Tag Archives: cities

Talking about my Degeneration

What are you trying to achieve with this new project?‘, Anthony asked.

‘In the beginning I wasn’t really sure, what I was doing, it was mainly an impulse that was driving me. I felt a very strong urge to force myself out of a strange Cul de Sac. I guess my main motivation was just to do something, whatever that was. To create Something out of Nothing’

So there is no meaning to what you are doing

‘You could argue that. On the other hand, the meaning is created by a process that happens over time. But that’s a separate and perhaps more general issue regarding my work. The point of this particular project is to question – for myself – the process that I use in my work. This process originally helped me to stay clear from the seduction of formality and superficial aesthetics, but gradually turned itself on its head. By trying too hard to remain true to my own principles, I ended up with a working process that had become a force of limitation and, ultimately, formality.’

Are you starting a whole new way of working with this project?

‘Not at all. I am still using the same process of working, but my aim is to disregard its key principles….’

Isn’t it paradoxical to say that?

‘Yes, I am aware of that, but it is something that happens all the time, for instance when artistic concepts, ideas or innovations are appropriated by the commercial world. The meaning is then replaced by a product, and the process becomes a pure technique or style that helps to sell this product. It becomes an imitation of itself.’

Is this the moment then where you finally go commercial? 

(Laughing) ‘Perhaps, but I am not interested in exploring the oxymoron you hint at. Not in this project. I am not trying to make a political statement, let alone blame anyone, except perhaps myself. I think the fear of selling out often stands in the way of true creativity, because it can make the work too conceptual or cerebral. In my case, what I fear most is the idea of degeneration.’

Degeneration into the meaningless?

‘That too, but I am mainly talking about degeneration as a technique, such as the material or analogue degeneration of images. When I was studying some years ago, a friend of mine, Terje Fjellstad, made a piece called Talking about my Degeneration. I loved the piece, but even more the title, because it really summed up our generation of artists then, who were all somehow obsessed with the surface of images. But today, this statement could be true for society as a whole. With everything being digital, we yearn for a sense of patina, and degeneration as a technique lends this patina, or at least an illusion of it. And yes, I am worried about degenerating into that sphere.’

Are you?

‘That’s not for me to say. The point is that I shouldn’t worry about it, because, really, my work is not about degeneration….’

Another paradoxical statement. It seems that you are trying to justify what you perceive as a weakness in your work, by saying: it does not exist.

‘You certainly have a point there, again. But as I said before, this is an experiment to analyse and question my own work. And the fact is, that the starting point of my surface gateway project series had nothing to do with degeneration as a technique. It was about the concept of time, in particular the idea of connecting specific moments. The time that passes between those moments is integral to the work, and that can sometimes be years. When I worked on Imparando da Firenze during a residency in Florence in 2014, I realised how important this fact is to me. In terms of the working process, I see my work in the tradition of people such as Botticelli or Raffael, who would sometimes spend years on a painting. The problem is that the passing of time, represented in images of the key moments, creates degeneration naturally. In order to focus attention away from this ‘side effect’, or rather to clarify what’s happening, I have been trying to find ways to communicate the passing of time through the work itself.’

How is that a problem?

‘In theory, there is no problem. In reality, it is futile to attempt the reproduction of time in an artwork, especially if it is a static one. Even in film, or music, true reproduction of time can never be longer than the length of the piece itself. Anything else by default is an illusion…’

A pretty obvious statement…

‘…yet an incredibly complex issue at the same time. In a world of digital media and image manipulation, it is almost impossible to distinguish between real and artificial degeneration [of images], which affects our perception of time, memory and history. For my work this means the layers of moments, represented in layers of images, could have just as easily been produced digitally, including a false sense of image degeneration. That’s why I often use a combination of video and printed images in my final exhibition presentation’

And that is a problem for you?

‘Not as such, I love video, and combining it with printed images, but I came to a point where it felt the two media are there only to justify each other. To say ‘Hey look, this is actually real!’. Also, the format of video, and in particular the way I’m using stop frame animation, means that all the images I use have to fit into the 16:9 format, which is itself is limiting. All in all, this has stopped me from freely experimenting with the second subject that I am trying to explore with this project series. And that is to approach the city, and my printed images in this city space, as a canvas of fragmented spaces. Ultimately, my aim is to sculpt time and space through a visceral process into a visual expression that has similar qualities to painting. That’s why in this current project, I am trying not to worry about the concept of degeneration. I hope this will help me to bring back a more visceral and free approach to my surface gateway project series.

Imparando da Firenze

‘Imparando d Firenze’ is the 3rd project in my ‘surface gateway’ series, which connects different spaces and locations as well as different, precisely defined, moments in time. This is achieved by applying a surface snapshot, representing the previous location and moment in time, to a particular position within a – usually urban – context. The resulting surface gateway trail connects all instances of any given trail, with a number of trails usually converging at regular intervals within a general location and timeframe. In this case, 3 surface gateway trails converged in Florence, Italy, within the timeframe  of 12 to 27 of June 2014.

The outcome of this project was a video (09:36 min), which combines experimental stop frame animation with fragments of a loose narrative. For the first time in the ‘surface gateway’ series I made extensive use of sound, which helps to convey a sense of a narrative, while creating a coherent soundscape for the experimental elements of the video.

‘Imparando d Firenze’ was shown at Galeria Xenos as part of Magma Collective’s Mnemonic City series. Due to the time restriction, I presented this project as a conventional video projection – in the basement of the gallery – as opposed to the installation format that I generally use for the ‘surface gateway’ series.

© by Rupert Jaeger, all rights reserved

Surreal Business Cycle (prototype #1)

Surreal Business Cycle‘ was the first in my image & light installation series. I had been experimenting with the juxtaposition of video and printed images before, but for this project I combined them to create a sculptural piece that was literally made out of images, with a video at the core of the sculpture. Technically, ‘Surreal Business Cycle‘ is a 35 x 20 x 20 cm glass box that is almost entirely covered with semi-translucent images. A video screen is installed in the lower centre, in portrait format at a 45 degree angle, playing mostly split-screen stop-frame animation.

The concept of the piece is part of a bigger experimental narrative, which follows the trail of images and events that originated in the revisiting of a moment that originally took place in Barcelona, Spain, on the 22nd of September 2001 at 15:17:28 hrs. The ‘protagonist’, like a time traveler from the future, forensically examines the remnants and their visual surfaces of a time bygone, with a particular obsession for the currencies of ‘Old Europe’, found in a seemingly random manner on walls of cities across Europe and beyond.

The printed images form a collage of memories, snapshots of urban decay and fragments of a loose narrative, while the video illuminates the object from the inside, thereby creating a semi-translucent object that takes on different meaning depending on the angle of the observer.

© by Rupert Jaeger 2012

Surreal Business Cycle‘ was shown as part of the ‘Mnemonic City’ series. The exhibition took place in the Doomed Gallery, Dalston, London under the banner ‘Mnemonic City: Plato’s Cave’ with other work of 12 artists of Magma Collective.

The Nostalgia Machine

The Nostalgia Machine’ was the second installation, where I combined (back)-lit still images with video, after the ‘Surreal Business Cycle’ a few months earlier. This time it was in the form of a traditional light box, with an opaque, back-lit plexiglass on the front that had a number of images and text printed on, and a video screen fixed in the centre of the plexiglass.

The video in the centre of the light box is about 20 minutes long and plays on a loop. It consists mainly of stop-frame animations, following the trail of printed stickers in various locations, whereby each sticker depicts an image of the pervious location. The camera, in stop frame manner, continuously moves towards or away from each sticker, and then jumps to the previous or next location, thereby creating the illusion of ‘flying’ from on place to the other. The stickers were placed in particular places within (mostly) urban environments, in various cities and different points in time. All of the trails converge on ‘Ridley Road Market’ in Dalston, London, in spring 2013, which becomes the focal point of this journey into memories and urban space.

The images on the light box show the key moments of each time/space trail and are accompanied by the precise location and moment in time of capture. This key image also becomes the sticker for any subsequent potential trail, and in such cases is accompanied by the measurements of the stickers and its price of sale.

The text, underneath the video, describes the workings of the Nostalgia Machine in technical detail:

‘Beauty and Love were frozen: Seven years, three months, two days, twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and thirty-one seconds. After that they were simply absent, non-existent. In this emotional vacuum devoid of strong affection and personal attachment and without any perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning or satisfaction, a structure slowly became apparent that would eventually display characteristics akin to notions of beauty and love: Time, reflected through the abstract arrangement of inter-related, interconnected and interwoven points, instances and moments.

The most critical of all points in this structure is what could be called the point of inversion. At this point, all previous moments, which were irrelevant at their time of occurrence, and the abstract arrangement as a whole, which was hitherto unaware of its own existence, take on a retrospective meaning that transcends ideas of nostalgia, as the true meaning does not lie in any properties the points may reflect, but in the pure appreciation of the moment(s) as an experience of time itself.

In appreciating this pure experience of time lies the true beauty and love of the process, while the structure, as an abstract arrangement, is the manifestation of this process. Images, however destructive and obstructive to the process in general, are instrumental in a number of ways, but have to be defended against the attacks of the ‘Nostalgia Machine’, which would logically attempt to intrude and infiltrate the process, thereby rendering it ineffective and incorporating the process in the Nostalgia Machine’s all encompassing representation of life as an audio and visual surface of perceived properties of beauty and love. The Nostalgia Machine’s inherent propensity to fictionalize life functions proportionally successful to its ability of presenting an ever perfecting narrative, seemingly in tune with the eternal rhythm of beauty and love. ‘The process’ must resist such tendencies and embrace the sensual pleasures of time without notions of past and future. This effort of identifying narrative-free moments in time can only succeed, if the following two preconditions are observed:

(1): the selection of images need to follow a ‘process’ of elimination.
Each identified moment is to be positioned against a set of images, which must gradually decrease in numbers for each successive moment until the point of inversion is reached, the precise occurrence of which is identified through one single image.

(2): While the use of seemingly nostalgia laden images creates a growing emotional attachment to each moment in time, the experience of this emotional attachment has to become less personal with each successive moment. At the point of inversion, one single image, intolerably nostalgia laden, yet devoid of personal memories, breaks the memory-nostalgia relation, which results in a climactic experience, at once full of euphoric revelation and profound disappointment.’

[…]

© by Rupert Jaeger 2013

‘The Nostalgia Machine’ was shown as part of the ‘Mnemonic City’ series. It was shown at the Doomed Gallery in Dalston, London, just off Ridley Road Market under the banner ‘Mnemonic City: Moving Streets’ with other work of 10 artists of Magma Collective.

The dimensions of the light box are 90 x 65 x 14 cm.

My First Blog Post

Everyone want’s a blog, right?…well, me too, but this is my first post and it’s June 2013, so I am not exactly setting a trend here. Don’t get me wrong, I am generally quite net and media savvy and have actually set up and written for a few blogs, but they were not mine. So, this post, published at 09:29:56 (BST) on the 21st of June 2013, is my first own blog post ever. And therefore I feel compelled to talk a bit about myself, what I do and what I intend to blog about. And this, I hope, will help you, my audience, to make a judgment on whether this blog is worth a regular read.

Let me begin:

Who Am I?

I am one of those ‘creative individuals’ who’s been trying to find a place somewhere in the spectrum between true artistic expression and commercial succes. In other words, over the last 10 years or so I have been floating between living the life of a penniless artist and selling my soul to the devil.
Sounds familiar? I know, there is a whole army of us out there, a generation of people who grew up with the desire to express our individuality and fulfil our true creative potential, only to end up pushing pixels for Beelzebub.
Gadzooks, I am being extreme! Of course it’s not all that bad, but I do feel sometimes as if I have fallen prey to a clever ploy to establish a new type of slavery. We work for free, without contracts, benefits or any sense of security, all in the name of expressing our creativity.
I wonder how many of us will be able to afford a dentist when our teeth start falling out.

What Do I Do?

Now let me elaborate how the above abstract analysis translates into the particular reality of my existence:
I make a living as Head of Communications for an international architecture firm, which builds properties, mostly large shopping centre complexes all around the globe. It can be pretty exciting work, I get around quite a bit, helping to find new clients and projects, winning awards and expanding the business in general. What’s on the other end of our operations is too far removed from my job for me to really make a judgement on whether the results of my work are for the good or detriment of humankind.
In stark contrast to that are my artistic ambitions and the life and social environment that come with it. I live in a warehouse community in North London, sharing my existence with artists,  left-wing liberals and hippies. My artistic practice revolves around issues of history, cities, places of memory and the reflection of those through images as objects. The two obsessions of my life are the concept of time and America. My preferred media are photography, film/video and writing, usually brought together in some kind of narrative.
Add to all of that an interest in politics and economics, in particular the state of Europe at this moment in time, and you might understand next time you see me walking around Finsbury Park with a can of cider in my hand.

Is This Worth A Read?

I’ll leave that to you to decide, but if my brief introduction made you just a little curious, then do come back, because I intend to create regular posts that draw inspiration from my somewhat contradictory life and the experiences around it. And of course I’ll present  my art to you, keep you posted on exhibitions, events and happenings, and last but not least, I’ll let you in on on a little secret of mine.
© by Rupert Jaeger, all rights reserved

The Book

I. Something

One evening, a few years ago, four individuals were drinking in a pub. The four were part of a larger group of people, who were all connected in some form, which was partly due to the fact that, by some random coincidence, they all shared their existence at the same time in the same place, and partly due to their sharing of certain, similar kinds of interests, thinking and ambitions. These overlaps of space, time and character traits resulted in a number and variety of shared, or common, activities. In the weeks preceding the evening, which had been a period of particular intensity, an unusually large amount of these activities had occurred.
A few years ago, one evening, four people were drinking. They were sitting around a table, in a pub. The four decided to form a band. Therefore, firstly, and most crucially, they had to come up with a name.
preface to the first edition iii

The Book – 150 pages, © by Rupert Jaeger 2007

The Book’ tells the whole story of Rentner, from its birth to its death, its strange disguises and hybrids, from the band that never happened, over an image retrieval project that spanned across six european cities, a company run by hard-nosed business men, and ultimately to its own total corporate and conceptual deconstruction…

The story starts at an undisclosed location in space and time, which serves as a framework from where the present is always the past, and then jumps to a very specific location in Barcelona, Spain, at precisely 15:17:28 hrs local time on the 22 of September 2001. From here onwards unfolds an experimental narrative in image and word that is at once a fictional account of a group of time travellers from the future , and at the same time a documentation of the real live story of a group of artists who called themselves Rentner.
The group was active from September 2001 until September 2004 with projects and exhibitions in Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt and London. The Book, which is largely made up of photos, sketches, writings and other documents from that time, was first published in 2007.

The preface (to the first edition) sets the framework of the story by presenting a collage of documents that piece together a fragmented concept of the world experienced by the characters of the narrative. The above document is of particular focus, with its text forming the main context of the overall narrative. A full transcript of this document can be found here.

A photograph of Barcelona, Spain, opening the chapter ‘Old Europe‘, with the precise location marked where a particular moment occurred, which was not only to be the defining moment of the book, but the initiating moment of a process that is still ongoing today.

Double page recalling what happened during the Rentner agents’ stay in Brussels, Belgium, in mid October 2001. It was here that they started to not only question their mission, but to deviate from their original plans, and ultimately disrespect the timetable and route across Old Europe.

Snapshots of a number of ‘durational moments‘ that were retrieved in Amsterdam, Netherlands, late October 2001.
After  Amsterdam, the Rentner agents left a number of traces in Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany, in November 2001. After that,  there was no trace of them…

…for just over one year, when a company by the name of ‘Rentner Collective Ltd’ was incorporated at Companies House, in London, United Kingdom, on the 27th of September 2002. Around the same time, a number of public interventions, events and exhibitions started to occur across London, organised by a group called ‘Rentner Collective‘. Whether the two entities consisted of the same people, and who those people actually were could never be verified.

These photos were taken around Oxford Street, central London, on the 12th of December 2002. No other details are available about the nature of this intervention, the person on the photos or who the photos were taken by.

The same location, a few months later, on the 15th of April 2003. This time, the cardboard has been replaced by a proper sign with a logo, evidently of Rentner Collective, which is accompanied by a web address. The domain, www.rentnercollective.com, is still available online, but has not been updated since September 2004.

The same sign, as one of the centre pieces of ‘This is Rentnercollective‘, an art exhibition that took place at the ‘Islington Arts Factory‘ from Friday the 13th of February to 5th of March 2004. The exhibition was a group show with 7 artists showing work, which were connected via red ropes, continuing a theme running through the work of Rentner Collective at that time, which was the colour red (C:0 M:99 Y:100 K:0), and in particular in the form of a red line.

Double page spread of ‘The Book‘, showing visitors seen from above at ‘This is Rentnercollective?‘, across the red ropes connecting the work.

The Red Line‘ was to find its most extreme prominence as a theme of Rentner Collective in the art exhibition ‘The Vault‘ that took place at ‘The Foundry‘, in London’s Old Street from the 24th of June to the 11th of July 2004. One of the centre pieces of this exhibition was a straight red line, that was painted along all four walls of one of the basement rooms, the vault of this former bank building. The Red Line was painted around every corner or other protrusion of the wall, creating unusual perspectives and distortions of the line.

Double page spread of The Book showing the take down of ‘The Red Line’, which had been painted directly onto the wall, and therefore was only existent for the duration of the exhibition. In order to keep physical objects that can represent the exhibition in retrospect, various techniques were employed to preserve pieces of the wall or of ‘The Red Line’ itself.

From the 11th to the 22nd of September 2004 ‘Credit History‘ took place in the ‘Pavilion‘, a gallery next to the river in the city of Frankfurt, Germany. Before the exhibition, a large number of business cards of some of the members of Rentner Collective were cut into random pieces, from which a selection of 6 pieces was made, which were to feature in the exhibition in Frankfurt.

The six selected pieces were then enlarged and painted on the main wall of the gallery space, which created an abstract combination of seemingly random shapes of red colour on the wall.
Credit History‘ was the last time that Rentner Collective ever presented an exhibition and since then there has been no trace of any of its members.

450 St Ann’s Road‘ in the North London Borough of Haringey, where some of the members of Rentner Collective purportedly lived from 2002 until they disappeared in September 2004. The property was bought in early 2005 by an unknown property developer, who demolished the building a few months after it was acquired. No development plans have since been presented to the local authorities and the plot remains derelict.

© by Rupert Jaeger 2007

The first edition of ‘The Book’ was a limited edition of 200 copies, which has since its publication sold out. Edition 2, a slightly updated version, is currently being produced. If you would like a copy or an electronic version, please contact:

Rupert Jaeger
+44 (0)751 233 1561
contact@rupertjaeger.com