Saturday 28 February 2009

Embedded Art Press Quotes

Olaf Arndt of BBM has supplied an overview of the press response to the Embedded Art show at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. One of the exhibits is ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’, which I’ve been worked on with Rathna Ramanathan. ‘The tenor for EMBEDDED ART,’ Olaf writes ‘is from “groundbreaking exhibition” to “new aesthical power for political arts”.’

Die Zeit, 5 February 2009
‘Horrifying Humming’ Tobias Timm
The artists participating in EMBEDDED ART do not wish to produce decorative commodities, rather, they understand themselves as radical preachers of Enlightenment… The exhibition attempts to show how the fear of terror has been stoked and instrumentalised. As a result the show itself induces fear, that future technologies will be deployed in reality in the near future… The visit to the underground cellars of the Akademie resembles a ghost train ride leading you from the world of make-believe into a menacing reality, increasing the visitor’s sensitivity to the current threats.’

Tagesspiegel, 24 January 2009
‘Mental Warriors’ Kolja Reichert
‘It’s amazing how quickly the disposition capsizes. For so long, political art has been suspected of being oriented towards a practical goal, which in itself is hostile to the concept of art….The apologists for neo-liberalism, acknowledging their shipwrecked status, remain silent, now enabling critical art to be acceptable in a mainstream art context. With that, the ground has been prepared for a ground-breaking exhibition at the Akademie der Künste whose opening unexpectedly coincided with the Gaza war.’, 23 January 2009
‘In Close Contact With the TASER’, Jenny Hoch
‘We tolerate quite a lot In the Name of Security: surveillance, raids, data disclosure. The exhibition ‘EMBEDDED ART’ in Berlin’s Akademie der Künste comments on this alarming development and challenges the boundaries of acceptability with its visitors. But above all, EMBEDDED ART deals with a powerful subject, particularly strong because of its societal relevance. Whereas in former times, the ideals have been liberté, egalité, fraternité, today the predominant ideal is security… The exhibition elucidates a re-evaluation of the gulf between the older ideals and that of security, also demonstrating the problematic results of that re-evaluation.’

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27 January 2009
‘Self-experiments in Weapon Technology’, Alexandra Mangel
‘The idea of the exhibition makes sense. That it can work as an exhibition is proved as soon as the doors of the goods lift in the second underground floor open and we are confronted by a Kandy-Kolored (Kool-Aid) Acid trip style oil on canvas painted by Moritz Reichelt… The show is shocking, an honourable, enlightening research effort and a feast for fans of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.’

Neues Deutschland, 3 February 2009
‘The Production of Maximum Pain’, Manuela Lintl
‘Of course it’s hasty to say at the beginning of the year that the Akademie der Künste has been installing the most important exhibition of the year with EMBEDDED ART – Art in the Name of Security. But this ambitious project will – most likely - be an exception amongst the palatable others of Berlin’s contemporary art jungle.’

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25 January 2009
‘Art of War Halls’, Peter Richter
‘During EMBEDDED ART, the Akademie’s cellars, built by the architect Behnisch, get a taste of Abu Graibh… When you find out that the Pentagon considered providing an ADS microwave pain beamer machine knowing that the exhibition will critically investigate the subject of Non-Lethal Weapons, and you discover that this critique of European security policy is sponsored by EU funding, then you’ll gain some idea of what the term ‘embedded’ means today.’

Die Welt, 24 January 2009
‘In the Name of Security’, Gabriela Walde
‘The exhibition abstains from ham-fisted provocations, depicting and documenting more than she judges. However, those who expect the Akademie to come up with a top-down presentation, lush with discourse, will thankfully be most pleasantly surprised.’

Frankfurter Rundschau, 26 January 2009
‘In the Cellar’, Harry Nutt
‘The curators’ approach is political in an eminent way and most of the commissioned artists have been following them on this path, according to which any one of us is under the control of an alien apparatus… Most of the time we are too dull and inactive to imagine what the exhibition is clearly demonstrating: namely, the huge amount of scientific energy that has been put into the apparatus of building security… There will be no-one left untouched by this.’

Berliner Zeitung, 24 January 2009
‘The Great Discomfort’, Ingeborg Ruthe
‘Those expecting to engage with highly complex, brittle political fragments and wade through problematic debates will be surprised how visceral the exhibition is. Irritating and unsettling, yet elucidating, it’s also entertaining when, for instance, you see a Pop-Art style Bin Laden appear on the giant display of the Akademie’s façade, turning the ‘master of evil’ into a comic figure. Thankfully, the exhibition refrains from dividing the world into good and bad, avoiding the judgment of gods and wise men. Only the Hauptstadtkulturfonds dared to finance such an aspirational, weighty and explosive exhibition.’

Zitty, March 2009
‘In Evil’s Den’, Petra Reichensperger
‘Once again it’s the artists in their role as curators who consequently experiment with the format of the event exhibition. They thrust themselves into undermining the system by subversively executing the fundamental rules of security. There is no way that art can be more cutting in commenting on contemporary security policies.’

Deutschlandradio, Barbara Wiegand
‘The mis-en-scene is very apt, inspiring and filled with fresh art…without doubt, an honourable show.’

3Sat Kulturzeit
‘Very intense’

Radio1, Marie Kaiser
‘EMBEDDED ART takes place at the very right location. My advice is to go and see it. It’s worth it, but it’s tough… One of the most important exhibitions in Berlin.’

Updated Online Source:,1518,602914,00.html
(podcast vom 26. Januar)

Embedded Art: Art in the Name of Security continues until March 22. I will speaking there on March 21. More details on this as they come up.
Akademie der Künste, Pariser Platz 4, 10117 Berlin Tues – Sun, 11:00 – 20:00 € 6, concs € 4, free for under 18s Press enquiries to Brigitte Heilmann: +49 (30) 200 57-1513,

Sunday 22 February 2009

Lecture Eight: From the ‘Dream of Venus’ to ‘Atlantis in Hi-fi’

so my darling and I
make love in the sand
to salute the last moment
ever on dry land
our machine has done its work
played its part well
without a scratch on our bodies
and we bid it farewell

starfish and giant foams
greet us with a smile
before our heads go under
we take a last look
at the killing noise
of the out of style...
the out of style, out of style

From ‘1983... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)’, The Jimi Hendrix Experience,
Electric Ladyland

‘Anything writ in water will succeed,’ was the advice given to Edward James and Julien Levy as they embarked upon their project to realize Salvador Dali’s ‘Dream of Venus’ sideshow at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Part surrealist fun house, part burlesque showgirl review, the result combined water, eroticism and spectacle in one immersive environment. While the 1939 Fair made a big show of demonstrating TV for the first time, and the Communication Building displayed ‘the progress of the art of speech from the age of myth to the age when myths become household fixtures’, it was the ‘Dream of Venus’ that showed what the modern home would really be like.

With the expansion of Suburbia after World War II, space and sensory experience took on a powerful presence in daily life. Ranged in precise grids, connected to its own set of local amenities, the suburban conurbation became an isolated colony, a behavioural laboratory in which individuals were to be studied by a growing professional elite of social scientists. What they found was subsequently labelled by one psychiatrist as ‘Disturbia’: a place where audiovisual technology had invaded the already overheated environment of the modern home.

Suggested Reading:
Ingrid Schaffner, Salvador Dali’s Dream of Venus: The Surrealist Funhouse From the 1939 World’s Fair, Princeton Architectural Press, 2002
Thomas Hine, Populuxe, Bloomsbury Press, 1989
Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, The Monacelli Press, 1994
Joseph Lanza, Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening and Other Moodsong, Quartet Books, 1995
Beatriz Colomina, Domesticity at War, MIT Press, 2007
Celeste Olalquiaga, The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience, Bloomsbury, 1999
Francesco Adinolfi, Mondo Exotica: Sounds Visions, Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation, Duke University Press, 2008

Related Viewing:
1939 NY World’s Fair – Industrial, featuring Elektro the Robot
Billy Rose Aquacade Show World’s Fair 1939
The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney, National Geographic, August 1963

2.00pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top Image: Promotional Fashion Shoot for Dali’s Dream of Venus

Saturday 21 February 2009

Embedded Art on CNN

CNN, the best thing to happen to European hotel rooms since the invention of balconies, recently ran a feature on the Embedded Art show at the Akadamie der Kuenste in Berlin, where ‘Requiem for the Network’ is currently on display. You can see the cable news station’s brief tour of the exhibition, complete with armed guards and CCTV cameras, by clicking here.

What makes the report true poetry, however, is the next news item up: two young US army officers in combat fatigues handing over the keys of the city to the mayor of Baghdad. After Embedded Art you can really begin to see security as a form of theatre.

The exhibition continues until 22 March 2009. For all the posts on ‘Requiem for the Network’ and the Embedded Art show in general, click here.

The above image: another Itasha (see previous post) in the form of the CNN Baghdad battle cruiser – NB: CNN’s advertising rates tripled during the course of the first Iraq war.

Friday 20 February 2009

F. T. Marinetti’s ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism’ February 20, 2009

‘We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath – a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.’

Fourth Article of the Manifesto of Futurism, published February 20, 1909.

The image of the Japanese ‘Itasha’ above comes courtesy of Danny Choo, currently guest blogger at Boing Boing. ‘The word Itasha, he explains, ‘describes a car that has been plastered with stickers of anime (Japanese cartoons) or eroge (Japanese dating sims) characters. “Itasha” literally means “painful car” and comes from the feeling that one would usually be painfully embarrassed to drive around in one. “Itasha” also means Italian Car.’ Choo's post went up on February 18. History is what we do best even as we give ourselves up to the future.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Requiem for the Network: Martha Says It's OK

This small gallery of images taken under conditions of the utmost secrecy shows some of the various stages in the mapping of 'Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation' as revealed in Rathna Ramanathan's working prints. It gives some small idea of the complex network of connections Rathna was creating from my original text. Enjoy them while you can - they may have to come down at any moment. Martha Stewart didn't really say it was OK for me to show these, but she then hasn't said I couldn't do it either. In matters of the strictest security, it's often a good idea to keep silent and let others interpret your intentions for you. This is the sort of lesson only a spell in jail can teach you. Thanks, Martha. You're bigger than all of us.

Sunday 15 February 2009

Requiem for the Network: Fourth Stage

Once Rathna Ramanathan had finished colour-coding her printout of ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’, she began treating each entry as the node of a hypothetical network which could be developed out of my original text. As my text was presented as six separate ‘degrees’, bridged by a relevant quote set between each section, Rathna adopted this organizational principle in her design: the final set of posters would be divided up into six separate networks. Each core network, however, would in turn be graphically interlinked to represent further levels of connectivity between them.

What was particularly interesting about Rathna’s approach was the way in which it conflated systems of influence with the syntactic arrangement of my text – in other words it was possible to follow individual structure of the sentences in which the connections between artists, intellectuals and the military-industrial complex were actually being spelled out. What had started out as the relatively straightforward representation of historical information had become a process of textual translation by which new meanings and interpretations were now being generated.

Over the Christmas period and into the New Year Rathna sent me a series of PDFs for me to correct and comment upon. As one degree was added to another, the complexity of the process began to reveal itself.

The image above is an early screen grab from Rathna’s networking of ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’. It shows the core network to emerge from the First Degree. The background whorls represent the kind of ‘blast radius’ circles used by RAND strategists to map out globally the potential destruction and population loss that would result from specific thermonuclear weapons. The typography Rathna chose for each entry is used on official US government forms – and also by Martha Stewart for some reason - but this might also explain why it seems impossible to upload the image at the moment. Normal service will be resumed as soon as humanly possible - or when Martha says it's OK.

The complete text for Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Presentation is published in the catalogue for the Embedded Art show at the Berlin Akademie der Künste, published by Argo Books. The exhibition continues until March 21.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Requiem for the Network: Third Stage

During our early discussions on how to shape and structure the data to be presented in ‘Requiem for the Network’, Rathna Ramanathan and I had considered different possible groupings and arrangement of texts. Our general approach, however, was still very much based upon the notion of connecting discrete pieces of text – barely more than information-rich captions – in a way that embodied the complexity of their relationship to each other: a format somewhere between a genealogical table and a systems flowchart.

This all changed the moment Rathna read the essay ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’, which I had written for the Embedded Art exhibition catalogue. Her initial response came as a real surprise to me. ‘Your work is pretty much done now,’ she announced. ‘I think you’ve written all we need right here.’ Rathna’s proposal was to take the entire 6,000-word text and isolate key terms, using a colour code to separate out institutions from individuals, publications from concepts and dates. Any syntactic relationship that might still exist between the highlighted words was firmly ruled out by a stroke of Rathna’s pen.

As her printout of the essay began to resemble a complex graphic score, the conceptual purity of her approach continued to make itself plain. Rather than using one text to locate another set of texts within a representational plane, shifting the various pieces of data through a succession of arrangements – a process which ran the additional risk of allowing some of the data to drop out of the frame – why not shift from one arrangement of the material directly to another? The more we thought through the possibilities of this approach, the more exciting they appeared to become.

Above: Rathna’s printout of ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’

Saturday 7 February 2009

In Memoriam: Lux Interior 1946-2009

Well when I die don't you bury me at all,
Just nail my bones up on the wall,
Beneath these bones let these words be seen,
"This is the bloody gears of a boppin' machine"

Sunday 1 February 2009

Lecture Seven: Duration, Or the Birth of Chance Out of the Spirit of Music

While teaching at Black Mountain College, a home from home for European modernist art and design in 1940s America, the composer John Cage caused an uproar by suggesting that musical compositions should be organized according to principles of duration rather than harmony. Beethoven, he argued, was out. Erik Satie and Anton Webern were in. By emphasizing duration over harmony, Cage was also opening up music as a multimedia practice. Anything could be part of the performance. Chance procedures now began to play an increasingly important role in the composition, presentation and perception of musical activity.

This lecture will examine the development of Cage’s graphic scores as maps of events, the role of text in performance and the nature of his collaborations with the choreographer Merce Cunningham as well artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Marcel Duchamp. It was also chart how the concept of duration contributed to the progressive development of environments and happenings from Fluxus in New York to the work of Joseph Beuys and Nam Jun Paik in West Germany. As music and image processing software increasingly permits us to manipulate sound and vision as plastic entities, the relationship between the graphic score and the data stream is due for serious reassessment.

Suggested Reading:

John Cage, M: Writings ’67 –’72, Weslyan, 1973
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Dancers on A Plane: Cage, Cunningham, Johns (exhibition catalogue), 1989
Vincent Katz (ed), Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art, MIT Press, 2002
Merce Cunningham (with Jacqueline Lesschaeve), The Dancer and the Dance, Marion Boyars, 1991
Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art (NB – this link will send you to an online version of this document), 1969

Related Viewing:

David Tudor performs John Cage’s 4’ 33”
John Cage, I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It
Joseph Beuys, Filtz TV
Joseph Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me
Nam Jun Paik, Electronic Moon No 2

2.00pm Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top image: part of the score for John Cage's 'Fontana Mix' 1958