darktaxa-project: interview Perisphere-Blog, Florian Kuhlmann – Michael Reisch


Introduction Florian Kuhlmann: Photon | Icon is the title of the current show at Galerie Falko Alexander in Cologne and can be seen until the end of June 2019. The exhibition is part of the long-term Darktaxa project initiated by Michael Reisch. I talked to Michael about the whole project and the show.


Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019




FK: What was the reason of the exhibition? How did the project come about?


MR: The exhibition Photon | Icon is the official start of a larger project called darktaxa - see also darktaxa-project.net on the internet. There I bring together artists that I am in contact with, but also specially invited artists, as well as theoreticians, galleries and institutions. I then made a proposal to Falko Alexander for a jointly curated exhibition, which was realized in May 2019.


FK: Why are you doing this right now, at this point?


MR: As far as motivation is concerned, from my point of view in this field, although it is highly topical, there is a kind of significant void. On the theoretical side, much has been said about the interface "photography" - digitality, but very often it was about "photography" in general use. At the same time a remarkable number of concentrated and substantial works on the subject of digital imaging – "photography" have emerged on the artist side, but nobody seems to know exactly how to handle them. This is not seen as "photography" because it breaks up these discourses on the current level. Into the "post-digital"-drawer it somehow fits, but not 100%; so, what actually is it then and where is the place for it?


FK: And how do you evaluate this?


MR: I see this very positively, because all this indicates that something new is going on; something that can not immediately be categorized or traced back to something existing. The thing is currently in the air, but up to this point it hasn’t been brought into a form. Our project and exhibition series wants to change this.


FK: The relationship of image to technology is one of the central themes of the show, what is your attitude regarding this?


MR: Yes, it is, among other things, about the question of the image as an image-object, as a material phenomenon. Since in the digital, which we are all surrounded and completely absorbed by, almost all is image, immaterial image that is. One might ask, if we still need "image objects" at all - see digitizing of analogue slide photo archives for example. In the field of art, however, this is a completely different matter, and the artistic practice is diametrically opposed to this in large parts, or at least two camps seem to develop.


Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019





FK: Could you explain that a little more? Which parties do you mean exactly?


MR: Momentarily there are a lot of interesting works which, in the above sense, do without the physical appearance of an artwork, e.g. VR or internet-works. On the other hand, many of the artists I know and who work in the field, consistently and consciously work towards a material appearance of their work, respectively let their production chain end up in a real, physical image object. In my view, this is also a reaction on the immersive aspects of the digital, i.e. the dissolution of the body and of real space, the equating of illusion and reality in the virtual. In our exhibition here, in every work, there is a decision for the physical space, for the real human body in a real, physical space of experience in front of a real, physical image object. In other words, it is about localization of one's own, real body in real space with regard to digitality, which is something basically different than immersion.


FK: What other questions did you want to pursue? Is there something like an initial thesis?


MR: The whole is meant as an experimental setting, as an open situation. The exhibited works all come from different directions and approaches, whereby not aesthetic similarities, but common questions connect everything, the digital serves as a headline.


FK: Can you name these common questions?


MR: From my point of view, among other things, the question of space, or our contemporary, digitally shaped understanding of space, crystallizes. Quite central also are the questions of materiality or non-materiality, of presence/absence, virtual/material, material/immaterial, real/simulated, etc., whereby the transitions are interesting above all. And as I said before, the question about the body or the dissolved body is important; it all comes together and it's ultimately questions of perception that have emerged under digital conditions. But also the question of a meaningful artistic strategy, of an attitude in the face of the "Digital Dominant" is up for discussion - how can one meaningfully act as an artist? With a low-tech typewriter like Arno Beck, so with a kind of denial-attitude? With subversive Google-hacking like Achim Mohné? Or with high-tech photogrammetry and high-end software such as Beate Gütschow, on technical "eye level" with the developments? Every artistic position in the exhibition has its own approach regarding this topic.

Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019




FK: How is this related to "photography"? Do we still need "photography"?


MR: "Photography" is the common historical basis or matrix from which the new digital tools are developing. The new applications and apps, e.g. Google Earth or Augmented Reality are indeed visualizations and "photographically" determined, they are subjected to "photographic" seeing-models, see above named ideas of perspective space, etc. That is to say, in the exhibition we do not claim that the works shown are "photography", not even "extended photography" or the like, but we show, and that is very openly meant, digital imaging from a "photographic" point of view.


FK: What is your own assessment of "photography", the medium?


MR: Speaking as an artist, the term "photography", and I do not mean "photographic" production here, but only the terminology, is currently more of a speed limit, unfortunately; a brake. The term "photography" is hopelessly overstrained under the condition of the digital, which limits vision and thinking. And this neither does "good" to photography, as the term becomes increasingly watered down and meaningless, nor to the works that are so labeled or “captured" and in truth may be quite something new; even without category, "dark taxa" - as explanation, dark taxa is borrowed from taxonomy and refers to animals that exist, but still have no name or haven’t been assigned to a species.


FK: How did you deal with this in the exhibition?


MR: We explicitly wanted to avoid this overburdening in our exhibition; we rather wanted to look at what would appear, what might emerge as fundamentally new, and whether and to what extent this could become independent in the near future - more of a search for possibilities, visions, new developments. Digitization has been a revolutionary, clear break and everything that is happening now needs to be checked to see if a lineage continues or a new one opens up, it is a very exciting and open situation right now. Whether or not one needs "photography" as a term in the future, we will have to see.


FK: Do we possibly need a new language and new terms to further develop theory based on the photographic?


MR: Yes that would be good. "Photography" is a terminology that worked and was enlightening with Daguerre and in the 1980s; under digital conditions, that makes little or no sense, as I said, at least as a generic term. Maybe it would make more sense to look at what is going on and then try to find plausible terms, something with cybernetic, algorithmic, digital, etc. would go in that direction. Personally, I think the term post-photography is very good, but it avoids the problem, we are just as "pre-anything-without-name" as "post-photographic", at some point one has to try something. It is also possible, of course, that in general language it remains "photography", although everyone knows that the term no longer fits.


FK: What about digital imaging?


MR: Digital Imaging is very general, but in contrast to "photography" at least applicable, and from there one could or should further differentiate. But as I said, we are only talking about words here, not about the activities of "photographing", "digital imagining" or "pre-anything-without-name-doing", which are completely free in themselves, probably as free as never before, with all the new technical possibilities. However, since one cannot rely on anything that used to work for many decades - the laws or conventions of "photography" have just been undermined - and one moves on to a whole new field, one has to come up with something profoundly new to master the situation, both on the artist's side and side of reception. Personally, I see this as a positive challenge, and in my view, we are just at the beginning of these developments, perhaps in some decades we will already have own traditions and discourses for CGI or photogrammetry. Or we find out that everything still mixes with everything, like we see at the moment, that too will show.


Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019




FK: Do you have the feeling to have progressed further with these examined questions in the exhibition?


MR: Definitely, the vast majority of visitors, and I mean those without prior knowledge, often discussed with us in the exhibition for hours, just like top-up-to-date-discourse-experienced curators. The questions posed in the exhibition affect us all on a very real level, they arise from our everyday world of experience, and at the same time they are negotiable and relevant on a highly theoretical level of discourse. It is relatively easy to get a grip on the show through understanding the production process of each work shown – how it’s made. And, with the help of the photographic categories we all know as a a kind of compass, to enter the terra-incognito regions of digital imaging, and from there into the day-to-day experience and realities of our own smart phones, one’s own everyday digital overload, etc.


FK: Will the project continue? If so, what are the next steps?


MR: darktaxa will continue on different levels, in different constellations and with different emphases, the exhibition Photon | Icon was the prelude to it. For example, on the artist’s side we currently work on texts, interviews, etc., so in addition to the artistic work the discussion also continues theoretically. A sort of artist’s group is forming itself already, which I am very happy about; the whole thing is looking promising. In February 2020 we have an exhibition-cooperation with Schierke Seinecke in Frankfurt, further experimental stations are planned. In 2021 we will unite the threads – we are going to continue on an institutional level. The aim of the matter is, as I said, to connect the people involved in this area and work to network and create synergies, but clearly with a substantive, well-founded orientation. I hope that in the course of the project, the contours of this new thing can fully develop on several levels - at least that's the plan. All this will soon be on the website darktaxa-project.net.



Florian Kuhlmann, Michael Reisch, june 2019


Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019





Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019




Installation-View Photon | Icon Falko Alexander Gallery May 2019