Exhibition text Fluid Architectures

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In his movie Metropolis from 1926, director Fritz Lang created the vision of a futuristic 21st century mega-city. Now that we have crossed the threshold of this century our reality makes that vision seem strangely old-fashioned, as new sets of factors unconsidered by Lang move to shape the future of our urban spaces. Ubiquitous computer networks, information delivery in real time and new display technologies are now the key elements transforming the face of our urban living spaces. Through them a space is taking shape whose manifestations merge the virtual and the physical. Essayist Florian Rötzer talks in this context of a “digital urbanism” whose salient features are ”dispersal, decentralisation, valorisation of interiority, globalisation, individuality and mobility“.
These factors shape a networked society and a "space of flows” which generate new dimensions for imagination and action, no longer concurrent with the old geographies and topographies.

The exhibition Fluid Architectures gathers spaces of flow and immateriality created by artists in response to these contemporary notions of the city. These fictional spaces made of light, moving image, and other media extend the idea of physical architecture to the construction of dynamic and seemingly infinite spaces enabling a sensory experience. The works rethink the classic standards of spatial construction and topography. Instead they introduce the new concept of 'performative architecture' and thus propose an imaginary urban landscape for the 21st century.

The exhibition is curated by Susanne Jaschko.


Joachim Sauter & Dirk Lüsebrink, ART COM
DE, live and work in Berlin

The Invisible Shapes of Things Past - Shanghai
1996/2006, 2D and 3D print, video

Since the early 1980s, Joachim Sauter has been working as a media artist and designer. From the beginning, Sauter has focussed on digital technologies and has researched and explored them to express content, form, and narration. Fuelled by this interest, he founded ART COM together with other artists, designers, scientists, and technologist such as Dirk Lüsebrink in 1988.
Since 1991 he is full professor for New Media Art and Design at the Berlin University of the Arts and since 2001 adjunct professor at UCLA, Los Angeles.

'The Invisible Shapes of Things Past' is a series of parametric translations of movies into space. Single frames from a film sequence are lined up in space, according to the camera movement with which they were shot. Through this translation of single frames consisting of single pixels (picture elements) into space, objects of voxels (volume elements) are generated. The work introduces a method of finding an architectural or sculptural form not based on manual modelling but on a generative process.

Influenced by the emergence of film and multi-exposure photographs, cubists and futurists disintegrated the linear representation of space and time in their pictures and sculptures. They aimed at finding ways to represent movement and introduced the display of multiple times and perspectives of one object. At the same time, artists like Fischinger, Ruthmann and Eggeling developed the 'absolute film'. Its concept was to free itself from the display of everything representational, to produce abstraction with cinematic means according to abstract painting. Next to many other techniques, thin slices were cut off from a ball of modelling clay, and the continuously changing cutting plane was then filmed with a film camera, image after image. The result was a decomposition of this object into single frames that when put together, presented a tracking shot through the object. In the middle of the 1990s, the project 'The Invisible Shapes of Things Past was developed' to reverse this system and to generate objects and sculptures from pre-existing single frames.


UK, 1962, lives and works in London

Urban Generation; trying to imagine the world from everyone elses perspective, all at once
2005, net art, software, real time city experience

Stanza’s works explore artistic and technical opportunities to enable new aesthetic perspectives, experiences and perceptions within a context of architecture, data spaces and online environments. He specializes in net art, networked spaces, installations and performances.
For 'Urban Generation' multiple CCTV cameras in London are accessed randomly in real time to make an urban tapestry and to create an evolving, generative artwork.
The city has a recorded source of data; CCTV is everywhere. The increase of technology infrastructure in the daily existence of a city means that technology will, more than ever, be everywhere in our environment. In his CCTV based works Stanza puts these systems in place in order to re-employ the perception of space and thus create new understanding of how behaviour unfolds. Urban Generation extends the imagination of the physical city and enables the perception of the city as a dynamic network and flow of patterns.


Jan Robert Leegte
NL, 1973, lives and works in Amsterdam

Ornaments (Amsterdam)
2009, computer projection
Commissioned by NIMk

Jan Robert Leegte studied Fine Arts at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam after having studied Architecture at the University of Delft. Having started on the sculptural possibilities of the internet back in 1997, he recently is exploring more 'embedded' possibilities out of the gallery space into the endlessly deep contexts of the outside world; from urban posters in Alexandria to ornamenting ceilings in Brussels.

Ornaments (Amsterdam) is an ornamental intervention in the building of the Netherlands Media Art Institute. This site-specific work is a computer generated ornament projected on two windows. The sublime intervention questions the qualities of a space taken for granted and usually not paid much attention to. It emphasises a particular part of the building and offers it for reinterpretation by applying a strangely familiar set of icons.

Since the origin of the ornament in digital iconography is not obvious, the work invites viewers to follow their own stream of associations. References to the classical trompe l’oeil as applied in historic architecture, and to minimalism may be strong. Nevertheless the work does not support one explicit meaning or interpretation, but rather induces viewers to scrutinise their pragmatic perception and navigation of physical space.

Jan Robert Leegte deconstructs the physical experience, aiming to add confusion and growing awe for the world around us.


Walter Langelaar
NL, 1977, lives and works in Rotterdam

paralevel | OA_NIMK2
2009, modified videogame software, projection
Commissioned by NIMk

Walter Langelaar obtained two BA degrees from the AKI in Enschede (conceptual art/new media) and holds a MA in Media Design from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. His work stems from charcoal drawing and multichannel slideshow geekery to manifold video-editing techniques and virtual 3D-space exploration combined with oblivious hardware hacks. Currently working in the field of post-interactive sculpture, he deploys dedicated machines into a variety of gallery, festival and party circuits. He is founding member of the artistic media lab 'moddr_', now part of the WORM collective in Rotterdam.

'Paralevel | OA_NIMK2' is a 'strange loop' which traverses the real and the virtual through the use of videogame technology augmented with a live video feed from a webcam. The installation responses to the physical gallery space by mirroring and perpetuating it. At the same time the viewers’ positions and perspectives of the exhibition space are contradicted by the projected scene before them. This results in the destabilisation - if only briefly - of the spatial experience. An unsettling interaction between architecture and its visual perception unfolds.

'OA_NIMK2' is a current instalment of the paralevel project; a series of alterations which add a game level to a structure or building, which exists besides and beyond its physical architecture. The experiential modification provokes the viewer to shift between a temporal and spatial realisation of the surrounding space.

The project is entirely based upon OpenSource software and content, and its codebase with links to all respective projects and authors can be accessed through paralevel.lowstandart.net. Features include a modified OpenArena videogame-engine with added video-texture functionality, and an extra networking implementation to allow signal processing through the PureData software package.



Pablo Valbuena
ES, 1978, lives and works in Madrid

Extension series
2009, architecture and projection
Commissioned by NIMk

Pablo Valbuena studied Architecture at the Polytecnic University in Madrid. In the past he has been involved in tangent fields to art and architecture, developing spatial concepts applied to virtual environments and digital architecture.

He is currently developing art projects related to space, time and perception. His recent work focuses on the temporal dimension of space, linking architecture and installations with the use of light and projection.

This site-specific installation made especially for a space at NIMk deals with the extension of real architecture through perception. The work focuses on the construction and transformation of space with perceptual tools rather than physical ones. It is an exploration of ways to build an environment that mixes and overlaps the 'real' and 'virtual', layering these concepts on top of each other. It uses light and projection as medium.

Updating the Baroque use of trompe l'oeil with the dimension of time, perspective changes and transformations interfere with the existing architecture, generating new perceptive qualities of the same physical space. This line of work started to take shape in a public art piece developed for the façade of The Hague City Hall. The new work at NIMk continues this research on a smaller architectural scale.


Mark Napier
US, 1961, lives and works in New York

Cyclops Birth I IV
2007, inkjet on paper, unique

2007, custom software, computer, projection

The 'Cyclops Series' of artworks asks simply "What does a virtual monument look like?" The answer is a parody of solidity: a bendable building, a monument that bounces, a skyscraper that flies. The object straddles the line between a thing and an event: an organic form that is itself a record of a fleeting moment of destruction and creation.

Through monuments humans preserve their ideas, extend themselves through time, and extend their presence over generations. Monuments create the illusion of permanence. Recent growth of computer and network technologies extend the human nervous system and alter our experience of physical space, distance, and memory. This 'virtual world' made of code and data challenges the notion of physical monument as a means to permanence. The relationship of the human body to monument is shifted by the virtual world, and with it, the notion of permanence, memory, and our relationship to physical objects in general. The age of objects has ended. We enter an age in which experiences can be transmitted over wires, objects can be transmitted as information, 'printed', and recycled, much as water flows through the weather cycle. Permanence is no longer associated with physical objects, but with the persistence of ideas in the collective consciousness of the networked media. Permanence becomes organic: a function of a system's ability to regenerate itself. In this respect, rock, steel and cement are the losers.

In 'Smoke', the Empire State Building appears to soften and melt, writhing almost organically, then struggling to return to its original form. Teetering on the line between organism and architecture, 'Smoke' speaks to a morphological tension between static physical structures of power and those that are information-based.


Annja Krautgasser
AT, 1971, lives and works in Vienna

Dashed II
2005, media installation
Courtesy: City of Vienna

Annja Krautgasser studied architecture at the Technical University of Vienna and Innsbruck as well as visual media creation at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.
Her works often reflect on urban development and architectural space while taking the form of video and net installations.

The connection of spatial experience and information in the form of mnemonics acted from antiquity to renaissance as a privileged mode of memorising complex texts and information. The central factor of mnemonics is to link extensive information to places and routes through architectural formations and thus connect them on the one hand to the subjective, motor memory of navigating through such places and on the other, to the visually experienced, spatial structure as the organising principle.

In ''Dashed II' this historical cultural engineering is effectively reversed by asking individual subjects to describe in detail places, which are important to them for personal reasons. The fascinating result of this proposition is a precise picture of the central function of rooms as time magnets, to which memories covering the entire human sensorium are attached. For instance, somebody talks about the smell of smoke from birch and cedar wood in a Canadian cabin, the changing temperatures, the impression of different colours and materials at that location, as well as the incidents that occurred there. This shows how human memory uses places as containers for sensations over long periods of time.

The use of mobile phones as visual medium for the presentation of individual fragments of memory refers to the parallelism of different stories. The synchronism of the stories opens a level of 'active' recollection structured in the here and now, and the use of the mobile phone as a placeholder that can be assigned to individual subjects thus staging a 'choir of memory'.



Mader Stublic Wiermann
DE, live and work in Berlin

folded space
2008, video projection, Torre Pompéia, São Paulo (video documentation)
twists and turns
2006, video on LED installation, Uniqa Tower, Vienna (video documentation)

Mader Stublic Wiermann consists of two media artists, Holger Mader and Alexander Stublic, and an architect, Heike Wiermann. Their central theme is to investigate mechanisms of perception in public space. By extending architecture as a stereoscopic medium to embrace time-bound media - such as light, video and sound - they create novel possibilities in experiencing urban environments.

folded space
If architecture is wrapped in moving light, thus put into perspective and charged, how does it hold its ground? The Torre Pompéia was constructed as a new building by the Italian architect Lina Bò Bardi in the 1980s.
The video installation folded space uses the composition of iconic parts of the building for a temporal re-interpretation. The projected video consists of abstract two-dimensional structures, which arrange themselves in spatial constellations in a choreographed sequence of about 12 minutes. Change of motifs and perspectives are performed. Space shifts over time.
The video creates a new layer which is ‘floating’ over the surface of the building and is ‘fractured’ at its edges. Thus the coherence of visual space is questioned. The installation obtains an eventful quality that allows - dependent on the viewing angle and point in time - spontaneous and unexpected spatial constellations. 'Folded space' is an experiment that pursues the question in how far architectural forms can communicate their urban relevance in a situation that is increasingly affected by media-based events.

twists and turns
The exterior of the Uniqa Tower in Vienna has been equipped with a LED-grid, a wide-meshed net of picture elements capable of receiving video-data. On it, an interplay between the architecture and the electronic data feed, changing over time, evolves. The building does not simply serve as a screen or message board, but becomes an integral part of the urban landscape as abstract, constantly modulated architectural form. At first, the visuals correspond to the architectural structure of the tower, during the course of its choreography however, they repeatedly detach themselves from the concrete shape of the building, establishing new spaces which dynamically interweave. Ever new virtual layers are thus added to the building.



Michael Najjar
DE, 1966, lives and works in Berlin

the invisible city (netropolis)
2004, video, loop

One of the central themes of Michael Najjar’s art is the telematic society. Focusing on key components of a society driven and controlled by computer and information technology, his works reflect contemporary developments and create visions and utopias of future social structures emerging from the impact of new technologies. In a time of exponential acceleration and transformation, his work as a media artist attempts to sound out the possibilities inherent within the boundaries of the real.

The work series 'Netropolis' (2003 - 2006) is an exploration of the way global cities will develop in the future. The complexity of a huge megacity is to be considered as material embodiment of information density. Telematic space endows the urban environment with a new form of structure, intermingling with it and giving birth to a completely unprecedented form of urban space.

The panoramic view transforms the reality of urban spatial structure into landscape. The digital fusion of panoramic views taken from different angles transforms the landscape into a woven fabric of relationships which is abstract and multi-layered, yet still underpinned by a geographic reference point. Looking at the city from a distance inverses the perceptual order of objects viewed in close-up. The view from afar is orientated on what is clearly visible from a distance and provides a context for objects which appear too close when viewed close up and thus retain their strangeness. In virtual space, however, distance and proximity lie on the selfsame level. The different cities and relationship strands need first to be combined and interwoven before they can give rise to a completely unprecedented and imaginary form of urbanity - the telematic netropolis.

The 'Netropolis' series of works portrays the megacities of Berlin, Beijing, Dubai, Hongkong, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Paris, São Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo. It comprises twelve hybrid-photographs, a video-work and an image sculpture.


Marnix de Nijs
NL, 1970, lives and works in Rotterdam

Exploded Views – Remapping Firenze
2008, multi media installation

Produced by Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina (CCCS), Florence, and NIMk
Marnix de Nijs explores the dynamic clash between bodies, machines and other media. His works include interactive experience machines that play with perception and control of image and sound.
Exploded Views is conceived as a series of city portraits of which the first, Florence, has been realised. Every city is supposed to become a 'level' or chapter of the collection. For the Florence level, De Nijs laid the focus on the incessant growing number of tourists that violate public life and especially the beauty of this Renaissance city in its entirety. Due to this increased transient mobility, the city has been transformed into a sort of express-tourist Disney World and correspondingly, scaring the locals away from the city centre.

The installation Exploded Views combines the physical act of walking with both interactive imagery and a spatial setting that results in a powerfully absorptive experience. The urban landscape was generated with an innovative 3D scanning technique that creates an unusually surreal and dreamlike atmosphere. The 3D scans are built up from an enormous archive of photographs.

The visuals of 'Exploded Views' are totally void of people, emphasising the emotional emptiness of the public space. The sound used in the 3D surroundings consists of spatially placed sound sources and, in contrast to the imagery, suggests human activity. The user ‘zooms into’ the activity of a place when approaching it. Over 250 field recordings were made inside the noisy city of Florence and then positioned on the 3D map, creating a micro-cosmic sound experience.