, unusual sounds can be heard – and forces there try to keep divers from surfacing. Research has shown that there is a greater incidence of deep-frequency electromagnetic activity at the places where people have reported this kind of spooky experience. Lindsay Brown measured such activity at the shipwreck site. Her gauge is a chair around which copper wire was wound so it could serve as a choke (inductor). In the exhibition, visitors can use the chair to make audible the electromagnetic field that surrounds them and is emitted by them. Brown's method is not scientific as such but rather, as she says, “scientistic” – a playful approach to the dualities of science and art, reality and faith, truth and metaphor.
Shift Talk: Sun, 16.00 h, Lounge
(*1976, Växjö/SE, lives in Berlin/D and Stockholm/SE)
(2006) Video (22 Min)
From snippets of interviews in film and music documentaries and other by-products of the American entertainment industry, Erik Bünger has distilled a relentless round of eulogies. The eulogized appears to have supernatural characteristics and be extremely powerful, yet at the same time also obsessive and dangerous. Are we talking about the Messiah? About a magician? Do statements such as “he was a receiver, an open channel” refer to media technologies, religion or magic? In “Gospels” things are described but never named. It seems as if something is under discussion that somehow takes place beyond the limits of our common language, beyond everyday perception, and that remains absent. Perhaps magic has the greatest impact when it escapes perception and description and instead gives free reign to fantasy and imagination.
Lecture Performance "A lecture on schizophonia" by Erik Bünger: Sat, 19.30h, Schaulager
(*1956, Chicago, Illinois/USA; lives in San Francisco/USA)
(2009) Custom electronics, duratrans diffusion screen, 768 LEDs
In “East Broadway” Campbell places a high-resolution photogravure of a New York subway station behind a low-resolution LED video. Shadowy figures thus appear to be scurrying across the image, entering or leaving the station. Campbell's update of nineteenth-century spirit photography by modern technological means sends shivers down one's spine and demonstrates that spectres lurk in the inaccuracies of every technical medium.
Under the slogan “Mixing Magic, Art & Social Engagement”, the artists' collective Center for Tactical Magic works at the interface of art and political activism and thereby uses a range of magic topics for tactical purposes.
(2008) Collection of objects
“Magic(k) Wands” is a display of the most encompassing symbol of magic: the wand. Like so many useful technologies over the last few thousand years, wands have gone through changes, becoming more and more differentiated, designed, and specialized. Today, UV sanitizers, security wands, cosmetics, remote controls, “personal massagers”, barcode scanners and “magic markers” join the traditional tools of ritual and entertainment to conjure magic in our daily lives. And while marketing researchers will tell the consumer to be sure to use the right wand for the right job, most witches, wizards, and magicians insist that it's not the wand but the person holding it who contains the magic(k).” (Center for Tactical Magic).
During the witch hunt craze, a common method of torture was to pack a witch in a sack that was then hung up and set swinging. Poeple soon began to experiment with this method as it could induce not only nausea but also hallucinations. Shamans and dervishes had already long since used similar practices. Over the last century, the complex object gained significance in various new contexts: as a toy and in lynch mobs, in Houdini's miraculous escape tricks and New Age float tanks, in the 1960s in countercultural experiments to “blow one's mind” and in the USA's more recent history again as a method of torture. “Witches’ Cradle” serves as a pendulum that oscillates between our collective dreams and nightmares.
(*1964, London/UK, lives and works in London/UK)
(2005-2009) Webstream, Sound
In 2005, Susan Collins installed a webcam in South Hill Park, a former stately home in Berkshire (UK), which is allegedly haunted. The webcam has since continued to transfer images at the rate of one pixel per second. To create a complete image therefore takes 21 hours and 33 minutes, a period during which perhaps not the “real” ghosts of South Hill Park, but certainly the “ghosts in the machine” – which is to say technical faults – slip into the picture. As is frequently the case in haunted houses, a sound frequency of 19 Hz can also be heard. This deep frequency lies at the outer limits of human auditory and optical perception and can provoke hallucinations – or simply raise a ghost or two.
Shift Talk: Sat, 14.30 h, Lounge
(*Toledo/USA; ives in Oakland/USA)
The Ambient Medium
(2007) Video (10 Min)
Inspired by nineteenth-century spirit photography, the experiments of Nikola Tesla, science fiction and paranormal phenomena, Bill Domonkos collaged material from industrial, advertising and educational films along with some animated films and sounds to create an associative story. The result was a menacing and eerie scenario in which the rational and irrational merge more and more fully, a process that is inherent to technology. The material used is from the Prelinger Archive, which has made its collection available to the public online.
Directed by: Bill Domonkos
Original Music by: Peter Charles Dunne
Additional Music by: Aero-mic’d
(Alan Dunning, Morley Hollenberg und Paul Woodrow, founded in 1996, Calgary/CAN)
The ghost in the machine
Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) describes the notion that one might communicate with the dead by means of technical recording equipment. For example, magnetic tape recordings are amplified and repeated for as long as it takes for words to become recognizable. Some believe the latter to be voices of the dead, others put it down to pareidolia, the human tendency to seek to perceive that which is already familiar. Dunning, Hollenberg and Woodrow couple this with the latest in face and voice recognition software, which they use – instead of traditional human ghost hunters – to analyse acoustic and visual static. The machine that was created in the image of human cognitive faculties also begins to see pareidolia, faces or ghosts, and to hear voices. This analytical process will unfold in real-time during the exhibition.
Shift Talk: Fri, 16.00h, Lounge
(Stefan Doepner, *1966, Bremen/DE; lives and works in Ljubljana/SLO und Hamburg/DE; Jan Cummerow, *1970, Kiel/DE, lives and works in Hamburg/DE)
Living Kitchen - Happy End of the 21s Century
Since it was founded in 1996 in Hamburg, the f18institute for Art, Information and Technology has devoted itself to robotics and art. The absurdity of many of their installations amounts to a critical comment on the predominant craze for technology. “Living Kitchen” plays with the unexpected, allowing the objects familiar in an everyday kitchen to suddenly come to life in somewhat sinister fashion, almost as if ghosts, once raised, had made themselves comfortable in the exhibition hall's own kitchen.
Co-author: Jan Cummerow, *1970, Kiel/D; lives in Hamburg/D)
Support: Wolfgang Werner, Lars Vaupel
Shift Talk: Sun, 15.00 h, Lounge
(Sibylle Hauert, *1966; Daniel Reichmuth, *1964; in collaboration with Volker Böhm, *1971 and Daniel Bisig, *1968)
Sibylle Hauert and Daniel Reichmuth describe their work as “an audio-visual environment with an artistic personality”. On a podium set in front of an imposing illuminated pixel wall, the public can interact with the audio-visual process. However, the environment (re-)acts not only in terms of visual and sonorous abstract images: “TRiCKSTR” also has a voice that is ready and willing to communicate, as soon as people step onto the podium – while, if left to its own devices, it reverts to brooding over itself. Attempts to create artificial creatures have been around for centuries in magic and in science and technology. The “TRiCKSTR” is an example of that species whose very name reveals its con artist roots and yet whose delusive character – which seduces people into joining in its game – proves the opposite.
Shift Talk: Fri, 17.00 h, Lounge
(*1967, Freiburg/D, lives in Berlin/D)
The more tourism becomes possible the more derivishism becomes impossible
(2009) Video (15 Min)
In his work, Christoph Keller repeatedly addresses magic practices (trance for example) and phenomena at the borders of the “paranormal”. The theme of the video available for viewing during Shift is the dervishes of the Mevlânâ Order in Anatolia. While it is forbidden to film or take photographs during an actual religious ceremony, the 801st birthday of the Order's founder Jalâl al-Din Rumi was celebrated with a huge TV spectacle attended by the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, among others. However, the dervishes and their centuries-old religious-magical trance ritual remain unimpressed by this political, pop-cultural and media technological to-do.
(*1969, Metz/F; lives in Berlin)
A man seated at a table is writing a text simply by skimming his fingers over a sheet of paper. The audience is able to follow the action from close up; no technological aids can be seen and it appears as if magic is in play. With this work, Maire references the magic art (in the sense of illusionism) – that uses technically refined, well thought-out tricks to successfully bluff its public – as well as the surrealist practice of “écriture automatique” and William S. Burrough's cut-up writing technique.
Shift Talk: Sat, 15.30 h, Lounge
(*1971, lives in Berlin/D und Luzern/CH)
The memory of a landscape
Sound: Bernd Schurer
In “The memory of a landscape”, landscape and rider find themselves in a continuous process of disappearance and becoming. With a wink at Germany's Winnetou Westerns, the plot here is reduced to endless roaming across vast and hilly landscapes and the now tired stereotype of “freedom and adventure”. The typical mistakes that can arise with digital data – so-called compression artefacts – seem in this work to possess some kind of magic power that repeatedly dissolves images before our very eyes then puts them back together. This gives rise to analogies on several levels: between the process of remembering and forgetting, between the fiction of and longing for “freedom”, and between the inadequacies or disruption of data streams and making things appear or disappear by magic.
Shift Talk: Sat, 13.30 h, Lounge
(*1968, lives in Boston Mass./USA)
Jane D. Marsching's database is based on the pareidolia phenomenon, the fact that, even when confronted with unstructured images, human cognition seeks discernible patterns and what it already knows. Jane D. Marsching collected such pictures on the Internet: NASA photographs of Mars on which one can make out human faces; visions of the Virgin Mary, wreathed in clouds; and photographs of people's thoughts. Her collection combines the structures of digital database with traditions such as the cabinet of curiosities or chamber of wonders, and it reveals parallels in terms of how data is linked associatively: the web as a "Wunderkammer".
(*1974, Sursee/CH, lives in Zürich/CH)
A defining feature of a programming code is its ability to make something appear or begin to move – in this respect it is no different from a magic spell or incantation. Shusha Niederberger's installation “GodMode” taps into this interesting parallel. The programming code is visible, as is the result of its execution: it is a case of animation. Simultaneously, the code is read aloud by a text-to-speech software. This robotic, singsong incantation and the interference caused by environmental noise in turn influence how the animation looks. An externalised monologue machine allows the signs to circulate in their respective media, to leap from one to the other and strike sparks.
Shift Talk: Sat, 16.30 h, Lounge
(lives in New York, USA)
(2009) Installation, Isadora & Arduino
“The “Magic Box” mirrors design elements from 19th century pre-cinema devices. Peering inside the box one can watch a film that is not visible to the other viewer. At dark moments, one can see through the box into the eyes of the other participant. The sliders on the front panel of the box select which film is visible to each viewer. If both people move to the far position of the slider their hands will touch. Two strangers – looking each other in the eye, touching hands, sharing the experience of watching a film – are all interactions that reflect the themes of technology, magic and the spark of human touch.” (Ruth Sergel)
Performers: Luigi Coppola, Johanna Levy, Clara Palavesin
Music: Erik Friedlander, Michael Montes
Woodwork: Paul DiPietro
(*1981, Holland, lives and works in Amsterdam/NE)
Harm van den Dorpel belongs to a new generation of artists who work on the Internet and reference early web art yet bring a fresh approach to the medium. His project “forest/lines” combines the aesthetics of early screen-savers, generative web art and illusory perspectives as well as collage and that age-old question about nature and artificiality to create a work that in a simple and humorous setting is evocative of paranormal apparitions and/or technical special effects. Like a screen-saver, the exhibition version of the web work on show here reverts to a non-interactive mode when the public is not using it.
Shift Talk: Fri, 13.00 h, Lounge
(*1970, lives and works in Thailand)
Phantoms of Nabua
(2009) Video, Installation (11 Min.)
This short film from Thai director Weerasethakul portrays and profanes apparitions and rituals. In the opening sequence bolts of lightning rent the darkness and strike a vaguely discernible landscape – perhaps as a result of sorcery? The camera zooms out and the lightning is revealed to be a projected image on a makeshift screen set up on a small square under a neon strip light. Young men arrive in the square and play with a burning football. Gravity and playfulness combine in an organic process, even when the ball sets the screen ablaze, with which the lightning apparition disappears. That which produced the apparition now becomes visible instead: the projector and its faintly blinking ray of light. The film references both Thailand's horror film tradition – in which spectres are depicted as clusters of light – and myths about magic and resistance in the town of Nabua, which was once the centre of communist peasant uprisings.
Besetzung: Kumgieng Jittamaat, Miti Jittamaat, Phetmongkol Chantawong, Nuttapon Kemthong, Atapon Werniw, Tongsit Rachasit, Vinai Kriyafai, Attapol Ratchasin, Surasuk Kriyafai, Anuwut Kriyafai, Weerachon Jittamaat
Shot, edited and directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Producers: Simon Field, Keith Griffiths
(*1977 in Sheffield/UK, lives and works in Ljubljana/SLO und London/UK)
(2004) Video (4min)
Commissioned by Site Gallery Sheffield, funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Patrick Ward’s “Reception” explores cinematic notions of television and videos' paranormal potential. Ward compiled film sequences in which supernatural communication takes place via TV sets. The video, however, doesn't show the actual message, but only how it was framed and its technological trappings: domestic interiors, the TV set, the static that interferes with reception and, finally, white noise - The paranormal seems always to be associated with disruption of the medium - The video thus subverts our expectations, leaves us in a state of excited anticipation and stimulates our imagination – the magic potential of electronic media demonstrates its impact.
Shift Talk: Fri, 15.00 h, Lounge