Cluster Images and the explosion of an urban art concept

Root Event

2. Werkleitz Biennale 1996 Cluster Images
Cluster Images and the explosion of an urban art concept

The conscious acquisition and exhibition of contextual art works made by institutions could be observed simultaneously in real time alongside initial attempts to preserve such works in documentary form 1. The subtle confrontation with the limits of art, a confrontation particular to contextual art, has itself become rationalised and stylised into an artistic style. The self-referentiality which necessarily derives from this confrontation, (and which has been the exact object of exploration) is obscured by the presentation of these artistic products in spaces which conceal their social context, thus perpetuating the myth of aesthetic self-sufficiency 2.

Those who have set out to follow the culturally complex trail of artistic practice have learnt what it means to feel fear in the face of power struggles for responsibilities, markets and funding. All that remains to the idyll is utopia, and the idyll belongs to utopia alone.

Thus, in the areas near the limits of art, which have already been contextually opened up (reflecting, for example, the methods and results of sociology, ethnology, anthropology, economics and ecology), the question of the necessity of the image or elements within it are being inferred and processed in a contextual and cognitive way. Meanwhile, in the commercial artworld‘s hall of mirrors, methodological reflections are coagulating to form a perpetual and self-regulating technology. Instead of establishing distinctions to differenciate, this technology, comparable with the technology of adaptronics, now establishes distinctions in order to „internalize“, i. e. to adapt 3.

As a result, the commercial art world and it’s management have entered a period of crisis. The socio-political causes of this crisis come purely and simply from a lack of reasoned argumentation. Questions such as, how could the dwindling number of visitors, (which was itself over-simply interpreted as a lack of interest), justify the increasing costs, ambitious plans and self-establishment of both the individuals and the institutions? remained unresolved by the institutions much hailed strategies for cultural acceptance. The result was a crisis situation. Their solution was to systematically adapt their programmes to incorporate increasing amounts of new technology, resulting in a move towards profit-oriented support from industry. The virtual reality boom, which was a spin-off from military technology, was magical, not least of all because art had now regained the link with technology which it had during the age of Classicism4. In the post avant-garde era, the almost euphoric adoption of technology by the art world, rekindled the hope that images could be produced not from reality, but for reality5. The multiplication of these virtual worlds of, by, and for, the individual have erased discourses around the necessity, referentiality and discernibilty of the image, resulting in an art practice which is disengaged from social concerns6.

Mike Davis7 has shown that such considerations of purely politico-cultural arguments have economic, and subsequently urban, consequences. He showed that there is a causal link between urban restructuring and the deliberate quartering off of urban areas, resulting in the ghettoisation and exclusion of certain social groups. The splitting up of the inner cities into pseudo-autonomous areas, that is into urban clusters, have dismembered the inner cities and resulted in an increase in the importance of the areas arround them.

With this theory in mind, one can incorporate Deleuze8 and Serres9 notion that, when the peripheries of any system are examined, it becomes increasingly problematic to distinguish between difference and repetition at any given transition point. Differentiation at the points of transition is a prerequisite for social analysis on a local level, but cannot be used to analyse the system as a whole. Similarly, when the internal differences of an urban environment, such as the urban cultural clusters, destroy the homogeneity of the urban model, the resulting self-referentiality makes the peripheries of the urban model impossible to categorise. In other words, it can no longer be described adequately. The clusters which are brought about by this process form differentiated units which drift apart and are no longer integrated. They are themselves indicators of the thermodynamics of society. As a group they form the crossover culture.

The 2nd Werkleitz Biennial consciously goes beyond the city limits to present Cluster Images. This has enabled Werkleitz to, on the one hand, continue the socio-political discussion as to what the function of art might be in the absence of the institutionalised obligations of representation, which correspond with the classical justification of culture. On the other hand, Werkleitz is able to show the images which spring from, and are dependant on, urban relations, in settings far removed from those which caused the disappearance of these relations, i. e. from the art ghettos. The programme combines open submissions and invited contributions, in an attempt to present both current responses to the above issues and, to build on the complexities of these responses with works produced especially for the festival. In addition to this, the works presented aim to show clearly those corrections and criticisms which had to be developed in order to make it possible for clusters to be suggested as an independent concept for the description of transmedia images.

Notwithstanding the apparent lack of planning and division of labour which is the usual criticism within cities of the products of urban culture, that is, provided that they have not completed the metamorphosis into culturally supported social work, Cluster Images presents itself, between Calbe, Tornitz and Werkleitz, as a systematic concentration of images, films, videos, performances and installations. Discussions were had with all participants in the Biennial, in order that the most appropriate venues, spaces, or historical settings for each contribution could be found. This ascribes a new value to the artistic works which is distinct from that in the urban environment. It creates an open speech situation. The rhetoric of open speech follows its own laws, as shown by Foucault10, and demands an historical awareness which is particularly relevant today in Saxony-Anhalt, a region which is itself under-going a period of structural change, the social impact of which is enormous and is felt most acutely in non-urban areas such as Calbe, Tornitz and Werkleitz.

Furthermore, the festival takes the experimental risk of presenting discursive approaches to multi-media images parallel to one another, with a view to exploring a new area of reference: the area of multi-functional interweaving. It is an area which must be discussed, beyond the specific artistic context, in the form of concentrated, relevant information. Thus, the selection of festival venues aimed to establish a wide spectrum of functional environments. The venues are categorised into functioning facilities, such as the two village churches, the premises of the Werkleitz Gesellschaft and the restaurant „Zur Post“, partly functioning facilities, such as the station, the „Kulturhaus“ (cultural centre) of the now defunct gelatine factory in Calbe (closed in 1989, post German unification) and the bowling alley in Werkleitz, and unfunctioning facilities such as the sportshall of the defunct light metalworking plant (also closed in 1989) and the grocer‘s shop „Konsum“„ in Tornitz. The alienating mechanisms of classical artistic genres were consciously avoided, as was the white cube. A village hall was chosen as a venue for films and videos, so that even these have Situational con-notations.

From the very beginning, the definition of the public space was a decisive part of the concept. The structure of the exhibitions evolved around this public space. The images actively reference the places, works and rooms in which they are situated and also engage in the problem of self-mediation. With one exception, none of the festival venues have ever been used before for exhibitions or film/video showings before the existance of the Werkleitz Gesellschaft. The Kulturhaus in Calbe, (formerly a workers‘ venue for theatre, music and

film) is the one exception, but even this is now only a shell. Apart from the necessary technical repairs, all the venues have been left in the state in which they were found, in order that the art works have no choice but to deal with the modality and context of the space itself.

A third exhibition venue, which is used by all the participants, is the Infocafé, where condensed and media versions of the exhibitions can be found, together with information about the region, particularly about Werkleitz/Tornitz. Thus, parallel to the exhibition itself, there is an attempt to expand existing summaries of information, not only in commentary form, but also as an integrated complex of information which can be understood in its own right. In this way, the reciprocal conditions of this information become visible, discussible and representable11. The documentation in the Infocafé, the accompanying presentation of the festival on the Internet, and the public, situational and indexed versions of the exhibition, make even the mediality of the public space an artistic subject. This is where the variety of the applicable media, the role of media acceleration, the selection processes of media transformations and the levels of public utilisation become subjects for discussion. This leads to the propagation of a form of representation, which takes an active role in its own mediation, rather than simply allowing it to happen12.

Finally, the catalogue itself constitutes an attempt to publicise the exhibition in an appropriate way. It is conceived in loose-leaf format and so can be constantly added to, and expanded, by means of images of the situations which come about within the context of the festival. Cluster Images should be seen as a programmatic project which attempts to escape the indifference of isolated information, in order to develop, during the festival, groups of informational units13.

1 vgl.: Stefan Germer. Linter Geiern. Kontext-Kunst im Kontext.

In: Texte zur Kunst. Nr.19, Aug. 95, S. 92 ff.

2 vgl.: beispielsweise die Offentliche Rezeption der Hamburger (u. a.) Ausstellung

Cindy Sherman - Photoarbeiten 1975-1995 In: Der Spiegel, Die Woche und taz. Dazu: Jörg Heiser, Cindy Sherman. Vom Kopf auf die Füße auf den Kopf.

In: Texte zur Kunst Nr. 19, Aug. 95, S. 55 ff.

3 vgl.: Michael Lingner, Die Krise der »Ausstellung« im System der Kunst.

In: Betriebssystem Kunst. Kunstforum Bd. 125, Jan/Feb 94. S. 182 ff.

4 vgl.: Horst Bredekamp, Antikensehnsucht und Maschinenglauben. Die Geschichte der Kunstkammer und die Zukunft der Kunstgeschichte. Berlin 1993

5 Peter Weibel, Kontextkunst. Zur sozialen Konstruktion von Kunst.

In: Kontext Kunst, Köln 1994, S. 1 ff.

6 vgl.: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Wahrnehmung vs. Erfahrung oder die schnellen Bilder and ihre Interpretationsresistenz.

In: Zwischen Erinnern und Vergessen. Kunstforum Bd.128, Okt/Dez 94, 5.172 ff.

7 Mike Davis, City of Quartz, Berlin/Göttingen 1994

8 Gilles Deleuze, Differenz und Wiederholung, Munchen 1992

9 Michel Serres, Hermes V. Die Nordwest-Passage, Berlin 1994

10 Michel Foucault, Diskurs und Wahrheit, Berlin 1996, S. 77 f. mid S. 177 f.

11 vgl.: Dietmar Kamper, Das Bild als unmogliche Gegenwart. Vom Aufhoren der Theorie.

In: Zwischen Erinnern und Vergessen. Kunstforum Bd. 128, Okt/Dez 94, S. 106 ff.

12 vgl.: Christian Holler, Fortbestand durch Auflösung. Aussichten interventionistischer Kunst. In: Texte zur Kunst Nr. 20, Nov. 95, S. 109 ff.

13 vgl. etwa: Pierre Bourdieu/Hans Haake, Freier Austausch, Frankfurt/M. 1995

und: Ulf Wuggenig, Rivalitat, Konflikt und Freiheit.

In: Texte zur Kunst, Nr. 20, Nov. 95, S. 87 ff.