until 16.09. | #3633ARTatBerlin | Sexauer Gallery is currently showing the solo exhibition Algorithmic Weed by Thomas Feuerstein.
rolls like cyberdog´s shit in the desert of art
Algorithmic Weed. An algorithm is a set of rules for solving a problem. The term comes from the Latinised form of the Arabic name Al-Chwarizmi, a scholar active in Baghdad in the early Middle Ages. The term algebra is also derived from his book on mathematical equations. Algorithms are often arithmetical rules of action, i.e. mathematical calculations. Weed is the term used to describe the narcotic cannabis, but also plants that are blown across the ground by the wind as finely branched balls. These plants became iconic through western films in which the desert wind rolls them through ghost towns.
Algorithmic weed rolls like cyberdog’s shit in the desert of art. Like the smoke of cannabis resin, or shit in the language of the scene, all kinds of machine-generated, algorithmic weed is blown through the desert of art in the title of the exhibition. The title leads visitors directly into the otherwise glistening white desert of the White Cube, which Feuerstein, however, has transformed into a demonically networked black box. A total installation full of technology and nature, information and spirit, machines and demons; a digital-animistic world, a pandemonium.
At the centre of the exhibition is an expansive installation: DAIMON. Under the hall ceiling a sphere like a lamp, on the floor a cube like a table, not far away an armchair-like object. The three black, abstracted furnishings are fitted with hundreds of metal sockets containing black cables that connect the objects to each other. This creates a network in the room, but also a drawing on the gallery floor. The floor drawing is continued two-dimensionally on a wall paper on which cable sockets and dials are depicted. DAIMON is reminiscent of a living room because of its furnishing-like objects, but also of a dark room because of the black, rubbery and metallic, fetish-like components.
DAIMON is wired to the GOVERNOR, a centrifugal governor. Centrifugal governors are mechanical parts that keep the speed of machines constant via a control circuit. James Watt built them into steam engines in the 18th century, optimising the machine that became the symbol of the industrial revolution.
For Feuerstein, it is particularly interesting that centrifugal governors control themselves cybernetically and can thus be regarded as proto-intelligent machines, as a preform of artificial intelligence. This interpretation also corresponds to the GOVERNOR’s clou: instead of steam, Feuerstein allows information to flow through the centrifugal governor. Digital data flows through the GOVERNOR and shows in real time how many cyber attacks are currently taking place worldwide. The greater the number of attacks, the higher the speed of the GOVERNOR. Because of the Russian war, there are currently many hacker attacks and the regulator is spinning faster.
So Feuerstein’s centrifugal governor does not control, it makes visible. Not the information processes themselves, but their number. Our world is permeated by streams of information that we cannot perceive. Data flows through cables or moves in waves. We may still be aware of this when we make phone calls. But data also flows in the Internet of Things, through cables or electromagnetically through the air. Many household and office items are connected to the internet, as are vehicles. When we sit in the living room chair, information flows everywhere without us noticing. Hackers can misuse these many billions of networked everyday objects to carry out attacks on their victims’ computers. We don’t notice this either unless we are looking at the two orbiting spheres of the GOVERNOR.
Animistic views assumed that a spirit lived in every object of nature. According to the state of science, there are no spirits, so this assumption was wrong. Today we live in a disenchanted world and have to realise that many objects are nevertheless almost magically connected to each other without us being aware of it. Information flows “behind things” and data is exchanged. So in a sense we are wrong again. Perhaps we need a new wild thinking in the sense of Claude Lévi-Strauss. A thinking inherent in which everything is connected to everything else and flowing with ghostly information. Infomism could be called this thinking in distinction to animism. DAIMON and GOVERNOR refer to this thinking.
The pinball machine BANKETT is also associated with DAIMON. Its graphics are black and white, the light elements coloured. In the centre of the headpiece is a brain- or intestine-like structure around which words are arranged in a radiating pattern, revolving around the condicio humana: Lust, pain, hope, curiosity, envy, fear … forty terms. BANKETT, like any pinball machine, has something of a dining table around which to gather. Among other things, BANKETT illuminates the interrelationship between master and servant in the context of machines.
BANKETT ist voll funktionsfähig. Anders als beim Cyberangriff, der ohne Interaktion abläuft, bestimmt sich das Verhältnis von Mensch und Maschine beim Spielautomaten in der Interaktion. Dabei kann es zu einer paradoxen Dynamik kommen. Je mehr der Spieler das Spiel zu beherrschen meint, desto mehr wird er auch dessen Knecht. Nicht immer ist klar, ob der Mensch die Maschine beherrscht oder umgekehrt. Wer ist Herr, wer Knecht?
Every slot machine, regardless of whether it is a computer game or a pinball machine, can become a paradise machine in which man forgets himself, experiences timelessness, is released from the bonds of everyday life. But the machine can also become hell when everyday life can no longer be mastered because of the bondage to the machine. Then the slot machine becomes a machine from hell.
After the last evening meal at the banquet, it is decided who will go to heaven, who to hell. In pinball, the player has limited influence over the ball and thus the game. Essentially, he can fling the ball into the field by pressing a button with one of the two pinball levers. In BANKETT, the levers are called Master and Servant. At some point, the ball is inevitably lost: when it rolls into the belly of the machine between Master and Servant. Then the real decision in the game of life is made. Heaven or hell.
At first glance, ORACLE is an amputated Lenin sculpture. Without arms, without legs, without voice. A head on a remnant of torso in a wheelchair. ORACLE is connected to the Internet and can perceive light and sound. While the Daimonion of Socrates only warned him or kept silent, ORACLE only nods in agreement or remains silent. When nodding, the head swings back and forth on the wheel axis. If the Daimonion of Socrates was silent, Socrates interpreted this in reverse as agreement. Since Lenin can only agree, his silence will have to be understood as a warning.
ORACLE is double coded. Like GOVERNOR, it refers to invisible information streams, here through its reception of light and sound waves and its reaction to them. Above all, however, ORACLE poses the question of the nature of intelligence. The daimonion of Socrates, who was able to think analytically, structured and logically like probably no other, was rather an inner voice, an intuition, his gut feeling. Socrates thus used two kinds of thinking, the analytical and the intuitive, one could also say the aesthetic. With this, ORACLE refers to a circumstance that is often overlooked when evaluating artificial intelligence. Thinking is something biological and does not happen free of emotions. Socrates relied on his gut feeling. World chess champion Magnus Carlsen, for example, may be a great analyst. However, like any human being, he also plays intuitively and emotionally. When he loses, he gets angry. A chess computer never gets angry. It calculates and wins. It is also not happy about a won game. When the game is over, it stops calculating. Every chess player knows beautiful positions. A computer does not.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was considered an immortal genius by the Communist Party. After his early death, the German brain researcher Oskar Vogt had his brain cut into thousands of slices. Although Lenin’s brain was damaged by severe strokes, Vogt thought that he could recognize the reason for Lenin’s genius in its structure. This is rather improbable. But here the circle closes to Feuerstein’s work DAIMON. For the Greek daimon corresponds to the Roman genius, from which the term genius is derived. And so the engineer is also ultimately the one who brings the spirit into the machine. Which brings us back to artificial intelligence, in which the daimon is. Because the daimon is everywhere. In the toaster, in the washing machine. A digitally animated world. A pandemonium.
Pandemonium, in the German spelling Pandämonium, consists of various C-prints of the same size. As in a bookshelf, hundreds of book spines are depicted on them, whose titles assemble terms of a new demonology from antiquity to the present. The terms are etymologically, phenomenologically, or structurally related to daimon. For some, the etymological connection is not known to everyone. An example of this might be democracy. Demos is the people of the state. However, demos is derived from daimon. The Indo-European da means to divide or to allocate. The daimon thus allocates and supervises the state coexistence in the polis.
An example of a content connection to the daimon is the parasite or the alien. Alien comes from the Latin alius, the other. Parasite originally meant table companion. Aliens like parasites invade the body, soul, or community they infiltrate. In many myths of antiquity, people are afflicted with disease when the demon invades them. In Christian ideas, too, people are possessed by demons that must be exorcised so that the disease can be cured.
The French biochemist Jacques Monod referred to enzymes as daemons because they control metabolism. A daemon is also the name given to a computer program that performs its tasks automatically without being explicitly called upon. The city of London, for example, is monitored by over half a million cameras. Because human guards would be overwhelmed by monitoring such a number of images, artificial intelligence is used in observation, including daemons. The daemons of information and the daemons in computer programs are thus omnipresent in a city like London. Like the transformed white cube in the ALGORITHMIC WEED exhibition, London is a demonic black box with hundreds of thousands of artificial eyes. That’s not to say we don’t feel comfortable there. We probably do. Just like in our living room.
COSMOSE is a charcoal drawing from the series “Charcoal for Art”. The drawings assume a technically controlled biological process. Feuerstein obtains the charcoal for his drawings from algae, which he grows and carbonizes in sculptures he constructs. COSMOSE oscillates between nature and technology, and the structure of the drawing probably looks not unlike the figurative idea of an ALGORITHMIC WEED. The technoid bale has something of an asteroid, consisting of a conduction system in connection with something organic, reminiscent of intestines or brain coils. The structure could also symbolically be the giant black box in which we all live and are trapped. Possibly this black box represents itself from a large distance and from the cosmos regarded, similarly. From the view of aliens with another perception apparatus, which will penetrate in uncertain future into our cosmic black box and its algorithmic undergrowth. Because osmosis is the penetration of cell walls only in one direction. So aliens can penetrate our black box, but we cannot get out of it. We are trapped in the net.
Fortunately, visitors to the exhibition are not trapped in Feuerstein’s demonic black box. They can step out of the white cube into the open at any time. Possibly even with a heightened awareness that we are surrounded by demons. They then suspect that they are already possessed. For the daimon is not only in us when we are possessed, it is also in the things with which we are indissolubly interconnected and spun. Like algorithmic weed, the wind drives us through the empty cosmos. Maybe it helps to smoke a joint first. Or to play a round of pinball. And then: Off to heaven! Or hell …c
Vernissage: Friday, September 16, 06:00 p.m. – 09:00 p.m.
Exhibition dates: Friday, September 16, 2022to the gallery
BildunterschrifttImage caption: Courtesy Sexauer Gallery
Exhibition Thomas Feuerstein – Sexauer Gallery | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Exhibitions Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin