The projects of German artist, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, flirt with the construction of scientific knowledge, grasping and slipping between the object and subject. Drawing from a background in visual and new media art practice, Meyer-Brandis creates installations, performances, and film that drift from scientific theory into fiction and wonder. Her work draws parallels with fictional and quasi-fiction worlds, those of space cadets and armchair rocket launchers.
Exploring recurring subjects such as gravity, weightlessness and space travel, her work has led to collaborations with scientists and researchers providing access to operations and activities usually restricted to scientific experimentation only. In 2007, while working on a project called Cloud-Core-Scanner she travelled on a zero gravity flight in collaboration with the DLR (German Aerospace Centre) to examine the formation of clouds in a weightless environment. As well as a rigorous scientific approach, her work is often tinged with a playful humour, such as her series of public meteor watching events, where participants are instructed to bring a safety helmet.
Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhard) are artist explorers of the natural world, they build installations and moving image with animation and sound drawn from their encounters with prestigious scientific institution such as NASA’s Space Science Laboratories and the Smithsonian Archive as well as journeys to alien places like the Galapagos Islands and Ecuadorian volcanoes.
Two new works drawn from their other worldly travels, Worlds in the Making and Inferno Observatory are now showing at FACT in Liverpool, UK, Peter Merrington talked to the artists about their work.
What is an airport? There are few buildings as strictly controlled, commercially exploited and emotionally embedded in the contemporary word. Junctions of humanity, they are sites of equal boredom and threat. Airports are dynamic spaces, with flows of people and capital yet they are as susceptible to the effects of socio-economic and political changes as they are to extreme weather changes. Filled with ubiquitous surveillance, continual identification and suspicion, what happens when they loose this function and just become buildings again?
Terminal Convention was a contemporary exhibition and symposium housed in the decommissioned terminal building of Cork International Airport in the Republic of Ireland. The old terminal stands in the shadow of its new, bright, open and airy, off-the-shelf 21st century airport successor, and the decommissioned terminal has remained a virtually untouched unknown wonderland for international artists to transform.
What is striking about this particular airport ex-terminal is its friendly persona, at times more akin to a bizarre extended living room than an airport, with its fireplaces and fish tanks in the baggage reclaim area. Striped of its function and control, the space is deadened and immobile without the continuous hums and flows of international travel. The description ‘decommissioned’ implies something more than simply the staff moving out and locking the door – the building has been stripped of all its symbolic authority. The new freedom to roam, unchecked, through the once tightly controlled spaces provides a small thrill, the ‘no entry’ signs remain in place, but are now rendered obsolete.
Nam June Paik (1932 - 2006) is an artist fabled for what he has achieved, as the instigator of video art, the pioneer of media art and through his influence on the indebted MTV generation. It's as if his career is almost made for the retrospective exhibition. His work is bound to his legacy, and his influence is hard to encompass. The importance of this legacy asks two parallel questions, how to preserve, present and document but also how to react, trace and respond. Both are targeted through a new joint exhibition of Paik's work at Tate Liverpool and FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), the first major retrospective of his work since his death in 2006 and the first exhibition of his work in the UK since 1988.
Tate presents a comprehensive chronicle of Paik's movements through the avant-garde, in performance, composition, television and sculpture. There are TV sets, robots and Buddhas, mixed with historical documentation, vitrines filled with exhibition programs, posters and photographs and timelines drawn on walls, which denote his many collaborators and read like a roll call of the most influential artists of the 20th century - John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Joseph Beuys and Merce Cunningham.
In contrast to the Tate, where you can look and listen with historical meticulousness, at FACT you are given a remote control. Here you are encouraged to relax, in an archive lounge, and browse a collection of his video works at leisure. Or lie back underneath Laser Cone (1998) and be dazzled.
The latest edition of Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival has jumped across the Northwest UK from Liverpool, where it debuted last year to Manchester. In its second major urban manifestation, after a small rural retreat in the Peak District, the festival followed its previous format and presented exhibitions, performances, cinema screening, talks and workshops across cultural venues in the city. Seeking to agitate, AND’s theme of questioning normality in various forms was represented in Manchester with a focus on identity.