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Heike Wetzig

“Nach mir die Zukunft“ - Image Thought and Representation in the “Anthology of Art“


I would like to introduce to you the ‚Anthology of Art’, a one-year’s Internet project which I co-edited and which ended in fall last year. The project continues as a co-operation of three institutions in France, Germany and Hungary (see below). My paper derives from the need to go beyond the construction of this project. This might be understood as a reflection on the sentence “Nach mir die Zukunft”. The sentence indicates my absence (temporal), or someone behind me (spacial). The other sense of the word resonates: I will leave this place. Lifetimes are limited. The sentence is true in a global meaning. It forms a portal into the future. Standing at the threshold, I look in both directions, for one moment. I would like to combine this impression with the resigned question if it makes sense to formulate a border between art and life. And, if yes, how we can communicate it.

The ‘Anthology of Art’, to give you a short overview, forms a collection of 156 texts on art and 156 images. In addition, there are some artists’ comments on their work, synopses of the few texts which were not sent in English, and biographies. The main part of those contributions which were written in a native language (according to statistics more than 62%) was written in English, parallel to the accumulation of contributors living in New York and London. 

Those who participated in the project (which was initiated by Jochen Gerz, Paris) answered to the only question for a “vision of a yet unknown (future) art” “in the context of contemporary art”. A question which required no direct answering. 

The texts – nearly all of them written freshly and swiftly for the project – and the images, most of them already existing as artists’ or gallery’s ownership, were published fortnightly in 26 issues, so-called “generations”, since September 2001. Each time 6 texts and 6 images. Artists were not allowed to include texts, and theorists were not allowed to include images. The first “generation” was invited by Jochen Gerz. They were also asked to recommend someone as a follower: artists to recommend artists, theorists to recommend theorists. This next generation was also invited from Paris to contribute and to recommend someone. The website as a platform could stimulate discussions on contemporary art and what would happen with art in the future. This platform exists since the archive is online: While the project itself was ongoing, only one issue was to be seen for 14 days. It was necessary to download contributions in time if you wanted to compare. This allowed contributors to be not very influenced by a quantity of former contributions. It could also motivate users to think about their own answers to the project question. Fundamental to the concept was the idea that text work and art work are not divided any more but close to each other through reflection. Texts and images of an issue were not related to each other, and the organization took care for strictly divided lines of recommendation as if to proof the concept idea. Homeless Projects sent a multicolored ‘Text Poster’, this way avoiding to send an image. Simon Tyszko’s contribution is a Flash animation which throws out a repertoire of fast changing words. It represents digital impulses and also cerebral activity. It was decided that video and sound track were not to be included as an option for a balanced presentation in publications and exhibition. In the beginning, we expected other problems, e.g. contributions written in Chinese; and it was not sure if anything would happen at all.

Images form an image of art work. They claim to be regarded as answers to the project question meanwhile they were not produced for this purpose. Maybe the contributions are answers, but not before appearing as part of the Anthology. A video-still is documentary, a scan seems to be acceptable as a substitute for a real work. The Internet is a medium for collection, presentation and for distribution. Because we got contributions written in a few days and sent from all over the world, the project could not have been done without this medium. It represents the contributions in front of those who have access to the technology. Nancy Adajania, a contributor from India, remarked the failing access to the Internet in rural India as a further example of social injustice, dangerous for politics. Furthermore, the contributors to the Anthology are high-qualified and professional workers. Despite the quite readable content, the viewers need experience and knowledge to go on with their understanding. Both sides of the Internet interface are not equal at all. If the contributions can be identified with the project itself, as Adajania’s text may suggest, if there is no cut between different contributions, or between content and the concept of the website: is the website, then, or however, a “plural (art-)work”?

At present, French students are writing lexical explanations of terms as “interaction” and “time” to assist an understanding of the contributions. This investigation in Rennes concerns chosen contributions but could also help to define the whole project as a documentary collection of different material or as a self-referential phenomenon, and to clear if the project actually opens a view into the future of art. Reflection can be understood as a sign for rational development. But the contribution by Simon Tyszko is not for sure a reflection on his life. It is a work made of words known to everyone in Western civilization. Its individuality lies in the fun to regard the fast rhythm, the way of presentation, which increases the availability of this words to many viewers resp. readers in the West. The conglomerate of words as animated and colored images describing individuality turns around, becoming a symbol of any collective life. The words include no plus (of knowledge, experience, consciousness, feeling). You can recognize known words but you don’t miss them. The identity of word and image is also realized in Wendy Walker’s Flash animation from Australia. 

How artists and theorists create their contributions as a performance of their art and individual life (Antoinette LaFargue indicates herself as an avatar, “born on the Internet”) is shown by Neli Ruzic, a Croatian artist living in Mexico together with another anthology participant, Eric del Castillo, who recommended her as a follower. Neli Ruzic comments her work “Expansion of the Heart” – a bread in the form of a heart, she presents the dough before and after baking – as a try to recreate home feelings and the warmth of familiar relationship. In an email in May she added that it is totally unimportant to her if this work is called “art”. Her contribution leaves the project question into the nowhere because this kind of art will be dissolved in life, never found again but staying as a real power. The contribution of Dejan Andjelkovic and Jelica Radovanovic also forms food, but this work has a different character.

Contributors answer - more or less seriously – to the utopian quality of the project question. The individual life theme and the asking for an unknown are connected in contributions presenting a representation of death, as Miodrag Krkobabic’s yearly renewed death certificates. Hans Ulrich Obrist refers to a book by Immanuel Wallerstein (Utopistik. Historische Alternativen des 21. Jhs. Vienna 2002). Utopia means ’nowhere’, a yet unknown art, terra incognita. Art becomes a parable of economics and politics to be changed. The contributors told ideas, but not as steps into the unknown – which would mean a new writing (some new words were invented) and imagining – but as looking for it. They were invited to describe their “vision”. This constituted the difference between being futuresk and imagining an unknown art. Anne-Marie Schleiner sees artists of the future mutated into culture producers: "Artists of the future may not know that they are artists.“ This, too, indicates not so much a differentiation of levels of reflection but a coming together, the interest and trust in new development, different from the state now.

Besides language, performance of personal life and utopia exists, as a further category of a yet unknown art, the art market problem to which the contributions of Harm Lux and Sina Najafi correspond, among others, and which is referred by Hou Hanru, a Chinese living in Paris, as an East-West-conflict. Will Bradley sent a long text written by William Morris to demonstrate that this 19th century text gives a sufficient answer to the project question. The fortnightly carpet of 12 squared buttons, showing details from image or text, reminds of the charts on the entrance wall of the documenta in its beginning, showing details from pieces of world art of many times and regions.

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Gerz, Jochen: Miami Islet. Interaktive Strategien im Werk von Jochen Gerz. Sulgen, Zurich 2000 
Kimpel, Harald: documenta. Mythos und Wirklichkeit. Cologne 1997
Wischenbart, Rüdiger: Canettis Angst. Erkundungen am Rande Europas. Klagenfurt-Salzburg 1994

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Website editor (2001-2002)
Braunschweig School of Art (D)
www.hbk-bs.de

Website archive
(same address and design as the website)
www.anthology-of-art.net

projected exhibition Berlin 2004

’Die Anthologie der Kunst’ (2002-2003)
co-operation of the institutions in Germany, France and Hungary, 
supported by the European Commission (Culture 2000 program):

Students’ dictionary (2002-2003)
Université Rennes 2
Haute-Bretagne
www.uhb.fr

‘A hálón át - Through the Net’
conference (May 2003)
Hungarian Academy of Craft and Design
Budapest
www.mie.hu