petak, 11. prosinca 2015.

Torsten Lauschmann - Startle: book and augmented reality

Torsten Lauschmann Startle

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Torsten Lauschmann, Startle, Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2012.

This print publication and companion app offers a suitably wide-ranging introduction to the multi-faceted video, audio, digital, sculptural, kinetic and performative work of Torsten Lauschmann.  Including newly commissioned texts by Sean Cubitt, Esther Leslie, Stewart Morgan, Graham Domke and Steven Bode, it echoes and follows the interests and preoccupations of an artist whose up-to-the-minute technological finesse is bolstered by an equally incisive historical overview. The Startle digital app brings the pages even more to life, triggering video and other content that enhances and extends the featured works.
The ‘Startle’ publication is co-produced by Dundee Contemporary Arts and Film and Video Umbrella.  The accompanying ‘Lauschmann’ app is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella.
Image courtesy of Dundee Contemporary Arts
Download the ‘Lauschmann’ app for free through the iTunes Store  or Google Play

Torsten Lauschmann’s work is informed by apparently conflicting interests in the earliest forms of magical entertainment and the latest technical innovations. He explores the use of tools, techniques and systems to solve problems, with the aim of bypassing the tension between optimistic and sceptical beliefs about technology. His mesmerising installations use film to create works that are inventive, playful and accessible.
For Startle Reaction, his largest solo show to date, Lauschmann will use his interest in automatons and cinema to play with the notion that we are capable of believing in things that have been proven to be false. He has developed a work in which 3D glasses will allow exhibition-goers to watch different films at the same time. The exhibition will feature significant works from the past decade, including Misshapen Pearl (2003), a wistful investigation of the streetlamp’s function in consumer society. Skipping Over Damaged Areas (2010) shows a series of film titles narrated by a voice-over artist, creating a new and unexpected narrative from the appropriated footage.
A new, immersive work will span the length of the large gallery, exploring organic growth using specialised computer programming. -

Torsten Lauschmann: Startle Reaction
You don’t immediately notice the quieter, more domestic pieces in Torsten Lauschmann’s biggest box of tricks to date. The subverted digital clock above the DCA box office and the wired-up chandelier that hangs in Gallery One, where two of Lauschmann’s films are looped, aren’t as flashy as the rest of what’s on show. They don’t seek to dazzle and disorientate; they don’t beep or buzz, flash or fade, whirr or whizz like much else on show in the gently immersive time-sequenced theme park Lauschmann hood-winks us into believing in. Yet, for all their functional discretion, these two pieces nevertheless shed light on the big, tangled-up mess of interconnectivity that Startle Reaction is all about.
This is clear, too, in his films. ‘Misshapen Pearl’ is an impressionistic meditation on the place where natural light morphs into neon. Artifice as well as interconnectivity exists in ‘Skipping Over Damaged Areas’, which edits seemingly incongruous big-screen title sequences to make up a phony narrative given trailer-like credence by a big-talking voiceover.
Elsewhere, lost jockeys in flight become computer-jammed still lives; a mansion resembling Rebecca’s Manderley becomes a piece of cut-out shape shadow-play; and a player-piano bashes out little modernist cacophonies while snow falls into the light like some sub-Beckettian floor-show.
Beckett is there too in the show’s most oddly poignant piece, in which a projector seemingly gazes out of the gallery window, its computerised voice yearning to be among the streetlights and the CCTV cameras in the concrete jungle where night turns to day and back again.
Personified and sentimentalised like the ‘injured’ robot in Douglas Trumball’s eco-hippy sci-fi fable, Silent Running, there’s a sense of eternal disappointment to the projector’s monologue. This is surveillance-culture Happy Days. The projector’s head may not be buried in the sand, but bolted immobile it’s still forced to watch the world pass by, the sun forever out of reach. - Neil Cooper

In the darkness of the main gallery at Dundee Contemporary Arts there is the whirr of projector fans, a faint mechanical voice seeping through from another room, a startling whoosh of noisy ventilation and then… sheer magic.
A spotlight lands on a pianola in the centre of the room and there is real snow falling on to the ebony and ivory keyboard. As it lands gently and wetly on the keys and the surrounding gallery floor, for a moment the player piano comes alive. The flakes seem to play a tinkling keyboard tune and then, just as suddenly, everything stops. It is still and silent and dark once more.
It’s tempting to see all this – the centrepiece of a marvellous exhibition featuring dozens of gadgets and gizmos by one of the country’s most admired but most elusive artists – as so much trickery.

But in a show that is timed to chime with the city’s Discovery Film Festival, Glasgow artist Torsten Lauschmann has created a poetical, magical landscape that illuminates our relationship with machines, especially when it comes to the magic of the moving image.

Lauschmann, who trained in Germany and at Glasgow School of Art, has always resisted categories. He makes films and music, programs computers, and has a DJ persona (Slender Whiteman, who tours with a solar-powered laptop). A a recipient of the inaugural Margaret Tait Film Award last year, he has shown persistent interest in early moving image technologies: zoetropes, thaumatropes, magic lantern shows and the camera obscura. He dabbles in digital technology but often combines it with the homemade.
Above all he is interested in illusions and why we want to believe in them.
At DCA, one wall of the gallery has been painted with luminous paint and a rotating lamp “draws” on its blank surfaces. The lines coalesce on the surface, then fade, like distant, dying stars, creating a three-dimensional space out of a two-dimensional one, an illusion of the universe but compelling nonetheless.
Next door in a small ancillary gallery Lauschmann has remade his House Of The Rising Sun, an exquisite animation of a vast hilltop mansion lit from within by sunlight. The sun rises and falls casting light on to a panoramic landscape painted onto the surrounding walls, a wonderful visual trick, but also surely a wonderfully romantic metaphor for inner light.
Indeed, it is hard not to see in Lauschmann’s assembled technologies – from slide show to mirror ball, animation to digital projection – a recurring invocation of human intelligence and even, to use an old-fashioned word, the soul.
From the image of the lens which appears in many of his works, to the glowing lamps, orbs and balls of light that recur in this show, I am reminded of the history of genre painting, when a burning candle might symbolise the human spirit, or a sunrise or sunset the human lifespan.
To visit Lauschmann in his own studio is to step through a tangle of wires and cables. You might sit among teetering piles of well-thumbed books, topped by a laptop, encounter a houseplant or two, and a whole host of kit that might only be recognisable to modern computer programmers or Victorian magic lantern enthusiasts.
In this show, a cluster of audio adapters and cables hangs from the ceiling like a post-modern chandelier. At the centre of it burns a single lamp. This is a self-portrait, the tangle of wires a neural metaphor, as well as a clear statement on the entanglement of man and machine.
Years ago, Lauschmann and the artist Michael Wilkinson trained a computer to recite Oasis’s Wonderwall. When its tinny voice bleated, “Maybe, you’re going to be the one that saves me,” you suddenly felt how hopeless, how sad it must be to be a machine.
At DCA he has voiced a digital projector. It sits gazing out the window, pleading for escape, longing to turn its head 360 degrees. “I am tired,” it moans. “I want to show what’s behind and above. I want to stand tall, look at it.”
Sitting on the top of Lauschmann’s snowbound pianola is a toy ape. In the face of modern technology, with its risks and benefits, we must try to decide whether we are organ grinder or monkey. But the little fellow begs a much deeper question, about what drives us: the mind or the body, the head or the heart?
Is it nature or culture that sees an artist like Lauschmann spend his life tinkering with stuff that other people might regard as toys? The latest complex processing tools have enabled computer programmer Eddie Lee to build an algorithmic pattern for a new film, Father’s Monocle, in which digits ebb and flow in a way that reflects the flocking patterns of starlings or sheep.
Indeed, in a world that tends to see the implications of technology as turning us into free flying birds or dumb sheep, Lauschmann is an artist who refuses to buy into either version. All becomes apparent in Lauschmann’s keynote film, Misshapen Pearl, first shown in 2003. This haunting adaptation of the ideas of the philosopher Vilém Flusser still stands up nearly a decade down the line.
The story of a simple street lamp is the excuse for a meditation on consumerism, 24-hour culture, night work and man’s relationship with technology. Melancholic, romantic, yet optimistic and somehow thrillingly human, Lauschmann’s work casts unexpected light on the fundamentals. - Moira Jeffrey

There are artists who work with new media, and artists who set themselves in opposition to it; then there is Torsten Lauschmann. The Glasgow artist is at once a techno-geek and a Luddite, and somehow in him, the two sit naturally together. This is the man who was responsible for World Jump Day, an internet hoax which achieved a huge following five years ago. This is the man who, under the name Slender Whiteman, busks around Europe with his solar-powered laptop.
            Lauschmann, though born in Germany, has made Glasgow his home. Trained in photography at Glasgow School of Art, he has become a leading figure in the city’s close-knit art scene over the last 17 years. His work, though it often samples itself, encompasses a bewildering range of media from sculpture to software programming.
            It’s unsurprising therefore that Lauschmann’s latest venture straddles two artforms; an exhibition centred around a screening at the Collective gallery, and a performance at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), with a residence at said festival which will no doubt feed his vampiric appetite for archive material.
            It’s hard to know what to expect of Sideshow, Lauschmann’s “one-off performance/screening event” at the EIFF, as it promises technological trickery but at the same time refers back to the early days of cinema, when the viewing experience was not yet restrained by convention.
            The artist pays homage to that time in the gallery too, where an improvised cinema-space resembles a nomad’s tent, furnished with chairs most likely borrowed from student flats and gardens. The walls are hung with rumpled curtains, tacked together from scraps of thrift-shop fabric. The projector teeters on a stack of folding wooden chairs, while crude stacks of home speakers huddle on either side of the white sheet screen.
            The Patchwork Cinema is comfortable and welcoming, and like all of Lauschmann’s work, it’s very human. Children’s chairs occupy the front row, and one is encouraged to leave one’s phone on. The programme itself is a 42-minute patchwork of experimental films from the early days of cinema and of video art. Breathtaking sequences reveal a wealth of invention and playfulness, as new tricks were played and techniques discovered.
            A few of the films were hand coloured, leaving Aladdin’s pantaloons bubbling with scarlet fury in 1906. Hands themselves feature widely, as in Émile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie of 1908 where the animator’s hands pop in to fix up an injured character. These echo Lauschmann’s own work projected just outside the room, a “digital” clock whose digits are reshaped every second by the artist’s hands.     
Lauschmann can take any labour-saving device and make it labour-intensive again. He can take bland technology and make it pleasingly couthy. Whether he’s sewing curtains or writing open-source software, he can make you want to be part of it too. Patchwork Cinema is a celebration of old new technologies which is a joy to be in, and for anyone even remotely interested in film, it’s not to be missed. -
Catrìona Black

Torsten Lauschmann, A Joy Ride (2009)
Technology’s influence on the two-dimensional image takes precedence in the substantial selection of new works included in Torsten Lauschmann’s ‘The Darker Ages’ at Mary Mary. In the unlit gallery one could be forgiven for mistaking the exhibition for a single installation work, each piece in the space sharing an investigation of the projected image.  In doing so Lauschmann engages with a spectrum of new and obsolete technologies, using video and slide projection to examine the preconceived function of the medium.
Perpetual Adoration (2009)
Perpetual Adoration (all works 2009) is one of the simplest and yet most effective works in the show; its title refers to the Catholic practice of the non-stop praising of the blessed sacrament, though its appearance more closely resembles Kasimir Malevich’s 1915 Black Square. Here Lauschmann underscores our perception of positive and negative space by silhouetting a black square on the gallery wall, pointing to the dichotomous nature of the piece. This device is employed similarly in House of the rising sun, in which a large boulder-like sphere is painted onto the gallery wall, on top of which sits a house. The illusion of a sun rising inside the dwelling is created using a masked-off video projector, the light slowly casting the windows’ rectangular forms across the painted landscape. House of the rising sun is singled out by its Tim Burton-esque quality; where the other pieces evoke the nostalgic legacies of methods of projection, here a nostalgia for childhood is embodied in the projection’s narrative.
House of the rising sun (2009)
In the animated Thaumatrop No 1: Bird in a cage, Lauschmann uses the structure of a Victorian thaumatrope – a disc with an image on either side, that merges both into a single image when spun. This re-imagined version divides archive footage of a sideshow knife thrower and his young assistant, rendering them on either side of a computer-generated image of a disc. As it spins they become one in the same image. Where the 19th-century thaumatrope is celebrated as a precursor of early forms of cinematography and animation, this 21st-century digital incarnation posthumously combines the different eras in a two-minute loop, commenting on the medium’s evolution into computer animation.
Contemporary Gear Box (2009)
The sound piece He’s got the whole world in his hand provides an effective counterbalance to the quiet hum of the various projectors. From the speakers of a MacBook come the tones of a Tuvan throat singer; the laptop screen has been destroyed, a pen shattering its surface. The obvious ironies associated with the juxtaposition of old and new make this a rather straightforward statement, which is most successful for its audible influences on the other works that surround it.
Lauschmann makes clear with these works that he does not intend them to have singular meanings; he prefers to consistently and intentionally disrupt any implied resolution of ideas.  In doing this he turns the viewer’s focus to his materials and their significance in the process of realizing his final outcomes. By contradicting our preconceived understanding of the image and its relationship to the   technologies he uses, Lauschmann effectively gathers past, present and future to redefine a constantly shifting legacy. - Steven Cairns

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