‘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.’
‘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 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
‘Image Products & Product Images‘ is a continuous archival project and as such is an essential working tool of a wider ranging art project: ‘10 Years in September‘. I have been working on the latter for several years and the project originally dates back to 2001, when a seemingly random recording was retrieved, involving an undisclosed amount of Spanish Pesetas, which changed hands in Barcelona on the 22 of September 2001, being captured at precisely 15:17:28 hrs local time.
This first recording formed the basis for further recordings and images, with an initial series retrieved across 6 European cities – towards the end of 2001 – and after that mainly in London, England, until about the end of 2004. In the following years the material was gathering dust in an unknown location until autumn 2010, when some of the images appeared in New York City. About one year later, and exactly ten years after the original recording – at precisely 15:17:28 hrs local time on the 22 of September 2011 – the original place of occurrence was revisited and the attempt was made to capture the exact moment in time via image retrieval.
The revisiting of this moment and the hence retrieved images triggered a new process of image propagation, that can be described as follows:
‘Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, and memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain, via a process which, in the broad sense can be called imitation, so images propagate themselves in the image pool by leaping from screen to screen via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called association.
Given the right conditions, replicators automatically band together to create systems, or machines, that carry them around and work to favour their continued replication. If an image is to dominate the attention of a screen, it must do so at the expense of rival images. Selection favours images that exploit their cultural environment to their own advantage. This cultural environment consists of other images, which are also being selected. The image pool therefore comes to have the attributes of an evolutionary stable set, which new images find hard to invade.’
In purely practical terms, ‘Image Products & Product Images‘ serves as a continuously evolving image archive, providing the basic pool of images, out of which images can then be seleced for further creative exploration.
Most of my recent projects have been based on various selections of this main image pool. These include projects that I have undertaken on my own, such as ‘The Nostalgia Machine’ or ‘Surreal Business Cycle (prototype #1)’, as well as collaborative projects, whereby other artists select an image from the pool to base their own artistic engagement on, which is then integrated in a collaborative artistic experiment. A recent example of this type of collaboration is ‘Project A19’, which I worked on with visual artist Julien Thomasset.
The full pool of retrieved images and a preliminary favoured selection are presented in the booklet ‘Image Products & Product Images‘, which can be downloaded here.
If you are an artist of any kind, scientist or writer, and would like to base a project of your own on any image from this pool, please download the booklet, choose your image (refer to letter and number grid) and get in touch with me:
+44 (0)751 233 1561
Please note that images already chosen are market with a small red cross in the lower right corner of each image
© by Rupert Jaeger, all rights reserved
‘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.
For my parents wedding anniversary in 2012 I produced Family Tree, a lamp with a lampshade that’s made up from family photographs, covering the lives of my parents – from when they were born – their six children and 7 grand children (with 2 more on their way).
Height: 30cm (60cm including stand)
Below is a small selection of photos from the lampshade.
© by Rupert Jaeger, all rights reserved