EFFECTS OF TRANSPARENCY
As a material culture shifts into a culture of the immaterial, there are fewer and fewer things which are what they seem to be. With the substitution of the artefact by the artificial condition, what had provided orientation as a real structure collapses. The way in which it shatters is kaleidoscopic, unstructured; and what is reflected by a thing is at best the break with its sense as it disintegrates into meanings. Technology is the carrier of this condition, in which the categories of the purely visual increasingly fail. Only the image created by appearances is opaque.
Art as a vehicle for a visual, tactile, material-oriented concept of culture is affected not so much in its specific discourse as indirectly through the philosophical implications of our social capacity for perception and creation, as in humanism. Whereas man, from its ideal point of view, was considered the measure of all things and the source of meaning for things, the growing independence of things, their acquisition of a meaning of their own independent of man, not only dilutes the concept of humanism; it is called into question by the shift in man's position in the hierarchy of meanings - since the things have given him a new "sense" - and by a self-image of man that is thus turned completely upside down. Given this downsizing of man as the source of meaning, the autonomy of art, which was founded on the humanistic ideal independent of the application of this quality in terms of art theory, can no longer be defended, either; it is thus to be interpreted in terms of the phenomenology of the development of the autonomous meaning of things. And an art which does not operate through the categories of accepted aesthetics but through cultural conceptualization, should find its forms of manifestation in the kaleidoscopic phenomena of cultural change - and should recognise these manifestations as aesthetic even where the forms arising from a technological environment have no real author - especially when things resist aesthetizing through the subject and thus presuppose a concept of aesthetics that derives its phenomenological (not art-theoretical) justification in its inter-subjective verifiability. The difference between a material art, whose nature is opaque, and an art of the immaterial corresponds to the difference between the everyday use of the word aesthetics (in the sense of beautiful) and the concept as defined by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, in which "beauty" is not primarily assigned to objects but rather relates to the style of recognizability, i.e. something can be "recognised in a beautiful" way.
Subsequently there is a transition in artistic practice from focusing from art on its instrumental predication, the tech-nique, to focusing from the technique on the culture - the interpretational giving way to the operational. This practice not only presupposes a mastery of new cultural techniques but also a clear understanding with regard to the meaning of the codes employed. Cultural conceptualisation today also implies a clear understanding of the meaning of the technical codes with which culture defines itself, in digitised form, in information technology, in the mass media, etc.
Although technology is the carrier of this condition it is in fact subject to it for its meaning. It is not the digital format that has made the meaning of analog forms (in the sense of the "identity" of motif and representation) obsolete (and thereby also the function of the symbolic). Whereas the analog format for representing, say, a hand whose fingers are moving in deaf and dumb language could still be accepted as code (a method for formalising experience) for writing the body (symbolically) into the visual medium of video, the digital encoding of this process is mere primtive nonsense, because the program of the picture need no longer appear as an image (and need not necessarily be interpreted as a hand; the technical capabilities of today directly challenge our contemporaries not to do so, and to avoid a gullible attitude. That is why computer animation is normally kitsch, not so much because of the images, although they are also kitsch). It could just as well be the command to launch a missile or music. The images, logos and signs have become transparent. They are losing their clear contours, while their meanings are proliferating.
In this relationship opacity is a quality that impairs cognitive capacity - an aesthetic deficiency symptom, or, by focusing on itself, an aesthetic smoke screen. Transparency is the term for the condition in which continual and - as it were - fractal disintegration of any point of focus for the eye makes it impossible to "dwell", allows of no contemplation (and is a cultural quality, not a political intention). The user interface, if you like, of our culture is kaleidoscopic, the program hyper-textual. Cultural aesthetics is transparent. One of the qualities of transparency, however, is that it can only be perceived through its effects. To that extent cultural aesthetics becomes concrete in its lack of structure, and art is then the ability to achieve cultural effects.
At the "Zeitgleich" exhibition, sound and acoustic information were the main vehicles of expression. The visual component was marginal and restricted to just a few machines. But that was not to say of course that we can trust our ears more than our eyes.
Art as cultural engineering was interpreted - by analogy to the conditions of the modern age of information - as a process in real time. Its acoustic (and visual) expression related both to the means employed and the constitutive process - often with the intention of creating aesthetic "interferences" (Jerez/Iges) in the perception of the technological structures of the communications culture. In no way did the process focus on itself - as is sometimes thought in the tradition of conventional patterns of reception - as an aesthetic product, suggesting that the murmur of the wind is something beautiful, for example. The difference compared with conventional art is the meaning of the means as a source of culture and the fact that this is made the primary theme. A (panel) painting may indicate the tools employed and the act of its creation, but the brushes, paints and also the painter's mood at the time of his work were of no civilizational relevance.
The concept of "Zeitgleich" had special consequences for the mode of presentation. No longer is there a need to establish boundaries between the individual works. Sound installations interact, without the effects necessarily being interpreted as interference. On the contrary, that was what helped an undertaking which had been designed as an exhibition, i.e. with an optical component (at least with regard to the impression created by the hall), to become a project focusing on the failure of the visual element, and not just by renouncing opacity but also acoustically - less through the inclusion of directly relevant works than in an artistic concept for the process of reception that fragmented the perception of the artists' works themselves; where regional sounds and accounts of lived histories from an interactive installation mingle with sea-sounds and the murmuring of the wind in the salt galleries, transmitted live into the building, from another installation, and again with the reverberations of the sound spiral revolving out of the building and, via the ORF, up into space.
In the "noise" of its acoustic superimpositions, the exhibition did justice to its intention of being an Exhibition of its Time. Beyond their conceptional ramifications, the installations, as acoustic surfaces, developed a sense of their own, becoming transparent, permeable for other information. They functioned not only as a reference through themselves as acoustic events and by exposure of their technological origins, but also through the effect of their respective content on each of the others.
Abandoning the (opaque) work in favour of the (transparent) event implies the rejection of an egocentric aesthetic and proceeds in terms of its own content.