Secret Surface: Where Meaning Materializes
Seldom do we get this close to the sun. Unexpectedly, a glowing red surface appears in the dark; it’s the sun in Katharina Sieverding’s film Looking at the Sun at Midnight (2011–12). The mesmerizing close-up of the giant fireball is made from animated data gathered by NASA, which is condensed into a dynamic portrait of the surface of this mysterious star. With this film projection, curator Ellen Blumenstein creates a fitting overture for “Secret Surface,” her final show at KW. Contributions by over 30 artists are framed around a quest for meaning, which is brought about without recourse to metaphysical explanatory models.
Many of the works in the exhibition deal with the surface culture of today’s digital world. Auto Italia’s film My Skin is at War with a World of Data (2012), for instance, presents obsessive self-assertion through objectification in a hyperreal, networked society. The film delivers a stark analysis of the fears of inadequacy employed in beauty product campaigns. Women become a “she factory”—a receptacle of reproduction and desire, a product of industrialized, homogenized sexuality. It is one of the few works that carries critical weight; for the most part, it is disputable whether witty appropriation is delivered or whether the works remain caught up in the very logic they address.
Miao Ying, for example, links the technology cult around Apple’s iPhone to the yearning for a spiritual dimension in life. App-Nosis (2013–14) suspends phones from the top of open pyramid shaped sculptures. Cushions laid at the base invite viewers to recline passively beneath the screen, and, on the wall beyond the pyramids, a soft light is projected from the home screen of an otherwise functionless app while an endless loop of new age relaxation music is played. Is this installation poking fun at the fetishization of commodities and their hypnotizing effects? Does it present a deconstructive gesture to the distracting force of handheld screens, or does it simply linger on a shallow surface?
2016.2.14 – 2016.01.05