June 16 2017

"Technology and hype go together" – Flashback Track 1: Now, post, where are we, actually?

Stephan Porombka started off the afternoon of talks at Neufert Box in Gelmeroda. Recently he has indulged in the work of August Sander (1876-1964), a photographer who took on the challenge of portraiying “People of the 20th Century” during his lifetime. From workers to composers, he pretty much captured whoever crossed his way. What does this have to do with a notion of “now”?

“To access issues via our own aesthetical practices, understanding it as an experiment” is what drives Porombka in dealing with Sander’s work. He started cutting up pages of Sander’s books, rearranged them, de- and recontextualized them. Further, he places portraits of other people on the bodies captured in Sander’s pictures. A simple selfie turns into a modification of old material, signifying a “culture of constant transformation” as Porombka put it. Thus, the “now” is always, in some way, the introduction of a difference. Consequently, Porombka set up a temporary foto studio, engaging with his own encyclopedia, “The People of the 21st Century”, starting here, at Digital Bauhaus Summit 2017.

Melanie Bühler visualized further differentiations in the field of arts during her talk about post-internet art. A base from where we started was the acknowledgement that “today, there cannot be art without the internet.” Bühler guided the audience at Neufert Box through the history of internet art and how it became post-internet-art within – compared to other epochs – a rather short period of roughly two decades. “It is almost overwhelming how fast things can develop. Especially in academia you always seem to lag behind” Bühler said in a quick Q&A after her talk.

Still, you can pinpoint the development into post internet art quite easily: From green and black screens, depicting the collapse of website code (wwwww.jodi.org, 1995) which worked within networks only and on computers only to the “OMG Obelisk” which used a “internet phrase” but was exhibited offline, in the physical world, it happened rather fast for internet motives to leave the web and enter our earthly realms.

Melanie Bühler finds that “technology and hype go together” so, in 2015, post-internet art was ranked highly on the market for speculators who would art-flip and speculate on future prices of artworks. Two days ago, when Bühler last checked artrank.com there were hardly any post-internet artists left. So, given the fast pace of trends, Melanie Bühler hesitates, as she says, to use the word “modern” in colloquial language, she prefers the term “current”. And currently, one might even ask if the internet (as we have known it twenty years ago) was dead, given it’s vast backbone and big companies governing it, that goes along with this structure.

The most whirlwind talk of the afternoon was – most definitely – Thimoteus Vermeulen’s. He gave the audience a crash course in his take on the state of the modern today. In Short, we rode from modern to postmodern and reached the metamodern. The latter is pretty much characterized by a “stress of choice” that we are constantly facing. We always have to choose sides, even though we learned that there are no definite truths. “Especially the politica left have lagged behind in taking decisions. The right, they don’t care” Vermeulen pointed out.

Even more so, “Trump can state one truth today and stick to another tomorrow”, Vermeulen said. In other words: He does not seem to doubt, whereas we know we have to doubt absolute truths. Here, in doubts, Vermeulen sees a trait of the metamodern. Even if we know that we have to think of alternative futures than the present, there is always this lingering doubt. And still, or so it seems, even conservative thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama who once famously stated the end of history after the end of the cold war, even they feel like there is some kind of turning point approaching. Said Fukuyama himself recently figured his diagnosis was a bit hasty, back in the early nineties. “Something else is coming”, Vermeulen concluded. 

Stephan Porombka / Photo: Thomas Müller
Stephan Porombka / Photo: Thomas Müller
Melanie Bühler / Photo: Thomas Müller
Melanie Bühler / Photo: Thomas Müller
Timotheus Vermeulen / Photo: Thomas Müller
Timotheus Vermeulen / Photo: Thomas Müller

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