For the installation Proto-Objects, Michael Schwab commissioned four independent collaborators to respond to his artistic analysis of his own brain activity. This was recorded as he was exposed to a succession of one hundred pictures, randomly chosen from the history of art (from 1420 to 1912). The initial EEG scan took place as part of the research project “Wissen im Selbstversuch/Knowledge through Self-Experimentation” (2009–10, PI: Yeboaa Ofosu, see http://www.hkb.bfh.ch/?id=2453) at the Hochschule der Künste Bern (CH) and was carried out by Dr. Thomas Koenig at the Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie Bern (CH). The raw EEG data was statistically analysed and geometrically transformed with the help of Padraig Coogan, Leon Williams (both Royal College of Art, London, UK), Michael Klein (Universität Heidelberg, D), and David Pirrò (Kunstuniversität Graz, AT). This work resulted in the construction of one hundred three-dimensional “proto-objects,” each corresponding to what is deemed significant in Schwab’s cognitive response to each particular picture.
The name “proto-object” was first used by Schwab in a book chapter (Schwab 2012) that utilises Hans-Jörg Rheinberg’s research on “experimental systems” for possible epistemologies and methodologies of artistic research. Rheinberger makes a distinction between two spaces, the graphematic and the representational space (see Schwab 2013). Surprising events that lack explanation are produced in experimental settings and traced in the graphematic space as “epistemic things.” Epistemic things are gradually transposed into the representational space where they register as knowledge. According to Rheinberger (1997, 28) appropriating François Jacob, epistemic things announce future knowledge and, thus, drive history. However, in the context of techno-scientific experimental systems, and despite being rooted in the graphematic space, the future of an epistemic thing lies in the representational space—that is, research must feed into science.
The installation Proto-Objects speculates that this economy is reversible, following a two-step procedure. The material installation transfers an actualised technical object back to an epistemically underdetermined space, a virtuality suggested by a multiplicity of images from different disciplinary backgrounds. In this installation, Einar Torfi Einarsson transforms Schwab’s proto-objects into scores to be interpreted and played by the cellist Séverine Ballon; the contemporary artist Florian Dombois uses the one hundred objects to develop a “language of things,” in which he writes poetry; the architect Miguel Figueira modifies Van Gogh’s Pont de Langlois (1888) on the basis of the proto-object corresponding to that painting; and Taslim Martin uses one proto-object as the template for a creamer and sugar set.
Needless to say, there are no “real” proto-objects outside their presentation as manifold, “the real object is reflected in a mirror-image as in the virtual object which, from its side and simultaneously, envelops or reflects the real: there is ‘coalescence’ between the two . . . a double movement of liberation and capture” (Deleuze 1989, 68). Keeping what Deleuze says here in mind, the installation Proto-Objects may be seen to suggest alternative modes of signification within artistic experimental settings.
The book Proto-Objects published for this installation is available on issuu
Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Athlone Press.
Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 1997. Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Schwab, Michael. 2012. “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” In Intellectual Birdhouse: Artistic Practice as Research, edited by Florian Dombois, Ute Meta Bauer, Claudia Mareis, and Michael Schwab, 229–47. London: Koenig Books.
—, ed. 2013. Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
about the author(s)
Michael Schwab is an artist and artistic researcher who interrogates post-conceptual uses of technology in a variety of media including photography, drawing, printmaking, and installation art. He holds a PhD in photography from the Royal College of Art, London, that focuses on post-conceptual post-photography and artistic research methodology. He is tutor at the Zurich University of the Arts as well as a research fellow at the Orpheus Institute, Ghent, and the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. Currently, he is senior researcher in the ERC-funded research project “MusicExperiment21” and joint project-leader of “Transpositions,” a research project funded by the Austrian Science Fund. He is co-initiator and Editor-in-Chief of JAR, the Journal for Artistic Research. Recent publications include Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research (Leuven University Press, 2013) and The Exposition of Artistic Research: Publishing Art in Academia (together with Henk Borgdorff; Leiden, 2014)
Séverine Ballon’s work as a performer focuses on regular performance of key works of the cello repertoire and numerous direct collaborations with composers. Her research as an improviser has helped her to extend the sonic and technical resources of her instrument. She has worked with such composers as Helmut Lachenmann, Liza Lim, Mauro Lanza, and Rebecca Saunders. Her work crosses the centuries from gut strings to electronics, over a wide range of aesthetics from Feldman to Ferneyhough.
info & contact
severine [AT] severineballon.com
Florian Dombois (born 1966 in Berlin) is an artist who has focused on models and time, landforms, labilities, and tectonic activity. To extend his artistic development, Dombois studied geophysics and philosophy in Berlin, Kiel, and Hawaii. In his dissertation “What Is an Earthquake?”, he undertook a comparison of historical and contemporary, artistic and scientific articulations of earthquakes and developed his “art as research” method. Between 2003 and 2011 he was a professor at the Bern University of the Arts (CH); since 2011 he has been a professor at Zurich University of the Arts (CH). His work has been shown in national and international solo and group shows. In 2010 he received the German Sound Art Prize. The book Florian Dombois: What Are the Places of Danger; Works 1999–2009, edited by Kunsthalle Bern, was published by argobooks, Berlin, in 2010.
info & contact
Zurich University of the Arts, CH
f_dombois [AT] web.de
Einar Torfi Einarsson
Einar Torfi Einarsson (born 1980) is an Icelandic composer and researcher. He obtained his PhD from the University of Huddersfield, where he studied on the Jonathan Harvey Scholarship. His music has been performed throughout Europe by ensembles such as ELISION Ensemble, Klangforum Wien, and Ensemble Intercontemporain. His research interests lie in the interplay of poststructuralist philosophy and notation. In 2013–14 he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Orpheus Institute (ORCiM, Ghent, Belgium). Currently he lectures at the Music Department of the Iceland Academy of the Arts, where he also serves as the coordinator for the Composition Research Unit (CRU).
info & contact
Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavík, IS
et [AT] einartorfieinarsson.com
Miguel Figueira (Coimbra, 1969), architect (FAUP, Oporto, 1993), won the American Institute of Architects Award (Montreal, 1990), had his first professional experience at atelier Bugio with Pedro Maurício Borges (Lisbon, 1992/93), and attended Taller D’Urbanisme at ETSAB (Barcelona, 1993). He ran an office in Lisbon, between 1993 and 1997, with Pedro Maurício Borges and Paulo Fonseca. Between 1997 and 2002, he was responsible for the technical department of the local administration of the heritage village of Montemor-o-Velho under a national programme for urban degraded areas. Until 2014 he led the municipal urban design office. Today he lives and works at Montemor-o-Velho, teaches at UCP University, and embodies the scientific committee of CEMAR maritime centre. Since 2009 he coordinates the technical studies for CIDADESURF. Awards include: Movimento Milénio Award for Cities, 2011; National Award for Architecture “Alexandre Herculano,” 2003; and an honourable mention in 2014 from Instituto da Habitação e Reabilitação Urbana for his public space interventions at Montemor-o-Velho. His work has been distinguished by the International Association of Art Critics—Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art—AICA 2011 Award.
info & contact
Architect, Montemor-o-Velho, PT
miguel.fgr [AT] gmail.com
Taslim Martin worked as a carpenter and joiner for thirteen years before attending art school both in Cardiff and at the Royal College of Art, where he was awarded the Sir Eduardo Paolozzi Travel Scholarship, which facilitated his research into West African sculpture. He spent two years as an artist-in-residence at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Berkshire, culminating in a solo exhibition in 2000. Following the award of his first public art commission, he has mostly been engaged in gallery exhibitions, public art commissions, and teaching. His creative output ranges from portrait sculpture to public art and design. Investigating cultural identity through archetypes and hierarchy and exploring the sculptural potential of functional objects craft skills play a key role in Martin’s work. He has exhibited in the UK and internationally and his works are in the permanent collections of the British Museum and the Horniman Museum. Martin lives and works in London.
info & contact
info [AT] taslimmartin.co.uk