Kommende Termine

The Sea Is Glowing

24. April – 12. July 2020
Gruppenausstellung, Exportdrvo, Rijeka

An international group exhibition which deals with the invisible economics linked to the sea. With their works, world-respected artists deal with unusual and radical phenomena, from strange online shops to the empires of amateur pornography and other golden coasts.

In the geographical sense, Europe is a maritime continent: considering the ratio of the length of the coast to the total land surface, Europe has more contact with the sea than any other continent. For Rijeka, the port, as well as the sea, is not only a place of loading and unloading or the arrivals and departures of boats. The port is the heart of the city and symbolically important for the identity of the city. This is why the sea, i.e. new forms of work and economy which are connected to the sea, is extremely important for both Rijeka and Europe.

The Sea is Glowing exhibition focuses primarily on new invisible economies that are inextricably linked to the sea, such as the exploration of oil and ores in the depths of the sea, the establishment of offshore tax havens on the coasts and the launch of libertarian start-ups in self-sufficient colonies which float in international waters. All of the mentioned activities are part of the new economies which include new forms of work (such as care and welfare) or new forms of capital circulation (such as free ports). Considering the (occasional) specificity of their tax models, port cities such as Rijeka are very important for such types of economies. The exhibition brings together the works of artists who investigate unusual Amazon shops, the increasingly present outsourcing of healthcare, “the black chimneys” and deep-sea mining, the hidden offshore havens, the dark empires of amateur pornography and other golden coasts.

The curator of the exhibition is Inke Arns (DE), famous for her work in media art. She is the artistic director of the Dortmund Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV) organisation and the curator of numerous international exhibitions that have been shown around Europe and the world – from Berlin, Glasgow and Warsaw, from Ljubljana and Nova Sad, all the way to Moscow, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong.

On entering a living being. From Social Sculpture to Platform Capitalism

27. March – 24. May 2020
Gruppenausstellung, Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin

Eintritt in ein Lebewesen. Von der Sozialen Skulptur zum Plattformkapitalismus
On entering a living being. From Social Sculpture to Platform Capitalism

When Joseph Beuys coined the phrase of the “social sculpture” in the 1970s, he was not aware of the development of the internet at the same time. However, in interviews and lectures he frequently hints at the possibility of a new kind of medium, that would allow the audience to participate and that could serve as a plattform for political debate and action.

With the international proliferation of the internet and the possibility of communication and cooperation that it has delivered, it is timely to compare its promise with the utopian ideas of Joseph Beuys. Has the net enabled new forms of collective creativity? Or does it serve as a means to turn this
“general intellect” (K. Marx) into raw material that companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter et al use to make a profit?

The exhibition with works by approximately 38 artists reflects the methods by which companies such as YouTube, Google, Fiverr or Amazon Mechanical Turk have made the exploitation of the creativity of their users into a business model. About half of the works were created in response to the current
„platform capitalism“. A selection of older works traces the idea of „collective creativity“ back to original emancipatory ideas from the early days of the Internet such as „crowd sourcing“ and finally to Joseph Beuys‘ „social sculpture“.

Over the last decade, a number of companies have made a business model out of offering plattforms for the sale of creative work on the web as online services or „microjobs“. Through providers such as Amazon Mechanical Turk or Fiverr, creative services such as texts, designs, videos or apps can be commissioned for prices that are often far below the fee that a professional designer would charge. In many ways, the artistic works that were once thought of as „crowd sourcing art“ – a genre that has its own Wikipedia entry by now – today seem like naive anticipations of these exploitative practices,
which in turn have also been reflected by artists in recent years.

The exhibition brings together works that comment on and criticize the „gig economy“ that has emerged, and by juxtaposing them with works from the nineties and noughties, places them in a historical context that ultimately dates back to Joseph Beuys‘ „social sculpture“ – some of the artists involved even explicitly referenced Beuys and his slogan: „Everyone is an artist.” The exhibition will be accompanied by events that address the model of „platform capitalism“ in the cultural sphere in discussions, video presentations and lectures.

Participating artists include Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Douglas Davis, Van Gogh TV, Cory Arcangel, Aram Bartholl, Miranda July, Amalia Ulman and Olia Lialina. Curator: Tilman Baumgärtel, Hochschule Mainz

Laufende Termine

The Supermarket Of Images

11. February – 7. June 2020
Gruppenausstellung, Jeu de Paume, Paris

We live in a world that is increasingly saturated with images. Their number is growing so exponentially – each day more than three billion images are shared on social networks – that the space of visibility seems to be literally inundated. As if it can no longer contain the images that constitute it. As if there were no more room, no more interstices between the images. This brings us closer to the point that Walter Benjamin imagined, almost a hundred years ago now, as “the one hundred percent image space”. Faced with such an overproduction of images, questions need to be asked, more than ever before, about their storage, management, transportation (even if it is electronic) and the paths they follow, their weight, the fluidity or viscosity of their exchanges, their fluctuating values – in short, questions about their economy.

In the book from which this exhibition is derived1, the economic aspect of the life of images is called iconomy. The works and artists chosen for the exhibition cast a keen and watchful eye over these issues. On the one hand, they reflect the upheavals that currently affect the economy in general, whether in terms of unprecedentedly large storage spaces, the scarcity of raw materials, labour and its mutations into intangible forms, or in terms of value and its new manifestations, such as cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, however, these works also question what happens to visibility in the age of globalized iconomies: caught up in an incessant circulation, the image – any image – appears increasingly like a freeze frame (arrêt sur image), that is as a temporary crystallization, as the provisionally stabilized balance of the speeds that constitute it.

In the supermarket on display here, images of the economy always involve the economy of the image. And vice versa, as if they were the recto and verso of the same page.

Particiapting artists:
Kevin Abosch, Aram Bartholl, Taysir Batniji, Samuel Bianchini, Robert Bresson, Sophie Calle, Maurizio Cattelan, Emma Charles, Chia Chuyia, Minerva Cuevas, DISNOVATION.ORG, Antje Ehmann, Sergueï Eisenstein, Max de Esteban, Harun Farocki, Sylvie Fleury, Beatrice Gibson, Máximo González, Jeff Guess, Andreas Gursky, Li Hao, Femke Herregraven, Lauren Huret, Geraldine Juárez, William Kentridge, Yves Klein, Martin Le Chevallier, Zoe Leonard, Auguste et Louis, Lumière, Kazimir Malévitch, Elena Modorati, László Moholy-Nagy, Andreï Molodkin, Ana Vitória Mussi, Trevor Paglen, Julien Prévieux, Wilfredo Prieto, Rosângela Rennó, Hans Richter, Martha Rosler, Evan Roth, Thomas Ruff, RYBN.ORG, Richard Serra, Hito Steyerl, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ben Thorp Brown, Victor Vasarely, Pierre Weiss

Curated by
Peter Szendy, Emmanuel Alloa and Marta Ponsa
Exhibition organised by the Jeu de Paume

Link in bio

17. December 2019 – 14. March 2020
Gruppenausstellung, MdbK, Leipzig

Opening 16.12. 6pm

The use of social media has become part of everyday life, established and young artists cannot and no longer want to do without it. They work with it. They are where their audience is. Once they were websites, now they’re social media, especially Instagram when it comes to visual arts.

After the protagonists of Net Art, the technology utopians of the early 1990s, soon realized that the Net would not undermine classical art institutions as exhibition venues, the next generation of artists who responded to the Internet took over. The buzzword Post-Internet Art quickly spread. The term was coined by the artist and theorist Marisa Olson: „I’m going to toggle back and forth between video and internet because some of the internet art that I make is on the internet, and some is after the internet.“ What sounds like an attitude to life became a collective term for artists who, instead of making art in the browser, again made art for the exhibition space.

Social Media Art, on the other hand, takes up Net Art’s utopia of being able to democratize the art world. The audience can be reached directly via Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter. Young artists react to social media and their content, to new features and technologies.

The show „Link in Bio. Kunst nach den sozialen Medien“ at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig curated by Anika Meier presents over 50 works on how the production and reception of art change in the age of social media. The exhibition shows installations, photographs, sculptures, videos and paintings. The show is a follow-up to „Virtual Normality. Net Artists 2.0“ (2018).

Participating artists: Thomas Albdorf, Jeremy Bailey, Viktoria Binschtok, Aram Bartholl, Arvida Byström, Nadja Buttendorf, Petra Cortright, Filip Custic, Constant Dullaart, Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg, Anna Ehrenstein, Oli Epp, Tom Galle, Adam Harvey, Lauren Huret, Andy Kassier, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Olia Lialina, Brandon Lipchik, Jonas Lund, Jillian Mayer, Florian Meisenberg, Marisa Olson, Andy Picci, Sebastian Schmieg, Leah Schrager, Kristina Schuldt, Thomas Webb, Steffen Zillig and many others.

Opening 16.12.2019, 18 o’clock

The exhibition is sponsored by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes.

Playmode

10. September 2019 – 28. February 2020
Gruppenausstellung, Maat, Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon

The exhibition Playmode offers a reflection on these aspects and on the era of gamification that contemporary societies are now experiencing, bringing together pieces by several artists, such as Brad Downey, Gabriel Orozco and Ana Vieira, who incorporate the theme while exploring new ways of seeing, participating and transforming the world, using gaming in a critical light. Picture: House of Cards #3. Brad Downey, 2007. Photo: Brad Downey

Vergangene Termine

Die kleine Intervention: Weniger Spektakel, mehr Wirkung?

13. February 2020
Performance, Brecht-Haus, Berlin

Die kleine Intervention: Weniger Spektakel, mehr Wirkung?
Mit Aram Bartholl und Helgard Haug (Rimini Protokoll)
Moderation Cornelius Puschke

Veranstaltungsort: Literaturforum im Brecht-Haus
Einlass: ab 18:30 Uhr

Anhand von Aram Bartholls »Dead Drops« (mit Live-Installation!) und Projekten von Rimini Protokoll geht es um die Frage, ob kleine, unauffälligere Aktionsformen letztlich wirksamer sind als skandalöse Groß-Interventionen.

Co Talk

11. February 2020
Talk, Co Gallery, Paris

Artist talk at Co Gallery, Paris.

8 pm, Feb 11th 2020

co.galerie
8 rue de Douai
Pigalle
75009 Paris

Museumsnacht Basel

17. – 18. January 2020
Gruppenausstellung, HeK - Haus der elektronischen Künste, Basel

Museumsnacht „Fashion & Selfie“
Veranstaltung/Führung, Installation, Workshop

17.01.2020, 18:00-02:00

Am HeK erwartet das Museumsnacht-Publikum eine zukunftsweisende Ausstellung zu Mode und Technologie mit dem Titel „Making FASHION Sense“, eine riesige Selfie-Installation, eine verführerische interaktive Porträtmaschine und ein Workshop für modische Accessoires.

18.00-02.00

Die Ausstellung Making FASHION Sense widmet sich dem Thema Mode und Technologie und zeigt intelligente Kleidung, die auf die Umwelt reagiert, und aktuelle ökologische Trends im Bereich der Modeindustrie.

18.00-02.00

Die Partizipative Installation Point Of View von Aram Bartholl lädt die Besucher ein in den riesige Handyskulpturen Selfies zu machen.

18.00-02.00

Bei der interaktiven Installation LIMINAL von Louis-Philippe Rondeau kannst Du ein Zeitporträt von Dir erstellen.

18.00-01.00 (DE/FR/EN)

Walk-in Workshop Smarte Fingerhandschuhe

Im Workshop kannst Du deine Handschuhe mit leitfähigem Garn besticken, damit Du auch im Winter mit wollig warmen Händen „swipen“ kannst.

18.30, 20.30 und 22.30 (DE/FR)

Kurzführungen durch die Ausstellung

Führungen in Deutsch und Französisch / Visites guidées en allemand et en français

19.00 und 21.00 (DE/EN)

Kuratorenführungen mit Sabine Himmelsbach und Katharina Sand

Kill your phone

14. – 15. December 2019
Workshop, Centre culturel suisse. Paris, Paris

Samedi 14 décembre : atelier Kill your phone / Lawrence Lek
13h-16h30 – Atelier : Kill your phone – Comment s’éclipser du réseau
sans réservation – en continu

Nos téléphones mobiles nous sont certes très utiles, mais ce sont aussi des espions. Dans cet atelier, vous pourrez coudre une pochette pour téléphone qui le protège de tous signaux et connexions. Un petit « gilet de sauvetage » pour toutes celles et tous ceux qui ne veulent pas être constamment localisés et considèrent la surveillance permanente d’un œil critique. Cet atelier intitulé « Kill you phone » a été développé par l’artiste Aram Bartholl, il est organisé par Patricia Huijnen, médiatrice à la HeK.
Télécharger le kit de création de la pochette “Kill your phone”

16h30 – Projection : Lawrence Lek AIDOL 爱道 (2019), 85 min. Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

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Blog

Modell und Ruine

Mai 9, 2019


‚Common Ground‘, Aram Bartholl 2019

Werkleitz Festival 2019
Modell und Ruine [Model and Ruin]
May 25–June 10

modell-und-ruine.werkleitz.de
The 2019 Werkleitz Festival Modell und Ruine [Model and Ruin] curated by Daniel Herrmann and Alexander Klose presents the works of 13 international artists as part of the Bauhaus Centenary celebration. Their projects are developed for the festival and play with the tension between the phenomena of models and ruins and their relevance in modern history. The works will be shown from May 25 to June 10 2019 in Dessau, Germany.

As powerful images, models—much like ruins—serve to construct history, explain the present and generate the future. The recurring rise and fall of Dessau seems somehow to draw such connections together like a burning glass. The exhibition parcours connects the classicistic Georgengarten with the classical modern architectural ensemble of the Meisterhäuser and the historicistic Mausoleum. The intention is to present Bauhaus in the larger context of the 250-year history of the modern age.

The featured artists are:
Haseeb Ahmed (US/BE), Rosa Barba (IT/DE), Aram Bartholl (DE), Michael Beutler (DE), Haris Epaminonda (CY/DE), Holmer Feldmann feat. Piotr Baran (DE), Angela Ferreira (MZ/PT), Nikolaus Gansterer (AT), Christoph Girardet (DE), Cornelius Grau (DE), Romain Löser (FR/DE), Andrea Pichl (DE) and Magdalena Rude (DE).

0,16 – Resolution

Mai 9, 2019



0,16 – Resolution

RAUM SCHROTH im Museum Wilhelm Morgner
Soest, NRW  http://www.museum-wilhelm-morgner.de

11. Mai – 30. Juni 2019

Die Stiftung Konzeptuelle Kunst widmet dem Medien- und Konzeptkünstler Aram Bartholl eine Einzelausstellung im RAUM SCHROTH im Museum Wilhelm Morgner.

Aram Bartholls Werk bewegt sich an der Schnittstelle zwischen analoger, digitaler und kultureller Realität. Das Spannungsfeld von öffentlich und privat, online und offline, von Technologieverliebtheit und Alltagsleben liegt im Kern seines Schaffens. Seine von Humor und großer Sensibilität geprägten Interventionen und Installationen bringen oft eine erstaunlich physische Manifestation der digitalen Welt mit sich und stellen unsere Konzepte von Realität und Virtualität infrage.

So ist die zentrale Arbeit dieser Ausstellung, „0,16“, eine Lichtinstallation, die das Pixelprinzip von Bildschirmen in die analoge Welt überführt. Digitale visuelle Kommunikation wird nachvollziehbar und sinnlich erfahrbar, ihre Methoden mit realen Inhalten gefüllt. Das verpixelte Bild eines lebendigen, in Echtzeit vorbeilaufenden Menschen erscheint in einer Auflösung von 0,16 ppi (pixels per inch) auf einem Schirm aus Holz, Papier und Stoff.

‚Map‘ at SMFMOMA

März 25, 2019

Map is being installed on the roof of SFMOMA for the upcoming ‘snap+share’ show. I made the first iteration of this piece in 2006, more than a decade ago—an epoch in Internet time. It is fascinating to see how much the context and meaning of this piece have changed over the years. Thirteen years wouldn’t usually be a huge timespan for a work of art to age, but in this particular case the speed of developments mean Map now looks very different. It has already become a historical work.

In 2004, Google bought Where 2 Technologies, a company that had worked on the digital map service that became Google Maps a year later. It was still the mid-early days of the web. The Internet was not as present in society as it is today, but tech giants like Google were already taking shape.

It was part of my practice back then to make such translations, to take an object from a computer game or an icon from a web service and to transform it into a physical sculpture. What would happen if I turned this 15-pixel computer icon into a real thing and put it in the city? Is this the center of the city? These and other projects were an attempt to understand how this new world of computers, networks, and screens would affect society and physical space. They were a sign of what was to come.

Today the situation is very different. We have the famous oligarchy of Internet tech giants who are constantly squeezing more data and money from every bit of communication, movement, and interaction everyone produces worldwide. They have expanded into all kinds of markets in a never-ending run of disruption with little objection or regulation from government. Today, data extraction markets are deeply woven into a very physical fabric of everyday life in cities, business, homes, and personal communication. The dualism of digital versus analog has been obliterated; everything is deeply interconnected.

Of course, it is an honor to show Map in such a prominent location at the SFMOMA in downtown San Francisco. But in a way, it is also an irony of history that this piece from 2006 is ‚coming home‘ today to the heart of Silicon Valley in an era dominated by full-blown surveillance capitalism data markets.

Aram Bartoll

Map, 2019
dimensions: 900 x 530 x 20 cm
material: steel, aluminum mesh, steel cables

Thanks to the whole team at SFMOMA making this possible!!

SFMOMA: snap+share
transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks
March 30–August 4, 2019
https://www.sfmoma.org/exhibition/snap/

curated by Clement Cheroux
with: Thomas Bachler, Ray Johnson, Aram Bartholl, On Kawara, Joseph Beuys, Erik Kessels , Moyra Davey, William Larson, Jan Dibbets, Eva and Franco Mattes, Walker Evans, Peter Miller, Jeff Guess, Ken Ohara, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Stephen Shore, Kate Hollenbach, Endre Tót, David Horvitz, Corinne Vionnet


.

NON A L’#ARTICLE13

März 23, 2019

Today there have been massive demonstrations all around EU against #article13 and other paragraphs in the coming new EU copyright reform directive. The parliament will vote about this in three days. This law will only help big publishers, labels and content dealers but not the artists. It is very annoying to be used as an excuse by lobby controlled politicians that ‚the poor artist‘ needs to protected while this will break Internet culture on a large scale. Required uploadfilters will give even more power to Internet tech giants Google, FB etc. Culture is based on imitating, quoting and remixing, especially online! It is very likely that you wont be able to post your own art any more….

#openinternet #article13 #saveyourinternet

pic taken by @mathieutremblin during Strasbourg visit three weeks ago, thx!

SFMOMA: snap+share

März 23, 2019

Beautiful time-laps of the setup of ‚Map‘ by Jason Wittig, thx! I arrived in SF and we are doing some the final touches on the show install. „snap+share“ will open to the public Saturday, March 30. Looking fwd to meet all the artists for the preview next week!

SFMOMA: snap+share
transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks
March 30–August 4, 2019
https://www.sfmoma.org/exhibition/snap/

curated by Clement Cheroux
with: Thomas Bachler, Ray Johnson, Aram Bartholl, On Kawara, Joseph Beuys, Erik Kessels , Moyra Davey, William Larson, Jan Dibbets, Eva and Franco Mattes, Walker Evans, Peter Miller, Jeff Guess, Ken Ohara, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Stephen Shore, Kate Hollenbach, Endre Tót, David Horvitz, Corinne Vionnet

Digital Vasari: Interview

März 15, 2019

An interview I gave during my visit at ‚Laboratoria Arte Alameda‚ in Mexico city last summer 2018.

‚Touch Me‘ article – Dominique Moulon

März 11, 2019

An excerpt of the article „Touch Me“ about the Biennale de Strasbourg by Dominique Moulon

http://artinthedigitalage.net/blog/2019/02/17/touch-me/

[…]


Aram Bartholl, Are you human?, 2017.

Mais qui pourrait aujourd’hui se passer des services des GAFA ? Quand ce sont des machines qui, régulièrement, nous demandent de prouver que nous n’en sommes pas. Avec cette série Are you human?, Aram Bartholl n’a de cesse de détourner les codes de l’esthétique dominante : c’est-à-dire celle du numérique. Celui-ci s’est d’abord intéressé aux Captchasque l’on doit décrypter sous peine de se voir refuser quelques accès avant de se focaliser sur les systèmes de grilles où il nous faut sélectionner toutes les images de ponts ou de panneaux de signalisation entre autres véhicules. Les tirages grand format de l’artiste berlinois n’offrent toutefois que des vues de paysages où l’on devine parfois des frontières. L’idée étant de nous inciter à reconsidérer les tâches que nous effectuons en cette ère mondialisée. Car souvent, sans même le savoir, nous renseignons des entreprises mieux que ne le feraient des robots. Que les machines ne soient pas encore si intelligentes que cela pourrait être de nature rassurante. Et effectuer très régulièrement de petits travaux sans salaire aucun devrait nous irriter. A moins que l’on ne considère ces travaux comme d’intérêt général.


Bartholl, Point of view, 2015.

Il est admis que les smartphones que Aram Bartholl représente dans son installation sculpturale Point of view, en seulement une dizaine d’années, ont changé notre rapport à l’image. Ce n’est plus le boîtier qui est reflex, mais la photographie elle-même que l’on pratique par réflexe. Puisque l’on documente tout, de ce que l’on adore à ce que l’on déteste, sans omettre les images d’autrui que l’on commente sans retenue aucune sur les réseaux. Le Selfiesymbolisant merveilleusement bien ce désir immodéré que nous avons d’être dans l’image. Au risque parfois de créer des situations incongrues quand, par exemple, tous les fans d’une foule tournent le dos à leur icône pour être au plus près d’elle dans l’image capturée. Il est intéressant de remarquer ici que ce sont essentiellement des jeunes ordinaires qui ont initié cette tendance ô combien narcissique du Selfieavant que les célébrités du monde entier ne les copient. Citons les propos de Charles Baudelaire qui, déjà en 1859, soit vingt ans seulement après l’invention de la photographie, s’exprimait ainsi : « À partir de ce moment, la société immonde se rua, comme un seul Narcisse, pour contempler sa triviale image sur le métal».

[…]

Let´s talk about 01 // Aram Bartholl

Februar 21, 2019

InterMedia an der FH Vorarlberg, Published on Jan 7, 2019

„Wir durften mit dem Medienkünstler Aram Bartholl nach seinem open idea Vortrag an der FH Vorarlberg im Oktober 2017 ein hochinteressantes Interview über seine Arbeiten und seine Sicht der Dinge auf unsere Kommunikationswelt führen.“

NOVO 53

Februar 15, 2019

Interview by Emma Cozzani
NOVO 53
Published on Feb 8, 2019
53ème numéro de NOVO, le magazine qui se prend pour une revue.
Photo: Henri Vogt

issuu.com/media.pop/docs/novo_53

Interview – SMAC

Februar 4, 2019

Interview with Aram Bartholl

With a wry sense of humour and a lightness of touch, German artist Aram Bartholl subverts the symbols and functions of the internet to draw our attention to its darker side. Through his prolific output of installations and performances around the world – from the beaches of Thailand to the Strasbourg Biennale – Bartholl dissects the back end of new media, shedding light on the capitalist imperatives that have come to dominate and track our every click and tap. How can we navigate the current – and future – digital landscape without lapsing into disillusionment, or relinquishing our agency as internet users? Ahead of his upcoming show at SMAC in Berlin, where he lives and works, Bartholl shares his take on surveillance capitalism, selfie culture, and what to expect at his new exhibition [hint: there’s a disco ball.]

Interview: Anna Dorothea Ker

SMAC: Your work acknowledges the vast possibilities presented by the internet while altering us to the pitfalls of its ever more commercialised reality. What should we be most concerned about?
Aram: I would point to questions of privacy or personal data, as well as how platforms work. We need to acknowledge that Google and Facebook are purely advertising companies. There are a lot of concerns. One thing I’m thinking a lot about is how we can escape the current monopolisation of the internet. The web of the ‘90s was very vibrant and diverse. It started as a user-driven, non-commercial space. Over time, many companies and start-ups employed it to achieve their commercial goals, and today we have five or six huge companies, with whom no-one can compete. They probably need to be broken up at some point – this is likely to come from the US.

“We need to acknowledge that Google and Facebook are purely advertising companies

How would you characterise your own internet use?
Aram: I try to avoid the big players by using an Android phone without Google on it, for example, having my own NextCloud servers at home, by avoiding Dropbox, and not ordering on Amazon any more. I try to be conscious of where I leave my data. At the same time, I use Twitter and Instagram. Most of my online input comes via Twitter. I depend on it, though it frustrates me. There’s a recipe for each – on Twitter you have to be negative to attract attention, and on Instagram you have to be positive, and post beautiful pictures. It’s very convenient to use all these platforms, but to be conscious about things is more complicated. I feel as though there’s a certain sense of fatigue with social media at the moment. Many people I know feel caught in between – it’s hard to leave these platforms, but people don’t want to be on them any more.

“ I feel as though there’s a certain sense of fatigue with social media at the moment. Many people I know feel caught in between – it’s hard to leave these platforms, but people don’t want to be on them any more.

Your work often employs tools of surveillance, such as surveillance cameras, in subversion of their purpose. Can the master’s tools dismantle the master’s house in this regard?
Aram: A surveillance camera is a valuable symbol because it’s a tool everyone understands. It’s an eye, it takes a pictures, it sends that picture somewhere else. Today it’s usually algorithms that scan them to look for, say, unusual movements. But then there’s what happens in your browser – tracking with cookies, for example, which no-one really understands.

Most people have a sense of what’s going on, but don’t feel like they can do anything about it. So I like to take these tools and use them in other ways – to have people re-think, question them. In my installation [“Pan, Tilt and Zoom”] last year [2018] I placed the cameras on the floor of the gallery. They were motorised, equipped with a tracking system they roll over the floor and seem helpless. People had other kinds of interactions with them, and hopefully questioned their purpose.

Does the right to privacy exist anymore? Have we eroded it through our collective obsession with self-surveillance – take selfie culture, and oversharing on social media?
Aram: There are two things at play here. Yes, a lot of people willingly share information on where they are and what they’re doing, but at the same time there’s this mass-scale surveillance – not in terms of the kind of government surveillance that [Edward] Snowden revealed, but rather commercial surveillance. When you walk around with your phone with the wifi on, it projects all the wifi connections to wherever you’re going. Even supermarkets have wifi tracking systems to see how you pass through the market or and when you return. We are already aware of this on a certain level – for example, when you go into a mattress store and get served advertising from them the next day. But it’s very hard to understand how this works. That happens on a very technical level, which seems very abstract to us. This is something we should be concerned about, as it’s a wild west out there right now. Companies can basically do whatever they want. Of course, since May [2018] there’s the [European Union] General Data Protection Regulation which is a first step towards regulation, but much more regulation still needs to occur.

“… it’s a wild west out there right now. Companies can basically do whatever they want. Of course, since May [2018] there’s the [European Union] General Data Protection Regulation which is a first step towards regulation, but much more regulation still needs to occur.

What can visitors to SMAC expect to encounter your upcoming exhibition?
Aram: “True Depth” refers to Apple’s technology for the iPhone X, which has infrared cameras implemented within the front camera. Whenever you look at the phone, there’s a infrared light dot pattern projected onto your face. Through measuring the distribution of these dots on your face, the software can build an actual 3D model of it. This is how facial recognition works. It’s convenient – you can unlock your phone just by looking at it – but its inner workings are invisible. For the show I have this disco ball, which represents disco – this fun, pop-culture, “let’s party” attitude, freedom. Then I have these two cameras. One projects infrared light onto the disco ball in a typical way, so dots of light are dispersed over the room, but the viewer can’t see them. The disco’s happening, but we can’t take part. The work is related to this phone technology, but it also relates to the commercial party that’s going on around us, tracking us, extracting information. All without any of it being visible to our eyes. Elsewhere in the gallery there will be the infrared view of the CCTV camera being streamed on a screen, so you can see the dot patter and get the view from the other side.

Then we have the webcam privacy screen. I saw it online and liked it very much as a sculpture – this round screen which attaches to the back of a chair. These screens are made for being on a webcam in front of a neutral background. They’re advertised as being good for business, with a blue or green background allowing you to look more professional – and you can also key out the colour and replace it. I’m interested in the simultaneous acts of looking at a screen and filming yourself while hiding what’s behind you. The process is similar when it comes to selfie culture. You see this often in the street – young kids taking ten or twenty just to get the right one. It’s very deliberate. It all ties in to the presentation of the self in a digital space, and how we cut out the noise and the background of our lives in the way we film ourselves.

This theme was explored in your recent work for the 2018 Thai Biennale, “Perfect Beach”. What sparked the idea for this work?
Aram: People fly to Thailand to find the perfect tropical beach, ones which are advertised all around us but also embody our collective idea of paradise. The empty beach has always been a symbol for freedom. The performance at the Biennale involved two performers carrying a big screen featuring an image of an idyllic beach across an already perfect beach. I was interested in confronting tourists with the question of why they went there. Because, of course, it’s never empty when you get there. Many people wanted to stand in front of the beach screen and take a picture – we’re so programmed to do that. I was hoping that would happen, but was amazed by how well it worked. But of course there were also people who were annoyed by it [laughs].

“I’m interested in the simultaneous acts of looking at a screen and filming yourself while hiding what’s behind you. The process is similar when it comes to selfie culture.

You’re currently presenting three works at the first Strasbourg Biennale, the theme of which is “being a citizen in the digital age”. What can visitors expect to experience when viewing your art there?
Aram: One work is part of the series “Are You Human?”, which is all about captcha codes. These used to be a string of characters we had to type in to prove that we’re human, but today all this has been replaced by the Google reCAPTCHA test. It has the same function, but we have to select these images, like ‘select all the cars’ you can see in the picture. On one hand, the purpose of this is to train Google’s self-driving cars, and on the other, to prove we’re human. The installation consists of this big code on the floor with twisted characters made from steel, and the reCAPTCHA prints on the wall. I’ve swapped in pictures of European borders and spam advertising text to remix this whole idea of reCAPTCHA, while drawing attention to the issue of borders, access to space and digital services.

2018 saw a slow – and far overdue – global public awakening to the risks and dangers of social media, largely due to a series of hacks and privacy scandals. What will this lead to in 2019?
Aram: Next step would be to get out of our current situation of a monopolised internet, and to take back control over our own lives. To decide what we want to do with our data. On one hand, there are policy questions, then there’s public awareness, but there’s a lot more that needs to happen on that front. The recent [January 2019] data leak that affected German politicians and celebrities invoked a paranoid press reaction. Which is perhaps good – for people to realise that we’re vulnerable. Once your information is out there, you can’t get it back. What we’re seeing now, with the links between populism and social media, makes it very easy to feel dystopian about these questions. But let’s try and stay positive. We need smart people to sit down and craft new plans that will allow us to use technology in ways that will help us, not just make a lot of money for a few.

“What we’re seeing now, with the links between populism and social media, makes it very easy to feel dystopian about these questions. But let’s try and stay positive.

Interview: Anna Dorothea Ker
Photos: Pamina Aichhorn