Future Cinema at ZKM, Karlsruhe (2002)

Exhibition review including work by William Kentridge, Dennis Del Favero, Jeffrey Shaw, Michael Schmid, Jörn Müller-Quade, and Thomas Beth.

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This review first appeared in Sculpture magazine, 22(6), page 79 in 2003.

Future Cinema at ZKM

Curated by Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel, Future Cinema presented video, film, and computer- and Web-based installations using new cinematic techniques and modes of expression. The overall effect of this impressive show demonstrated that these art/technology/cinema fusions not only illustrate a strand of current art, but also offer samples of a wider next-generation art movement. Contributions included work by more than 50 artists from Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan.

Future Cinema included several interactive, immersive, and technologically innovative installations, including works in multi-screen, panoramic, dome projection, shared multi-user, and on-line formats. Works were projected onto the floor and ceiling, while five monitors formed a giant cube set above mirrors that made the installation appear to float. (From ZKM’s Media Museum above, viewers could see the fifth screen— on top of the installation.) Suspended, matte-coated Plexiglas panels displayed beautiful, interactive projections that seemed space-age and reminded me of suspended body scenes in the movie Coma.

William Kentridge’s Overvloed (flood/abundance, 1999, six minutes), a DVD projection on the ceiling, consisted of animated drawings, silhouette figures, found footage, and fragments of Afrikaans and Dutch sayings from the Dutch Golden Era. Accompanying the visuals were melancholic songs and accordion music. Overvloed was originally projected onto a vaulted Baroque ceiling at Amsterdam’s City Hall, underscoring its references to the historical Dutch/South African relationship.

Dennis Del Favero exhibited an interactive video installation and DVD-ROM, Pentimento (2001, 15 minutes), which was produced during his fellowship at ZKM in 2001. Four screens surrounded an eight square-meter space with five acoustic systems, and an integrated vision-based motion-detection system was prompted by viewer movements. Pentimento explores a news report detailing the discovery of an unidentified body on the outskirts of Sydney. Bits of narrative from protagonists resulted from viewer movements— in essence, an artistic representation of accounts and information relating to an event, in some ways like the raw information a journalist acquires before presenting a “sealed” text.

Jeffrey Shaw’s Place-Urbanity (2002) initially made me think of a theme park ride. Entering into a panoramic projection installation, viewers could hop onto a steering device and “travel” in a variety of directions around a map of Melbourne— and into 15 visual cylinders where projections appeared, representing different immigrant groups in the multi-cultural city. Layered and multi-faceted, the work raised issues of outsider/insider relationships, and time and experience. In addition, viewers could also select another work via the console: Place-Ruhr (2000) used an identical framework with the same sort of physical layout, a “personal portrait” of Germany’s Ruhr valley.

In Laserfilm (2000), an interactive sculpture by Michael Schmid, Jörn Müller-Quade, and Thomas Beth, viewers were invited to move a swinging pendulum, which enabled them to “play” a film of an animated line drawing. Activated by the viewer, a laser hit the film mounted on a glass disk and projected onto a screen below. With the laser passing through different sections of the film, the drawing continually morphed into different forms. The letters O-P-T-I-K appeared next to lips and teeth, visually illustrating how the articulation of the letters’ sounds appears and producing implied sound. For this viewer, unfamiliar with the dynamics of optics, Laserfilm’s mystery and magic radiated— a window into the future. Overall, the works have great implications for art, as well as for other forms of cinematic expression.