Friday, July 31, 2009

The An-Archic Device (2009)

Media Sculpture by Tobias Rosenberger

Realized in Mexico-City at the Centro Multimedia del Centro Nacional de las Artes in the framework of the 1. Mexico scholarship for German Media artists (Goethe Institut Mexico + Werkleitz Gesellschaft Halle)

That is how we sorcerers operate. Not following a logical order, but following alogical consistencies or compatibilities. The reason is simple. It is because no one, not even God, can say in advance whether a given multiplicity will or will not cross over into another given multiplicity, or even if given heterogeneous elements will enter symbiosis, will form a consistent, or cofunctioning, multiplicity susceptible to transformation.

Deleuze & Guattari

The An-Archic Device is something between toy theatre, street altar and peepshow: a small-scale stage model, a blinking auto
mata, an audio-visual machine, that produces physical and anarchic dissociation by means of laughter.

Based on Antonin Artauds theater manifesto „The Conquest of Mexico“, The An-Archic Device deals with Mexico as a space of otherness and as a subjective heterotopia. Following Artaud, Mexico becomes the playground for an examination of danger and fear along the site, where each subject is set back to its self in its relation to the world.
A ten pesos coin starts the device.
(revolving stage with four different sets, moving lightrig with leds, 2 loudspeakers, deconstructed screen, small objects, computer)

Voice: Mónica Alcántar
Dramaturgical Advice: René Rothert
Mechanics: Yurián Zerón
Video-Performance: Juanpablo Avendaño y Cuauhtémoc Sentíes Rascón.
Music: Matthias Mohr (intro) + Arthur Henry Fork
Animation Codex Cospi: René Liebert

Exhibited from 30.06 until 31.07 in Mexico-City in the Galería A/B del CENART (solo).

During my residency at Centro Multimedia I created a physical (theatre) model, that is based on Artauds text “THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO”.

As a new media artist I am interested in models and simulations for quite a long time. With my background in theatre studies I am familiar with the notion of „mimesis“ as used by Aristotle, who has influenced strongly the reception of theatre over the centuries and still does so until today. His notion of „mimesis“ extends the „pure“ domain of theatrical embodiment, since it is a matter of the question, how the human being achieves knowledge, and how it tries to take possession of the world.
Humans develop models, to get a better understanding. The approach to work with models / simulations is obvious in all areas of life, be it in the education sector, Corporate Design, warfare, soccer strategy or risk analysis. Models simplify, isolate, sharpen – they are „theses“, that have to be set, to cross the lines of Chaos. At the same time models operate in the mode of „exclusion“, because they necessarily have to select. It is this ambivalence, that gains my interest regarding the materiality of physical models, and regarding the texts by Antonin Artaud.

This physical model is integrated in a display cabinet, whose frontside is composed of a cheap deconstructed 15“ LC-TFT-Display, that is separated from its backlight and whose transparency allows the spectator to look through them.

This is a technology I used first during the work for „Cold Lights“, an interactive audiovisual installation about bioluminescence, chemiluminescence and fluorescence for Luminale Frankfurt 2008 (CL is a collaboration with René Liebert and Maximilian Haas).

The Liquid Crystalls of such displays are light ventils, that are regularly opened. If you provide it with enough voltage, the molecules become arranged along the lines of force and loose their ability to turn light. As an enduser you get the first effect if you send white pixels via Vga/Dvi-Cable, the second with black pixels (or other colors). The Displays are not emitting light by themselves, but need extra backlight.
Hacking the screen:

First tests december 2007 with metallic objects, grey fabrics and lights behind
the display:

During the standby-modus of the installation you do listen to a looped audiotrack (8 minutes) based on the first part of Artaud's manifesto, which announces the play (Voice: Mónica Alcántar, Music: Matthias Mohr). After you put 10 pesos into the coinslot, the second part of the text is staged inside the display cabinet with the means of theatre, according to the four acts of the text (WARNING SIGNS / CONFESSION / CONVULSIONS / ABDICATION, alltogether 12 minutes).
A computercontrolled rotating wheel is synchronized with different lighting moods (dimmable Leds, CCFLs inside the display cabinet), different videos and the music (electro-acoustic composition by Arthur Henry Fork, based on Artaud's notes), and reveals four different stage settings.

While the lights highlight specific parts of the the stage settings and make the videocontent on the panels visible, the transparent displaypanels do provide another layer of information and aesthetics, which is used consciously in the interplay of all elements. Small video windows appear and support specific perspectives, speech becomes subtitled. Charts and Animations influence the perception, of what is behind them, while colors and surroundings generate particular moods.
The final result is a multilayered and hybrid theatre model, a subjective and 3-dimensional approximation, that not only re-enacts Artauds theatrical examination of “Mexico” on a small scale as a model drama, but that – via various conjunctions and permanently changing perspectives - at the same time reflects the general model character of our thinking.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Leaving Mexico / Arriving where?

In Mexico, since we are talking about Mexico, there is no art: things are made for use. And the world is in perpetual exaltation. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. And the old Totems are there to hasten the communication.
Antonin Artaud

Yesterday I arrived in Germany, so it might be now the time to make a short resume about the last ten weeks, that I spent in Mexico, developing „The An-Archic Device“ as far as I could, following the text „The Conquest of Mexico“ by Antonin Artaud.
When I was interviewed some days ago by Mexican TV station Canal 22, there have been two questions, that I hadn't thought of before, but that seem really self-evident. The first was, how I dealt with violence in Mexican society, and the second was, how I percepted the differences of Mexican culture to European Culture.
Retrospective I have to say, that the first two, three weeks of my stay have been overshadowing and forming my perception of this country / culture. The cultural differences never became a big focus for me, since while I was directly stumbled into a state of emergency, I found myself in a situation, where everybody seemed to be in the same boat. Today it is easy to smile at these days, but I think we will not forget these moments of insecurity, where nobody really was knowing what will be happening next. There was a big amount of fear within everybody, and it took quite some time until these reservoirs became released again. It was quite an interesting experience to do some self-observation, when the social life slowly started to reappear. Together the people helped each other, to get rid of the traces of their paranoid dispositions, while humor became an always helpful agent. I was told before that there are serious problems with crime and violence in Mexico, but luckily, moving a lot through the city, I didn't notice them myself. Also, in the media the influenza replaced all other topics / problems in the first weeks (a lot of people I spoke to supposed that the government also used the influenza partly as an instrument of propaganda, to push the national problems aside, a few weeks before the big elections, that actually take place today). I realized a lot of social differences within the Mexican society (you just have to compare in the afternoons the people that use the metro and the people that go by car), huge gaps regarding education, income and living quality, certainly latent traces of racism against the “native” population, but alltogether Mexico seemed not to be very alien to me in these days. Most people I dealt with (people from the Centro Multimedia, artists and curators) also had a lot of international experience, and I became once more assured, that we as artists in a global community are very privileged, but that there is also a big responsibility.

The time I spent in Mexico was not enough to finish my sculpture, what you can see in the Galeria A/B until the end of this month is kind of a status quo, but I am quite happy with it as it is now. The mechanics, fully workable only since this Thursday, are still not connected at this moment, and you will only see a basic draft of one of the four acts if you input a ten pesos coin (length about 5 minutes), but I think it is surely worth the effort to visit the installation in the Galeria A/B. Right now I continue to work on it in Germany. I think I need another 2-3 weeks to finish all the different parts, to make the final edit of my video footage and to do the computerprogramming of the different lighting moods and the mechanical movements. While I was reading a lot in Artauds texts during the first half of my residency, I spent the second half to create and collect all the different parts. Now finally comes the most fruitful and interesting time, where I go back to Artaud and connect all my different material with some of the ideas, that I extracted out of his writings.

Theatrically, the problem is to determine and harmonize these lines of force, to concentrate them and extract suggestive melodies from them. These images, movements, dances, rites, these fragmented melodies and sudden turns of dialogue will be carefully recorded and described as far as possible with words, especially for he portions of the spectacle not in dialogue, the principle here being to record in codes, as on a musical score, what cannot be described in words. (Artaud)

I really liked the idea to create an object, that is “made for use” instead for contemplation, and to look out for the forces / possibilities of the materials that I decided to use, instead of using them only as an additional support for the expression of vain artistic ideas.

A distinction must be made between two types of science, or scientific procedures: one consists in “reproducing”, the other in “following”. [...] following is not at all the same thing as reproducing, and one never follows in order to reproduce. [...] One is obliged to follow when one is in search of the singularities of the matter, or rather of a material, and not out to discover a form; (Deleuze & Guattari)

Last but not least I also want to thank all the people who did great support so far (most notably Sebastian and Dr. Naether from the Goethe Institut, my host Eusebio, and the people from the Centro Multimedia, Omar, Cuauhtémoc, and all the others), and also all the artists / friends that I collaborated with for this project (Dyan, Juanpablo, René, Yurian, Monica, Matthias + René).

Sunday, June 14, 2009


If people talk instantly about food, I answer, that we have to look immediately for ways and means, in order that everybody can eat instantly. But if people say: Let's give food to everybody instantly, and later arts, sciences and thinking can develop, I answer: “No”, since here was the problem not properly considered.

Antonin Artaud


The An-Archic Device is something between toy theatre, street altar and peepshow: a small-scale stage model, a blinking automata, an audio-visual machine, that produces physical and anarchic dissociation by means of laughter.

Based on Antonin Artauds theater manifesto „The Conquest of Mexico“, The An-Archic Device deals with Mexico as a space of otherness and as a subjective heterotopia. Following Artaud, Mexico becomes the playground for an examination of danger and fear along the site, where each subject is set back to its self in its relation to the world.

A ten pesos coin starts the device.

Since my presentation at Dorkbot Mexico two weeks ago, where I spoke about "Breathing City", "Cold Lights", the concept of "The An-Archic Device" and the manipulation and deconstruction of the Tft-Screens (see photo), there has been some progress regarding the installation. I am looking forward to present “The An-Archic Device” in Mexico-City from the 30th of June until the 31th of July at the Galeria AB of Centro Multimedia at the Centro Nacional de las Artes. The offical opening is scheduled for the 30th of June at 6 p.m., and I hope that almost all the people I met in Mexico-City so far will find some time and come around, and for sure there should be some possibility to continue our discussions about Art, Technology, Power and the relevance of Antonin Artaud. If You can make it, don't forget to bring a 10 pesos coin with you ;-)

The next Saturday I went with Juanpablo Avendaño (a Mexican designer and performer aka Montezuma) and Cuauhtémoc Sentíes Rascón (the director of the Centro Multimedia aka Hernan Cortes) to the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan to make some videorecordings. For two reasons this became quite a funny experience: First, we weren't allowed to use a basic tripod inside the area, since a special permission is needed, which is about !300! euros. And second, since I didn't want to have tourists running through the image, I decided to go to an area, that is not open to the public. So we were recording for about 5 minutes, when 2 guards were approaching and were telling us to leave this place and to get rid of the tripod. Pretending to look for a mobile that Cuauhtémoc claimed to have lost, we were able to stay another 40 minutes and to get all the recordings that we wanted (that the two performers now always seem to have their faces turned to the ground, is actually a nice "Verfremdungseffekt").

With Yurián Zerón of the robotic wokshop I went to buy some wood, and together with the carpenters of the Centro Nacional de las Artes, that have their working space in the basement garage beneath the Centro Multimedia, the wooden parts of the sculpture have already been assembled. Furthermore, I also started to work together with an experimental musician, and I sent some images of the Aztecan Codex Cospi to my friend and collaborator René Liebert in Germany, who does now some basic animation with the Comic-style drawings.
Then I got a serious cold in the middle of the last week, and while I was still wondering if it was the swine flu or not and was staying at home, I had some more time to read a little bit more in Artauds Mexico Volume and to reflect some of the recent discussions I had here in Mexico-City, that dealt mainly with the relations of art and politics. In “I came to Mexico, to escape the European civilization...”, a lecture Artaud held in Mexico, he opposites his notion of “total revolution” to the notion of “revolution” in a Marxian way:

For us the problem seems not to be the replacement of one class with another, in order to get to an abolishment of all classes in the last instance; instead of that, we have to look for the reasons of an eternal decline in the way of living of the human being. […] For me, there is no revolution without revolution inside of culture; that means, inside our universal manner, the manner that all human beings share, how we apprehend life and how we face the problem of life. It is good, to dispossess the owners, but for me it seems to be much better, to dispossess each human being of the taste for property.

It seems to be very crucial for me, that Artaud always remembers us, that it is indeed very easy to blame the others, but that on the same time we also adapt very easy to structures of power. We have to be very careful also, that we do not just reproduce another multiplicating part of the big machine
, that seems to grow faster than ever in these days.
I think Artaud is very contemporary, if we talk about collaborative approaches to art (opposite to the market-based idea of a single artist-creator who produces surplus value) and open source movements. One of the projects at the Centro Multimedia I personally like the most, is the providing of an bootable open-source-cd with its own linux-based operating system through the audio department. A big focus is here to make resources available to the public in all parts of Mexico, so that everybody can start to play around without the need of big instructions. Even if this is only a small step, I think it is a central question of ethics, to provide anybody with free access to commodities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Presentation at Dorkbot Mexico this Saturday

I am happy to announce that I am invited to give a short presentation of my recent work and the current status of my Artaud installation in the context of DORKBOT CO. DE MEXICO. The video-lecture will be part of Dorkbot 17, which takes place this Saturday (May, 30th) at 7 p.m. at Central del Pueblo (Venezuela 72 Centro de Tenochtitlán hoy Distrito Federal). Other featured artists will be Alfredo Borboa and Adriana Calatayud Morán. Subsequent to our three presentations there will be a LIVE SET Open Mixer.

About Dorkbot:
Dorkbot is a group of affiliated organizations worldwide that sponsor grassroots meetings of artists, engineers, designers, scientists, inventors, and anyone else working under the very broad umbrella of electronic art. The dorkbot motto is "people doing strange things with electricity".

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Second Manifesto

n. pl. man·i·fes·toes or man·i·fes·tos

A public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions, especially of a political nature.
[Italian, from Latin manifestus, clear, evident;]

The most significant reason to base the installation / device, that i am developing right now at the Centro Multimedia, on „The Conquest of Mexico“ (and not on any other text from Artauds Mexico-Volume as f.e. „The Mountains of Signs“) was for me certainly its manifesto-character. I liked the idea to work with a text, that functions as a proposal, as a truly political declaration, as a effusive manifestation of a “clear state of mind”, and I still think there is no better way to deal with it than on a small scale, since models are on the one hand much more handy to outline and explain specific ideas than simple words, and on the other hand they always stay in their unrealized status of a proposal / manifesto, since they aim on having an impact on reality, but still wait for their actualization in "real life" or, as in this case, on a "real stage".

“The Conquest of Mexico” is first announced (and further specified) by Artaud in the second half of his second manifesto on “The Theatre of Cruelty”:

The first spectacle of the Theater of Cruelty will be entitled:

Within this manifesto Artaud describes initially content and form of “The Theatre of Cruelty” in general,

Besides this need for the theater to steep itself in the springs of an eternally passionate and sensuous poetry available to even the most backward and inattentive portions of the public, a poetry realized by a return to the primitive Myths, we shall require of the mise en scene and not of the text the task of materializing these old conflicts and above all of giving them immediacy; i.e., these themes will be borne directly into the theater and materialized in movements, expressions, and gestures before trickling away in words.

before he further explains the “moral grounds and the immediacy of interest of such a spectacle” and “the value as spectacle of the conflicts it will set upon the stage” in specific regard to “The Conquest of Mexico”.
These notes about the actuality and relevance of the staging of “The Conquest of Mexico” will establish the core of the introduction of “The An-archic Device”. They will be spoken in a Spanish translation by an actor, who I met earlier this week in a restaurant in the neighborhood of my apartment, after a series of lucky coincidences. As he was sitting on the table next to me, and as he was in discussion with some friends, I noticed first the sound of his voice, which seemed to have exactly the qualities that I was looking for: On the one hand very controlled and kind of straightline, it left on the other hand space for subtle modifications and break-outs without leaving its overall balance. So I was asking him, if I could do some voice recordings with him, and told him a little bit about my project, and he agreed. Since I was later told by a friend, that he is actually one of Mexicos busiest actors, Daniel Giménez Cacho, who even worked with Pedro Almodóvar in “La Mala Educación” before, I really hope that he will find some free time and that this collaboration will happen someday during the next two weeks, but I am quite confident, since during our nice talk it not only turned out that he had a book with poems by Paul Valery in his bag, but that he also had already a good knowledge of Artauds “Theater of Cruelty”, and he talked very passionate about it. He also pointed me to one very unpretentious performance he had seen once during a theatre festival, where one actor was carrying kind of a mobile enclosed cave- / theatre architecture with his body and asked the spectators in particular, to immerse into his construction, where they were given a short private performance.
Anyhow, his voice will mark the beginning of the installation, and it will be accompanied by a short video-performance, that I will record with another performer in the area of the ruins of the “Templo Mayor” in the historical center of the city (based on Artauds description of the Tutuguri-Ritus).
The video can be seen on the screen of the installation, that at the beginning works like a normal screen without transparency. Therefore, this first part of the installation works like a prologue in the theatre, when the curtain is still closed.

During the last week I also frequented quite regularly the robotics department of the Centro Multimedia, and made some progress with the mechanical design of the installation. I am happy, that there will not only be a real lighting rig with “small moving spots” (based on a construction with cheap motors and small leds) on the top of the miniature stage, but that there will also be a huge wheel construction, which allows the use of four different 3-dimensional picture stages behind the then transparent made screen, each one corresponding to one of the four acts, that Artaud is outlining, when he in a addendum to “The Conquest of Mexico” further describes “the structure of the spectacle according to the order in which it will unfold”. These four pages with more or less concrete images and scores regarding the dramaturgy of the play, have not been included in the French Edition of Le Theatre et son Double (as a part of the second manifesto), but have first been published two years after his death in 1950. Also manifesto-like in form and content, they will be the matrix for the miniature staging of the play, that follows up the introductory prologue.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Theatrical Devices / About Translation

Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, with this touch rather than with the point setting the law according to which it is to continue on its straight path to infinity, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense, thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the freedom of linguistic flux.

Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator

Thinking about my own „translation“ of Artauds theatre outline „The Conquest of Mexico“ into the media sculpture „The An-archic Device“ for the last few days, I was starting to read the notes of his contemporary Walter Benjamin on „The Task of the Translator“, an essay I was pointed to through Eusebio, who just recently discussed it in one of his collective groups, that is examining the language of things and documents. In some ways there seem for me to be analogies between Artauds proposal of the “invented being”, of “things [that] become unforeseen, corresponding to nothing”, and Benjamins notion of poetry and art:

In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a particular public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an "ideal" receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art, in the same way, posits man's physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his attentiveness. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the audience.

While Benjamin explains further, that the “essential quality” of a literary work is not “communication or the imparting of information”, but that what “lies beyond communication” (a conception that provides an interesting foil to Artauds idea of “the spirit of profound anarchy which is at the root of all poetry”), he insists that not similarity to its “original” would be the most important task of a translation, but rather to find its “mode of intention”:

The task of the translator consists in finding the particular intention toward the target language which produces in that language the echo of the original.

As life goes back to normality in Mexico-City (restaurants and public institutions opened 3 days ago), I start now to discover another aspects of its social life, and realize a big relief wherever I go. You can still feel traces of fear and hysteria, but openness, humor and musicality have found their way back into the daily life. Walking through the streets, I become quite impressed, with how much care and affection people are treating small items and construct cheap but pragmatic superstructures with a passion for the details. Mexico seems to be still in some way a religious, catholic country, as I am not only remembered from the daily ringing bells of the church opposite my flat, but also from a considerable amount of small altars in the streets or private doorways. When I arrived in Mexico and went to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, I already noticed replica of these hybrid entities, as they took a prominent part in the exhibitions of contemporary Mexican life. Right now I am starting to connect this idea of these “private devices of worshipping”, with their very theatrical settings integrating colorful paintings and photographs, sculptures of the Virgin Mary, flowers and sometimes even special lighting effects, with my planned “translation” of Artauds “The Conquest of Mexico”. As we have seen, Artaud assigned a cathartic and social function to the theatre. For him, the collision of the sacred and the profane made theatre alive. Still, there is a significant difference between religion and theatre, since the latter is not based on belief, but on the knowledge about the "theatrical pact". Therefore, the sacred is here not equivalent with dogma and the affirmation of an unity, acknowledging and establishing layers of power and submission in this way, but opens the wide space, where each subject is set back to its self in its relation to the world. Taking Artauds idea of a "Theatre of Cruelty" seriously, i became quite sure, that "The An-Archic Device" has to claim its (very theatrical) autonomy. I am looking forward to take the different parts of the installation together.

That is how we sorcerers operate. Not following a logical order, but following alogical consistencies or compatibilities. The reason is simple. It is because no one, not even God, can say in advance whether a given multiplicity will or will not cross over into another given multiplicity, or even if given heterogeneous elements will enter symbiosis, will form a consistent, or cofunctioning, multiplicity susceptible to transformation.
Deleuze & Guattari