By Mette Sandbye, April 1999
Translation by Tim Harris
The 20th Century is the century of electronics. Like explorers, the avant-garde artists have thrown themselves ecstatically into each newly gained territory; they have explored and conquered the landscapes, which the new technological media have offered. They have experimented and attempted to press new expression and sensual experience from them - very often purely for the pleasure of experimentation alone, rather than with the clear intention to create art. As it became possible to fuse film and sound, a range of unusual experiments blossomed, especially in Germany in the 1920's. Oskar Fischinger made small, abstract cartoons, Viking Eggeling and painter Hans Richter created visually aesthetic "Augenmusik", as they called it; optical music as abstract film animation. When the age of the video media came in the end of the 60's, the graphic artists threw themselves hungrily and playfully into it. They experimented among other with the drawing out of time, bodily self-exploration and radical close-ups, closed circuit systems, and loops and feedback effects. The graphic artists drove the media to its furthest limits.
The 90's new technological, electronic medium is the digitised Internet. Artnode's "Looped" is an exhibition in constant change, made up of 25 small, digitised loops. These are small sequences, which constantly run in rings, and more or less repeat themselves. A loop is a common form in the electronic and digital media; a form which has been used for a long time in video art. But its perpetual self-repetition and confinement receive a new twist in a digital, interactive universe such as on the Internet. Throughout "Looped" one can feel an almost child-like wonder and stubborn desire to investigate, which points back to Eggeling's film experiments in the 20's. As when Nikolaj Recke tries to catch the smallest possible unit of time, the second, in an audio loop, when Theis Barenkopf Dinesen composes a digital, apparently random piece of music which becomes dots on the screen, or when Peter Thillemann lets the users combine for themselves an "Augenmusik" piece, which switches between soft chill-out style music and hard, techno rhythms. The new digital hyper-medium's special trademark and potentials are being researched and exploited in all its nooks and crannies. And what then are these special possibilities? It is first and foremost interactivity; that the computer user is involved in creating the work. The work therefore becomes far more a process; a place where something happens. It is of course a special combination of every conceivable form for audible and visual, moving and stationary material. And it is the hyper media's instability where every linear relationship is, or can be, dissolved in digital, replaceable units. Many of the artists have consciously made irritating loops, which block or undermine a real, meaningful development. With Tune Kruse one is, for example, frustratingly caught in a loop of pure dead-ends, with Mogens Jacobsen a series of old family photos rushes across the screen as in a computer game. Conditioned by experience with computer games, one tries to shoot them down with the mouse, without success. With Jesper Juul we are trapped in a "Dead Narrative"; a mathematically structured, self-repeating story where nothing ever happens and where the cycle feels completely locked in time. In Kim Borreby's "Looped Discourse" we are locked into an unrelated text universe in a state of constant departure, just as the sentence "Do you feel lucky?" is dissolved into almost incomprehensible monomaniacal sung units in Morten Schjødt's "Lucky Loop". A certain absurd humour is the trademark of many of the pieces, for example Lilibeth Cuenca's cartoon and Simone Aaberg Kærn's performance as a heavily pulsating smoker.
There are many more loops in this energy filled digital sandpit, which the user can throw themselves into in front of the screen. Collectively "Looped" gives a picture of the digital, interactive hyper-media's infinite possibilities, even in an apparently locked, looped form.
Mette Sandbye is a lecturer at the Department of Comparative Litterature, University of Copenhagen and art critic for the newspaper "Weekendavisen".