Bruno Latour on Mon, 10 Mar 2003 00:30:16 +0100 (CET)

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[rohrpost] Hans-Ulrich Obrist:THE_WHITE_WEBISTE by ubermorgen

On the Iconoclasm of Modern Art


The crisis of representation began at the historical moment when
painting lost-under the pressure of photography and the praise of its
unprecedented, truthful representation-its interest in presenting
reality and took instead-from paint to brush, from canvas to
frame-the means of expressing representation as the subject of
representation. With Van Gogh the color began no longer to be bound
to the object. With his pure, absolute suprematist color painting,
Malevich banished the object from the picture. At the same time the
represented object vanished by being replaced through a real object:
the ready-made of Marcel Duchamp. In 1921 Rodchenko painted three
monochromes as the "last paintings" and in 2003 ubermorgen "painted"
[coded] 2 monochromes online.


The self-dissolution of painting or any visual surface can be
explained in three steps: first, by a shift of accent the color is
analyzed as the medium of painting and becomes the main element,
above form, i.e. in Impressionism and Expressionism. Second, color
becomes independent, leaves behind the laws of local colors and
receives its own absolute status, see, for example, Suprematism and
monochromes. Third, paint is replaced by other materials, such as
white by aluminum. Surface design without painted color allowed for
the making of "unpainted" paintings, allowed mere surfaces of wood,
metal, marble, or cardboard to hang or lean on the wall as paintings.
In this dialectics of liberation, which consists of declaring
progressively historical elements of easel painting independent (from
color and canvas up to the frame) and making them absolute, not only
were objects repressed from the abstract image but finally the
picture itself became repressed and destroyed (empty canvases, empty
frames), in the end leading to the departure from the picture.

The paint-less or monochrome easel painting could be-as was shown by
artists from Lucio Fontana to Yves Klein-cut or drilled or torn,
attacked by fire or acid. Finally only the empty frames of paintings
or just the backs of paintings, were shown. Even the surface of the
canvas could be replaced by the surface of the skin. Naked bodies
covered with paint became the instruments for color application or
became the canvas itself. Painting as the arena of action (Action
Painting) became a bodily action on the canvas and finally a painting
on the body, an action without canvas. Centered on the artist's body,
even the products of this body [like feces] could find the social
consensus to be accepted as an artwork.

From the empty image to the empty gallery, from the white painting to
the »white cube« (O'Doherty), we see the iconoclastic gesture of
modern art. In this iconoclastic tradition we also see the
substitution of painted images with texts. The material-bound,
object-like paradigm was replaced by insight into the linguistic
nature of all artistic expressions. HTTP://WWW.HANSBERNHARD.COM

Yet by leaving the picture and the mediation, modern art has also
produced a way out of the crisis of representation. Especially the
Neo-Avantgarde after World War II and movements like Kinetics,
Fluxus, Happening, Actionism, Body Art, Process Art, Land Art, Arte
Povera, Concept Art,, Corporate Art (ubermorgen 1999-2001,
etoy) and above all the development of Media Art-from Expanded Cinema
to Virtual Reality, from closed circuit video installations to
interactive computer installations-prepared social practices as open
art forms, by making the pure spectator a participating and
interacting user.

Thus began the farewell to the idea of modernism (T. J. Clark), that
was determined by the iconoclastic gesture. These practices, in forms
of intervention, interaction, institutional critique and
contextualization took art beyond the White Cube, where questions of
gender, race, class, power, colonialism had not been asked. With the
end of the epoch of modern art, which announced the end of art, new
practices beyond the crisis of representation began in the form of
corporate representation [etoy 1994-97, ubermorgen] or social
networking and activism [,].

From mathematics to medicine, from computer-supported proof methods
to computer tomography, we see a triumphant return of the image to
the natural sciences. While modern art turned more and more into an
iconoclastic strategy, in a critique of representation, we see the
advent of an iconophilic science trusting the representative power of

We live in a period where art, as the former monopolist of the
representative image, has abandoned this representative obligation.
Yet science, in contrast, fully embraces the options which technical
machine-based images offer for the representation of reality.
Therefore, it could be the case that mankind will find the images of
science more necessary than the images of art. To be able to maintain
its significance up against the sciences and their picture-producing
procedures, art must look for a position beyond the crisis of
representation and beyond the image wars straight into the blind
spaces of the black black and the white.

Hans Bernhard im Gespräch mit Hans-Ulrich Obrist, November 2002

Black Black and White, ubermorgen 1:1

Monochrom, Ton, 156 min
DVD (Foriginal Video)
Courtesy Hans Bernhard

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