World / Fall
Driven by the need to make order out of chaos, we construct notions of stability and certainty with which to shelter ourselves from apparent anarchy and dismay. This is one of the fundamental functions of architecture. Addressing these and related issues of utopia and sociely, Mischa Kuball constructs art oblecis that draw on both the past and the present, and cast questioning shadows into the oncoming path of the future. Using a virtually mathematical language of visual cues, Kuball presents a conceptual matrix info which the knowledgeable viewer can insert a variety of narratives.
These narrative references can be understood as stories, or stored memory data, which are present in the mind of the viewer. lt is the responsibility of the viewer to interpret the work in its multiplicity and so be able to appreciate simultaneously conflicting messages. By using readily recognizable references from history, KubalI’s objects in effect tell us a story, stimulating us to trigger our memories and access a code of shared collective experience through a process of association. This is a programmatic function, whereby the object becomes a conduit that allows the viewer to synthesize information for himself. In this regard, the object may be seen as a computer accessory for the brain.
The brain, acting as a highly evolved pattern finding device, stores layers of possible significance by deducing trends of variation or progression whereby some more complex internal logic may be revealed. Retaining a menu of possibilities, the viewer is compelled to consider multiple options simultaneously, to in essence catalogue the layers of relationship that exist in the object itself, and also in the act of seeing it. The astute observer, familiar with Heisenberg‘s uncertainiy principle, knows that the act of so being an observer alters the object of observation sufficiently so as to make it impossible to exclude the observer himself from the observation of the object and its surroundings.
The brain is able to agnostically suspend all these possibilities with equal weight, and accept or reject options according to either whim or agenda. The viewer sees what he wants to see, aware of the insight available to the degree that he extends himself to accept it. The artwork thus becomes an interactive object, imparting information in response to viewer inquiry. Again, the computer parallel looms large.
lt was around 500 BC that Simonides of Ceos developed a form of artificial memory inspired by the principles of monumental architecture. In an age when great erudition was based largely on an oral tradition and paper was an extremely rare commodity, the ability to recall large volumes of information at will was a highly desirable, indeed neccessary skill. Simonides‘ system, a form of mnemotechnics used by orafors and statesmen, is built upon the manipulation of places and things in the memory, so that the various parts of a palace, for example, are understood to symbolize and trigger the step by step progression of a speech. By Cicero`s time the precise mechanics of this art of memory were already lost, but it is clear from existing documentation that this mnemotechnic produced feats of memory that were considered “nearly divine‘, and that architectural symbolism is the basis of this lost code. Simonides‘ System is not merely a trick, but rather a complex system of data manipulation coded to visual cues, a method of conceptualization most closely paralleled in our modern world by the electronic memory, or computer.
Kuball`s art objects operate within this encoded realm of architectural symbolism. Stimulated by the programmatic functions of his objects, the viewer accesses references and synthesizes new information, interacting within an epistemology of aesthetics whereby the barriers between life (the viewer) and art (the object) are broken down. We are at a moment in history in which artists are anticipating the interplay of memory storage and interactivity as related to art forms of the future. While we cannot predict how the full integration of computers will influence our cultural consciousness, we can assume that the simplification of complex and abstract narratives into coded symbols will become evermore prevalent. In invoking the monumental architecture of the Greeks, it is clear that Simonides also wished to
keep the organizing principles of an advanced society fresh in the minds of his statesmen disciples. Concepts of utopia, justice and piety are not excluded from this arcane thought system. Vilém Flusser has written very convincingly on the transformative potential of electronic memory as related to art, science and society, and I refer the reader to his text “Gedächtnisse“ for further discussion of these relationships. We can anticipate that artists like Kuball, who synthesize this type of elegant and informed symbol, will further develop these strong connections between memory, epistemology and ontology and so transform our position in the universe. Perhaps then we will be able to understand the truth of time and space and cast aside the illusion of certainty that Wittgenstein so despised as childish.
“Gedächtnisse‘, Vilém Flusser. Published in Philosophien der Neuen Technologie. Jean Beaudrillard, Hannes Böhringer,
Vilém Flusser, Heinz von Foerster, Friedrich Kittler, Peter Weibel. Ars Electronic (Hrsg), Merve Verlag, Berlin.
Yates, Frances A. The Art of Memory. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1966.
1 aus: WELT/FALL, WORLD/FALL, 1991, (Hrsg) Vilém Flusser, Mischa Kuball, Juni-Verlag, Mönchengladbach.
In: Welt/Fall, 1991