Galaxy Brain

Warren Neidich, The Parthenon Marbles Recoded: The Phantom as Other, 2021, neon installation. Installation view, Kunstverein am Rosa–Luxemburg–Platz, Berlin. Photo: Ludger Paffrath.

Galaxy Brain

June 21, 2021 by Erik Morse

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“Neuroaesthetics’ persistent fascination with a Kurzweilian “post-everything” future tense results in an ambitious project: Attempting to thread the interdisciplinary needle between the determinism of neuroscience and the subjectivism of aesthetics, it risks the rebuke of both disciplines. Moreover, it must maintain a vigilant campaign of reconnaissance and decryption at the vanguards of both art and science, all the while resisting the accelerating rhythms of capital that undergird both.” – Erik Morse


Warren Neidich on 'the Emancipatory Capacity of Art'

Photo: James Salomon

Warren Neidich on 'the Emancipatory Capacity of Art'

December 10, 2020 by Mark Segal

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“I’m a wet conceptual artist because I want beauty and relevance to be a doorway to enter the work. I am also a 1970s Minimalist in many ways. I have tried to move their phenomenologically based work dependent on sensory experience to one that could be considered post-phenomenological and based on the conceptualizing brain. I engage with the past, but I’m trying to move the discussion in a different direction.” – Warren Neidich


Even with Museums Closed, Art Finds a Way Through Public Spaces

Lisa Auerbach's haiku at Ace Hotel | Courtesy of Ace Hotel DTLA

Even with Museums Closed, Art Finds a Way Through Public Spaces

November 10, 2020 by Jean Trinh

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“Chief Curator Warren Neidich knew a theater marquee would be the perfect canvas for his text art project when he realized these venues weren’t being used during the pandemic. He contacted the Theatre at Ace Hotel and organized a curatorial team composed of Andrew Berardini, Rita Gonzalez and Joseph Mosconi. They brought together 10 artists for “5 – 7 – 5,” the name of which is a nod to the syllable structure of a haiku.” – Jean Trinh


The Neural Battlefield of Cognitive Capitalism

The Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not So Distant Future) by Warren Neidich (Archive/Anagram) >>buy the book

The Neural Battlefield of Cognitive Capitalism

November 6, 2020 by Anders Dunker

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“The 2019 second edition of The Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not So Distant Future) is a companion to the three-volume anthology Neidich co-edited entitled The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism (2013–’17), a highly collaborative project that emerged out of a series of conferences in Los Angeles, Berlin, and London. Drawing upon the wellspring of critical terminologies featured in those books, as well as in his own work, Neidich’s Glossary can be enjoyed as a stand-alone text: a timely reference for the perplexed, a navigational tool in the post-truth era, a roadmap for creative radicals, a strategic chart of a mental war zone, and a program of cultural healing. As Neidich’s installations of proliferating mind-maps amply illustrate, at the center of the artist’s work is the connecting, tracing, and modifying of networks on different levels. The Glossary seems to be intended, first and foremost, as an instrument for reclaiming one’s mental life at a time when it is being hijacked in ever more sophisticated ways. The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism canvassed a wide range of the resultant problems, from attention deficit disorder and insomnia to more opaque forms of maladjustment, alienation, and panic — all the consequence of a new wave of infiltration and colonization of the mind and brain.” – Anders Dunker


The Abyss of Uncertainty

The Abyss of Uncertainty

October 28, 2020 by James Salomon

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“Warren and I knew each other from another era, and I’ve been watching (from a safe distance) what he’s been up to lately. His Drive-By-Art exhibition project was a stroke of genius and ingenuity because it came at a time when many artists felt hopeless and irrelevant under the circumstances (feelings not limited to artists – ahem – by the way). It was a shot in the arm, a morale booster. He then smartly took the concept to LA.” – James Salomon


Bring on the Night

Warren Neidich’s “Cruise” (2019) projected onto Gerson Leiber's “The Human Condition” (2007).

Bring on the Night

September 2020 by James Salomon

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“The Leiber Foundation Garden is a fantastic romantic reproduction of a simulated fantasy generated by an artificial reality based on infinite data points related to gardens making up its encrypted memory. It is not real even though we think it is and act as if it is so. We play at keeping the fantasy of its unreality unknown. One glitch however is unconcealed as an imperfect warped stump sitting alone with no time log in.” – Warren Neidich


Artists Are Essential Workers

Artists Are Essential Workers

September 23, 2020

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“In his piece, Neidich utilizes the ready-made highway message board to shout out his provocative message to an artist community ravaged by the pandemic. Half of all museums and artist studios are on the brink of collapse. Can one say that artists are essential workers and art is an essential service especially at this moment of COVID-19?”


Artists Are Essential Workers

Artists Are Essential Workers

September 21, 2020

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“In his piece, Neidich utilizes the ready-made highway message board to shout out his provocative message to an artist community ravaged by the pandemic. Half of all museums and artist studios are on the brink of collapse. Can one say that artists are essential workers and art is an essential service, especially at this moment of COVID-19?”


Pizzagate - From Rumor To Delusion

Pizzagate - From Rumor To Delusion

video clip for online catalogue

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“We have now entered into a new era some have called the post-truth society characterized by a deluge of fictive mediated stories dubbed Fake News. One of these stories, Pizzagate concerns the conspiracy theory, circulated at the end of the Trump-Clinton presidential election, that accused Hillary Clinton and other members of her Democratic election committee of running a childhood sex ring in the basement of Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant. As preposterous as this is, many people believed it and the story went viral.” – Warren Neidich


Signs are Everywhere

Photos: Christina Catherine Martinez.
The author‘s car being cleaned at Kool Kat’s Kare Wash.

Signs are Everywhere

June 10, 2020 by Christina Catherine Martinez

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“The drive to Venice from northeast LA took only twenty minutes—a rare thrill, edged with guilt. “This is where the elderly live, so you might not know that many of us,” architect Kulapat Yantrasast said, laughing, as I pulled up to his house for Kool Kat’s Kare Wash, a performance that offered attendees a free car wash (executed by assistants), a glass of white wine or Perrier, and an Ivy League–ish looking bumper sticker reading, “Proud Survivors: Homeschool University”—a cheeky nod to families with students homebound by Covid-19, though as a former homeschooler myself, I pasted it on my red 1997 Mazda Miata without irony. For being the go-to architect of such imposing LA art temples as the ICA, David Kordansky Gallery, and the now-shuttered Marciano Art Foundation, Yantrasast grokked the underlying pathos of such an encounter-hungry endeavor as Drive-By-Art. The performance was a low-key act of service that achieved the kind of causal connection rarely captured by the gravid connotations of cabalistic argot like relational aesthetics—but it was a sterling example of it.” – Christina Catherine Martinez


INTERVIEW: WYBC Yale Radio

Interview: Warren Neidich

May 16, 2020 by Brainard Carey

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AUDIO: See direct link for audio interview.
VIDEO (left): Interview with Brainard Carey on Drive-By-Art (November 2020).


A Drive-By Art Show Turns Lawns and Garages Into Galleries

Paintings by Darius Yektai. Photo: Bryan Derballa for The New York Times
Sabina Streeter in Sag Harbor. Photo: Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

A Drive-By Art Show Turns Lawns and Garages Into Galleries

May 11, 2020 by Stacey Stowe

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“No one was supposed to get too close to each other over the weekend during a drive-by exhibition of works by 52 artists on the South Fork of Long Island — a dose of culture amid the sterile isolation imposed by the pandemic. But some people couldn’t help themselves.

“At least this one looks like art,” said one man, as he stepped out of a convertible BMW onto the driveway of a rustic home in Sag Harbor on Saturday. He and two others examined the paintings, a cheeky homage to old masters by Darius Yektai that were affixed to two-by-fours nailed to trees. “Not like the other stuff.”

“The other stuff” was on display on the lawns, porches, driveways and garage doors at properties from Hampton Bays to Montauk, some from prominent artists and others by those lesser known. On a windy, blue-skied weekend, most people drove but others came on foot or by bicycle for the show, “Drive-By-Art (Public Art in This Moment of Social Distancing).”” –


INTERVIEW: Kunstforum International

Warren Neidich: Aktivistische Neuroästhetik als künstlerische Praxis in der Post-Wahrheitsgesellschaft (Activist Neuroesthetics as Artistic Practice in the Post-Truth Society)

Bd. 267 - post-futuristisch. (Mai 2020) von Ann-Katrin Günzel
Vol. 267 - post-futuristic. (May 2020) by Ann-Katrin Günzel

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“Im kognitiven Kapitalismus sind Gehirn und Geist die neuen Fabriken des 21. Jahrhunderts. Wir sind keine Fließbandarbeiter mehr, die Dinge herstellen, sondern mentale Arbeiter vor Bildschirmen, Kognitariate, mit der Welt an unseren Fingerspitzen, die Daten mit unseren Suchanfragen und Reaktionen in den sozialen Medien erstellen. Die Daten, die wir produzieren, werden nicht einfach zusammengestellt und analysiert, um unsere Einkaufstendenzen vorherzusagen, sondern aktiv verknüpft, um unsere Subjektivität zu gestalten, indem sie auf die Formbarkeit unseres Gehirns einwirken. Der Kognitive Kapitalismus ist aus dem italienischen Opera ismus und dem Post-Operaismus entstanden und ist in eine frühe und eine späte Phase unterteilt. Die frühe Phase ist von Prekarität, dem pausenlosen Arbeiten 24 / 7, der Verwertung, der Finanzialisierung von Kapital und Herdenverhalten, kommunikativem Kapitalismus und immaterieller oder performativer Arbeit geprägt. Die spätere Phase, in der wir uns heute befinden und die für mein Pizzagate Neon und das Video wichtig ist, subsumiert die frühere Phase, fügt aber eine zusätzliche Ebene hinzu. Der Fokus liegt nun auf dem materiellen Gehirn, insbesondere auf seinem neuronalen plastischen Potenzial, indem es die ihm innewohnende Wandelbarkeit normalisiert und dabei die neuronale Vielfalt in einer verschiedenartigen Population von Gehirnen und Köpfen homogenisiert.”  – Warren Neidich

ENGLISH: “In cognitive capitalism the brain and the mind are the new factories of the 21st century. We are no longer proletariats physically working on assembly lines making things but cognitariats using mental labor in front of screens with the world at our fingertips creating data with our searches and reactions on social media. The data we produce is not simply collated and analyzed to predict our shopping tendencies but actively engaged in shaping our subjectivities through acting on our brains malleability. Cognitive Capitalism emerges from Italian Operaismo and Post-Operaismo and is divided into an early phase and late phase. The early phase is characterized by precarity, working 24/7, valorization, the financialization of capital and herd behavior, communicative capitalism and immaterial or performative labor. The later stage, in which we find ourselves today and which is important for my Pizzagate neon and video, subsumes its earlier phase but adds an additional layer. Its focus of power is now concentrated on the material brain, especially its neural plastic potential, normalizing its inherent variability and in the process homogenizing the neural diversity across a diverse population of brains and minds.” – Warren Neidich


Warren Neidich: Rumor To Delusion

Warren Neidich: Rumor To Delusion

Bd. 263 - Rebellion und Anpassung (Sep/Okt 2019) von Ann-Katrin Günzel
Vol. 263 - Rebellion and Adaptation (Sep/Oct 2019) by Ann-Katrin Günzel

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“Der amerikanische post-Konzeptkünstler, Theoretiker und Neurowissenschaftler Warren Neidich (* 1958) beschäftigt sich in seiner künstlerischen Praxis analytisch und zugleich kritisch mit den Bedingungen der menschlichen Wahrnehmung. Dabei untersucht er, welchen Einfluss das Internet und neue Technologien, veränderte Kommunikationsmedien und -modalitäten sowie dadurch bedingt veränderte Rezeptionsmuster auf die materiellen Zustände des Gehirns haben. Die täglich aus aller Welt ununterbrochen, schnell und wiederholt als visuelle Zeichen simultan auf uns eintreffenden Meldungen und Berichte nehmen unser Bewußtsein direkt in Beschlag und lassen Relevanz, Tragweite und Substanz der einzelnen Meldungen dabei ebenso verschwimmen, wie deren Glaubwürdigkeit und Seriosität. Da unsere zeitgenössische Informations- und Kommunikationskultur vor allem das Visuelle betont, basiert auch unsere Wahrnehmung fast ausschließlich auf Bildern, was zur Folge hat, dass das Auge die menschliche Wahrnehmung in einer nie dagewesenen Weise dominiert. Aufgrund der veränderten Wahrnehmungsbedingungen verändern sich auch die psychischen und physischen Rezeptionsmechanismen der Menschen. Wenn das Gehirn in seiner Struktur einer permanenten Konditionierung unterliegt, die sich der Veränderung der Umwelt bzw. des Umfeldes anpasst, kann es, so Neidichs Analyse, über den „Prozess der umweltgesteuerten Neuromodulation“ gelenkt werden. Das bedeutet, dass manipulierte oder erfundene Nachrichten, sog. Fake News uns genauso ungefiltert als Wahrheit erreichen, wie wahrhaftige Fakten über das Weltgeschehen.” – Ann-Katrin Günzel

ENGLISH: “In his work, American post-conceptual artist, theorist, Warren Neidich (b. 1958), who studied neuroscience and medicine, analytically and critically examines the conditions of human perception. In doing so, he explores the impact the Internet and other new technologies, novel communication media and modes – as well as the new patterns of reception emerging from them – have on the material conditions of our brains. On a daily basis, newsflashes and reports from all over the world bombard us with information – continually, fast and ceaselessly. Taking the shape of visual signs, they flare up simultaneously, transfixing our conscious minds. Meanwhile, relevance, scope and substance of these pieces of information blur, and so does their credibility and reliability. Today’s culture of information and communication stresses the visual, stimulating us with an incessant flow of images. The eye is dominating human perception in ways it never has before. As Neidich reveals, the new perceptual conditions we live in also inform the underlying psychic and physical mechanisms of human perception. If the structure of our brains is being modelled and remodelled by the changing contexts and environments we inhabit, it also can – respectively – be conditioned by a “process of environmentally driven neuromodulations”, as Neidich warns. Thus, even manipulated and made-up pieces of information (so called ‘fake news’) affect us just as deeply and directly as truthful facts about actual world events.” – Ann-Katrin Günzel


COGNITIVE CAPITALISM: Neidich, Denny, Popescu, Harney, and Ndikung at the SFSIA Berlin

Simon Denny. Founders Board Game Display Prototype (Detail), 2017.

COGNITIVE CAPITALISM: Neidich, Denny, Popescu, Harney, and Ndikung at the SFSIA Berlin

August 2, 2019 by Niklas Egberts

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Niklas Egberts: Let’s start by talking about the central topic of the summer school. What constitutes capitalism’s becoming cognitive? 

Warren Neidich: The mind and the brain are the new factories of the 21st century. We no longer work on assembly lines, producing things with our hands; instead, we work on various platforms on the Internet. There is a term for this new precarious class: it’s called the cognitariat. We are constantly producing data through searching and communicating online. That data, is crucially important to the way that feelings and emotions have become commoditized, all the while creating huge profits for the corporate elite.

The idea of cognitive capitalism is generated by the thought that the brain is not simply inside the skull but is also external to it, consisting of social, cultural, political and technological networks that are constantly evolving. These changing conditions in the world are recorded and activate changes in the mutable architecture of the brain – in a word, neuroplasticity.


Bellinis, sex and self-loathing: the diary of a party crasher at the Venice Biennale

Bellinis, sex and self-loathing: the diary of a party crasher at the Venice Biennale

June 17, 2019 by Christopher Taylor

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“It’s my birthday. It’s not. It’s tomorrow, but I’m not going to let the opportunity to dine out on it pass me by. I drop in quickly at an installation to do with Carpenters workshop gallery at Ca’ D’Oro followed by an exquisite show at a popup of the legendary Colnaghi gallery. I also manage to take in a standout light installation by Warren Neidich at the Zuecca Project space Giudecca.” – Christopher Taylor


Historic Bauer Palladio Hotel Offers Prime Access To Venice's Newest Contemporary Art District

Rumor to Delusion at Zuecca Project Space. PAUL ALLEN/ANDFOTOGRAPHY.COM

Historic Bauer Palladio Hotel Offers Prime Access To Venice's Newest Contemporary Art District

May 25, 2019 by Joanne Shurvell

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“Giudecca Island, a ten minute ride across the grand canal by public vaporetto, has had a strong association with contemporary art for a while so it’s no surprise that it has just officially launched itself as Venice’s newest art district. The Venice Biennale Arte has used spaces on the island since the 1980s. And before that, in 1976, Giudecca was the site of various performances by Marina Abramović.” – Joanne Shurvell


Twelve Essential Offsite Exhibitions Of The 2019 Venice Biennale

Rumor to Delusion at Zuecca Project Space. PAUL ALLEN/ANDFOTOGRAPHY.COM

Twelve Essential Offsite Exhibitions Of The 2019 Venice Biennale

May 19, 2019 by Joanne Shurvell

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“Zuecca Projects on Guidecca island hosts American artist Warren Neidich’s solo exhibition Rumor to Delusion. The centerpiece of the show is a colorful neon display of words referencing the crazy “Pizzagate” fake news story of the 2016 Presidential campaign that accused Hillary Clinton and her staff of running a child sex slave ring out of the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington D.C.” – Joanne Shurvell


FAD Magazine Venice Biennale Top 10

FAD Magazine Venice Biennale Top 10

May 17, 2019 by Lee Sharrock

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“Warren Neidich’s punchy installation ‘Rumor to Delusion’ at Zuecca Project Space leaves a huge impression with its sensory overload of a 3 dimensional neon sculpture reflected in a giant mirror, juxtaposed by a multi-screen news channel spouting various forms of ‘fake news’. Inspired by the Pizzagate conspiracy and the contemporary post-truth era, Neidich presents a complex web of fabricated stories and hacked emails, which tell a dark story behind the rainbow-coloured sculpture. Curated by Lauri Firstenberg and Antonia Alampi, Neidich’s astute exhibition examines the Trump malaise of fake news through the bizarre Pizzagate myth, which was a fabricated story leading to a witch-hunt of American high fliers such as Hillary Clinton and legendary art world figures including Marina Abramovic.” – Lee Sharrock


‘I Didn’t Want My Art to Come Out While I Was an Actress’: At the Venice Biennale, Rose McGowan Reflects on Her New Life as an Artist

Rose McGowan at “Rumor to Delusion.” Photo: Sarah Cascone.

‘I Didn’t Want My Art to Come Out While I Was an Actress’: At the Venice Biennale, Rose McGowan Reflects on Her New Life as an Artist

May 14, 2019 by Sarah Cascone

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On Cognitive Capitalism

On Cognitive Capitalism: An Interview with Warren Neidich by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Printed in 2000 copies on the occasion of the exhibition "Rumor to Delusion" by Warren Neidich, curated by Lauri Firstenberg and Antonia Alampi.
58th Venice Biennale, Zuecca project space, Venice. May 10 – July 31, 2019

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Following the 2018 Berlin edition of Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA), Hans Ulrich Obrist sat down with founder and director Warren Neidich to ask about cognitive capitalism, the overarching theme of the institute, and how it relates to his own expanded artistic practice. SFSIA is a nomadic, intensive summer academy (co-directed with Barry Schwabsky) with shifting programs in contemporary critical theory that stresses an interdisciplinary approach to the relationship between art and politics. SFSIA 2018 | Berlin, titled “Art and the Poetics of Praxis in Cognitive Capitalism,” built on the critical concerns of past programs—estrangement, individuation, and collectivity—in order to consider the performative power of poetry.


Hans Ulrich Obrist: As we are meeting in the context of the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) which, as an artist and curator, you founded and have directed for the last four summers under the theme of ‘cognitive capitalism,’ I thought it would be interesting to start with the question: How would you define cognitive capitalism?

Warren S. Neidich: First of all, thank you for teaching this summer at SFSIA. I might start by mentioning that there’s already an excellent book on the subject by Yann Moulier-Boutang in which he lays the groundwork for understanding this term, and also, like yourself, Yann is a regularly returning faculty at SFSIA.1 In Cognitive Capitalism, Moulier-Boutang places the beginning of cognitive capitalism at around 1975 at a moment of profound crisis in the economy caused by the beginning of the cybernetic revolution. New technologies converged with social, political and cultural conditions to create new forms of accumulation and positive and negative externalities. Together these placed new pressures upon dead and living labor. A new form of non-linear, distributed machinic intelligence began to predominate and reconfigured the workplace and the workers’ role. Participatory workers were released from the assembly line and found themselves in front of a computer screen with access to a universe of knowledge at their fingertips.

Building on the earlier work of Romano Alquati, Raniero Panzieri, Mario Tronti and Tony Negri, a group of Italian political philosophers (Maurizio Lazzarato, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Christian Marazzi, Silvia Federici and many others) began publishing in the journal Classe Operaia. They were early in predicting the effect on society brought about by these newly evolving forms of work. They understood the cybernetic future way ahead of anybody else and they realised that the new information age would change the way that people worked and lived, and they called this “cognitive capitalism.” Performance and immaterial labor became the predominant forms of labor in what would become known as “early cognitive capitalism.” Emotions, affects and feelings, once outside the scope and concern of capitalism, formed cognitive capitalism’s central core, and now were able to be capitalized. Immaterial labor became essential components of subject and subjectivity.

At that time, cognitive capitalism consisted of five or six components, and if you went to any of the biennials last year it was almost like every artist was taking a different theme from the annals of early cognitive capitalism, illustrating it in their own specific way. Ideas such as precarity, valorization, the financialization of capital, immaterial labor, communicative capitalism and real subsumption formed the conceptual frameworks they emphasized.

HUO: Some people may not be familiar with these terms. Could you briefly describe them?

WSN: Sure. The first element would be precarity. Labor became precarious and this began to pose a threat to stability of income and lifestyle. So “precarity” is a word that you hear all the time. Life has become unstable. In former times, in the days of our parents, there was the idea that a stable work environment and a secure job occurred within the time frame of set hours. One was a “company man” or “company woman.” In today’s flexible economy, one is now a freelancer or free agent, especially in ‘creative culture’ where everyone is an artist of one kind or another, and working from home is becoming increasingly normal. Precarity also suggests that everybody is teleworking alone and isolated from direct contact with others. Instead they are working and waiting by their computers, or iPhones, awaiting the next tweet, Facebook post, or email informing them of their next job opportunity. Which, by the way, might mean “prosuming” with other designers online, chatting with other members of a think tank, or even searching data, which creates data that is later bought and sold. As a consequence there’s this kind of edginess, an unease, that we experience as we are linked by our iPhones as nodes in an immense communicative network which is also creating a lot of anxiety. This is the idea of precarity.

HUO: Precarity also means the end of all safety nets in a way – so people are worried.

WSN: Yes, people are worried and in a state of unease that permeates society as a whole. Also, there’s another definition of precarity that concerns a kind of struggle taking place in consciousness itself. That ‘real’ memory, the directly experienced memory of objects and activities performed in the material world, is being subsumed by virtual memory. In other words, the memories that we are engaged with in the virtuality of the simulacrum, as Baudrillard put it back in the 1980s, where the simulated world becomes the dominant context within which we experience the world and digital objects and relations from that world outcompete their real world counterparts for the synaptic spaces that constitute the neural architecture of the connectome, the elaborate matrix of neural connections of the brain. These simulated images are mechanically engineered images of attention, what Paul Virilio called ‘phatic images’, in other words more emphatic images. Accordingly, borrowing from the ideas of Gerald Edelman and Jean-Pierre Changeux, they act as powerful neural-plastic modulators and they outcompete so-called ‘real world’ relations. If, in fact, we can even consider anything real, for the brain’s neural space.

We’re spending more and more of our waking time on the internet and, as a result, a greater and greater proportion of our conscious time is being spent interacting with the constructed and engineered sensory data of the net. Now the images and sensations we experience are modified further by software agents creating image bubbles based on our past searches which, as a result, seem closer and more familiar. These images capture our attention more intensely. Attention has been shown to be very important for the production of memories. As a consequence our memories, the images we remember, are a kind of combination now. They’re a collage of both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ memories and, to a certain extent, the virtual memories are more powerful. This is what I wrote in my book Blow Up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain back in 2003. I understood the crisis of the main character Thomas, at the end of the movie Blow Up, as a confusion occurring between these two forms of memory reconstituted in the mind’s eye (or working memory) and what Gilles Deleuze called the image of thought. As I explained, Thomas’ memory was precarious in that he could no longer determine the location and source of the memories he retrieved. He could no longer tell which memories were from the archive of his own photographic practice, especially those from the pictures he made of an affair between two lovers in a park which he enlarges (blows up) in the dark room and those generated from his own memories from his personal experiences and relations with the real and natural world, so-called ‘real’ memories. The fictive tennis match he plays and performs at the end of the movie represents a crisis of precarious memory and, as such, a form of induced schizophrenia. That is what creates the crisis of precarity.

The second aspect of cognitive capitalism is referred to as “24/7” and, of course, Jonathan Crary’s book 24/7 is a great resource for further reading. Whereas previously we had a workplace we went to everyday from 9 to 5 (whether it was a bureau or a factory) and then we would go home and enjoy our leisure time, today everything is work. We never stop working. As opposed to the previous model, which Marx called “formal subsumption,” this he called “real subsumption.” Everything that we do now is work. We go to a party and check our emails and see a friend’s Facebook post and we ‘like’ it or we don’t, and we post an image of the party on Instagram. We are constantly working. Our Facebook likes and Instagram posts are data that become part of the “big data” network, and this data helps to produce a singular data profile that is then used by corporations to invite us to like and dislike certain of their products. We are constantly working and we are working for free. We have made a Faustian pact, a kind of agreement with these companies – with Facebook, which gives us a lot of joy and pleasure, or Google, which makes us smarter because it gives us access to a shared, cooperative encyclopedia of knowledge at our fingertips. We have made that contract and so 24/7 is the second component of cognitive capitalism. In my upcoming book, The Glossary of Cognitive Activism, I have coined the term ‘neuro-subsumption’ and stress that in the future, as our brains are hooked up to the internet, there is a possibility that even our unconscious, and non-conscious (or implicit neural activity), will be monitored and coded. This will mean that every one of our thoughts will be transformed into data and end up circulating in the cloud.

The third component of cognitive capitalism is what is called the ‘valorisation economy,’ which is related both to precarity and these other things that we have been talking about because the valorisation economy substitutes valorisation for value. Value is still around, but it is subsumed. Through interventions in the social mind by advertising, public relations, rumor and fake news, a commodity gains added value. Corporations (and governments) are no longer selling the object – the car, or the material. They are selling the experience of the car. Imagine a commercial in which two beautiful people are driving down Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast of California, wind blowing in the woman’s hair. This incredible experience is communicated to the viewer like a movie. That’s all part of valorisation. A Nike shoe, which costs $17 to make in the Philippines, becomes £117 on the high street. This increase in value is added by its capacity to be valorized by the social hive mind – the importance of having celebrity basketball players wearing the shoe is an essential component of this story. This is the key to cognitive capitalism. The production of the object, of this shoe for instance, doesn’t end when it comes off the assembly line, but is constituted in the social mind and in the neural networks of the brain. This is the new form of work, or mental labor, in cognitive capitalism. The work is unpaid, but actually generates added value for the corporation selling the object. It is important to note that when I talk about the ‘brain,’ I’m not only talking about the thing inside your skull. I’m talking about the situated body as well, and I’m talking about everything in our world that we interact with. Neural plasticity and cultural plasticity are con-substantiated and evolve together. The sociological and semiotic conditions of the cultural milieu are all extended and externalized capacities of the brain, and one can say that if these capacities were intracranial instead of extracranial we would call them cognitive.

HUO: How does cognitive capitalism enter your artwork? How does it enter the practice of art in general? I was looking at your book, The Color of Politics, yesterday and it’s a kind of A-to-Z, an alphabet of your different neon works which connect internet phenomena and society. Some of them are platforms, like 4chan, while others are names of people, or protagonists, like Barack Obama. Others are basically neologisms. Can you talk a little bit about this?

WSN: To answer, I would like to continue this discussion about cognitive capitalism because my artwork is the contribution I have made to understanding it. First of all, I don’t consider writing, organizing and theorizing as separate from my art practice. As Deleuze stated, artworks create new sensations and my artwork takes its point of departure from that seminal idea. I understand my work in the context of what I refer to as a ‘wet’ conceptualism, as opposed to a ‘dry’ conceptualism. In ‘dry’ conceptual practices, such as the early work of Joseph Kosuth, the immaterial works of Robert Barry, or the works of Sol Lewitt, beauty is drained from the work of art in order to make it as purely disinterested and as cognitive as possible – to remove its capacity for emotion that played such an important role in Kant’s analysis of beauty in his “Critique of Aesthetic Judgement.” According to the ‘dry’ conceptualist position, beauty and emotion muddle the interpretation and experience of the concept of the work. Sol Lewitt famously stated that the idea is the most important aspect of the work, that all planning and decisions should be made beforehand, and execution is a perfunctory affair.

In ‘wet’ conceptualism, beauty is not considered a hindrance to the reception of the work of art as a theoretically-driven conceptual and cognitive construct. It is a door through which the visitor can enter the work. In fact, it accentuates it. All decisions are not made beforehand and production is an important part of the process of creation, including decisions made mid-stream. However, ‘wet’ conceptualism is also not concerned with essences or universality, but rather its singular capacity to be understood and appreciated by the multitude. However, ‘wet’ conceptualism is pertinent to our times in relation to cognitive capitalism because instead of being directed to the senses and perceptions, it is directed to the organic, living apparatuses of the neural-plastic brain. It has the capacity to transform and emancipate the cognitariat’s thought processes in the mind’s eye. In late-stage cognitive capitalism, ‘wet’ conceptual art produces changes in the intracranial and extracranial brain – redefinition put to work.

HUO: How so? Is this what you have meant by “activist neuroaesthetics”?

WSN: In 1996, I co-founded (with Nathalie Angles) the website www.artbrain.org and the The Journal of Neuroaesthetics in which I put forth the notion of an activist neuroaesthetics. Rather than a positivist, or empirical, neural aesthetics promoted by neuroscience which attempts to subsume artistic processes of creativity and exploration and substitute it with a scientific one, the activist understands that art has the capacity to deterritorialize neuroscience and challenges its authority as the only proper research methodology pertaining to the distribution of the sensible. It understands positivist neuroaesthetics as a tool of imperial neoliberal global capitalism in creating the perfect cognitive global consumer, or the perfect cognitariat, whose neural architecture is optimally molded for the quick and attuned work of the net. Artists, on the other hand, do the opposite by looking for opportunities to undermine this optimization, as well as by creating other neural logics that aspire to alternative forms of consciousness. Artistic labor is now concerned with mutating the conditions of the cultural habitus, or the extracranial brain, with concomitant effects upon the material intracranial brain. Finally, activist neuroaesthetics assumes that if we have the will and foresight, this could become a political call to arms. It suggests the possibility that brain sculpting might be an important tool for social and political transformation.

HUO: How does this relate to your teaching? Is it all part of one practice?

WSN: My work as an artist is not just about making art. Obviously it’s also about pedagogy and it’s also about writing. It’s surprising how many people don’t know about cognitive capitalism and so, in a way, one of my roles is as consciousness-raiser. In 2005, I started coming across the writings of Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Christian Marazzi, Maurizio Lazzarato and Toni Negri – authors concerned what was called “post-workerism” (which followed workerism in Italian literature). I realized that it could become a powerful instrument in understanding what I was trying to talk about in neuroaesthetics. I started getting involved in this discussion first by inviting Maurizio Lazzarato, Yann Moulier-Boutang and Paolo Virno to my conference at the Delft School of Design, “Trans-thinking the City,” followed by the book I co-authored with Deborah Hauptmann, Cognitive Architecture: From Biopolitics to Noo-politics. At that time, I was doing a doctoral program in Architectural Theory with Dr. Arie Graafland. I collapsed the idea of multi- and interdisciplinarity into the idea of trans-thinking, in which ‘inter’ and ‘multi’ became frames of mind and thought. These practices were interiorized as apparatuses emancipating forms of thinking. In other words, they had actually become part of the implementation of the way that we think. I realized that many of these authors were referring to the brain and cognition in a very general and metaphorical way. There was a specificity missing that I thought I could contribute as a way of broadening my own theoretical and discursive base which had began in the book Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain as well as modestly rendering their arguments even more important. They didn’t have a certain kind of knowledge that I had about neuroscience. Importantly, my knowledge was not akin to positivist and reductionist thinkers, but more attuned to the work of Francisco Varela which was anti-reductionist and emphasized the power of emergence. That is how my interest in bringing these themes together arose and led to the three volume work, The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism, and the [soon-to-be-released] Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not so Distant Future). The Color of Politics contains an early rendition of the glossary linked to the words used to make the sculpture and is in fact the catalogue for the exhibition I made at the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. It is a model for understanding the political crisis we are all involved in, and tries to define what that is and possibly offer some solutions.

HUO: I remember seeing pictures of your neon sculpture “The Statisticon Neon” that you made in Berlin. Could you explain this further?

WSN: The Color of Politics describes two works in neon that I presented at the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. Downstairs in the lobby was the “Statisticon Neon”, and upstairs were three works that together connected the political conditions of McCarthyism to our moment of right wing populism today. “The Statisticon Neon” was in many ways a homage to Joseph Beuys’ work, “Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977”, which was originally shown in the German Pavilion in Venice in 1980, and today is on loan to Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie, the collection of which is partly on view at the Hamburger Bahnhof. I displayed my work on a collection of blackboards which echoed Beuys’ installation at the museum, where they are filled with handwritten cursive notes about art and capital. At the time of this work, the immanence of the information economy was so real as to be a source of inspiration for Beuys despite the fact that there was no public internet, social media platforms or big data. I superimposed my neon sculpture – which commented on many of the issues he was interested in, but did not live to see – over those blackboards, much like a technicolor film in contrast to Beuys’ work in black and white. Key to the work was the central position of the term “Statisticon” which refers to the future condition of extreme data in which the brain and mind are directly linked to, and controlled by, the Internet of Everything. As such, it points to the future of a surveillance economy.

The upper galleries showed how post-truth society and fake news (characterised by the conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate) were linked to McCarthyism. I had already begun to work on this question in Los Angeles in “Book Exchange: The Hollywood Blacklist” exhibited at the Printed Matter L.A. Book Fair in 2015, and, later, in my exhibition, The Palinopsic Field at LACE in 2016. Crucial to this story were my two works, “The Archive of False Accusations”, and “Double Jeopardy: The Afterimage Paintings”. In the “Archive of False Accusations”, press clippings reporting on what was known as the “Lavender Scare” were presented in four lavender neon-lit plexiglass vitrines. One of those vitrines exhibited press clippings relating to Donald Trump and Roy Cohn, an American lawyer best known for his role as chief council to Joseph McCarthy, who was also a mentor to Donald Trump. This vitrine plays an important role in relation to the second work, “Double Jeopardy: The Afterimage Paintings”, which consists of three neon sculptures which spell out the names of the German emigrants Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler and Lion Feuchtwanger, all of whom were later blacklisted in Hollywood as communists and, as such, were never granted a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The names were interspersed with four realistic paintings of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The paintings are empty stars except for the logo, signifying the different star categories such as live theater, motion pictures, radio or television. Spectators stare at the blinking red neon for 10 seconds, after which time they redirect their gaze to stare at the center of the star in the painting where the afterimage of the artist’s name appears. Thus, each participant rewrites the past and rectifies the injustices done to these artists by projecting their names, if only for seconds, on the adjacent star painting. Their actions modify history as it is known, and point to the power of the people to alter a mutable and becoming history.

HUO: How does Pizzagate fit in? Comet Ping Pong is a pizza parlour owned by James Alefantis, the former boyfriend of David Brock, and was basically the venue for this alleged conspiracy, but can you elaborate on your interest?

WSN: Pizzagate is a now debunked, one might even say preposterous, conspiracy theory that went viral towards the end of the 2016 presidential election. It was an event – a fictitious event, one might even say a rumor – disseminated on newsfeeds, chat threads and message boards including 4chan and Reddit, as well as Twitter. The theory proposed that Hillary Clinton and the people in her campaign were operating an international sex-trafficking ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlour in Washington D.C. The so-called proof of which resulted from the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s (John Podesta) personal emails.

HUO: Which is no different than what Edgar Morin already understood some years back. Edgar Morin, now in his nineties, is a French philosopher acquaintance of mine who wrote La Rumeur d’Orléans, concerning the rumor that in a women’s wear shop in Orleans the customers would actually disappear. They would go to the shop, try on a dress in the fitting room, and then disappear never to be seen again. This was actually a right-wing anti-semitic rumor in Orleans at the time targeted at the owners of this shop. As a consequence, their business was completely destroyed. It’s the precursor to Pizzagate.

WSN: Yes, propaganda and fake news have been around some time, but the Internet is provoking a much stronger reaction – and the rumor is related to the emergence of bottom-up, socially constructed truths.

HUO: Very sadly, with the current rise of antisemitism in France, it’s again also of great relevance in that regard, as Umberto Eco pointed out to me in my last conversation with him, but it’s interesting, in a way, that the Rumor of Orleans and Pizzagate are connected.

WSN: You are right. Rumor has taken on greater importance in cognitive capitalism and is related to what is referred to as valorisation and valorized economies. We live in this valorised world, and it’s very important. Truth is more about a story or a narrative that constitutes an arrangement of objects, things and the networks they create. Truth becomes an attribute of how viral the story is and how much attention it can attract. Truth is conditional on the distribution of data in the cloud. The “Pizzagate” sculpture is an attempt to talk about the network relations that are important in the production of these fake news stories.

Fake news is related to propaganda but in many ways it is different. Propaganda is a top-down phenomenon in which a sovereign agent constructs stories to engage the populace in a particular believable way with the aim to change their actions. Fake news is a bottom-up phenomenon which is the result of a welling up of stories concocted on real and fake social media pages which have begun to be believed. Their sheer massive distribution, as well as their emergent qualities, make them powerful modulators of public opinion. They colonize the attention of the populace by providing engaging content. The attention economy, and its economic capacity, is directly related to how many eyeballs it can induce to look at its content. The “Pizzagate Neon” takes this argument one step further as it talks about the power of these fake news stories to sculpt the neural plasticity of the brain through a neural-synaptic process. In the attention economy, where because in this surfeit of images and information that we’re exposed to it’s impossible to pay attention to everything, attention itself becomes a commodity. It becomes important for corporations and advertisers to capture our attention through various strategies like sensationalism, special graphics and editing techniques that make the information they want to convey more salient. “Clickbait”, which appears in the sculpture, is analogous to baiting a hook to catch a fish. You make the bait as attractive as you possibly can. Clickbait is similar, but it turns out that fake news is a much more powerful attractor and stimulator of attention than real news to instigate cognitariat clicking. Clickbait is also a powerful sculptor of memory. In her essay, “Attention, Economy and the Brain”, Tiziana Terranova speaks directly to this question, highlighting the impact of Internet usage on the cognitive architecture of a neuroplastic and mimetic social brain. My point is that all these different alt-right memes, different kinds of platforms, Kek, all of these different mechanisms of the new far right are the new apparatuses at play engaged in the attention economy and are actually changing the neural plasticity of the brain and forming new kinds of memories. That’s what this sculpture is about.

HUO: Of course, the actual story of Pizzagate is also part of the work. Edgar Welch, for example, entered the pizzeria with a gun believing the truth of that rumor. He, as well as the other protagonists, make an appearance in the work along with the internet wide phenomena, but also the art world enters the story. I was interested in seeing Louise Bourgeois’ name. I didn’t remember the connection between Louise Bourgeois and Pizzagate. Can you elaborate?

WSN: Thank you for bringing this up because one of the most important aspects of the sculpture and video I made called “Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion” is the story of how various artists and their work became of interest to the alt-right as examples to back up their fake news story, as well as, to impress on their base the lascivious nature of the Democratic candidates – as if the artworks were a valid reason for scorn. This story involved the art collection of Tony Podesta, the brother of John and a friend of James Alefantis, the guy who owns Comet Ping Pong. The work that he has in his collection is very sexually explicit, very edgy, and some of the work owned by Tony Podesta was hanging in Comet Ping Pong, especially the work of Arrington de Dionyso. John Podesta, as you know, was the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, so when they hacked John Podesta’s emails, and when this whole phenomenon of the Pizzagate rumor started, the reporters went to Comet Ping Pong where they coincidentally came upon what appeared to them as “weird” art – so here [in Bourgeois’ work] we have this story of childhood molestation and this very sexually explicit ‘weird’ art on the walls. This confluence created a story that went viral, and, all of a sudden, this rumor starts becoming “true” and believed. What also happened is that on alt-right news feeds there were all these stories about Tony Podesta and his weird art collection, and then, of course, the Marina Abramovic part of the story emerges out of this context. “Spirit Cooking”, a performance at Marina’s loft in New York City to thank her donors, mutated into a story concerning witchcraft. Of course, witchcraft is part of a larger feminist discourse and it is quite normal in the art world to discuss and represent such a story, but to the alt-right base it is blasphemy.

HUO: You must absolutely talk to Edgar Morin because Rumor of Orleans, a book from the early 70s, is uncanny in the similarities.

WSN: Thank you for letting me know. I will certainly get a copy.

HUO: So, what’s next? What’s happening in the studio right now?

WSN: Well, in the studio right now is a work about neurotic AI and I’m continuing my work from 2004 on the phantom limb syndrome. First, I’m creating phantom limb boxes that are based on devices that help to cure phantom limb pain. Sometimes, for example, when people have their arm amputated they develop pain, and there’s a kind of box called “the phantom limb box”, invented by the famous neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran which is a mirror box that helps cure it. What I’ve been making are Donald Judd-type minimalist sculptures that stand in as phantom limb boxes. In the gallery, I bring in amputees who actually have phantom limb pain and use the artwork to cure them. That’s one thing that I’ve been working on. It’s all about the eternal return.

HUO: That’s a more Nietzschean trope.

WSN: Yes, but at the same time I’m doing a lot of work on artificial neural networks, and it’s very complicated as to why I’m doing that. I’ve been going to old neon stores and it turns out they have been changing all of their signs from neon to LED. One kind of technology is being supplanted by another, a kind of  extinction of neon. Neon is being extinguished, so I’ve been going in and collecting these old neons and making artworks based on artificial neural networks. The found neon in each piece is creating what I call the “poetic artificial neural network”, so it’s not about optimization, it’s about thinking about a future AI, and trying to think of ways that this AI could be based on the poetic. Artificial neural networks are structured in specific ways. You have the input and you have the output, but you also have what is called the “intermediary zone” and the intermediary zone was originally based on the structure of the retina. Basically, early neural networks and artificial neural networks are based on real neurological and neurophysiological structures. They used the retina of the eye, for vision, as one of the early structures to simulate. In the retina you have the rods and the cones, which take in the light and transform the light into energy, and then you have a series of intermediary zones which are bipolar cells and amacrine cells and horizontal cells, and then finally you have the output to the brain through the ganglion cells. Those three layers are the layers of neural networks, and when you have more than one layer in the intermediated zone changing this energy into a form that is information, then you have what is called Deep Mind. This provides the basis for these new assemblages that I have been making from found neons.  All the neons contain a sausage, or, if you like, the smile of an emoji, and each is based on a version of the sexed body, and in this way they are a contemporary rendition of Marcel Duchamp’s “The Large Glass.” Importantly, the intermediary zone, in which the incoming information is being transformed into the output, is based on assemblages of different histories because the found neons used vary in age. Some are over 30-years-old, some are 20-years-old, some are 1-year-old. One was part of a sign for a sex shop and another was a sign for a food store, yet another came from an art project that an artist never picked up, so there are all these different kinds of stories that each one of the neons embodies that are contained in the neural network. Together they become a kind of poetic information system.

One of the other things that I am working on is a lecture called “2050: For What Will We Use Our Brains?” In this lecture I intend to map the effects of contemporary technology on the brain. Like the revolution that described the last half of the previous century, we to are faced with a technological acceleration which is putting pressure on what subjectivity can be. I am speaking about the neural-based economy which maps out the late stage of cognitive capitalism. First, the material brain, its structure and function, has become the model or template for the production of the new technologies we have already mentioned like pattern recognition, AI, artificial neural networks, brain computer interfaces and cortical implants. Secondly, the impetus for these new technologies is to outsource the functions of the intracranial brain to an assemblage of  externalized apparatuses that constitute an extracranial brain which has the ability to substitute for and surpass the human laborer. We already use GPS to find our way and recent research from Veronique Bohbot at McGill University, has suggested that constant use in older people may have damaging effects to the hippocampus. Just on the horizon are forms of artificial intelligence that will replace doctors, lawyers and accountants. The things that the human brain used to do, technology and machine-to-machine learning will do on our behalf and will do more effectively. The question is, what will we use our brains for? I’ve constructed a theory based on “the neuronal recycling hypothesis” of Stanislas Dehaene, who works in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. It posits that cultural inventions evolutionarily invade older brain circuits. In this case, it argues that the inferior temporal area of the temporal lobe of macaques share attributes with the human visual word-forming area, and that the invention of writing (after it became widely used), colonized that area of the brain and transformed it into its new use. I am arguing that the widespread use of telepathic technology will also put pressure on areas of the brain that maintain prerequisite structures that can be easily modified. At first, it will be technologically enhanced, but gradually it will become naturalized.

HUO: Research into mental images gets us pretty close to telepathy. I mean, if I can think of an image then we don’t need to go through a photograph anymore – you actually see that image, we have a telepathic relationship, a telepathic connection.

WSN: Right, but there are two important elements. At first, brain-computer interfaces required the electrode to be implanted in the brain which facilitated, after training, a paralyzed person’s ability to use his or her brainwaves to move a cursor on a computer screen, to control a robotic arm for feeding, or to control the movement of a wheelchair. Then, the technology advanced so that this type of control could be accomplished by projecting brain waves through a wireless Emotiv headset. Recently, the use of brain-computer interfaces has expanded. For instance, Neurable’s BCI headset for HTC Vive is being used for interfacing with virtual reality and playing competitive video games against another person wearing a similar device, as in the game Brain Arena, but it does not stop there. Linking up brain-computer interfaces to the Internet-of-things is already being experimented with such as with the brain-computer interface-based Smart Living Environmental Auto-Adjustment Control System. Gradually, if we believe Moore’s Law that computer processing capacity doubles exponentially each year, then we begin to understand that more and more of our technologies will become linked through brain-computer interfaces forming a system of integrated technologically enabled telepathic capacities. Just as we saw for writing, gradually there will occur a form of accumulation that I speculate could have neuromodulating capacity.

Returning to the neuronal recycling hypothesis, Dehaene states that writing and reading are only 5000 years old, its formal beginnings started with the invention of Sumerian writing tablets. However, molecular geneticists arguing in another context hypothesize that the changes necessary for the establishment of a reading module in the brain would take one million years. Placing a patient, or volunteer, inside of an MRI machine and having them read or write can provoke an area called the fusiform gyrus, so Dehaene asks: how is it possible that in 5000 years a material change in the brain such as this could take place? His response is his neuronal recycling hypothesis. Novel capacities like reading and writing may be acquired as long as they can find a suitable area in the brain to accommodate it, perhaps maybe even colonize it. The novel cultural function must locate an area whose function is similar and plastic enough to accommodate it. What I would like to suggest is that there must be suitable pressure provoked by an accumulation of cultural artifacts operating in the cultural milieu to select out from the population individuals who have a predisposition to reading signs. In any population there are a variety of individuals who have unusual capabilities. Some men and women have greater capacity to hit a tennis ball, for example. There is also an inherent variability in the processing of symbolic information in the area of the occipito-temporal gyrus or fusiform gyrus inherited from our simian forefathers. He argues that the area used by macaques, a type of monkey, to understand another primate’s facial expressions is appropriated in humans for reading and, if you compare the brain scans of people reading to the facial recognition area in primates, the areas that light up are indeed located very close to each other. What I am hypothesizing is that in the future, as telepathic technologies become more and more prevalent, there will come a time when their accumulated presence induces changes in the brain. Those changes may be gradual and linked to comparable changes in the cultural milieu induced by embedded technologies in the built environment or in virtual reality. As the brain is both intracranial matter as well as outsourced, extracranial tools and devices, the process will be a co-evolutionary one. Like with reading and writing, there will come a tipping point in which telepathy will colonize an area of the brain with the right number of innate capacities and induce it to record and process telepathic information without technological software and hardware – or just transform it, as we may already have telepathic capacity, as you said. These telepathic capacities will be engaged with and be made more powerful.

HUO: Which, of course, will make Rupert Sheldrake more relevant again.

WSN: {laughs} That would be something.

 

Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968, Zurich, Switzerland) is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, and Senior Artistic Advisor of The Shed in New York. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show World Soup (The Kitchen Show) in 1991, he has curated more than 300 shows.


Show Me Your Selfie, Aram Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Show Me Your Selfie
Aram Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Exhibition 7/17-10/6


Ausbuchstabiert


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'This Is Not a Selfie’ tackles the interesting history of self-portraits

'This Is Not a Selfie' tackles the interesting history of self-portraits

September 10, 2018 by Joanne Milani, Times Correspondent

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“Warren Neidich has carried on his own guerilla war with history in his 1993 “Unknown Artist” series. He added his own face to group photos of famous artists of the past. As the “unknown artist,” he appears next to a young Salvador Dalí in one group photograph. He is next to a leather-jacketed Andy Warhol in another. By doctoring the original photos, he declared “an assault on a truly verifiable record,” i.e. the documentary photograph.

Neidich wasn’t the first artist to have fun with doctored identities. In 1927, T. Lux Feininger did a poetic take on stolen identity when he disguised himself as Charlie Chaplin, complete with mustache. You can see “The Little Tramp” in Feininger’s photograph. It’s a hazy face glancing at you through the frame of a picture or mirror. That’s Feininger’s way of telling you that this image is a fantasy.” – Joanne Milani


Böser Blick in unser Hirn (A dirty look into our brains)

Böser Blick in unser Hirn (A dirty look into our brains)

16. August 2018 von Thomas Linden

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A dirty look into our brains
Profound art by Warren Neidich at Priska Pasquer Gallery

They call it a ‘Trump Cup’. It’s a coffee mug, the rim of which we’re invited to touch. Like any other mug, it is perfectly circular. However, if look at it from where we stand (that is, through a glass panel installed above the object), the mug’s rim appears to be oval. Which are we to trust, thus, our hand or our eyes? With the object described above, Warren Neidich finds a pithy allegory for the today’s phenomenon of ‘fake news’.

On view at Priska Pasquer gallery there is yet another composition which elaborates on the same problem more explicitly. “Pizzagate” is the title of a spherical accumulation of words and arrows crafted in colourful neon tubes. This could be a representation of the brain, just as well as it could be a materialization of a digital cloud.

“Pizzagate” refers to a smear campaign, which damaged Hillary Clinton’s image decisively during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Trump’s campaign team claimed that a paedophile ring operated out the basement of a pizza parlour in which Clinton liked to dine. Agitated by the news, an armed man finally broke into the restaurant and started shooting around wildly. As it turned out, though, there weren’t any paedophiles, nor did the pizza parlour have a basement.

Warren Neidich, professor at art academies in the US and in Berlin, is a trained neurologist and advocates a theory, according to which fake news enter into and leave traces in our brains – even if we know them to be absurd and made up. Neidich’s latest exhibition in Cologne is titled “Neuromacht”.

The artist believes our thoughts to have the power to change – that is, if we are ready to explore terrains outside our habitual streams of consciousness, which is where our potentials for creativity reside. To connect information in unexpected ways means to think against the grain of dominant consumption oriented thought patterns.

The 60-year-old artist provides concrete examples in his work “Noise and the Possibility of a Future”, which is also the subtitle of his show. He smashes loud speakers, puts their pieces back together, and accompanies his newly collaged sculptures with the soundscapes of their destruction. In this way, he liberates the object from its common use and allows it to become something new.

And there is a good sense of humour, too, in each and every one of Neidich’s installations. The artist’s “Wrong Rainbow Paintings” are colour circles, the black centres of which resemble the iris of a human eye. The artist has also taken an interest in the rainbows depicted in historical landscape paintings – their colour scales being oddly unrealistic. As we watch Warren Neidich extract the colours of a Caspar David Friedrich rainbow, we may ask ourselves why the ‘wrong’ representation manages to capture our emotional truth much more accurately than any cold realism ever could. Prices between 25.000 and 120.000 Euro.

Translation: Katharina Weinstock


How noise and neons give birth to new worldviews

Mit Noise und Neon zur neuen Weltsicht
(How noise and neons give birth to new worldviews)

July 24, 2018 by Nelly Gawellek

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How noise and neons give birth to new worldviews
Warren Neidich’s introduction into ‘Neuro-Aesthetics’ at Priska Pasquer

Fake news, alternative facts and record-breaking headlines. The recent US presidential campaign, and relentlessly twittering president Donald Trump, give us an idea how closely political developments are actually linked to their media presentation. One of the most unsettling revelations: the Internet, its news and communications channels, don’t distinguish between ‘felt truth’ and ‘real facts’. »Pizzagate«, an entirely made-up scandal, which is considered to have sealed Hillary Clinton’s defeat, provides the title for Warren Neidich’s central installation within his solo show at Priska Pasquer gallery. A »Cloud« of neons, spreading out in the gallery space connects names, events and buzzwords around a conspiracy theory, which ended up deciding the presidential election. Algorithmically created pseudo-connections – glowing seductively – merge into a robust construct – one, which after all ended up having a long-term impact on our everyday realities.

Working interdisciplinary, artist, writer and theorist Warren Neidich zooms in on the neuronal conditions, which make up for our perceptions of reality. Based on the assumption that our brains is plastic matter that can be sculpted, and that each information feeds into its structure, continually shaping and transforming it, Neidich strives to unlock visual art’s potential to break down ingrained thought patterns in order to enable new ways of thinking. Noise music, the dissonant sounds and unusual rhythms of which go against the grain of our listening habits, is but one example for such processes of mental reformatting. For his piece »Scoring the Tweet(s)« (2017), the artist developed a composition of his own, in which he translated 195 tweets by Donald Trump into a musical score.

Neidich calls his field of research »neuro-aesthetics«, fusing various disciplines and intellectual traditions: Surrealist and dadaist deconstruction meets futurist techno-utopianism; German romantic philosophy’s musings about chaos meet scientific findings about our sense of vision. In ways, which are intuitive, and at times almost playful, Neidich ties these threads together with discourses on the digital era. Taking a institutional stance, Warren Neidich’s solo show provides an introduction into the depth and breadth of its research. The show’s extended duration and rich event program promise to actively speak to the public.

Text: Nelly Gawellek
Translation: Katharina Weinstock


Status: In Bewegung

Status: In Bewegung (Status: In Motion)

April 18, 2018 by Alexandra Wach

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A Berlin Intensive at the Juncture of Theory, Praxis, and Art

Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art: A Berlin Intensive at the Juncture of Theory, Praxis, and Art

November 2017 by Jennifer Teets

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“Founded by artist and theorist Warren Neidich, who serves as codirector with the art critic and poet Barry Schwabsky, and until recently, with Lisa Bechtold as program coordinator, the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) is a Berlin-based, three-week-long art and philosophy intensive. It landed in the German capital in 2016 after a brief stint in 2015 in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, the resort town in the Alps where the European Graduate School (EGS) administers its master and doctoral programs in its Division of Philosophy, Art & Critical Thought. Schwabsky, who will lead next summer’s intensive under the tentative title of “Praxis and Poesis in Cognitive Capitalism,” described his desire to start a school as a response to a “crisis” across the sector wherein art academies are “controlled by administrators—not by faculty—an ever-expanding layer of bureaucrats who are removed from the real needs of students and the realities of teaching and research.” Schwabsky proceeded to team with Neidich, who he knew had simultaneously developed a desire for a retreat and would turn plans into action.” – Jennifer Teets


The Color of Truth

PHOTO: LUDGER PAFFRATH / KUNSTVEREIN

Die Farben der Wahrheit [The Color of Truth]

July 18, 2017 by Claudia Wahjudi

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“Mit Neonpfeilen und -schriften hat Neidich immer wieder gearbeitet, so auch zuletzt in seiner Ausstellung am selben Ort. Für „Color of Politics“, so der Titel, widmete sich Neidich dem Thema Verschwörungstheorien und einem spektakulären Fall aus dem vergangenen Jahr. Falschmeldungen hatten in Washington einen Scharfschützen dazu veranlasst, in eine Pizzeria zu schießen. Der Mann war überzeugt: In den Hinterzimmern des Restaurants würden Hillary Clinton und andere Demokraten einen Pädophilen- Ring unterhalten. Der Vorfall wurde als „Pizzagate“ bekannt. Die wolkenartige Skulptur enthielt Stich- und Suchbegriffe zum Fall „Pizzagate“, von „Barack Obama“ bis „Twitter“, jedes Wort in einer anderen Farbe: Rot, Weiß, Blau, Gelb, Grün. Auch eine Art zu malen.” – Claudia Wahjudi


Activism // ‘The Politics of Color’: Warren Neidich at Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

Warren Neidich: ‘Pizzagate’, 2017 // Courtesy of the artist

Activism // ‘The Politics of Color’: Warren Neidich at Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

June 19, 2017 by Claudia Grigg Edo

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“The most visually impressive work in Warren Neidich’s new exhibition, ‘Die Politik der Farbe – The Politics of Color’, is a huge cloud of words in bright neon tubing connected by arrows. I could see the chromatic cluster through the window of the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz as I crossed the street. Entering the gallery, it became clear that the words Neidich has chosen to include in ‘Pizzagate’ (2017) are non-sequiturs: as seemingly arbitrary and unrelated as top Google search terms.” – Claudia Grigg Edo


The Statisticon

The Search Drive, 2014. Video still. Courtesy of the artist

The Statisticon

September 23, 2020

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Miami Practicas Contemporaneas, Bogotá, Colombia, presents ‘The Statisticon’, the first solo exhibition in Colombia of the American born conceptual artist Warren Neidich. Warren Neidich’s art practice is interdisciplinary and theoretically based. For this show he will present a large Neon diagram entitled ‘The Statisticon’, 2016, which maps out his theory of the Statisticon. The Statisticon is the perfect and seamless confluence of the conditions of massive data collection, the sculpting of the brains’ neural plasticity, smart and sustainable architecture and urban design, the processes of valorization created by communicative capitalism and the technologies of affect integrated into post-production and special effects found in film and virtual platforms. Art and shamanism play important roles in releasing the individual from these forms of contemporary domination. The diagram consumes the entire back of the gallery and its colorful display casts an ambient texture of red, white and yellow light upon the opposite wall. Neidich is performing a blind folded performance in front of it at various times during the exhibition elucidating its meaning from memory. In the front gallery his internationally acclaimed video The ‘Search Drive’, 2014, which has been screened at such places as the Zentrum fur Kunst and Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe German and The Centre of Photographie, Geneva, will be projected. In the video a secret agent hacks into the personal data of the artist using the same soft ware utilized by the National Security Agency to spy on Americans to create a data profile he calls a hack-ography rather then a biography. Spyware, the Dark web, Tor software, facial recognition software and drones are the protagonists of this contemporary thriller.


Warren Neidich: LACE

The Afterimage Paintings (detail), 2016.

Warren Neidich

October 2016 by Andy Campbell

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It is a middling insult to be denied a plot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After all, inductees (or, more accurately, their agents, production companies, and fan clubs) must pay the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce $30,000 to have their names inlaid on one of the pink terrazzo stars that line Hollywood Boulevard. While Godzilla, the Rugrats, and Lassie all have stars, a number of well-regarded actors have declined theirs. As many industry magazines have noted, the Walk of Fame is not really a cultural monument, but rather a gnarly tentacle of the Hollywood hype machine.

One person who takes the honorific seriously is Warren Neidich, whose exhibition “The Palinopsic Field” attempted to redress wrongs carried out during two dark and intertwined moments in the history of the film industry and that of the nation at large—the so-called Red Scare and Lavender Scare of the 1950s—in part by giving stars (of sorts) to former industry scapegoats. Here Neidich made use of the temporary “afterimage” one sees following exposure to extreme visual stimuli such as bright color or light. (Neidich’s pointed citation of “palinopsia,” the phenomenon’s recursive pathological strain, was perhaps intended as a wry criticism of the era’s McCarthyist hysteria.) The artist’s gambit was that viewers would visually transpose the retinal afterimage of illuminated neon text onto nearby white stars. To this end, the exhibition featured The Afterimage Paintings, 2016, a work comprising four square silk screens showing white stars on terrazzo backgrounds interspersed with three neon signs spelling out the names of Hollywood screenwriters in red capital letters: ALVAH BESSIE, DALTON TRUMBO, and RING LARDNER JR. Each of these men was subpoenaed in 1947 to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where they were asked to confess their affilations with the Communist Party and to name other sympathizers. Each declined, citing the First Amendment. Their refusals were later echoed by seven others, who collectively became known as the Hollywood Ten. The Ten were subsequently held in contempt of Congress for their noncompliance; they were fined, jailed, and blacklisted by the major motion-picture studios. Dalton Trumbo, perhaps the best known of the group, went on to ghostwrite the films Exodus and Spartacus (both 1960), as well as Roman Holiday (1953), for which he was retroactively credited in 2011. Given that Nathan Lane, Tim Robbins, and Ed Harris, each of whom has played Trumbo in theatrical depictions of his life, all have Walk of Fame stars, Neidich’s corrective gesture was fitting, if tinged with irony. The bestowal, however, lasted only as long as the afterimage burned within the viewer’s eye.

Standing in front of this wall-mounted series was Neidich’s Archive of False Accusations, 2015–16, a set of two glass display cases whose long, flat beds were rimmed with purple neon. These vitrines housed an assortment of facsimiles of articles concerning the Lavender Scare, named for the McCarthy-inspired campaign to root out purported homosexuals working within the federal government. This crusade was coterminous with its Red counterpart and frequently lumped Hollywood stars with government workers in its efforts to paint homosexuals as Communist sympathizers. The headlines of the articles, which Neidich culled from University of California’s one National Gay and Lesbian Archives, describe this campaign with cogency: 126 PERVERTS DISCHARGED; CONGRESS HEARS 500 PERVERTS INFEST CAPITAL; AND SENATORS SEEK MORALS CLEANUP IN GOVERNMENT. Neidich’s flat-footed presentation of archival curiosities may by now be a standard didactic artistic strategy, but his installation additionally demonstrated the perils of peering too closely at traumatic historical records: If you inadvertently shifted your focus to the glowing edge of the vitrine, your vision was impaired, your retinas flooded with lavender.

The show highlighted the temporal, physical, and symbolic proximity of these two midcentury witch hunts, during which “Communist” and “homosexual” were jeeringly whispered in the same malevolent breath by feckless demagogues toeing the McCarthy line. Here, out in the open, the clippings exposed the ignorance and bigotry of such Cold War accusers while illuminating the blind fear that propelled them. Even as the articles chronicled the chains of events that propelled this period of blacklisting, Neidich’s blank stars served as emblems of the muzzled voices and consequent cultural losses in the wake of conservative attempts to wipe out those found to be “un-American.”

—Andy Campbell


Artist Warren Neidich Talks New Exhibition, Cycles of Fear and Discrimination

Artist Warren Neidich Talks New Exhibition, Cycles of Fear and Discrimination

August 8, 2016 by Benjamin M. Adams

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MERRY JANE: What is the relationship between art and neuroscience?

Warren Neidich: I began lecturing about Neuroaesthetics in 1996 at the School of Visual Arts in New York City at the invitation of the photographer Charles Traub. These initial lectures embodied the early stages of neuroaesthetics. They attempted to explore the same territories or spheres of knowledge as those of neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, and evolutionary cognitive neuroscience, but instead of utilizing scientific methodologies used artistic media, processes, histories, apparatuses, and interfaces. These approaches generated artistic facts rather than scientific facts. Importantly, neuroaesthetics is a non-reductive and non-cognitivist methodology which is not neuro-centric, that approach which tries to understand art through the laws of neurology, but cultural-centric.


Interview on Yale University Radio

Warren Neidich interviewed on The Art World Demystified, Yale University Radio.

Link: Audio Recording


Baldwin Hills

pdf: Baldwin Hills – 01/31/2013

I first met Warren Neidich in New York in the mid-1990s and I was thrilled to find out that he’s in LA in a studio near the new Culver City metro station. As usual with Warren, he is working with a variety of media and on multiple ventures at once. He shared a number of projects and the two that captured my imagination were “How do you translate a text that is not a text? How do you perform a score that is not a score?” and a series of sculptures of a destroyed speaker paired with its “pristine” partner playing the sound recording of the other’s destruction. This second series is entitled “The Infinite Replay of One’s Own Self-destruction.” The work is a reaction to Robert Morris’ “Box With the Sound of Its Own Making” (1961). According to Warren, he’s making this work:…

… in light of the new definitions of our post-internet society where production and the artisan craftwork with its requirements of physical repetitive labor has been supplemented by the conditions of communication where the mind’s spirit is preferentially put to work and interacted with. One speaker of a pair of seventies vintage speakers is destroyed with the tools of the studio and this performance is digitally recorded and burned upon an SD card which is inserted into the analogue speaker. One can think here of the loss of a twin sibling or a lover or a partner as well as the death of analogue in the convergence to digital culture.

by: Meg Linton, Published in: Warren Neidich – Baldwin Hills – 01/31/2013, Otis College of Art and Design Blog , June 13, 2013.
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Earthling - The Art Book Review

Earthling, is a satire of spectacle. It makes mincemeat of the torrent of information and imagery that we consume (and that consumes us). It reconfigures global media subjectivities. It resists. It reprograms. It ruffles my casual disregard for the everyday onslaught of the headline.

The book is about the size of a National Enquirer supermarket tabloid and is just as juicy—a banquet of full-bleed spreads. Fronted by a ruminative short essay by Barry Schwabsky and a lovingly casual but sharp-as-a-tack interview between Neidich and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the book is throughout illustrated by several installation shots of Neidich’s previous work and drawings.

The photographs are real-life representations of his particular perspective on media and consumption. Each photo is a rich, somewhat high-contrast, colorful composition of someone reading in a café, obscured by their respective newspaper or magazine: National Enquirer, International Herald Tribune, Interview, The Guardian, Newsweek, Daily Mirror. Roughly-cut holes in what they are reading reveal their eyes, looking out, sometimes up, sometimes over, and, most ominously, right at the camera.

Reviewed by Sarah Bay Williams
December 18, 2013


Fields Of Consciousness: The Ghost In The Machine

Mark Gisbourne, Fields of Consciousness: The Ghost in the Machine
in Photography and Culture, Vol 5, Issue 1, March 2012, 53-76.

Excerpt

The contentious debate as to an aesthetic relationship between mind-mechanism-representation has not gone away, that is in spite of scientific researches in physiology and neurophysiology that have recently dressed matters up in terms of mapping the brain and a causal bio-chemistry. Yet given a recent return of somatic dominance there nonetheless still remains much to be said about the mental role of a creative culture in the living biochemistry of modern being. This is not to argue that nineteenth century Driesch-ian derived ideas of 'vitalism' and its legacy, can any longer offer a non-materialist hiding place for theories of mind and consciousness.(1) Theories of mind have largely been reduced today to two areas, namely the biological sciences and/or experimental cognitive psychology.(2) It is the discursive and interactive relationship between biological science and the different psychologies of consciousness, that for the most part frames the current debate. In areas of cognitive consciousness the emphasis is now firmly placed upon the 'embodied', that is to say in living conditions of 'being' that foments representation: to represent means quite literally an embodiment of signs that are brought to mind only in and through reflective consciousness as lived experience.(3) The subjective Cartesian formation of the mind-body question, and its many subsequent philosophical interpretations, has been increasingly side-lined somewhat ironically (given Descartes mechanistic view of the body), by an extension of materialist mechanisms (scanning machines), and the explications of neuroscience that accompanies their use.(4)

But how the brain works and the related questions born of how representation within consciousness takes place, remains a vexatious territory that is still fundamentally unresolved. It is clear that the representation of the world through sign and symbols is a given and everyday reality, but to what extent can it be said that consciousness and its physiological component can be altered by the sensory experiences of the world through the changing conditions of cultural representation? It leaves open the question whether consciousness is nothing more than an extension of structural physiology with a purely biological foundation (that is to say pre-determined by brain chemistry), or whether there is a spectral or non-definable hermetic substance that changes the conditions of consciousness through interactions with numerous sensory experiences in the world, something that shapes, sharpens, and thereafter alters the physiological arguments of pure mechanism? Put another way does the visual language experience of representation (I use the word 'language' advisedly) alter in any way the simple physiological processes of working consciousness? If it is the first question posed, this leaves aesthetics and discussions as to the aesthetics of consciousness in a perilous position. If the second the representational aspects of aesthetics remain open and in a continual state of change and development. And as an aside in simple historical terms this also questions as to whether there could ever be a fixed 'cultural canon' of those conventional but shifting representations through artistic experience, as either expressed or implied by continuous transformations of states of cultural consciousness.

In more conventional aesthetic terms it touches upon one of the oldest of philosophical-aesthetic concerns, namely whether different material forms of representation take on the appearance of change (merely as a sort of repetitive cultural and pictorial mutation), or conversely, that cultural change is a continuous and changing condition of appearance as those successive temporal representations take place.(5) In short in what ways does living culture alter and/or expand upon the aesthetic aspects of our consciousness? How do representations through perceived experiences in and of the world effect interaction between consciousness and the body? And, where do representations stand in regards to the return or 'eternal recurrence' of images and ideas that daily saturate our lived experience? The artist Warren Neidich has long been concerned with these contentious issues, and has also written a related book of essays which concentrated on these issues, emphasising different cultural effects on neural networks as they relate particularly to experiences of film and photography.(6) I intend in this essay for the most part to concentrate on Niedich's photographic and film/video-based work, incorporating aspects and use of his different performance-experience-experimental contents that consistently appear within what is a challenging and diverse body of art works.

It is quite clear that photography and film combines aspects of mind and mechanism. The camera has the status of a tool in terms of representation and visual language, a tool that has a use value that mediates representations through applications of mind as consciousness. But it is commensurate to argue that pictorial representation is a continuous visual language that sculpts and shapes our ongoing perception of the world. The bi-focal aspects of the mind and mechanism are grounded as a necessary form of mutuality that are ineluctably manifested within lived experience. Neidich's work in recent years has concentrated on two vital concerns. (7) The first I will discuss is a large and developing series of the artist's work he has called Blanqui's Cosmology (1997-2005), a work that investigates questions around issues of origin as regards the modern subject in photography, and specifically ideas as it relates to repetition and recurrence. He asks what are the meanings exposed (as simile) by repetition and recurrence? The second area of discussion will be Neidich's diverse series of conceptual works in different media that investigates the History of Consciousness (1996-2010). Their analogous relationship is self-evident as both the inside and outside (perception and perceived) of mind and mechanism, cosmological projections of consciousness (consciousness fused with mechanism) on the one hand, and the internal assimilations that forms a fluid creative state of sensory consciousness on the other. As applied to culture and the history of photography, mind and mechanism is always in a state of confrontation with resistance.(8) Among the myriad aspects of cultural objects and their conditions of experience in the world, the state of their resistance to any singular assimilation or interpretation is well established. It becomes the basis for arguing that the conditions of consciousness are shaped by any number of provisional interactions.

The role of the camera as mechanism in capturing the conditions of culture at a given moment is neither uniform or singular, but always subject to the prevailing provisional and historical states of consciousness. This is not to say that they cannot be mapped, but at best used only to define a transitional state of apparent reality at a given period of time. The role of resistance in culture and the objects of culture (born of 'intentionality' as origin) is encoded in such a way so as to make them take on the hidden visible of photography. It is not surprising therefore that the corollary of the 'negative' has been essential to the historical development of the photograph and of film, a mechanistic inversion that expresses itself through the obverse image.


On Visualized Vision In The Early Photographic Work Of Warren Neidich

On Visualized Vision in the Early Photographic Work of Warren Neidich

Volume 27 Issue 7/8 (December 2010) by Susanne Neubauer

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ABSTRACT: This article contains an analysis of Warren Neidich’s early photographic work of 1997 until 2002. These works which are linked to the extensive theoretical production of the artists are contextualized with the concept of the dispositif and apparatus which was developed by Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and recently Maurizio Lazarrato. The article provides a close description of the parameters of four pivotal work groups of Neidich’s early practice, Brain Wash (1997), Double Vision (1997-2000), Short Reverse Shot (2001) and Law of Loci (1998-1999). These works were realized with the aid of low-tech devices stemming from neuro-ophthalmology, marking the interface between current neuro-philosophical discourses such as bio-politics, the plasticity of the brain, the apparatti of visual, i.e. analog and digital culture, and the philosophy of memory. It is suggested that Neidich, even though he intervenes and contributes importantly to these intermingling discourses in a broad manner, is particularly interested in the degraded and infirmed implementations of human vision in order to explore new sensations and habits of perception.

TEXT: When one reads about Warren Neidich’s early work of the 1990s, particularly about American History Reinvented,(1) most of the focus concerns an interpretation of the technical aspects of the production of his oeuvre through a media-philosophical scrim upon which an exploration of the cultural milieu is made possible. Foucault’s notion of Apparatus(2) and the dispositif, developed further by French film theorist Jean-Louis Baudry in the mid-seventies (Baudry, 1975), are relevant to any exploration of Neidich’s work.(3) Having imported optical devices, mainly from the realm of neuro-ophthalmology, for the production of his art works one can utilize these aforementioned theoretical concepts in order to understand his projects more concisely especially those produced and discussed in this paper between 1997 and 2003. The apparatus as a technical term hints at the practical elements of the “machines of seeing” of our “scopic regimes” (Jay, 1988: 3-27) such as photo, film and video camera, projectors as well as the projection space of a cinema (or lecture hall), and finds its counterpart in the idea of the dispositif which supplements – in a more general way – these two closely aligned concepts of structuralism and early structuralist film theory and a more recent counterpart in Maurizio Lazzarato’s media theoretical concept of Noo-politics. For him power establishes itself over the brains of the multitude from afar through the use of contemporary apparatti like the internet and particularly software agents which limit difference and create homogeny by administrating attention and memory (Lazzarato, 2003: 186).

However fascinating the mechanisms of seeing in modern times became when thinking of amateurish photo practice or visits to the movie theatre, the history of vision is above all a history of consumerism and paternalism one hand, and of eagerness for knowledge in the scientific domain on the other. Considering these complex interwoven territories, where vision (in the sense of perception) is subject to the power of knowledge, one can trace back in history its incredible power of infatuation, a danger that is embedded and reproduced more than ever in the digital image.

The idea of a ‘seduced vision’ through an analysis in time both backwards and forward as opposed to one that is simply linear and positivistic to produce, if you will, a-temporal machinic assemblages is inspiring. During the 19th century, scientific photography did not only bring to light until then unknown pictures such as Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch’s mites and other species which were unable to be seen with the naked eye or Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta’s radiographs of animals. Fascination for micro-photography went so far that until the 1860s scientists still believed it possible to see more in a photographic detail when it was blown up. For instance, grains in the film emulsion became when blown-up proof of the existence sub-cellular particles and organelles. That was a tragic misinterpretation of the photographic ontology (Breidbach, 2002[1998]: 221-250). This also calls to mind the intricate investigations on Secondo Pias first photographic capturing of the Holy Shroud in 1898. Photography is, as it may seem, the medium per se to “search for something” (Geimer, 2002: 143-145) that is in flux in its state and hardly recognizable let alone visible.

That these misinterpretations were finally discussed tells one that vision and history cannot be understood separately from each other. Jonathan Crary’s Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (1990) is considered to be an important reference in the delineation of the evolutionary history of modern vision linking it, as it does, to the use and forms of diverse optical devices invented and used during the century of the Industrial Revolution. Crary made clear that an optical machine as primitive as it may look for us today was a device of wonder, fascination and fantasy then. Notwithstanding, it is striking enough that even simple devices such as the stereoscope, which can be tested in many museums of film history these days, are still appealing to us.(4) Stereoscopes, stroboscopes and zoetropes (and the photographic camera) – all pre-cinematic devices have not only been set up in amusement parks of the 19th and early 20th century (Maase, 1997), but were simultaneously used as objects to probe visual capacities such as “time-sense” and “space-sense” perception. Hugo Münsterberg, a German American pioneer in film theory and author of The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916), anticipated, as Giuliana Bruno in an extensive essay made strikingly clear, the “neuroaesthetic approach” (Bruno, 2009: 92) which has been developed by Neidich among others and which is being discussed widely in Anglosaxon and German art criticism since the turn of the 21st century.(5) Naming an example, Münsterberg investigated at Harvard Psychological Laboratory how film montage – motion – is able to affect emotion and empathy (Bruno, 2009: 102-103), i.e. in neuroaesthetic terms the shaping of the brain as it were.

This essay is not able to investigate how optical devices influence one’s brain structure in the sense of its changing neuro-physiological states from a scientific neuro-psychological point of view, nor does it explore the artistically less interesting phenomenon of evocating certain visual stimuli in order to surprise or manipulate the viewer as one can see it in works using mirrors or light for example. It shall trace back Neidich’s artistic interpretation of low-tech devices from neuro-ophthalmology such as the prism bar and Lancaster glass, which became adequate items with which to explore their possibilities as hybrid interfaces. These Hybrid Dialectics, as he calls them, are neither diagnostic devices used to determine abnormalities of the brain, nor are they meant to merely obtain particular artistic expressions, but a middle ground with which to “produce new kinds of images in the hope of enlisting in the viewer new sensations and habits of perception.”(6) In this context, the idea of the extended cognition plays a mediating role in Neidich’s thinking as there is the “plastic brain” (Clark, 2008: 68) which is subject to constantly altering states, for instance in the man made milieu in which a series of designed and engineered apparatti are embedded in analogue and digital culture in order to make scopic regimes immediately usable. By linking the history of vision to processes such as cinematic suture, Neidich’s interest lies interestingly enough less in extending the perceptual cognitive apparatus, but in discovering its degraded and infirmed margins.(7) It is the field of rupture and manipulation of the institutionality of visual culture that Neidich intervenes pushing forward the discussion on the idea of the “distribution of the sensible” (Rancière, 2006)(8) and the so-called “economy of attention”, the economic concept of the cyberspace and its urge to bind attention (Mandel and Van der Leun, 1996).(9) The focus of this essay lies therefore in this intriguing relationship between the exploration of a tool (the optical devices) as a metaphor for occidental cultural thinking and its literal use following self-conscious representational strategies. In this sense it can be seen that the exploration of technical and optical devices in the field of art practice is very often misleading viewer’s attention to the wrong site most notably when visual phenomena evoke first of all sensational pleasure. In the case of Warren Neidich’s early photographic pieces one can see how he oscillates between the techné of the artistic process and the realm of the artistic invention.

One of Warren Neidich’s first artworks is a video called Brain Wash from 1997. A man sits at a table and focuses on a rotating black and white striped drum. It’s a so-called “optokinetic drum”(10) which is used as a simple device for stimulation and assessment of optokinetic nystagmus, an involuntary eye movement, respectively. Brain Wash was Neidich’s first application of his Hybrid Dialectics and was closely aligned with the concept based on Marcel Duchamp’s idea of the objet trouvé by which the double-sided, hybrid character of a work of art as dependent on its authoritative context is made strikingly clear for the first time in art history. The camera/viewer observes the man staring at the drum and a close-up of the eyes shows the particular eye movement of the protagonist. This kind of subtle vibration of the eyeballs is followed by a cut away shot of the eyes of the man at a distance which now move rhythmically to and fro, left and right. In the next scene the viewer visualizes a 180 degree pan of the horizon which is made to shake and tilt. The purposeful shaking of the hand held camera in this sequence is a direct reference to the type of unstable frame that characterizes Lars von Trier’s aesthetics of Dogma. The notable linkage of the camera as apparatus connected to the apparatus of seeing was a nod to Duchamp’s Handmade Stereopticon Slide (c. 1918-1919) which fuses geometry, projection and perception paradigmatically showing the horizon of the sea and an octahedron. As Neidich pointed out, this particular sequence depicts the “eratic spaces of a world in transition.”(11) At the conclusion of the 180 degree camera pan movement there is a cut to the man again (revealing that it was apparently not he who was looking), followed by a close-up of the eyes again looking left and right, ending in a fade-out of the rotating optokinetic drum. The whole story is accompanied by a fast-paced sound track from the Japanese pop group Pizzicato Five.

Brainwash can be seen as sort of a comedy. Its narration is based on different filmic strategies such as the use of the linear arrangement of sequences at the beginning in which tracking shots, cutting in and away and the close-up are assembled together. This virtual movement is traditionally perceived as a stringent development of a simple time-space-relationship as can be observed in the early films of the Lumière brothers. The other strategy, the more elaborate one, is the shot reverse shot, a film technique that imitates throwing a glance at another person, often off-screen, in order to make clear to the spectator which protagonists are looking at each other. Simply said, each device which interrupts the traditional filmic eagerness to imitate human perception gives evidence to the factitiousness of the film. This happens in Brainwash in a quite tricky way when filmic conventions are broken up by juxtaposing sequences that give one the impression that they fit – nevertheless, they don’t. The piece is therefore even more of a caricature in the sense of E. H. Gombrich’s definition of identities that “do not depend on the imitation of individual features so much as on configurations of clues (…)” (Gombrich, 1986: 292). Similarly, Neidich does not seem to guide the perception of the viewer to clues just in order to communicate a content, but to the quite opposite, paradox direction. Having the optokinetic nystagmus caricatured by eyes moving is one such paradox for from a neuro-scientific point of view one has nothing to do with the other. This example displays how two divergent concepts collide. Even more obviously is the tilting shore as a sequence which depicts the internalised vision of the protagonist. Again, it is neither nor. As the camera moves around and stops at the body of the man, the sequence of the shore is a “double-vision” film convention, unclear of course who is who and who sees what. Nevertheless, this is Neidich’s manipulation of the cinematic gaze and – above all – his engagement in the philosophy of perception.

Brainwash can be considered a relevant example to introduce Warren Neidich’s medium comprehensive practice. His practice is shaped by a thorough knowledge of the physiognomy of the eye and the brain, the psychology of perception and the history of art. He uses optical devices as a starting point from which he explores his core questions. As one can understand in seeing Brainwash he uses low-tech devices and, as in this case, filmic (that is perceptional) conventions, in order to visualize what effects and shapes the brain, but also deceives the eye. The optokinetic drum in the beginning and the end of the video serves as a parenthesis. If Neidich would have executed this image as a painting, it could have been something such as Bridget Rileys’ Cataract 3 (1967) whose title, it is not without reason, is also a notion from ophthalmology. Strikingly, Riley’s and Neidich’s artistic expression is inspired by a negative connotation: the defect of vision. Working with the negative(12) Neidich reformulates what is considered a damage to or a loss in vision. Another series of work, his photographs Double Vision (1997-2000), among others, take up this idea and transfer it into a paradoxical but positive result. Double vision, or diplopia, is a dysfunction of one or both eyes, so to speak a misalignment of the eyes which results in seeing double. Interestingly enough the brain is able to correct and suppress the information of one eye because movement through space proves evolutionarily speaking difficult and even dangerous.

Double Vision, Louse Point (1997-1998) is a series of photographs that shows scenarios of bathing people at the beach of Louse Point on East Hampton, New York. The images are a reminder of the recreational gatherings of the well-known artists and writers Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Clement Greenberg and others in the 1950s. Neidich’s images obtain a touch of nostalgia by equilibrating the photographic colours, mainly by reducing magenta that gives the impression as if the photographs had been exposed to too much sun.(13) The images show an unusual element: translucent blue and red circles, reminding one of the strange phenomenona of orbs.(14) Unlike the opaque blobs on John Baldessari’s faces, Neidich’s spheres do not replace, mask or abstract, but float and shimmer translucently like extraordinary atmospheric phenomena – blue tinted lunar eclipses, red fireballs, but also the diaphanous coloured glass of a Claude’s glass. There is something mythical about them with their coronas, as they seem to move “spot lighting” the outer world like a light ray either ignoring people in the image or aiming directly at them. By being translucent, the coloured circular surface marks undoubtedly an area between the viewer and the scenery.

The phenomenon of double vision is not seen here as a misalignment but as a movement into visual depth towards the vanishing point. Being created by placing a Lancaster glass in front of the camera lens,(15) Neidich’s apparatus refers to the single point perspective construction as an expression of the outer world’s symbolic form in Erwin Panofky’s sense (Panofsky, 1991). However, there is also the artist’s other interest in visual perception in a more physiological way than Panofsky. One can argue, that Neidich’s photographic work also marks a spot as an area of afterimage, pointing out unknown areas of the science of neurology with a hint to “cognitive ergonomics” as he calls it (Neidich, 2003: 21). The phenomenon of afterimage can serve here as a metaphor of what can be seen in this image production, an amalgam of remembrance, inner perception in the shape of visualized visual traces of the brain cortex, and most of all the result of an artistic process to break up the mimetic function of photographic representation.

Warren Neidich makes ample use of optical devices in his early art works. Another work, Shot Reverse Shot is a series of performances, resulting in a video and a series of photographs. Again, he is not reformulating the traditional filmic strategy of the shot reverse shot, but uses the technique literally in order to obtain not only unknown visual experiences but also distinct viewing structures. The prism bar, which is held in front of the protagonist’s eyes, fans out perception revealingly in both ways. The object is a neurological and ophthalmological device to measure an eye’s deviation after a stroke or a trauma for the later surgical reconstruction of the misalignment and reconstitution of single vision. In Shot Reverse Shot it is used as a cadenced glass to look through, a window which is in itself the traditional metaphor of vision since the picture pane depictions by Leon Battista Alberti in De Pictura (1435) and Albrecht Dürer in Underweysung der Messung (1538). Exploring the situation of the two protagonists – viewers, one of them filming the scene – who look through the prism bar standing in front of each other and experiencing a refracted view, one is immediately reminded of another concept of perception which is Jacques Lacan’s often cited three diagrams from The Four Fundamental Concepts (1981). As Martin Jay pointed out, Lacan was very much inspired by his friend of the Surrealist magazine Minotaure, Roger Caillois, who introduced a dihedron to “clarify the relation between eye and gaze (…) in his 1935 essay on ‘Mimétisme et psychasthénie légendaire’” (Jay, 1993: 365). Lacan developed the idea of the screen (écran) which is the site of correlation between one’s eye looking at an object and the gaze (marked as “light”) looking back. It is intriguing to see that Lacan is using the metaphor of the camera to come to the second diagram(16) and to his understanding, that what “was looking at me at the level of the point of light, the point of light, the point at which everything that looks at me is situated.” (Lacan, 1981: 95 and Jay, 1998: 365).(17) In his concept the screen is the place of the subject who is not only “caught, manipulated, captured in the field of vision,” (Lacan, 1981: 92 and Jay, 1998: 364) but who also embodies the paradox of being in between light and the opaque simultaneously. With the screen concept the single focus of the God’s eye-view is clearly abandoned. Coming back to Neidich’s work Shot Reverse Shot one can trace back such concepts by understanding the prism bar as a place of interference. The viewing structure is antidromic, even equally administered between different protagonists who are all from mixed ethnical background. Each one embodies different historical conceptions using the analogue simple device of a prism bar or the digital video camera. One can even argue that the gaze of the protagonists, being documented on one side, experienced unmediated on the other, is a paradigm of an altering subjectivity in process by the aid of a prosthesis and a clue to the neo-liberal global world order governed by the WWW.(18) This would also sync up with Lacan’s notion of the screen as a place of mediation. Kaja Silverman commenting on this relationship proposed that Lacan’s screen is also subject to social and historical interpretations “by describing it as that culturally generated image or repertoire of images through which subjects are not constituted, but differentiated in relation to class, race, sexuality, age and nationality,” (Silverman, 1989: 75-76) an observation which also possesses validity in Neidich’s work.

Using the prism bar in a direct way such as in the Shot Reverse Shot project one can also observe that in its playful use it instigates the dissolution of personal space and boundaries that determine personal interactions. Even though vision is refracted, the process of seeing not only more but above all unconventionally is, as mentioned above, crucial and is very much related to Neidich’s neuro-biopolitical interests. Whereas Shot Reverse Shot can be seen as part of Neidich’s interactive projects the last photographic series being discussed in this paper is dedicated to photography as a medium of guarding the past (actually the present in its moment of capturing) for the future. It is also part of Neidich’s extensive explorations into the “History of Consciousness”.

Law of Loci was undertaken by Neidich in a short time span of approximately fifteen months in 2002-2003 when the artist visited his ill father’s home outside New York City regularly. The term describes the main mind memory aid of the Antique world delineated by Cicero in De Oratore. Cicero himself employed the method to memorize his speeches by walking mentally through the area of the Forum romanum. Simonides of Ceos, the legendary inventor cited by Cicero, found out that by using the spatial relationship of the imagination of a house one is able to recall things better. Instead of walking mentally through the space of the house he grew up in he instead physically wandered from room to room as well as outside revisiting spaces of his childhood and adolescence where things had happened to him. This physical component of the project became pivotal. By moving through his parents’ house and its environments the artist explored and questioned what is one of the core functions of photography: capturing traces of actuality. As Roland Barthes has showed so poignantly in Camera lucida (1981) the photograph occupies the place of remembrance and mourning. It is still striking that capturing images of beloved persons and places, the present of that particular moment is inscribed into the surface of the filmic material as soon as it is taken and is turned into the past the very moment. Neidich’s series of Law of Loci above all visualises this paradoxical nature of photography.

The photographs of Law of Loci were taken through a prism bar with positive-negative Polaroid film material. They depict a fragmentary vision of the house, selected views from its inside such as photographs hanging on a wall, curtains, and also Neidich’s father. They also show its close surrounding, a lake, a shack, tables and chairs in a garden, and trees. The pictures are sometimes blurred, often tilted, and black and white. Having used Polaroid film material the idea was to capture a snapshot instantly, finding a visual analogy of an experience that cannot be caught in a picture without undergoing essential transformations. As Thierry de Duve argues, the “snapshot is a theft; it steals life. Intended to signify natural movement, it only produces a petrified analogue of it. It shows an unperformed movement that refers to an impossible posture. The paradox is that in reality the movement has indeed been performed, while in the image the posture is frozen.” (De Duve, 1978: 114). Neidich’s way to produce these images was not only to move physically through space in order to find views which represented his remembrances of the house at that particular moment. He also had to move the prism bar in order to split up his own vision and receive an aesthetic expression which in some ways mimics early movement studies of the history of photography. Therefore, the effect of instant photography was not based on capturing the fluidity of life, but on seeing the effects of the prism movement in the moment when the images were taken. As de Duve argues, not only the image is frozen, but in Neidich’s case even movement is brought to a standstill. By using this unorthodox photographic practice Neidich found a way to match the physical world with an analogue of his mental vision of the non-depictable, arguing that memories are unable to be captured in a picture and can only be visualised by finding a metaphorical counterpart. Memory is considered non-representional, continual and performative, as Gerald Edelman and Giullo Tononi recently argued: “(…) memory in global mappings is not a store of fixed or coded attributes to be called up and assembled in a replicative fashion as in a computer. Instead, memory results from a process of continual recategorization (…) There is no prior set of determinant codes governing the categories of memory, only the previous population structure of the network, the state of the value systems, and the physical acts carried out at a given moment.” (Edelmann and Tononi, 2000: 97-99).

This understanding of a performative mutating memory could be also seen in relation to the German film theorist Siegfried Kracauer’s concept of the photographed object or person as a ghost. In the early essay “The Photograph” (1927) Kracauer describes how capturing a photograph of an actuality is gradually sliding into the far past and that there is always a drifting away of the past from the present. As German film theorist Heide Schlüpmann pointed out, Kracauer’s concept of photography in the interwar times was very much influenced by Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu where the French novelist delineates his encounter with a photograph of his grandmother (Schlüpmann, 1991: 115).(19) The image of the grandmother plays an equivalent crucial role in Kracauer’s essay because he had recognised a sort of estrangement in it (Schlüpmann, 1991: 116)(20). Kracauer sees a dichotomy between the photograph and the memory arguing that memory “encompasses neither the entire spatial appearance of a state of affairs nor its entire temporal course. Compared to photography, memory’s records are full of gaps,” therefore “memory images retain what is given only insofar as it has significance. Since what is significant is not reducible to either merely spatial or merely temporal terms, memory images are at odds with photographic representation.” (Kracauer, 1995[1927]: 50). Kracauer’s understanding of photography is not primarily based on the ontological concept of the analogue print with a reference to positivist science as can exemplarily be seen in Roland Barthes’ concept of the referent. He recognises different temporal states of a photograph and made clear that even though temporality is written into the process of registering an image, the photographic image does not conserve the depicted but rather destroys it. This can be seen in his extensive exploration of the photographs of different women such as his grandmother. Most importantly his research is based on a present evaluation of the photographic effect and in distance to the various pasts which are trapped in the photographs.

Neidich’s Law of Loci is not only an example of photographic imagery which is not able to preserve the past in a constant way, even less as a visualization of personal memories. His conceptual approach is based on pivotal theories of photography and the mnemosyne dealing with the idea of capturing the personal and the present which is in flux of being lost, becoming the past immediately. Admittedly, the process of production is insofar technical and a re-evaluation of photographically registered movement as it is based on the structure of the apparatus. And even though the images of Law of Loci recall Etienne-Jules Marey’s geometric chronophotographs or Eliot Eliofson’s photograph of Marcel Duchamp decending a staircase (21), Neidich’s process is less conducted towards an exploration of the physical conditions of light exposure and film speed. The so obviously registered movement is produced on a third spot, namely with the help of an optical device which is linked to the science of perception and, not to forget, the failure of human vision. Even though quintessentially analogue the pictures of Law of Loci have to be understood as unfathomably detached from the referential nature of its production. The question remains unanswered if an understanding of these works necessarily ask for a clarification of its production process, if one remembers the examples from the past when magnifying glasses made so far unknown worlds visible. Neidich’s early photography serves both ways, and its conceptual nature makes a deep understanding of the metaphorical meaning of the artist’s use of optical devices visible. However, despite the media-philosophical and the literal use of these objects, the photographic works also can be seen as a sort of enigmatic pictures that link the nature of these images not to the visible world, but to notions of the unreachable.

References

Barthes, R. (1981) Camera lucid: reflections on photography. New York: Hill and Wang.

Baudry, J.-L. (1975) ‘Le dispositif: approches métapsychologiques de l’impression de réalité’, Communications 23: 56-72.

Breidbach, O. (1998) ‘Der sichtbare Mikrokosmos. Zur Geschichte der Mikrofotografie im 19. Jahrhundert’, Fotogeschichte, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie 68/69: 131-142; English reprinted in Breidbach, O. (2002) ‘Representation of the microcosm – The claim for objectivity in 19th century scientific microphotography’, Journal of the History of Biology 35: 221-250.

Breidbach O. and Clausberg K. (1999), Video ergo sum: Repräsentation nach innen und aussen zwischen Kunst- und Neurowissenschaften. Hamburg: Verlag Hans-Bredow-Institut.

Bruno, G. ‘Film, Aesthetics, Science: Hugo Münsterberg’s Laboratory of Moving Images’, Grey Room 36 (Summer 2009): 88-113.

Clausberg K. (1999) Neuronale Kunstgeschichte: Selbstdarstellung als Gestaltungsprinzip. Wien, et al.: Springer, 1999.

Clark, A. (2008) Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

De Duve, T. (1978) ‘Time Exposure and Snapshot: The Photograph as Paradox’, October 5: 113-125.

Dietz, S. (1989) American History Invented. New York: Aperture.

Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other writings, 1972-1977, ed. and trans. C. Gordon. Brighton: Harvester Press.

Geimer, P. (2002) ‘Searching for Something. On Photographic Revelations’, in Iconoclash: beyond the image wars in science, religion and art, ed. Bruno Latour, Peter Weibel. Cambridge, Mass., et al.: MIT Press.

Gombrich, E. H. (1986[1960]) Art & Illusion. A study in the psychology of pictorial representation. London: Phaidon.

Jay, M. (1988) ‘Scopic Regime of Modernity’, in Vision and Visuality, ed. Hal Foster. Seattle: Bay Press.

Jay, M. (1993) Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kracauer, S., (1995 [1927]) ‘Photography’, in Kracauer, S. The mass ornament: Weimer essays, edited by Thomas Y. Levin. Massachussetts/London: Harward University Press.

Lacan, J. (1981[1964]) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Lazzarato, M. (2006) ‘Life and the Living in the Societies of Control,’ in Fuglsang, M. and Meier Sorensen, B. Deleuze and the Social. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006 page 186

Linke, D. B. (2001) Kunst und Gehirn : Die Eroberung des Unsichtbaren. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt-Taschenb.-Verlag.

Livingstone, M. (2002) Vision and art: the biology of seeing. New York, NY: Abrams.

Maase, K. (1997) Grenzenloses Vergnügen : der Aufstieg der Massenkultur 1850 – 1970. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag.

Maharaj, S. (2005-2007) ‘From the Afterlife to the Atmospherics reassessing our basic assumption’, in Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory 4, http://www.artbrain.org/from-the-afterlife-to-the-atmospherics-reassessing-our-basic-assumptions/ (accessed February 12, 2010).

Mandel, T. and Van der Leun, G. (1996), Rules of the Net. On-Line Operating Instructions for Human Beings. New York: Hyperion Books.

Neidich, W. (2003) Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain. New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers.

Neidich, W. (2008). Earthling, New York: Pointed Leaf Press.

Neidich, W., et al., (2009a) ‘Some cursory comments on the nature of my diagrammatic drawing’, in Warren Neidich: Lost Between the Extensivity/Intensivity Exchange. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.

Neidich, W., et al. (2009b) “The Neuro-Aesthetic Library”, in in Warren Neidich: Lost Between the Extensivity/Intensivity Exchange. Eindhoven: Onomatopee: 114-119.

Panofsky, E. (1991[1927]) Perspective as symbolic form; transl. Christopher S. Wood. New York: Zone Books; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Rancière, J. (2006) The politics of aesthetics.:The distribution of the sensible, ed. and trans. Gabriel Rockhill. London; New York: Continuum.

Schlüpmann, H. (1991), ‘The Subject of Survival: On Kracauer’s Theory of Film’, New German Critique 54: 111-126.

Silverman, K. (1989) ‘Fassbinder and Lacan: A Reconsideration of Gaze, Look, and Image’, Camera obscura 7: 54-85.

Stafford, B. M. and Terpak, F. (2001) Devices of wonder : from the world in a box to images on a screen. Los Angeles, Calif.: Getty Publ..

Zeki S. (1999) Inner vision : an exploration of art and the brain. Oxford, et al.: Oxford University Press.

Susanne Neubauer is a freelance curator and art historian. She was curator at Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, from 2002-2009 and is currently a PhD candidate of the University of Zurich. She is the author of numerous articles on contemporary art and the art of the 1970s. Her main interest is in the documentation and publication of ephemeral art, curatorial strategies and the reception of Latin American art in Europe. Her recent essays are on Ree Morton, Lygia Clark and Paul Thek.

Endnotes:

[1] The work American History Invented from 1989 is a thoughtful use of different historical printing materials, camera lenses, and archival display methods. See (Dietz, 1989).

[2] “The apparatus is thus always linked to certain limits of knowledge that arise from it and, to an equal degree, condition it”. See Michel Foucault’s understanding of the apparatus which is of particular interest for Neidich: (Foucault, 1980: 194-196).

[3] As are the works of Michael Snow, Stan Brakhage and Jean-Luc Godard. Neidich’s interest lies above all in the unveiled processes of the cinematic production as can be seen in Snow’s Wavelength (CAN, 1967), Brakhage Prelude: Dog Star Man (USA, 1961) and Godard’s Le mépris (F, 1963).

[4] The contrary case, I would suggest, is a walkable camera obscura where the projected image, depending on the weather outside, is usually not very well visible – and for your habits a disappointing matter.

[5] Neidich began lecturing on Neuroaesthetics in 1995 at the School of Visual Arts New York. See on his take on neuroaesthetics and the concept of neural plasticity: Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory (www.artbrain.org; founded by Warren Neidich), (Neidich, 2009b: 114-119), (Livingstone, 2002), (Stafford and Terpak, 2001), (Linke, 2001), (Zeki, 1999), (Breidbach and Clausberg, 1999), (Clausberg, 1999).

[5] Email to the author, April 19, 2010.

[6] On the “intoxicated sight” see (Neidich, 2003).

[7] Neidich has referred several times to the work of Jacques Rancière, claiming that particularly in the mutation of the so-called “distribution of the sensible” the power of art can be found. Reformulated as “redistribution of the sensible” Neidich’s own theoretical writing links the concepts of power of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze to Maurizio Lazarrato’s concept of “noo-power.” On this discussion see (Neidich, 2009a).

[8] In the sense of Thomas Mandel and Gerade Van der Leun, “attention is the hard currency of cyberspace.” (Mandel and Van der Leun, 1996).

[9] I do not agree in seeing a zoetrope in this device as many other writers have referred to when explaining Brainwash, including the artist. A zoetrope is a precinematic device which is created by a round cylinder obtaining observation slits and a series of images such as a galloping horse which are attached in the inside. While looking at a turning zoetrope, one’s eyes focus on the image(s) inside which causes the effect of the illusion of a moving image. There is no eye movement in itself which distinguishes the core function of a zoetrope from a optokinetic drum.

[10] “At the heart of this video is the notion of the cataclysmic shift of the viewer of the late 19th century as he or she transitioned into the early 20th century. A viewer in which cinema not photography would produce the conditions of perception and cognition.” Email correspondence with the author, April 19, 2010.

[11] Stan Brakhage’s experimental film Prelude: Dog Star Man (USA, 1961) where he scratches analogous film material or uses distorting lenses in order to receive unknown imagery to the eye is another example.

[12] Photographs change their colors due to chemical instability of the photographic paper. Magenta and yellow is reduced when photographs receive too much light, cyan and yellow are more instable in darkness.

[13] Some people believe that orbs are paranormal balls of light on photographs or video film.

[14] Neidich’s sculptural and photographic works, also the Hybrid Dialectic Device, were shown in the exhibition “The Mutated Observer, part 1” at California Museum of Photography in 2001.

[15] On Lacan’s use of the camera as metaphor or an “imaginary apparatus” see (Silverman 1989: 72).

[16] In this passage Lacan offers an anecdote of a floating sardine can in water. Lacan explained that the can “was looking at me, all the same. It was looking at me at the level of the point of light, the point of light, the point at which everything that looks at me is situated – and I am not speaking metaphorically.” (Lacan, 1981: 95), cited after (Jay, 1998: 365).

[17] The exploration of this condition influenced Neidich’s later work, Earthling. See (Neidich, 2008).

[18] „I was in the room, or rather I was not yet in the room since she was not aware of my presence… Of myself… there was present only the witness, the observer with a hat and traveling coat, the stranger who does not belong to the house, the photographer who has called to take a photograph of places which one will never see again. The process that mechanically occurred in my eyes when I caught sight of my grandmother was indeed a photograph.” Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time. Swann’s Way, quoted by (Schlüpmann, 1991, 115).

[19] Schlüpmann argues that this photograph in the 1920s was retrospectively already part of film, as its concept represented “the repression of death, the continuation of life”. (Schlüpmann, 1991: 116).

[20] Reproduced in Life Magazine, Nr. 284, New York,


Reinventing History: Warren Neidich, Photography, Re-enactment, and Contemporary Event Culture

Visual Resources

Reinventing History: Warren Neidich, Photography, Re‐enactment, and Contemporary Event Culture

Volume 26 Number 2 (June 2010) by Kathy Kubicki

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The role of the historian and the notion of what constitutes historical evidence have become more unstable in recent decades, particularly with digital imaging technology. In Warren Neidich’s project (and 1989 book) American History Reinvented, the photographer anticipated the myriad current art practices that engage with re-enactment, where artists restage past events to investigate current political and social condition. Rather than simply perpetuating a complacent nostalgia for the past, a re-enactment as an art project may have the potential to prompt a critical reevaluation of historical narratives. A consideration of additional, more recent, photography suggests how Neidich’s American History Reinvented can be understood as a precursor to the work of contemporary practitioners negotiating the territory of re- enactment, particularly the UK artists Jeremy Deller (b. 1966), who won the Turner Prize in 2004; Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) and Rod Dickinson (b. 1965) in their collaborative projects; and photographer Jim Naughten.

In 1989, Warren Neidich published his American History Reinvented, a vast project, using the medium of photography to engage in a discourse that goes further than the mere interpretation of history.2 Within Neidich’s many reconfigurations of history, a complex story is retold with layered and intricate methodologies, taking the viewer beyond memory, to uncharted territory where the line between truth and fiction becomes blurred. As Neidich’s philosophy is deeply rooted in cognitive science, he claims that the human brain is currently undergoing a phase of “cyborgisation,” due to immense and sudden changes in our media-centered technological environment. In his book Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain (D. A. P., 2003), Neidich proposes a model in which natural memory (those memories recorded through experience with the real world) and photographic memory (the production of memory constituted through the mind’s interaction with the plethora of mediated images found in books, advertising posters, in family albums, museums, billboards, and film) are in competition for neural space.3

Given Neidich’s emphasis on the formation of memories and their relationship to both authentic, lived experience and to photographic imagery, American History Reinvented can best be discussed in the context of theories of replay, sampling, and re-enactment, and as part of event culture and mass media. Neidich is playful in his reinterpretation of historical events in American history, and tests notions of truth within the history of photography, particularly within photojournalism. His reinventions go beyond the world of historical evidence, and into the realm of creative photography, where the notion of truth is subjected to the bizarre, surreal ambience of staged museum settings and the other institutional spaces that Neidich has critiqued. (See, for example, “Gallery,” p. 000: “Recoding American History, Roping off History,” 1986.) Neidich’s project crosses the line between documentary practice and conceptual art. As Pavel Büchler has argued:

A critical attitude towards older or concurrent (competing) modes of production is one of the most distinctive features of modern art. At its most radical, as for instance in 1960’s conceptual art, it was this systematic scrutiny of the traditions and conventions of modernist photography that brought to the fore the possibilities of integrating photography’s broader social functions, within art.4

Büchler puts forward the notion of “investigation” as the driving force behind this type of photography, and in this respect, Neidich’s practice corresponds to the work of Victor Burgin (b. 1941), David Hilliard (b. 1964), and Bernd (1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (b. 1934). A consideration of more recent photography suggests how Neidich’s American History Reinvented can be understood as a precursor to projects of contemporary practitioners negotiating the territory of re-enactment, particularly UK artists such as Jeremy Deller (b. 1966), who won the Turner Prize in 2004, Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) and Rod Dickinson (b. 1965) in their collaborative projects, and photographer Jim Naughten.

History and Re-Enactment, Then and Now

The role of the historian and the notion of what constitutes historical evidence have become more unstable in recent decades. The intervention of digital technology has revolutionized history-in-the-making, as well as the analysis and distribution of recordings of events. Neidich’s 1989 project interrogated these changes at the very beginning of this paradigm shift, highlighting the speedy, almost seamless, revolutionary changes within the culture of information technology. Simultaneously, Neidich’s work investigates issues of identity politics, and his method of exploration using historical evidence as a construction has only become more meaningful over time, and as the number of texts relating to these issues has increased.

Neidich’s project questions the supposedly harmless nostalgia offered by “living history” museums and re-enactments, revealing their one-dimensional view of events, and unmasking the information received in this context as inauthentic and fictional. It is the institutional context of the museum and the presumption of photography’s truthfulness that verifies the meanings attached to the reconstructed scenes. As one commentator has put it, “Neidich engages in an act of cynicism and originality…a fictional rectification of social roles that both pre- and postdates the famous Farm Security Administration Project that established the important role of the photographer in America’s social conscience.”5

Theorist of photography Vilém Flusser has claimed that the machine has dominated the postindustrial age, but specifically in the mode of what he calls “apparatus”: camera, computer, agencies of state, and market forces. Flusser insists that, “apparatuses were invented in order to function automatically, in other words independent of future human involvement. This is the intention with which they were created: that the human being would be ruled out.”6 What Flusser puts forward is the notion of the photographer as a “passive” interloper in the photographic experience, secondary to what is made possible by the technology at hand. The machine controls the processes, and even though the photographer makes a choice in relation to how the photograph is taken and processed, he or she is secondary to an outcome predetermined by the existing technologies. Neidich’s practice consistently and deliberately questions the apparatus as paradigm in his conceptual approach to reinterpretation, and in his groundbreaking project, he has self-consciously chosen handmade technologies in his interventions on prestructured historical events.

Neidich’s exploration of photography, history, and reinterpretation includes, for example, the juxtaposition of albumen prints with a set of photographs after retouching, printed at an amateur photo lab on RC paper, a cheap plasticized imitation of real paper (“Gallery,” p. 000: “Pseudo Event, Free Soil,” 1987–1988). The rationale for this choice is threefold: firstly, to draw attention to the importance of photographic materials and their symbolic function in the determination of photographic meaning. We are reminded that photographic history itself is not, as Beaumont Newhall suggests in his canonical chronicle of the medium, a linear progression of techniques, technologies, and creative potential.7 Secondly, the use of RC paper draws attention to the material distinctions between the handmade prints throughout the history of photography and the mass-reproduced machine prints of today. Finally, this decision binds these images, through their materiality, to other images that derive from library files in which one never has a chance to inspect the original archive or touch the original prints.

Later in Neidich’s ongoing project, he uses the giant Polaroid format in his appropriation and reshooting of the Associated Press propaganda photographs depicting Japanese Americans interned in relocation camps during World War II, fraudulentlymposed as happy and thriving individuals (“Gallery,” p. 000: “News from No-Place, Return of Loved Ones,” 1988–1989). These images operate alongside Neidich’s staged photos of African Americans inhabiting the life and roles of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie in America. In this section (“Pseudo Event: the Politics of Appropriation”), the staging of historical events and their subsequent manipulation and falsification calls attention to the well-documented instances of similar alterations in archives such as those manufactured by Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, who felt it necessary to manipulate their own national photographic record in the hopes of solidifying personal legacies.8

Viewing and reinterpreting these photographs requires a leap of faith on the part of the viewer, for in the context of the institutional archive, we are predisposed to believe unquestioningly what the photograph tells us. Neidich’s interventions reveal how the use of RC prints in archives becomes part of the inbuilt illusion of “authenticity,” as the resin-coated paper in this process is sealed by two polyethylene layers, making it impenetrable to liquids. Since no chemicals or water are absorbed into the paper base, the time needed for processing, washing, and drying is significantly reduced in comparison to fiber-based papers. Resin paper prints can be finished and dried within twenty to thirty minutes. Resin-coated papers have improved dimensional stability, and do not curl upon drying. And so, as we observe the quickening of time, photos made in haste, and the intervention of modern photographic processes, there is the emphasis on durability over fragility and on the distance from the original photographic processes.

Neidich’s photographs are typically taken onsite with a 4 × 5 camera and rephotographed with a 35 mm camera to make the doppelganger in an act of self-appropriation. This type of assemblage is found in many of the series that make up American History Reinvented, as falsification becomes the believable norm. Each series utilizes a different kind of camera, lens, and format.

For “Aerial Reconnaissance Photographs: The Battle of Chickamauga” (this event originally took place 19–20 September 1863), the artist hired a twin-engine plane to fly over a Civil War re-enactment at a historic battlefield outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, in order to photograph it from the air; he then processed the resulting images in the archaic tintype format (“Gallery,” p. 000: “The Battle of Chickamauga,” 1990–1991, and “Chickamauga Double Line-up,” 1990). Here Neidich re-enacts Félix Nadar’s legendary balloon journey above Paris in 1858, but he also produces a dialogue with Edward Steichen’s famous aerial photographs first delineated in Allan Sekula’s pivotal study “The Instrumental Image: Steichen at War.”9 Again, Neidich’s use of tintypes oppositionally foregrounds the contemporary modernization of information gathering, museum culture, and memory. For this series, Neidich used a 35 mm camera with three different lenses—wide-angle, normal, and telephoto—to make pictures of the re-enactments.

Neidich’s work also draws our attention to present-day staged news events. From George W. Bush’s triumphant landing on an aircraft carrier to the annual Academy Awards ceremonies, we are overwhelmed by what Daniel Boorstin referred to as “pseudo-events” in which make-believe events are created only to be documented and distributed through media circuits for profit.10 These are woven into the daily menu of disasters, scandals, and gossip to be distributed worldwide on twenty-four-hour news channels hungry for fresh stories to disseminate to a public riveted to television sets and computer screens. In this evolving cultural-visual landscape, the conditions of the truth of the image can vary enormously.

Contemporary Art Practice and Re-enactment

One can trace a genealogy for Neidich’s work in early experimental art photography, including that of the Surrealists, whose “staged” photographs provoke visual discord, questioning the relationship between representation and reality. Here, silent dramas enhance for the viewer the strangeness of unlikely juxtapositions, as in the staged montages of Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) and Eli Lotar (1905–1969). The “performed image” creates dissonance for the viewer, placing him or her in a separate, third space of observation, between reality and unreality. The questioning of what is real becomes a part of the viewer’s experience, but the scopophilic drive and desire to encounter the truth overrides and suspends the viewer’s disbelief.

As in Surrealism, Neidich’s camera acts as a scientific instrument that takes the place of the organ of sight in the detection of strange and reinvented realities. In Neidich’s framing and cropping, insertions, and playful rearrangements of reality, he offers up a hypertrophied real, where the viewer remains in a liminal state, between what has happened in the past and what changes have occurred in the re-enactment, and observes the actual physical interventions in the photographs that mediate between the two.

Neidich’s American History Reinvented looked forward perspicuously to myriad current art practices that engage with re-enactment, and in which artists restage events as investigations of current political and social conditions. Neidich’s work is also an examination of the problems of authentically performing the past. He analyzes re-enactment both as a cultural phenomenon and as a series of performances that aim to recreate past events accurately. Rather than simply perpetuating a complacent nostalgia for the past, a re-enactment as an art project may have the potential to prompt a critical reevaluation of historical narratives as singular isolated events.

Until recently, with the notable exception of Richard Schechner, there has been little written about the phenomena of the historical re-enactment.11 In the last two decades, however, studies on re-enactment produced within the fields of visual arts and performance studies have increased dramatically. Recently, scholars including Rebecca Schneider,12 Peggy Phelan,13 Baz Kershaw,14 and Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks,15 have been involved in a critical reevaluation of this field of investigation. A reexamination of Neidich’s photos within this discourse will contribute to scholarship in the field of performance studies regarding the role of repetition, mediatization, and disappearance in performance, while simultaneously examining the key problems of performing the past in postmodern culture, with particular focus on the emergent notion of authenticity or authentic experience.

Double-Take: Re-enactment in recent work

Jeremy Deller, the collaborators Tom McCarthy and Rod Dickinson, and Jim Naughten are influential and controversial UK-based artists experimenting in the area of event culture, and have all made re-enactment central to their oeuvre. By recreating on film the violent clash of the 18 June 1984 miners’ strike which took place in Orgreave, a small town near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, UK, on Sunday, 17 June 2001, the day before the seventeenth anniversary of the original strife, Deller offered a restaging of a political event that occurred during a period of immense change in UK politics under then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Artangel, the London-based public art commissioning agency, engaged Deller to film this re-enactment within an art context (Plates 1–2). This work has become pivotal in event culture, linked to art, and viewed in the cultural arena. What is striking is that Deller’s live re-enactment was so realistic that it is virtually impossible to differentiate the recreated action from footage of the original confrontation. Deller has taken a further step in the falsification of historical evidence, as his intention to create a “double take” was also linked with the need to reinstate some of the trauma of that event. He described the undertaking this way:

Despite unpleasant cold & wet weather (in stark contrast to the blazing heat of June 1984), our 800 re-enactors and extras threw themselves into their roles. Because of the weather, uniform/period clothing was not fully worn until Sunday morning. “Riot Policemen” square-bashed and were trained by Lancashire Constabulary instructors in the use of long and short shields, whilst the “bobbies” practiced forming a cordon and holding their ground against the expected “pushes” by the “miners”. The latter practiced advancing and running away in loose formation, looking unorganised although for the purposes of our re-enactment, being highly organised through a “command structure” not dissimilar to our “police”.16

In addition to re-enactors, miners who were present at the historical event also took part, as did 280 local people. For these participants, a feeling of déjà vu became part of the experience. For Deller, this sense of the uncanny was intentional, as the experience of cultural forgetting became one impetus to make this work. By moving the context of viewing this work from newsreel/documentary film to art museum, Deller has discovered a new audience and generation of viewers for the dissemination of this event. Deller develops his ideas within the tradition of the exploration of history and authenticity that Neidich set out in American History Reinvented.

Rod Dickinson & Tom McCarthy’s installation, titled Greenwich Degree Zero (2006), including film footage (57 seconds, black and white, 35 mm, silent), was the first collaboration between artist Dickinson and artist/novelist McCarthy (Plate 3). This is an exhibition that interrogated in detail the role of media and technology in the construction and reconstruction of public experience and memory.

The artists’ starting point is a strange late nineteenth-century event: on the afternoon of 15 February 1894, a French anarchist named Martial Bourdin (1868–1894) was killed when the bomb he was carrying detonated. The explosion took place on the slope beneath the Royal Observatory in London’s Greenwich Park, and it was generally assumed that his intention had been to blow up this building—the place from which all time throughout the British Empire and the world was measured, and a prime symbol of science—“the sacrosanct fetish of to-day,” as Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) wrote in The Secret Agent in 1907.17

Using the mechanisms of historical representation, Dickinson and McCarthy reimagine the event as a successful attack on the observatory. Employing a similar methodology to Neidich, they infiltrate and twist the media of Bourdin’s time: creating a film shot on a hand-cranked Victorian cinematic camera depicting the burning observatory, reprinting existing 1894 newspaper reports and anarchist literature edited to fit their version of events, as well as video interviews with contemporary explosives experts and political historians. The installation reports an event that did not quite happen, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction and relocating the genuine public outrage and hysteria about the threat of anarchist terror that prevailed in the 1890s in the ambiguous space of nonevent. Bourdin’s death brought on a plethora of speculative stories in both the mainstream and underground media. Rather than try to establish the “truth,” Dickinson and McCarthy use a form of repetition to reach back to the degree zero of time, mediation, and terror.18

Jim Naughten is a photographer who, as a child, was obsessed with his collection of toy soldiers, tanks, and all things military. He would build aircraft and hand paint in detail his toy soldiers. His family has strong military links: his grandfather was a “desert rat” who served with General Bernard Montgomery’s 8th Army. It is no surprise, then, that as a photographer in adulthood, he has chosen re-enactment as the theme of his photographic practice. Yet Naughten’s work is different in methodology and intention from Neidich’s, Deller’s, or Dickinson and McCarthy’s.

The subject matter for Naughten involves an investigation into what lies behind the strange phenomena of re-enactment culture, especially for the individuals who take part. Over two years in Kent, in the countryside of South East England, Naughten made a digital record of the various battle re-enactments. During this period, his topology includes some five thousand shots, edited down to form a book of portraits of the re-enactors. Naughten is astonished at the seriousness of the sitters, and the attention to detail of their costume, hair, and accessories (Plate 4). Their “look” perfectly recaptures that of wartime Germans and Britons. As one critic of Naughten’s work has proposed, “by standing outside his subjects, however close they may be to the fantasies of his childhood Naughten nonetheless sublimates his subjects by means of photographic technique…Jim Naughten’s Re-enactors maintain their mystery. Nothing of their real lives is revealed.”19

Naughten’s project adds a new dimension to the subject of truth and the role of photography in reinventing history. The sense of the uncanny is again at play here: Naughten’s perfect portraits pose interesting questions in relation to technological advances, as his flawless digital prints portray subjects whose passion compels them to mimic people from time past: a soldier, naval officer, or sergeant, and women who act as civilians on the sidelines. Under the guise of “living history,” these individuals are also able to live out a fantasy or nostalgia for the past that emanates from all other areas of its representation within the modern technologies of the movie, the television drama, and the museum. Naughten’s subjects are photographed with a plain white background, mimicking the straight photography of August Sander (1876–1964), or more recently the portraits of young bullfighters and mothers by Rineke Dijkstra (b. 1959).

Against this stark background, the viewer’s gaze lands on the expressions of Naughten’s subjects and on their pristine and perfect attire. In Sander’s case this photographic trope was used to represent a stereotype, and in Dijkstra’s case to critique the notion of the stereotype as well as the history of photography. In Naughten’s work, the subjects remain deeply rooted in their own fantasies, highlighted against the stark background. We have no real sense of the individual; his subjects are expressionless and bland, apart from their extraordinary uniform costumes and their obvious commitment to re-enactment as a way of life.

 

KATHY KUBICKI is senior lecturer in photography at the University for the Creative Arts, and Editor of the journal Photography and Culture. She has written widely on contemporary photography, film, video, and installation art, and her interview with French artist Daniel Buren (b. 1938) was recently published in Speaking of Art: Four Decades of Art in Conversation (Phaidon, 2010).


DARE | Warren Neidich

Warren Neidich

2010 by Nicole Buesing and Heiko Klaas

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“Did she do it or – or not? One of the 2008 American presidential campaign’s central controversies concerned a dubious list of forbidden books. John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was supposed to have compiled the list in her capacity as former mayor of the small Alaskan city of Wassila. The aim of the compilation was allegedly to remove the listed titles from the local public library. Palin resolutely denied these accusations on several occasions. Her opponents, however, were not convinced. If the accusations were true, it would have been a clear case of censorship. If they weren’t true, then at least the existence of the hit list circulating the Web evidences a canon of disagreeable yet popular books – one that the conservative, evangelical American Right would love to have banished from public libraries.

Exactly this explosive constellation is the starting point for the procedural installation “Book Exchange,” which the artist Warren Neidich – born in 1958 in New York, now working and living in Berlin and Los Angeles – showed last summer at the Horowitz Gallery in East Hampton, on Long Island. East Hampton is not just a prime destination for recreation-seeking New Yorkers; ever since Jackson Pollock settled there, in the 1940s, it has been the artists’ and art-collectors’ colony on Long Island par excellence. Not a bad place to observe “Book Exchange” in real conditions.” – Nicole Buesing and Heiko Klaas


Kopfkino im Palmenhaim

Kopfkino im Palmenhaim (German)

by Christiane Meixner

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Warren Neidich at the Laguna Art Museum

Warren Neidich at the Laguna Art Museum

In Art In America, February 2002 by Sarah Valdez

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In 1995, Warren Neidich made a geeky/neo-hippyish literary pilgrimage across the country, following the route of the character Sal in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. The unexpected pot of gold at the end of his cross-country journey, in southern California, was the media brouhaha surrounding the O.J.Simpson trial.


Performing Observations: Recent Work by Warren Neidich

Performing Observations. Recent work by Warren Neidich

September 1999 by Regine Basha

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Warren Neidich’s new performative video works emerge out of an ongoing project which has taken various forms over the past few years in photography and in curatorial pursuits.


Necessary Fictions: Warren Neidich's Early-American Cover-Ups

Necessary Fictions: Warren Neidich's Early-American Cover-Ups

by Christopher Phillips

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INTERVIEW: SPOT Houston Center for Photography

Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with Warren Neidich

Spring 2006

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Obrist: My first question to you is about this complex new kind of work called Earthling, that has to do with collage and also with the cultural field. Can you tell me about this?
Neidich: I have been working quite a lot with the history of apparatuses and technologies as they intervene in photography and new media. The history of photography, cinema, and new media is a history of the production and reinvention of time and space. These new forms of temporarily and spatiality become imbedded in architecture, fashion, design, and aesthetic practice and, as such, create new kinds of network relations, for instance in the visual-cultural field. These new networks relations in the real world, which might be called the real-imaginary-virtual interface, can configure neural networks in the brain. These networks are dynamic and as they reconfigure the matter of the brain, they produce new possibilities for the imagination and creativity. They allow the mind to become perceptual in a very different way. This latest work deals with, what I call, the “Earthling” and looks the “construction of global subjectivities” formed through the apparatus of global media.

Where does the name come from?
The name came from two sources, though this work is about of other things as well. The first is science-fiction movies, where a visitor from another planet addresses those who have come to meet him or her as “Earthlings.” The second is Sun Ra’s sci-fi-blaxploitation-jazz film, Space Is The Place, in which Sun Ra and the Intergalactic Solar Arkestra descend on forties’ Chicago from Saturn to enlighten “Earthlings” about an alternative planet built on good vibrations. I am also very much attracted to magazine culture, which is a kind of distributed information system. you can go through these magazines and DJ or VJ them; you can chose them, post-produce them, edit them.

What is you relation to them? Do you collect them or do you buy them everyday? you have something of an archive, though I’m not exactly what you’d call it. You deal so much with information. Do you have an archive for processing, for testing everyday information? Do you have a kind of art lab?
I do have a kind of art lab. This project started in a very different way and then it changed midway. It began with going to cafes, as all these pictures take place in cafes.

And you were recording in cafes?
Yes, I was very interested in this idea of indeterminate spaces, spaces where people kind of linger and then move on. Tourists always go to cafes, the bohemian culture started in cafes, and I wanted to connect with that. In the beginning of this series I started using whatever magazine I found at the cafe as a readymade or found object. It operated as a kind of fetish of the cafe. Then, as the project progressed, I became more interested in magazines in general. It was then that I started collecting them. The project started about two years ago, and about a year ago I started realizing that I was missing some of the great headlines: this one about Tony Blair in the Morning Star, for instance, concerns the idea of the delusion. I didn’t find that one in a cafe. I saw it on a newsstand and realized that I really wanted to utilize all the information available and not restrict myself to a certain set of rules or regulations.

I think that artists have to put some regulations on the projects they do, otherwise they become unfocused. In this case, I changed the rules and started collecting the magazines from anywhere and anyplace. A lot of different things started happening when I made that decision, and that is when I really got into the language of magazines. How funny they can be. How funny certain juxtapositions of headlines, titles, and advertisements can be, like Surrealist/Situationist jokes. I became interested in how headlines were use in different ways, in the multiple layers of textuality, and how they relate to different kinds of temporality. For instance, the headline is something like a sound bite. It has a very quick temporality. Then you have the subtitles, which are read in a different amount of time. You can read the newspaper in different temporal zones and you can utilize different methodologies to access the information. You can read each article through and through and in a serial way, moving from one article to another, or you can read it randomly like a dérive.

What interests me is that you are always bridging to other disciplines: you have a great and interesting connection to science and architecture. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you came into this contact zone, about how it started?
Well, I have always been interested in history and critical theory. I have believed from the beginning that art should produce new sensations, new kinds of perceptions, new kinds of imaginings.

Like Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ art produces extraordinary experiences?
Or hallucinatory experience. Let’s go beyond that. Art is a kind of exercise for the possibilities of the mind. It’s like break-dancing or ballet.

Like a non-chemical LSD?
Yes, like a non-chemical LSD. That could get me into my theory called the “Society of Neurons,” which is a different question and one I’m not sure I want to trip into right now. But since you asked, here is a little of that theory. Different kinds of artistic experience stimulate or call out to different populations of neurons which produce signals utilizing different neurochemistries, like dopamine, acetylcholine, etc. In some cases, artists take specific drugs, like peyote, as part of the rituals surrounding their art production. Ecstasy, an exhibition currently going on at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, addresses this very issue that the experience and the consciousness it facilitates is the product of what I am referring to as “Society of Neurons” and how they all act in harmony at any moment of awareness. They express themselves differentially depending on context in a ratiomatic manner. The ontogency, or individual development, of the nervous system and the subject may be a result of a coevolutionary process by which certain kinds of cultural context call out to the developing nervous system differentially and favor the selection of certain kinds of cultural context call out to the developing nervous system differentially and favor the selection of certain neurochemical systems over others. Each culture may provide a stable enough network or symbolic ecology, which has evolved over thousands of years and which produces individual subjectivities generation over generation through sculpting networks of neurons, spatially and dynamically, preferentially. Art affects visual, auditory, and haptic culture. Art, like cinema, accordingly to Deleuze, may create new forms of connectivity possibly affecting the distribution of neurochemical systems in the brain. This theory gives a powerful new important to art.

My ideas about art and the brain are not intended to illustrate concepts and ideas of neuroscience, which can be a problem for art-science initiatives. They are about importing a new vocabulary that artists can fold into their art practice, as a way of energizing it through the production of difference and hybridity. If anything, my work is not about perception of sensation but rather about evolution and ontogeny. Artists like Seurat, Duchamp. Cézanne, the Futurists, Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley, Gary Hill, and Dan Graham were all interested in science. Olafur Eliasson, Matthew Ritchie, and Carsten Holler are artists today who also share this interest. I once talked to Dan Graham about the early seventies and he told me that all the artists were reading electronics and science magazines. What I am trying to say is that many artists have folded concerns with science almost imperceptibly into larger networks of culture, sociology, psychology, economics, and history to produce a Gesamtkunstwerk.

Marina Abramovich’s interest in Tessler and so on…
Yes, absolutely. Artists have always worked that way. It’s also interesting what happened post 1992/1993, after the internet explosion. What happened was that all the barriers, all the specificity of materials, started breaking down. Whether you are talking about art or you are talking about the barriers between different knowledge fields like science, cultural theory, or critical theory, they all started breaking down.

Has the internet changed the way you work?
I already had a history of being a scientist, having studied neurosciences and been a doctor in the eighties. After completing a project called Camp O.J, where I photographed the press at the O.J. Simpson trial as one would a rock-and-roll concert for Spin Magazine. I felt that I had nothing more to say about the relation of the production and mediation of the real using the theoretical tools that make up the toolbox of art. I realized that it was time to embrace my past as a scientist in order to inject a new vocabulary into my work, as well as perhaps to discover the neurobiological roots of what I was observing in the macrocultural field. Perhaps I felt the need to reinvent myself as well. Perhaps political and social systems were operating at the level of the neuron network, and biopolitical through, as in the “Society of Control” outlined by Foucault, was being directed toward the brain. The Earthling series and a recent text I wrote for a forthcoming book edited by Deborah Hauptmann called The Body in Architecture and my essay therein is called “Resistance is Futile: The Neurobiopolitics of Consciousness” are to some extent the culmination of this project…

Have you ever thought about memory in your work, because memory has always been considered static, whereas in actuality it is a dynamic process?
I have done a number of projects concerning different aspects of memory. Artists have always embraced memory and one could say there was an aesthetic memory. For instance, Christian Boltanski and Annette Messanger have explored cultural memory and traumatic memory for some time now. American History Reinvented (1986-1991), Collective Memory-Collective Amnesia (1990-1994) and Beyond the Vanishing Point: Media and Myth in America (1996-2001) were three projects I did in which memory was a preponderant interest. The Earthling project riffs off these and concerns the construction of a global memory in the sense of what Paul Virilio called “phaticity.” The word phatic is the root of the word emphatic. The history of the image, coevolving with that of the imagination, is one in which images are being produced that are more and more attention-grabbing, more phatic. These images are in competition with each other in the visual-cultural field, and over time they are becoming more refined, or what I call cognitively ergonomic-the images that most successful in drawing the attention of the observer are the ones that take advantage of the dynamic ontogenic proclivities of the nervous system. What I mean is that the static condition of photography has been superseded by the linear dynamic time of cinema, which has been remediated by the non-linear digital time and space of new media (non-narrative cinema is a transitional phase). The addition of dynamic aspects has made images more and more phatic, more and more cognitively ergonomic. This refinement is the product of the image-industry, of collusion between advertising, cinematic special-effects, and now the political propaganda machine. …

In your work you use photography, video, sculpture, installation, and drawing, even the reinvention of photography. If you look at the work of Ed Ruscha you could say that the car is his medium. What is your medium?
What is my medium? Well, I started as a photographer. By the way, Rirkrit Tiravanija started as a photographer too, I don’t know if you knew that.

He wanted to become a documentary photographer like a Magnum photographer.
Well, in answer to your question, if Ruscha’s medium is his car mine might be the brain. I mean that as a joke. Anyway, what is very important to understand about my work is that since I began as a photography I tend to think of all mediums in terms of photography. For instance, in London I did this project called Blindsight in which I used the machine they paint streets with to paint a green line from the subway station to Moorfields Eye Hospital, so that partially sighted people could find their way there. It was a kind of Situationist project about nested perceptual realities within the larger framework of the urbanscape. In the end, however, the line became something that I photographed and that generated images. Beyond the photographs of the document of my performance I actually made images that recounted the very nature of what it is to be blind and described the limits of the camera as image machine. Could the camera act like touch and construct a total image from a multiplicity of possible focal points in time, in memory?

I did another work called Silent in Madrid. My partner, Elena Bajo, and I bought something that’s usually installed in suburban communities-a highway sound barrier- into the center of Madrid. It was a 70m sculpture that created a space of solitude and mediation in the middle of the city. For me, it ended up as something to photograph. It was reminiscent of a large earth work like Spiral Jetty, which became known more as a series of documentary images. I mention this because I am still very much a photography. No matter what I do, it always comes down to the static image of the photograph or the video. The difference between myself and Nan Goldin, and what make me very close to somebody like Thomas Ruff, it is that I am not so much interested in the image. I am not a photographer that explored the image and tried to construct a specific style: i am more interested in artists who use different mediums within photography itself. I used many kinds of historical processes in American History Reinvented, from Platinum to albumen prints. In the O.J. Simpson and Beyond the Vanishing Point projects I cross-processed the photographs. I am much more about mediums than actual images, although I do think there is always a perfect process for a particular group of images. I am also about apparatus. Like Jean-Luc Godard, I use different apparatuses. I am interested in how an image is produced. I am making the production of the image transparent. I am not interested in dislocating the viewer from how the image was made, but want him or her to feel part of the process. In Godard’s Mépris, for instance, the first scene opens with a man holding the microphone for the actress and the next scene is simply the camera lens. In the middle of the film Godard stops the action and interviews himself.

It’s very much like Lars Von Trier, but in an interesting way he creates a different situation.
Lars Von Trier is very much like Godard in that he dispenses with all the high-tech paraphernalia of cinematic production, leaving you with the grain of the film, poor lighting, and camera movement. So, by complete denial, you affirm what is it you want to relinquish. As I said, everything is Godard.

Everything is Godard.
Yes, everything is Godard. If you look at what many artists are doing today, so much is influenced by him.

I think that is a great conclusion. Thank you.

 

Warren Neidich is currently a visiting art and research fellow at the Center for Cognition, Computation and Culture at Goldsmiths College, London.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, London and curator at the Museum of Modern Art Ville de Paris, France. He curated “Utopia Station” at the 2003 Venice Biennial.


Warren Neidich at Steffany Martz

Brainwash (still), 1997.

Warren Neidich at Steffany Martz

April 1998 by Cathy Lebowitz

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“Despite the primacy of the scientific method in this century, can art, with its nonempirical approach, produce fruitful ideas about brain function? Trained as a neurobiologist, Warren Neidich presented mainly photographs and videos exploring the relationship between perception, cognition and culture in his second solo show at Steffany Martz.” – Cathy Lebowitz


Turning Japanese (In)

News from No-Place, Return of Loved Ones (detail), 1988-89.

Turning Japanese (IN)

April 1989 by John Welchman

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THE NARRATIVES TAKEN on in Warren Neidich’s recent photographic diptychs engage perhaps the two most controversial and repressed passages in modern U.S. history: the everyday life of blacks in the mid-19th-century pre-Abolitionist South, and the internment camps that held Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. These are passional moments of American history, moments of national trauma, of mass blindness and mass complicity, moments that still figure in our construction of “racial” difference, moments that return in the flash of a stereotype or at the butt of a joke; moments that appear well documented but that are equally well disguised. Rarely are such moments alluded to at all in the contemporary art world, and more rarely still are the means found to question the apparent neutrality of the archive of images that re-forms (and effaces) these histories.” – John Welchman