2017. május 17. (szerda)

Rendering immaterial


Anna Fabricius (HU) and Janek Tomza (PL) collaborate in Immaterial exhibition in Budapest-based Platan Gallery. Fabricius presents set of video arts which are accompanied by Tomza’s sculptures. Even though artists reach for distant media, their careful observation of virtual reality aspects and particular focus on immateriality leads to coherent vision, accordingly expressed in innovative exploration of new material forms in case of Tomza, while in Fabricius works, becomes nearly a negative image for daily activities and examines visual consequences caused by absence. Tomza’s sculptures refer to ephemeral structures from computer games popular in nineties, which so far haven’t had physical representations. Videos created by Anna Fabricius focus on work activity: her performers deprived of tools and machines maintain restless and continue their confusing choreography.  Learn more about concepts which gave a rise to Immaterial and artists’ forthcoming projects.

Patrycja Rup: Your approaching exhibition directly refers to Victor Buchli’s latest book “An Archaeology of the Immaterial”. What do you find most appealing about the concept of immateriality presented there?

Janek Tomza: I'm particularly drawn to Buchli’s presentation because it relates to an axiom I've been exploring since my thesis, one which I’ve called dematerialization, or the dematerialization fantasy. I read a conference paper once, and it alarmed me that for all the materiality of dig sites, authors from major universities pleaded that their colleagues finally stop making up stories, and for once look at the objects they were dealing with, at the sheer materiality of artefacts. Buchli's book is fantastic in how it traces the denial of materiality, but then he writes that we should depend on this dynamic to remain vigorous as a culture. I think that's a very lucid argument, but I also like the hyper-materialist and physicalist position, one which says that freeing our minds from our bodies means that the minds are no longer, because every idea that's ever been thought of, as far as we know, was thought by a brain. Not all matter is conscious, but all consciousness is physical. Buchli writes that the denial of materiality is a constructed dualism, but it’s one we can't do without. So is the death drive, which one of Polish saints called central to his idea of the civilisation of death. I think Buchli shows that we're simply accusing each other with a shared idea, so that argument's null.

But denying matter sounds like dissociation, it invites costly illusions and an inability to access reality, and thus being stuck in a time trap. Contrary to Buchli, I would defend the anti-Cartesian perspective, and say that the denial of materiality is an extension of how Adorno and Horkheimer described capitalism – that it is motivated by hate towards nature.

PR: Do you perceive archaeogaming as a source of useful tools and methods for your future art projects?

JT: Actually no, I think it's worrying to say there’s no difference between material and virtual cultures, not provocative. When we think virtual we suppose freedom, freedom to create anything we imagine with just a few clicks, as opposed to having to use a hammer or chisel or whatever. The laws of physics are a toil. But virtual worlds have their own laws, for example that everything has to be made of triangles, and these laws are governed by how programmers think. So the difference is that in virtual, all laws are man-made. So I'm saying there’s no such thing as the virtual, not as we think of it. And there's also the fact that the virtual can’t exist without megatons of copper and plastic cables, roads, PCBs, chips, the tools to produce them, and the workforce which toils at doing and maintaining all of that.

Nonetheless, archaeogaming presents one of the very few examples of academia trying to tackle computer games from an inside perspective, phenomenologically, and that’s something I like. But rather than consuming game worlds in a thoughtful way, as archaeogaming proposes, I was drawn to digging inside the code itself, through modding tools, which are semi-legal programs that fans create to modify the games they play. This method means that we're digging out game artefacts like archaeologists dig out ancient material culture – without really knowing why they were created, what they represent, or what they're used for, and having to figure these out by speculating. This leaves room for misconceptions and parallels the history of archaeology. Maybe 'texturing' these models with oil paintings is similar to supposing that ancient Greek sculpture was all white, which didn't stop it evolving into a whole architectural period.

If we imagine game models as artefacts of a (im)material art, we're excavating the history of a yet unknown culture, and this requires thoroughness. So I developed a research wiki, at, where I started cataloguing all the known body parts from games published between 1990 and 1999. I’d like to expand the database to include accounts of how people remember encountering them, what they meant to them.

Anna Fabricius: In my working method one of the “key image” is the game.  The working mechanism of the game is very archetypical for human being. Let’s say, it can be the entrance-hall of the real life and real work. I like this similarity in the system, though game psychically has a huge clearing energy what brings honest attitude or temperament.  Though if you are in flow in your work, the result in body could be the same.  Beyond the freshness of the game, it can be a very strong but not conscious metacommunication in particular case, what helps to reveal hidden layers. In my artistic work these hidden and surprising layers help to understand better the question which I have posed.

PR: What artists, art projects or trends inspired your recent works?

AF: Lately my interest has shifted to the theatre, or performing arts. Theater as a structure offers an alternative reality, and this solution is close to my way of thinking, although till now I have collaborated solely with real performers, so in my videos or photos everybody was exposing him/herself. For me, in real and honest theatre, an empathy is an absolute necessity, because everything happen here and now.  I find Robert Wilson’s early works very inspiring. Lately I love Julien Rosenfeldt video works, or the amazing Ulrich Seidl docufilms.

JT: There's one art-related event which inspired me, and that was the burning of paintings by students at a university in South Africa. They chose to do it as protest against their college's colonial origin, and that made me think of what a Polish flea market merchant told me: that he's saving paintings from people who don’t care for them... that most people have taken paintings off their walls and store them in damp cellars and attics, kicked around and decaying. So I like to think of my recent project as that – as saving paintings, not because of their textual value, not the worldview they solidify, but because they were made by hand, and out of the underlying, silly need to make a copy of reality. 

PR:  Do you think applying game-based strategies in arts might become popular as an expression of freedom and a form of resistance?

AF: Expression of freedom can be presented in many ways and each artist has his own method to express it. Game-based strategies are just one option, although this kind of, let’s say interactive working method, is getting popular, basically playing games means interaction. The French curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud introduces in his book “Relational Aesthetics” the new terminology for art, based on the term of relations:  where human relations and their social context has become the central point. Here the basis is relational form, which leads to interactivity. Art is conceived as a game. Bourriaud mentions as well a narrow social gap: kind of place of human relations, which more or less harmoniously fit to the existing system, however reveals that kind of patterns, what in that system actually are not valid.  Possibility of participation and interaction creates opportunity for modelling the reality.

PR: Could you shed some light on your forthcoming plans and art projects?  

JT: I'm leaving studio practice for a video project in New York. I stumbled across what I think is the most undervalued material ever, so as with the oil paintings, I'll be trying to intervene in its value, rescue it through artistic means. The video is most likely going to consist of conversations with people – how to do market speculation and how to create a luxury brand, and then do it in practice, produce value added sculptures.

AF: As I already mentioned the theatre, lately I read quite a lot contemporary and modern dramas and I’m working on a new video, inspired by Bertold Beckett. The end of this month I travel to Romania to shoot the footage. For me this is a new platform, by which I mean working / shooting video work based on an existing text, a text where so many detailed instructions for actors are. This is a kind of new experiment, where we will play a game again, but according to different rules.



Artists: Anna Fabricius, Janek Tomza

Curator: Tomasz Piars

Opening speech by Veronika Hermann 

Opening: 17th May 2017, 7 PM

On view till 22nd June 2017

Platan Gallery, Andrássy Street 32, Budapest 


Interview by Patrycja Rup

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