1 Thomas Kvam Portfolio
2 Thomas Kvam Reasearch Fellow, National Academy of The Art, Oslo Thomas Kvam St. Halvardsgate 25c 0192 Oslo Norway Tlf:
3 Selected works 1: Eurobeing 2: The Machine Project 3: Three Studies of Feet Touching Ground
4 1.Eurobeing Review Frieze, April 2007 Eurobeing / Thomas Kvam. UKS, Oslo, Norway Thomas Kvam s 22-minute animated film, Eurobeing (2006), which is stylistically akin to Richard Linklater s A Scanner Darkly (2006), opens with a sequence depicting an artist at work behind his easel. While the character sports an armband evocative of fascist vogue, he also has the word jihad inscribed on his forehead: the signs are conflicting and, indeed, almost immediately he reveals that his intention was to trick you with this parody costume and goes on to declare that he is so highly integrated in Eurabia that he can speak Hitler fluently. The painting he is working on at his easel is, he insists, an invisible picture of Muhammad : an allusion, no doubt, to the controversy that was sparked by the publication of some defamatory cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, which resulted in death-threats being issued to newspaper editors and, ultimately, the Danish Embassies in Syria and Beirut being attacked. But rather than taking sides over this issue, or addressing the topics of racism and censorship directly, Kvam gives us mixed signals: his character, anachronistically dressed in a fascist uniform yet referencing holy war, establishes the politically conflicting nature of the work. After this introduction, the film dissolves into monochrome whiteness replicating the whiteness of the invisible drawing before the screen is populated by several identical intelligence officers portrayed against
5 the backdrop of a derelict, war-torn cityscape. But instead of depicting any immediately recognizable geography or conflict, this visually dramatic scene is more redolent of Japanese manga, suggesting that Eurobeing s central concern is stylistic rather than political. Employing techniques reminiscent of Paul Chan s work, the camera moves vertically through a visually dense space. One can t help but be reminded of Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization (after Henry Darger and Charles Fourier) (2000 3), in which Chan reworked Pieter Breughel s paintings, notably Triumph of Death (c. 1562) a painting that corresponds with the bleak cityscape in Eurobeing. The film continues with a mock newsroom sequence, in which an anchorman, rather than relaying any legitimate news stories, introduces several contradictory caricatured versions of a Muslim and a reporter situated in the middle of the conflict. These characters converge and diverge uninterruptedly as the film progresses: the identities of Muslim, reporter and anchorman begin to blur as they all look nearly identical. Alternating between the newsroom sequence and the war-torn cityscape, the film revolves around different versions of the stereotypes pre-sented, urging us to distinguish their changing identities, rather than putting forth any clear narrative coherence. The film is accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of frequent bursts of sitcom-style canned laughter: a somewhat inappropriate backdrop to the violent events exploding heads and the suchlike unfolding on screen. Kvam s use of laughter in Eurobeing is not dissimilar to that of Oliver Stone in Natural Born Killers (1994): by employing laughter even when nothing funny is happening, they encourage us to laugh at inopportune moments when our conventional moral constitution would normally forbid it. Further humorous instances are afforded by the wildly gestural and directionless actions of the film s characters. Often foolish or exaggerated, they bring to mind Buster Keaton s physical, yet austere and notoriously unsmiling, expressiveness. But the film s slapstick element is contrasted with an apocalyptic, derailed world of violence, suspending the viewer between spontaneous laughter and stark disillusion. In lampooning the West s fear of Eurabia, Kvam raises a discourse on Utopian living that can claim its roots in works such as Jonathan Swift s satire A Modest Proposal (1729). Swift s harsh and seemingly immoral proposal, in which he solved the Irish nation s problems of starvation and poverty by suggesting the use of babies as food, was misunderstood and provoked violent reactions, but the work was intended as a means of encouraging the public to think for themselves, rather than presenting a didactic solution to the problems it addressed. Favouring distortion that does not lend itself to enlightenment or clarification, Kvam seems close to the Swiftean tradition. Both A Modest Proposal and Eurobeing present a version of reality that is less clear and more problematic than the circumstances they are based on. Kvam, like Swift, presents us with a strategically blurred view of contemporary stereotypes, and of Muslims in particular, provoking an unresolved tension in the viewer. The satiric edge of Eurobeing lies in its apparent lack of any reasonable proposal, of any straightforward, educational or otherwise well-intended solution. But ultimately, by leaving the problemsolving to the viewer, Eurobeing s apparent indifference has a humanist core. Art can be a tool for reflecting on current events: not, Kvam implies, by making things clear, but rather by distorting and exaggerating what we might think is evident in the first place. If the viewer does his part, the staged confusion of a work like Eurobeing can, in the end, produce a more nuanced picture of the conflict. - Kjetil Røed
6 Pressrelease EUROBEING Thomas Kvam at UKS Welcome to exhibition opening Friday 17th of November at 7 p.m.! Thomas Kvam`s first solo exhibition in Norway, Eurobeing, moves in a dystopic landscape between politics, film and media critique, unfolded in a stylized animation universe. In the 22 minutes long film, the news coverage`s sensationalism and our own prejudices are being parodized, either as pointed towards the American, Arabic or the European. The film presents a collage of chaotic news reportages, which fight for the spectators attention, which play the role as Eurobeing or the cynical audience. Here, black humor and critique of society are entwined, and where the media`s simplification of a complex world, is the real bad guy. The film landscape is a visually consistent and dense room, which balances between post apocalyptic tableaus, political satire and media clishés and myths. The film problematizes cultural taboos and shows a will to play in a politically, unredeemed space. However, the political foundation in the fiction never disappears: the film`s use of the term Eurabia points to a long European utopia tradition, where Thomas Moore and Jonathan Swift are natural references. With the extension of the word to the desecularised zone of the U.S of Eurabia a future, where so called Western values and political Islam, religious believes and neo-liberalism converge, is implied, and where the real conflict takes place between a secular and a religious perception of the world. The exhibition at UKS marks the start of Kvam`s PhD position in video, at the Art Academy in Oslo. Kvam is educated at the Art Academy in Oslo and has an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College in London. He has received a lot of international attention for his video installations. The exhbition is supported by Norsk Kulturråd and Vederlagsfondet.
7 Film still Review Kunstkritikk.no, April 2007 Vorsprung durch technik Thomas Kvams video Eurobeing er en effektiv pastisj over massemedienes skremsels- og forvirringsteknikker på vegne av sine oppdragsgivere. UKS Galleri er gjort om til kinosal i forbindelse med Thomas Kvams første separatutstilling i Norge. Et antall behagelige lenestoler er spredt utover gallerirommet hvor man kan sette seg bedagelig tilbake og la seg oppsluke av det 20 minutter lange videoarbeidet Eurobeing. Rommet er kledd i svart og et kraftig surroundanlegg legger lydkulissene rundt betrakteren. I det kontrasterende hvite resepsjonsområdet presenteres et fysisk verk relatert til videoarbeidet. Thomas Kvam har gjort seg bemerket med sine videoinstallasjoner i en rekke europeiske land. I Norge har han først og fremst vært synlig gjennom samarbeidet med Frode Oldereid på The Machine Project, samt på den turnerende Detox-utstillingen. Eurobeing markerer starten på Kvams stipendiatstilling ved kunstakademiet hvor videokunst skal være hans forskningsområde. Eurobeing starter i de østerrikske alper med verkets «arabiske» hovedkarakter kledd i Hitler-kostyme som maler et portrett av profeten Muhammed med usynlig blekk. Karakteren snakker parodisk arabisk-engelsk med klare brytninger til «hitlersk». På et tidspunkt utbryter karakteren; «Where is Wagner when you need him?!», mens blomstene duver i forgrunnen og solen skinner fra skyfri himmel. Et kryssklipp senere dukker en CIA-aktig agent opp, tilsynelatende inne i det usynlige Muhammed-portrettet, hvor han rapporterer om hendelsene til sin oppdragsgiver i The United States of Eurabia. Neste kryssklipp og vi befinner oss i et klassisk newsroom kjent fra CNN og Al Jazeera, hvor den samme arabiske karakteren dukker opp på et TV-innslag med truende helskjegg og maskingevær. Nyhetsankeret setter over til «Abdul» i et fragmentert videoklipp fra krigssonen i The White City. Nytt fragment og vi introduseres for en selvmordsbomber, som viser seg å være en innleid skuespiller i sensasjonalismens navn. I et heseblesende tempo gjør Kvam tydelig sitt kritiske blikk på dagens mediebilde og medienes overfladiske håndtering av komplekse konflikter. Den rådende overskriftsjournalistikken, gjort allment akseptert av CNN, Fox News, TV2 og dess like, får sitt pass påskrevet og betrakteren, selveste Eurobeing, bombarderes av overskifter, forenklinger og buzz-words som formidles med sannsigerens selvfølgelighet. Kvam
8 kjenner klippeteknikkens suggererende effekter og pøser på med raske sceneskifter som gjør at man kun sitter igjen med fragmenter av innholdet. Dette er en effektiv pastisj over massemedienes skremsels- og forvirringsteknikker på vegne av sine oppdragsgivere. Videoarbeidet er akkompagnert med et lydspor som bidrar til å øke spenningen for betrakteren. Drivende rytmer og et repeterende musikalsktema brytes opp av eksplosjoner, skuddsalver og det fiktive publikums latter. Eurobeing presenteres i et visuelt uttrykk som tangerer animasjonsfilmens og tegneseriens estetikk. Karakterene er filmet i tradisjonell forstand for så å bearbeides digitalt slik at de fremstår som Max Headroomaktige dukker som opererer mot en digital bakgrunn. For de som husker 80-tallet var Headroom en digitalt fremstilt TV-personlighet som inngikk i en kortlivet TV-serie og senere degradert/elevert til VJ. Headroom er mest kjent for sitt samspill med Art of Noise på låta Paranoimia (1986). Teknikken Kvam bruker i store deler av Eurobeing er tilsvarende til den Richard Linklater benytter i sine helaftens animasjonsfilmer, Waking Life (2001) og A Scanner Darkly (2006), hvor handlingen først filmes tradisjonelt for så å bearbeides rute for rute. Resultatet er slående både hos Linklater og Kvam, og etablerer et slags pseudounivers på siden av den rådende virkelighet. Det bearbeidede filmmaterialet bidrar til at betrakteren umiddelbart identifiserer innholdet som fiktivt. Samtidig gir det kunstneren frihet til å skape overdrivelser som understreker budskapet eksempelvis eksploderer den falske selvmordsbomberen så blodet spruter ned kameralinsen. Splatterkunst. Når det gjøres i animasjonens formspråk er det lettere å fortolke og oversette til meningsbærende symboler. Realfilmens virkelighetsbilde ville blitt for nært og sannsynligvis skapt avstand og avsky fremfor tolkningsrom. Det er en dystopisk verden som presenteres. I innslagene fra The White City serveres det post-apokalyptiske bilder fra en digitalisert tegneserieverden á la Sin City (Frank Miller) og Hellboy (Mike Mignola). Det er i disse scenene Kvam gjør best nytte av de digitale verktøyene. Universet Kvam presenterer er tankevekkende og gjør god nytte av tilskuernes egne fordommer enten de retter seg mot amerikanske, europeiske eller arabiske styremakter. Virkelighetsbildet hvor vestlige verdier og normer sammensmelter med det Kvam betegner som «politisk islam» må være skrekkscenariet for gamlelandets mange fremskrittstroende. Eurobeing-utstillingen ser ut til å være en del av en pågående trend blant forholdsvis unge norske kunstnere som i stadig økende grad inkluderer animasjonsarbeider i sine kunstprosjekter. Fra internasjonalt hold har en kunstner som William Kentridge markert seg sterkt gjennom flere år med sine animerte kulltegninger, og han har inntatt en slags særstilling blant såkalt seriøse kunstnere som benytter animasjon som kunstnerisk uttrykk. Her hjemme har Therese Jakobsens og Erik Vangs eksperimentelle videoarbeider, i likhet med Inger Lise Hansens stop-motion animasjoner, fått mye positiv oppmerksomhet både i billedkunst- og filmmiljøet. Samtidig har en animasjonskunstner som Sven Påhlsson først og fremst blitt tatt inn i varmen hos billedkunstmiljøet, men nærmest blitt oversett av filmmiljøet. Thomas Kvam på sin side opphever grensene mellom videokunst, film og TV med sitt kunstprosjekt, som ville vært like selvfølgelig på MTV (i hvert fall på 80- og 90-tallet) og kortfilmfestivalen som på UKS Galleri. Sannsynligvis er animasjonens oppblomstring i norsk kunst et resultat av lettere tilgang til digitale verktøy som forenkler animasjonsprosessen både teknisk og økonomisk. Videokunstens krav til teknisk kvalitet er ikke nødvendigvis like rigid som i filmbransjen, slik at man faktisk kan slippe unna uten å blåse av et lite statsbudsjett underveis. Det kan synes som om de nye animasjonsverktøyene er i ferd med å gjøre seg gjeldene for videokunsten på samme vis som den revolusjonerende videoteknikken gjorde det på 70- og 80-tallet. Ut i fra det jeg har sett med Eurobeing er jeg meget nysgjerrig på Thomas Kvams videre forskning og kunstneriske arbeid innen videokunst. Eurobeing gir håp om at også norsk videokunst skal løftes opp fra
9 Film still ørkesløse filmatiske verk med hjemmevideokvalitet. Tiden er forbi da det var nok å sove både foran og bak kameraet, for så å smelle «kunst»-merkelappen på det hele. Digitale verktøy åpner for å skape mer kommunikative videoarbeider og det viser Kvam i fullt monn med Eurobeing. Ved å benytte «tricks of the trade» leverer Kvam et suggererende og engasjerende videoarbeid som har et publikumspotensiale langt utover UKS Galleriets sorte kube. Ved hjelp av de digitale verktøyene produserer Kvam en vellykket videokommentar til dagens nyhetsbilde. De tekniske valgene er gode for å skape et parallelt univers hvor kunstneren kan boltre seg med truismer og andre slagkraftige uttalelser uten å bli for direkte. Kvams gjengivelse av Muhammed-portrettet i galleriets resepsjonsområde fungerer mindre bra i mine øyne. Filmens budskap er tydelig og provoserende nok slik at det faktiske maleriet kun blir en banal påminnelse av filmens poengterte mediekritikk. av Tom-Erik Lønnerød Film still
10 Eurobeing: Film still Original: High Deffinition video 720P Sound: Dolby Surround sound 5:1 Duration: 22min Year of production 2006 Script, animation, sound design: Thomas Kvam Film still
11 Film still Film still
12 2. The Machine Project Robotic Video and Sound installations and performances...thomas Kvam have advanced the aesthetic boundaries and the technical vocabulary of electronic art in Norway. Jeremy Welsh, Exploding, Plastic and Inevitable: the Rise of Video Art, (2002)
13 The machine project Essay by Ruzica Zimunovic Future belongs to the awakened machines... Peter Sloterdijk Norwegian artists Thomas Kvam featured as guests at the O.K. gallery in Rijeka (25 February 2003) and Gliptotekain Zagreb (1 March 2003), in an event organized by KONTEJNER- office for contemporary artistic practice, managed by Sunica Ostoi and Olga Majcen. The artists presented a robotic video and audio performance entitled Machine Project. By enclosing and darkening a part of the ground-floor area in Zagreb gallery Gliptoteka, Thomas Kvam simulated the atmosphere of a cinema, which is among the important preconditions for the Machine Project performance. Judging by the multitude of the interested visitors, this work of art would have probably gained on complexity had the authors adapted the entire hall, since that would have facilitated the flow of visitors from one crucial point of performance to another - the two machines or, shall we say, two robots, which are the carriers of the powerful structure of Gesamstkunstwerk - one controlled through the computer interface, another live, together with music and video recordings. By investigating the correlation of sound, video, and machine installations through a technologically demanding and extremely sophisticated performance, Thomas Kvam and Frode Oldereid have sought to provoke, as we said, the video experience in real space and time. The shocking audio-visual Machine Projections indeed to be understood as heralding a new, direct mode of communication with a work of art, one of such modes being the additional shaping of experience and meaning through one? own presence and behavior. Thus, the participation of spectators is significant. Those in Zagreb -be it for the lack of space, the age and social structure, or the temperament - did not respond to the invitation for the creation of party feeling, which was suggested by the music and the movements, especially of the larger machine. Although it might be stated that the project was at loss for this fact, such a behavior pattern of Croatian audience as opposed to, for example, the Swedish case, in which the audience was locked in a dark container, desperately trying to find an exit, might start a debate on the unpredictability of reactions to the aggressiveness of performance and the influence of its apocalyptic predictions upon individuals. The two Norwegians have cooperated on projects with machines since 1997, the year of the creation of Machine 3.0, based upon Kvam earlier projects. This artist, trained at the Art Academy in Oslo and Goldsmiths in London, created his first video- robotic installation in 1996, using a projection of his own face for that of the robot. It stammered, emitting a speech-like sound. Kvam had interfaced into this machine a computer program that created black and white lines, which eventually resulted in some sort of drawing. He pointed out that the project had first intrigued him precisely because of the capacities of the machine, which he continued exploring together with Oldereid. The latter artist had studied at the Oslo Institute for Sound and Drama and researched on documentary and TV report and production, media, and sociology at the University of Bergen, working with sound and video. The fertile fusion of his and Kvam ideas resulted in a first version of both the larger Machine 5.0 and the smaller Machine 6.0, which were united in the performances of Rijeka and Zagreb. Both machines suggest a state of the world at the time of the death of civilization, as we know it - as Paul Virilio has argued, at the time of the final triumph of prostetics over our bodies. Kvam provokingly suggest that we should not wait for the advent of some future computerized world of cyborgs, since it has already happened. Therefore, their project presents a higher level than that of a patent interactive show with two robots, music, or video projections alternating images of masses of people marching mechanically, of a globe turning into an observing eye, or of a frenetic multitude from advertisement posters. The Machine Project performance takes place in cyberspace, in which we are plunged without the aid of a hardware helmet and gloves. However, by basing the performance on two different machines, the artists are able to avoid a onesided cybersituation, staging instead one of its specific moments of dramatic scission. The large machine - which is of undefined gender identity, for its face and voice are now female, now male - stands on a pneumatic, spider-like construction and is, one might say, some sort of a non-aestheticised copy of the Robocop or the replicants from the Blade Runner. It is a machine laid bare - in its own words, all meat has been burned from its bones - which can still operate only on the pre-inscribed human memory.
14 The other, smaller machine is one step further in the evolution of cyborgs. The white, formless mass, out of which it rises, suggests that, just like the man had been created out of dust, it will announce its birth from a cyborg. Such a post-cyborg will inherit the memory of its predecessor but, instead of propping up on the robotic structure that presupposes movement, will be happily static in its bio-hybrid form. Since the era of cyborgs no longer knows a od who made man in his likeness, it will be a clone with deformed head, captured in an unidentified shape of a mutant. It will inherit from cyborgs merely a selected memory. If Kvam first machine stammered, now both of them are more than eloquent. Thomas Kvam have thus staged the moment in which both the cyborg and his successor are born almost simultaneously. Whereas the first has gone through the hell of initiation, fighting with human heritage, the second has been calmly investigating, recycling the superfluous, and has finally adopted memory without conscience. In this thirty-minutes long episode, which for one machine meant an agony of self-acceptance, and for the other a machine-like, cold, and patient reading of selected memory, both master fully the nightmare era of the other and the different, the intentional oblivion of the dictatorship of mind and body. The larger machine, which has inherited such suppressed collective memory, utters with a male voice, in a deafeningly aggressive way, things like excerpts from Marinetti Manifesto of Futurism, written in praise of the new industrial era, but also in service of dark ideologies. From time to time, the machine becomes weary and gloomy. It says: it is still silent, just like the day when I was born, and then, to the great pleasure of the smaller machine, which psychotically enjoys the way in which the former settles scores with lethargic dreamers and frightened masses, apprehends with relief the final absence of fear. The invitation of the small, diabolically ruthless clone to the barricades, to the glorification of power and greed, silenced even the female voice, which experienced in its last breath, through desperate and screaming exploration, the entire tragedy of birth into the world of paranoia and complete supervision, ultimately acknowledging the impossibility of freedom. What Kvam proposes is, in a way, an apocalyptic vision, though not of the future, but rather of the present state of the world. Indeed, the artists even seek to blur the historical context by means of video clips in the background. The ecstatic dialogue of the two machines does not announce the Judgment Day; rather, it is the image of the waning of civilization, the cynical and frustrating walk through the New World Order of technology and capital, which is not the privilege of our times only, but the mark of the entire past century. Mute masses passing in the background and the machine of female identity are an intermediate phase rather than one deprived of remorse, and the flexible will overcome. Having turned away from the archetypal image of woman and mother, they will be joined by the last possible enemy from within. In this way, the artists play with those marginal conditions in which, having lost our identity, we parasitically give way to conformism, we become, so to say, cyborgs, after which we are - be it indeed with the help of digital technology or subtly, out of everyday commodity - just one step away from our own clone. Robotic control system for performances: robotic interface, video synchronisers and equpment for live electronic sound and sampling. Pictures from Kapelica Gallery, Ljubjana, SLovenia 2004
16 Machine 6.2 installation, Nordic Light, Caen, France 2004 Catalogue text Mediaterra 200, Athens Machine 6.0 With Machine 6.0 Thomas Kvam continues his exploration of bio-mechanical art gone extreme. The techno-art installation shows a computercontrolled mechanical larva with human features. Onto the biomorph figure they project an audio-visual aura with the aesthetics of a Leni Riefenstahl film. The images are constructed to have the looks of a 30ies movie; scratchy played back in black & white. So the atmosphere becomes historical. As if the catastrophe just happend. Or soon will. The 2D projection onto a 3D figure makes the image jump towards you. The movie comes alive, the figure becomes live flesh and imparts the visitors with an omnious existential feeling. Its expression can be read as a portrait of future biology. The figure is a manifestation of the horrors of genetical research gone wrong. So the Machine 6.0 is the incarnation of your worst nightmare, and the most dystopian vision of future art. For, what will happen when technology makes the art work really come alive? What when next generation freak-creatures starts watching us? What is human identity after all? Machine 6.0 is a strong manifestation of the Welt-Angst as it is experienced in the Millenium of the new Life-sciences.
17 Machine 6.0, Nordic Grace, Saltarvet Konsthall, Sweden 2002 Presse: Göteborg Posten , (Saltarvet Kunsthall, Sverige) Utanfor den grå træbyggnaden som hyser Saltarvets konsthall står en plåtcontainer och mullrar. Mitt i solvärmen verkar den förebåda något mörkt och klaustrofobiskt. Och mycket riktigt, därinne härskar vansinnet, det urspårade egot, den militanta manin, nämligen en docka med knyckiga rörelser och ett groteskt grimaseranda ansikte med ögon så levande at jag ryggar tilbaka. Do you hear that noise? Väser den. QUIET! skriker den. Men sedan flåsningen; Its MY noise. Orden kommer sporadiskt, lätene blir ibland tung techno. Först tycker jag at varelsen med sitt metall stång siktar på mig med ett vapen men inser snart at den så å säga siktar på sig selv med en liten projector: ett filmat ansikte projiceras på skulpturens egentligen vita tomma. Det är som om den stirrar inn i spegelen som samtidig är själva dess upphov. På vägen ut av konsthallen passerar jag den mullrande containern. Någon verkar hållas fången därinne. Visst är det skönt at han inte släpps lös bland de övriga verken. Men sällan har en utställning haften nødvändigare motpol - Mikael Olofsson
18 Interview with Thomas Kvam for a newsletter published in Zagreb By the curator team behind Contejner: Olga Majcen and Suncica Ostoic Explain us the project you are going to do in Zagreb? The Machine-project is an experiment combining robotics, video and sound. Since its start in 1996 the project has a wide range of approaches, including installations, robotic objects, music, performances and club events. The performance project here in Zagreb wil consists of two robots. Which was originally made as two different installations. It started more like an experiment, we first put them together at a Jazz/electronic music festival we attended in Norway, but is now evolved into one single performance concept. Explain the difference between Machine 5.1 one and Machine 6.0? Machine 6.0, functions more as an ambient experience and has a presence more like a biological fuck- up, a interspecies made out of leftover biotecs and genetics, whereas Machine 5.1 has an altogether different perfomative approach more like a spokesman or a preacher. Why humanized/dehumanized machines? The whole construction is very clear-cut: mechanical body and living head. Through this you can plug into the basics of our western civilization from the 16th century and onwards. How we deal with our bodies, and the language we use conceptualize it. So what do you get when you confront them? I don t know, I am trying to figure that out. What do you think? Well I thought that the small robot is more cynical, and the bigger one is serious and very convincing. It has something to say to the people. I agree Why did you create machines to start with, Thomas? The first robotic exhibition I made was in 96. The installation consisted of two parts: one robotic and one computer-monitor. Which makes two different representational modes. The robot had a head, made of plaster, with a video-projection of my face on it. It was stuttering, trying to say something, - it was in a stage between an internal stream-of-consciousness and an external, rational linguistic discourse. On the other side of the room the monitor was located. The idea was to make another machinic stuttering, but with a more analytical, dehumanized edge. The program was generating lines, which was shown as a rapid slideshow on the screen. The idea was, then, to make visible a perceptual state between chaos and structure though experimentation with speed and movement. I would like to find the exact point where the individuality and heterogenity betwenn the lines and the homogenization of them on the screen through increasingly rapid movements, dissolved. I guess you could call this a kind oof litearlized deconstruction, or deconstruction materialized, freed from strictly anthropomorphic gestures. Working with this I thought of Duchamp s rope drawings. The funny thing is that the head, the machinic representation of myself, actually was watching this real-time perceptual stuttering on the screen. In a way this is a staging of art as well; the subject watching its own representational discourse being dehumanized by a machinic deconstruction.
19 You studied at Goldsmith College in London. How did it affect your work? This machine is a step into another kind of discourse,- I moved from a reflection on history, power and sound to using my machinic sensibility critically on the contemporary art scene in Britain, and especially on how the way the whole Goldsmith College functions. How does it work? Well, - people from all over the world are meeting there, and they had to stay there for 12 months if they wanted the masters degree. And, considered that every one is supposed to create their own language, the artistic approach had to be globalised, you had exceed your geographical boundaries and whatever esthetics dominated at home. At times this was a cause for some distress. For instance there was a girl from South Korea there, I remember, strongly involved in feministic issues. For the European students, this stuff, however, was perceived as something from the 70s, but from her point-of-view this was highly controversial, it was on the edge. As you can imagine: every one was telling her exactly that this is 70s stuff, find something else to work with. In a way this is one of the problems with the institution of art. You have to find this globalised framework of working, an art language which is not too bound up with local geographical experience. But then, again: this is undeniably how the art market functions. To be a bit polemical you could say that the idea of ethnicity in art today should, more or less, be perceived as an extension of corporate branding, as a kind of national branding, for the globalised trade in symbolic and economical capital. Off course: we could go on talking about this forever. About colonialism and post colonialism, as a basic part in the global machinery of art. But let s talk about other machines. my machines. How did you and Frode start to work together? After I (Thomas) had made this first exhibition I met Frode through a mutual friend. He was working with electronic music and film. I don t remember how, but we ended up with the idea of doing something together. And then there was a crappy rock festival in Sweden, in the middle of the forest. It was a completely obscure situation. We got a container and we put the machine, and a huge PA system, inside it. Then we filled up the container with the drunken crowd from the festival, and trapped the audience inside by bolting the doors. This claustrophobic situation made the machine appear confronting, - scaring the audience. At that point it had female face-projection, and a voice accompanied by Frodes noise based, experimental electronica. Some people just freaked out, but we let no one could get out before the performance was over. Machine 4.0? I like the idea of a public speech as a machinic and -sonic exploration into politics and mass seduction. Iplunged into this field by using different samples from the last century s great historical political speeches, from Stalin to Hitler, Martin Luther King, Kennedy. We weren t sampling by content and rhetoric s alone, our attitude wasn t ideological, but was more concerned with how the sonic rhetoric s alter the perception, and is linked with the ideological content of the speeches, from Hitlers high- pitched sonic hysteria to Ronald Reagens cool off-beat performances. Approaching the canonized speeches like this, I guess you could say that the work dealt with the idea of the relation between the machine and the crowd, by analyzing power structures from a cartography of sonic blocks. There was also an interesting schizophrenic aspect of it, because, supervising the machine a meters from it, I was actually watching myself as a machine, and my own mouth condensing a century through the articulation of, at times, extraordinarily divergent ideological worldviews.