Where do we, and our digestion of images, information and facts, stand in the age of digital excess? A recent show at Rod Barton gallery in London brought together two artists—Kristian Touborg from Denmark and Moritz Wegwerth from Germany—to consider the current position we find ourselves in. Wegwerth’s images focus on Times Square, as workers disassemble the stage after Donald Trump’s election success, surrounded by gaudy, flashing advertising imagery. Touborg creates imagined archaeological items from a near future society. Here, they talk about data collection, their visions of the future and their reasons for staying positive.
Can you tell me a little about Instant Excess at Rod Barton?
Kristian Touborg: Instant Excess was an intersection of visual streams. It was an exposure of how visual imagery contains its own strata and how the works originate from our belief that what catches the eye in the street is a compilation of layers.
We seek to simultaneously expose and exercise the complex and incessant systems that imagery flows in at this point in time, framed and enunciated by the internet. Instant Excess is a verbalization of the foundation for both our practices: How can an accumulation of artistic frameworks, which focus on diverse means of visual production, which are interwoven with digital and psychical archival methods, contribute to an understanding of the visual culture of our contemporary society?
You were both very well-paired in this exhibition, and were described as working as a visual critic and a visual anthropologist, each exploring similar territory by very different means. Were you in dialogue before the show, were these works formed with a consideration of each others’ practices, or is the match more of a coincidence?
KT: The exhibition is not the outcome of a random juxtaposition of two artists using the same reservoir of visual material, but much more pivotal to us—the exhibition is the outcome of a pre-established, long-term and ongoing dialogue between Moritz and myself. This conversation is not rooted in the production of specific artistic projects, but is initiated as a dialogue that enriches and guides our bodies of work separately. A joint project then came naturally when it was proposed, as we already share this exchange of thoughts and ideas. Instant Excess kept in mind Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s line of thought, as we notice how we influence each other as our data and information creep in only to be merged into our separate practices as the preceding dialogue refers back in time to endless hours of discussions on art and life.
Moritz Wegwerth: Excess made me think of Byung-Chul Han’s book, Hyperkulturalität (Kultur und Globalisierung), which I was reading lately. He talks about everything as being interwoven, a step further beyond hybridity. That is what I think is at stake.
The ideas that came up in the exhibition are very rooted in this current moment in time, where individual behaviour and thought feels very led and manipulated by technology, and where fact and fiction are incredibly blurred. Where do you see this going in the future?
KT: We should expect extreme changes, as the technologies of the future are being developed as we speak. Ranging from virtual and augmented reality in our everyday life as well as environment reinvigoration and AI. Immediately I think of the movie Her—about a man who develops a love relationship with an intelligent computer operating system, which is personified through a female voice. It’s the same type of story that’s told in Michael Crichton’s movie Westworld from 1973, which has recently been made into a series by HBO. This scenario in which technology influences and becomes a central part in how our feelings and emotions are created in a near future stands as a constant reminder to me of how important the true physical and human relationships in life are. I find the way the scenarios unfold in science fiction universes simultaneously scary and possible as technology evolves, and the more I think of it, the more I feel an importance of standing up for the analogue in a world where technology influences almost every aspect of our everyday life, including the production of art.
I’m also fascinated by the possibilities technology brings into the production of art, but it’s pivotal to me to anchor my work in the dreamy seductive authenticity that only materials processed by the human hand can hold. How love can only be exchanged between humans, and how brushstrokes and a visual eloquence of an artist only can be simulated and not replaced by technology—at least not at this present moment in time.
But it fascinates me how artists can shape the future of technology and how we interact with technology, as well as how technology plays a role in the way artists express themselves.
Considering the news currently, data collection is being discussed in a different way to perhaps even when you were making this work. Is this something you’re already both responding to in your practice?
MW: Considering the news very currently, 25 May 2018, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) decision has a huge impact on how data is being collected, but also distributed. Perhaps even more interesting for long-term implications is how individual countries and corporations are choosing to permit or restrict access to images that can be viewed—who has access to what as visual resources and who does not. The medium still is the message.
On the other hand, with a constant stream of information, I try to take some distance from that and to see it as a system itself and to see the mechanism behind the production. I look at documentation of life through the lens of the “revolution of images”, how they change, reflect and shape culture over time. Early civilizations used symbols, fifty years ago it was more text-based, and now we have come to tech images as our mass means of shared understanding. If there is one nexus in the world where this all comes together it is Times Square. There is a constant stream of images being generated, both put out and taken, and shared across the world. It took layers of complexity to get to where we are now, to give us the multi-perspective experience that we now live on a daily basis.
KT: In my work I try to dive into one of the biggest obstacles of a digitalized society: How do we create a lasting, immaterial storage of data? We are now at a stage where we have the means to reconstruct lost code. If the resources are used, we can change the question from how do we remediate the 1s and 0s, to a question of how we create lasting, democratic, immaterial storage. This means that how and what material should survive from our vast personal digital databanks in the long term are at stake. My work offers no quick fixes in this matter, but I wish to highlight the obstacle as it touches upon all of us as we save photos in our digital clouds, speaking about data as a metaphysical concept freed from material mass and commercial affiliation. It’s a question of who decides how and what to preserve from our digital footprints as well as who has the option of harvesting this information. And most important—who has the option of deleting everything in an instant.
Do you feel hopeful about the future?
MW: The interaction between images and reality and how tech images change reality and the future is under constant construction. I see it as very diverse.
KT: A few weeks ago I became a dad, so please let’s not talk CO2 or clashes of civilizations! I am, in general, an optimist, and I believe optimism is important in molding the future and creating possibilities. So let’s talk about the amazing things the future will possibly bring. In creating this body of work I discovered a glimpse of the incredible evolution within computer visions and the different approaches to it. Machines can now understand objects in a scene and create an impression of what is happening in it. Machines can analyse pictures on our mobile phones and understand the meaning of them; who and what is in the picture. We can interact with Siri.
This is a part of the AI development that I believe we have only seen a single bit of. We are standing on the train platform talking about the Shinkansen train that we know is approaching. And all of a sudden it passes by with the speed and the power of all winds and beasts on the planet multiplied. This is a frightening, fascinating and relevant thought, since we keep producing so much online data and constantly feeding the beasts with personal info (as Moritz mentions).
AI will play a big role in the future in art, which makes the analogue even more important than it is today, reminding us that we are humans. Dreams and visions are vital in the creation of our future.
Rod Barton is pleased to announce INSTANT EXCESS featuring artists Kristian Touborg (Denmark) and Moritz Wegwerth (Germany).
A juncture has been reached in the contemporary moment of our society. The advent of fake news, information warfare, a web held hostage and the commodification of politics have left us in a maelstrom of images that conflict, saturate and construct partisan sides in debates that never were. Anti-vaxxers turn belief into fact, Trump perfects fake-news doublethink and sophisticated algorithms deliver our data to commercial enterprises. At the centre of this rotating nebula of material sits us. The viewers, consumers and members of society who live in world where belief, fact, fiction and opinion hold equal space depending on the weight we attribute to them. The future belongs to images and what will become of them when the context is immutably fluid through the contemporary into the historical.
It’s hard to think we are not all but players on a stage, being subtly manipulated into dramatically ironic crescendo by forces unseen. If the world is the stage for this production then Moritz Wegwerth’s photographs are the tableau for this phenomenon. Times square, disassembled after Trumps election victory, stands at the centre of a cavalcade of advertising imagery. So often it has felt as if we are at the centre of a bizarre Netflix special, and Wegwerth’s images translate this feeling of unbelievable reality with a focus on the gears that drive the social machine forwards. Workers remove the stage, each seemingly engaged with a dramatic narrative of their own yet preparing for the presidency of consumerism become politic. Wegwerth’s aesthetic immediately draws comparisons to the Barthesian tableau photographers who construct their sets meticulously. However, Wegwerth does not setup his works as carefully but rather refers us to the constructivism present in contemporary discourse, it’s fragility and it’s awesome power.
If Wegwerth’s photographs act as a comment on our contemporary obsession with how images act as both tools of influence and of the influencer, Kristian Touborg’s practice examine how fragmentary and impermanent our digital depictions are throughout the passage of time. If our imagery is so pervasive and personal now, where are the lines between belief and fact when the images are separated from context. In an age where data is becoming more than a collection of 1s and 0s, but a harvestable resource to be exploited, the artist creates archaeological reliefs of imagery and data from a near future society. In the same way that re-opening a jpeg file slowly corrupts the present visual information, Touborg meticulously creates a digital catalog of local ephemera using a camera and portable 3D scanner to create a visual library that he then constructs his panels into. If Mortiz Wegwerth is the artist examining imagery’s effect on society, Touborg is the archaeologist examining societies effect on imagery.
If Wegwerth as a practitioner is a visual critic then Touborg acts as a visual anthropologist. Both artists scour and reconstitute visual images from a shared cultural reservoir of content. Both artists ask the question of how we position ourselves between the ideas of belief, relic, knowledge, reality and fiction. Seeing ourselves as both author and construction within the works of Wegwerth and Touborg we are reminded of our relative size to visual culture. Rather it being a total product of ourselves we are a conduit into which singularities pass and reconstitute themselves a new infinitely.
The idea that photography has the ability to represent perception and experience plays an important role in the work of Louisa Clement, Anna Vogel and Moritz Wegwerth. All of them build on a tradition that emerged from their study of photography as a medium. The perception of an artwork is not understood as a passive act to be taken for granted, but rather as a product of cultural and historical circumstances.
The formal manifestations of their work are as varied as the concepts behind them, and yet Louisa Clement, Anna Vogel and Moritz Wegwerth have one thing in common: they are among the first students Andreas Gursky admitted into his fine art class at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2010. The interdisciplinary structure of the class (students work with photography along with diverse media including painting, sculpture, video, performance) is a constant challenge to broaden one’s own horizons. Two approaches appear central to Gursky’s teaching: first, that he encourages his students to delve intensively into the history of their respective medium; second, he motivates them to work with current social circumstances. These factors also play an important role in the three artists’ works.
PUBLIC FOLDER 3 / Golden Record (Book)
24 x 20 cm, 344 pages, german/english. Elaborate book design with two thread-stitched book parts, removable text book, different papers, 8paged cover with gold foil embossing, silver print and a folded poster wrapper in 55 x 33 cm.
Contributions by 120 artists like Albert Oehlen, David Ostrowski, Gregor Hildebrandt, Ingo Niermann, Johannes Wohnseifer, John Bock, Jörg Sasse, Justus Köhncke, Lothar Hempel, Marc Brandenburg, Matthias Schaufler, Michail Pirgelis, Mischa Kuball, Oda Jaune, Owen Gump, Peter Miller, Rafael Horzon, Rainald Goetz, Roman Schramm, Walter Dahn, Wolfgang Tillmans, Wolfgang Voigt, Moritz Wegwerth …
Essays by Jörg Sasse, Holger Otten, Claus Pias, John Harten
John Harten (Editor)
Public Folder & Revolver Publishing 2017
Die Möglichkeiten sowie die Grenzen der Fotografie sind in der künstlerischen Arbeit Moritz Wegwerths Dreh- und Angelpunkt der Auseinandersetzung mit dem Bild. Im Foto konzentriert sich die Erfahrung eines einzigen Moments. In einem Zusammenspiel aus Steuerung und Zufall wird ein Abbild der Welt eingefangen. Es geschieht die Transformation eines dreidimensionalen Raumes in eine zweidimensionale Bildfläche. In der präzisen Nachbearbeitung der digitalen Aufnahme sucht Wegwerth nach Aspekten, die dem Foto ihre Relevanz verleihen. Er bearbeitet es bis eine Harmonie – oder besser gesagt, ein Gleichgewicht aus Harmonie und Disharmonie – entsteht, die dem gefundenen Sujet gerecht wird. Innerhalb dieser Herangehensweise lässt er das Spiel mit technischen Möglichkeiten zu. Eine Regel dabei ist, dass Elemente nie hinzugefügt, sondern immer nur weggenommen werden. Dabei sind alle Arbeiten von einer Lichtintensität, von einem flächenbetonten Gleichklang und von einer präzisen Schärfe geprägt. Generell ist die Wahl des Ausschnitts, der Größe der Prints sowie der Art der Reproduktion Basis für eine installative Auseinandersetzung mit dem Ausstellungsraum.
Für die TOTALE 15 im Maschinenhaus Essen erarbeitete Wegwerth unter dem Titel Order from Noise eine raumgreifende Medieninstallation, die den erzählerischen Aspekt der Fotografie thematisiert. Indem Bilder vielfältig kombiniert werden, verbinden sie sich zu einem Pool und tauchen in den Bilderrausch unseres medialen Zeitalters ein. In dieser Fähigkeit liegt ihr Potenzial, liegt die Offenheit des Bildes.
Kuratiert von Anna Czerlitzki (Museum Ludwig)
notworking ...and the sloth hums the song. ...
Wissel / Weber‘s „Vagabund“ is a delivery van that has been transformed into a mobile living space. Available for the duration of a residency, it also comes with 1001 liters free diesel oil. The van is being rented for the respective trip and its interior customized to one‘s own personal needs. However, the privatized and customized vehicle also marks a stage on which the „Vagabunden“ [rovers] appear. On the road and in parking lots, the unit is body, skin and clothing all at once. It merges with the person and the role to become both, display and art work. Wissel / Weber went on the first voyage themselves and invited Moritz Wegwerth, whom they named the first artist in residence of their program, to accompany them in the spring of 2015. The trip began in Hamburg and ended in Herzliya [Israel], where parts of the interior were shown at the [Herzliya] museum for the duration of the exhibition. – Annette Hans
Permanent Collection, Düsseldorf
Every Cult its Castle, Sammlung Philara at Spinnerei Leipzig, 16.09. – 14.10.2017
Alain Verre by Peter Miller and Moritz Wegwerth, which is a duo show as opposed to a show by a duo, at Setareh explored ideas of inversion in photography such as reversals, negatives/positives and opposites. Each artist worked out their respective interpretation through a physical approach employing a combination of various techniques from photograms to cyanotypes to inkjets and video. Sculptural renderings incorporated the cut-out arms from a photogram of a pair of 3D movie glasses presented in the box that usually contains photographic paper for Miller’s 3D (VG), 2009, and his Negative Form 35/1, 2011, which is essentially a fashioned bowl made entirely from a roll of 35mm film literally occupy a unique space that pushes the very idea of what constitutes a photograph.
Wegwerth’s monumental images are constructivist in nature, solid and imposing, but with Flicker, 2015, capturing the light transitions on the stone floor of a church, and Miller’s Kronleuchter I (Chandelier I), 2011, a kaleidoscopic two-dimensional luminogram created from a three-dimensional crystal chandelier there is a genuine sense of the mysterious and enchantment associated with the darkroom process. This is particularly evident in Miller’s beautifully enigmatic Braid, 2011, depicting on one side a photogram of a girl’s braided hair and fingertips, with the reverse showing a photograph of the girl holding that light-sensitive paper in the studio. The flash of the camera’s bulb was used in creating the photogram, and though it divulges the operation it somehow retains the mystique.
Time and light are of course the foundation elements of all photography and so in Miller’s teasingly designed 145 part The Academy, 2016, he has printed each frame from a classic movie countdown (presented in reverse and upside down) there is once again an attention to movement and the historical as well as the temporal and luminescent. In these ways, both Miller and Wegwerth overlap and interact, seamlessly filling the gallery space with a precision of technique and thought.
Barry W. Hughes, SMB Mag
In 2014, the board of the foundation entrusted KIT with the selection of the candidates, who were to be under the age of 35. Together with four professors from the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf and the Kunsthochschule für Medien (KHM) in Cologne, 15 artists were selected to present their work.
Silke Albrecht, Malte Bruns, Frauke Dannert, Alwin Lay, Mercedes Neuß, Nicolas Pelzer, Dzifa Peters, Tobias Przybilla, Felicitas Rohden, Ruben Benjamin Smulczynski, Anna Vogel, Moritz Wegwerth, Kristin Wenzel, Marius Wübbeling, Josef Zky
A Book about Photography as Drawing, about Originals and Reproductions, in between an Exhibition and a Book.
is an international network of artists dedicated to the investigation of photographic practice. Through a range of artistic, critical and curatorial projects, Time to meet is interested in the exploration of the medium of photography and its attendant issues of representation, objectivity and authenticity. These projects may include, but are not limited to the use of photography as an artistic medium itself. Our intention is to regularly bring together various practitioners in different disciplines as part of Time to meet's commitment to photographic discourse and debate. We feel that this collaborative, nomadic approach is necessary to encourage and inject new ideas and contexts into the practice. A free and open exchange of positions is imperative in Time to meet's continuing adaptability to a progressive and ever-shifting medium.
Class of 2016 | Nine-week summer residency
born 1981, lives and works in Düsseldorf
2014 Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
2009 HfG Karlsruhe
2005–2008 Folkwang-Hochschule Essen
· Next Generations, Aktuelle Fotografie made im Rheinland | Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen
· Instant Excess | Rod Barton, London
· Das Recht auf Faulheit | Galerie Ginerva Gambino Köln. With Alex Wissel and Jochen Weber
· Every Cult its Castle | Sammlung Philara at Spinnerei Leipzig
· Lady Dior As Seen By | Taipei 101, Taipei, TWN
· Louisa Clement, Anna Vogel, Moritz Wegwerth | Galerie Sprüth Magers, Berlin. Curated by Andreas Gursky
· Lady Dior As Seen By | Langen Foundation, Raketenstation Hombroich, Neuss
· Based on | Kunsthaus Essen
· Kumsitz | KIT, Düsseldorf. With Alex Wissel and Jochen Weber
· Alain Verre | Galerie Setareh, with Peter Miller
· Smart Casual | Cubus Kunsthalle, Duisburg
· Doppelkopf | O H A 15, Projektraum Düsseldorf
· Vagabund | Herzliya Museum, Tel Aviv. With Alex Wissel and Jochen Weber, ISR
· Rumour has it, Currents #2 | Marres, Maastricht, NL
· Order from Noise | TOTALE, Maschinenhaus Essen. Curated by Anna Czerlitzki
· Stipendium Vordemberge–Gildewart | KIT Kunst im Tunnel, Düsseldorf
· Grain, Wood, Flax, Turf, ... | Voorkamer Lier, BE
· Everything´s Alright | Master Graduation Show, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
· En El Castillo | Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo, Lanzarote, ES
· Jardin de Cactus | BEST Gruppe, Düsseldorf
· Transportation/Transformation - A Discussion of Jet Age Internationalism | SoBa, Tokyo. Curated by Milan Ther
· Klasse Gursky Tokio Hiyoshi | Keio University Art Space, Tokyo, JP
· The Reality of The Unbuilt | Raketenstation Hombroich, Neuss
· State of the Art Photography | NRW Forum, Düsseldorf
· Die Erfindung der Wirklichkeit | Akademie-Galerie, Düsseldorf
· The Second Act | De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam
AWARDS AND SCHOLARSHIPS
2016 Residency Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME, USA
2015 Stipendium Vagabund
2014 Vordemberge–Gildewart Stipendium
2013 BEST Kunstförderpreis in cooperation with Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
2011 Travel Grant of the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen
and Kunst und Kulturstiftung der Stadtsparkasse Düsseldorf
2012 Initiator | The Reality of The Unbuilt | Raketenstation Hombroich, Neuss
2011 Co-Founder | MIKRO Projektraum für Fotografie | Düsseldorf
2010 Initiator of the Festival | Sugary Photographs with Tricks, Poses & Effects, Antwerp
2008 Co-Founder of TIME TO MEET | International platform for artists