Blue Ruin: Totality and Acceleration


Republished with permission from Public Seminar.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Film still from Atomic Park (2003).

Who could have guessed that when the flood came it would come in slow motion, over forty decades rather than forty nights? As the polar ice sheets unravel and plunge into the waters, those who have so mismanaged the fate of all things cling to their private arks. The animals, one by one, will be saved, if at all, as gene sequences.

What confronts us now, in our still cozy worlds, are spectacles of disintegration. There's probably not much one can do to prepare American culture or polity to deal, not with its future, but with the very texture of the present. It wants to hide under the covers. As the philosopher Theodor Adorno might put it: let's not let the power of others, or our own powerlessness, stupefy us. We can prepare the space of education, and joyfully, by inventing new practices where aesthetics and technics meet. That's the kind of practice there may be call for soon enough.

One understanding of art—Adorno's for example—would make it the antithesis of technology. Technology partakes in a certain kind of abstraction. It creates a grid through which to reduce qualities to quantities. The place of art is then to be a refuge for the qualitative. Art is where that which cannot be reconciled with an ever more abstract world takes its last stand.

I take a different view. I think of art as a different way of experimenting with a given technology. Art is a kind of practice which finds out what you can do in a given space of possibility. Art is about abstraction just as much as technology, it just uses different methods.


UBERMORGEN at Carroll/Fletcher, London


UBERMORGEN, Perpetrator i (2008) detail. Pigment Print on Paper, 220 x 146 cm.

Edward Snowden, MMO gamming sweatshops in China, torture as participatory art, madness, and the troubled life of a Guantanamo Bay prison guard. The diverse research-based practice of Swiss-Austro-American duo UBERMORGEN makes a sustained assault on the notion that individual autonomy, liberty, privacy, and agency remain intact in advanced capitalist societies. Birthed in the mid-'90s heyday of highly politicized, their project shatters the myth that democratic freedoms are being facilitated or enhanced by modern network technologies. Userunfriendly is Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx's first major solo exhibition in the UK as UBERMORGEN. Ambitious and impeccably installed, the duo has assembled a collection of shocks and reveals: projects that expose the surreptitious methods of coercion, and the subtle mechanisms of control prevalent in institutions of authority, from hospitals to supermax prisons. 


'My Little Pony' is the Nearest I Can Get to LSD: UBERMORGEN on Teletext Art


Artist duo Ubermorgen are participating in the International Teletext Art Festival, which was recently profiled here on Rhizome. The following interview by Raffaela Kolb with Hans Bernhard of Ubermorgen was originally conducted for RCKSTR Magazine—viewable here—and has been translated and reprinted with permission.

UBERMORGEN, My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic (2013), Youtube comments translated to teletext, 24 text rows of 40 characters each.

RK: How did you and your partner get invited to the ITAF 2013?

UM: I have no idea. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, a person unknown to me, from Finland I believe, sent an email to one of the hundreds of UBERMORGEN email addresses. I also did not read the email, but just saw the words teletext, Finland, Switzerland (SRF), Austria (ORF), Germany (ARD) and art, and intuitively replied with "YES WE CAN"... It wasn't until much later that I read about all the bans: no pornography (although that is the best part of teletext), no advertising (shit! that would be the second best) and they can censor everything, if it doesn't suit them, i.e the organizers. Shit! I thought to myself, but then it was already too late... I then pinged my friend, Dragan Espenschied, of Bodenständig2000, who happens to be a big fan of [German synthpop duo] Modern Talking and has wanted to feature Thomas Anders with his Nora Ketterl on teletext for quite a while now... I then integrated a small reference into our piece... A fitting tribute to a great artist (DRX) and a great German band (Modern Talking).