META exists at the crossroads of art and science and of culture and nature. Tracing the uncommon threads between common topics, META presents its readers with views into the abyss of visual information and with experiments in associative reading. META invites you to browse according to taste.
You may ask, “what?” An archive, a Wunderkammer, a magazine guided by methods of research, collection, preservation, reprint and the linking of topics at their META level.
You may then ask, “why?” To play with information in all its astatic glory. META refrains from attempts at categorization, taking a gamble on dynamic navigation! META eschews the linear in favor of surprise. Each visit starts with a random welcome and ends with an even more random exit.
TIMOTHY J. ATTANUCCI (1979) was born in Boston, Massachusetts and studies German literature at Princeton and the Humboldt University, Berlin. For META, he contributes his musings on the irony mark in No Irony.
DAVID BETH (1974) is a writer and esoteric explorer, and the sovereign Grand Master of the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua. Learn more about his Gnostic involvement in XI. ARS DE REX—Sexual Magic, the Art of the King, where he is interviewed by Ailen Roc.
SUMMER BRENNER is an accomplished writer of poetry and fiction, based in Berkeley, California. Her writing has extended beyond the borders of print into performative and musical realms, and she is also involved with literacy and community projects targeted at youths. For META, she reads from her critically acclaimed novel and discusses her motivation for the project in Driving I-5.
OLAF BREUNING (1970) is a Swiss artist, living in New York and working in photography, video, sculpture, installation and drawing. For META’s mini interview series, he shares some of his favorite things in accompaniment to a selection of photographic works. See Mini Breuning.
Illustrations by William Buchina
WILLIAM BUCHINA (1978) is an illustrator with a penchant for portraits of political tyrants. In addition, he is a graphic designer and creator of illustrated guides to English grammar. Some of his work is viewable here. He currently lives and works in New York. See his work in The Body of the Event.
DAVE BUNNELL (1952) lives in the small gold-rush era town of Angels Camp, California. This professional spelunker and photographer worked on an Imax film about caves, somewhere beneath Mexico. META interviewed him for Far Beyond Stalactites and Stalagmites.
PETRA CORONATO is probably the only author in the world who didn’t only read Alexanderplatz, but also swept it. She is the owner of tongue tongue Hong Kong, a company founded in 1993 with dependences in Berlin, Vienna and Zurich, which recycles fiction profitably and unpunished to this day. In 2006, she commenced the ongoing photography project The Poetry of Document.
MICHELE DANTINI’s (1966) work is characterized by its handling of trans-cultural practices and their socio-environmental implications. A widely translated essayist and performative lecturer, he holds a position as Professor of Contemporary Art History at the Università del Piemonte Orientale, Italy. See Chronicles of Deaths Foretold.
PAULINE DOUTRELUINGNE (1982) lived in Beijing for four years, where she co-organized the 2006 Borderline Moving Images Festival. She lives in Berlin and curates projects that bridge European and Asian art. For META, she interviewed Chen Wei in Archeology of the Future.
GEN DOY is Lecturer at De Montfort University. She is the author of Picturing The Self, Drapery and Black Visual Culture. For META, Doy discusses the sensual politics of photography in the works of Claude Cahun.
Ferrante Denise Palma
DENISE PALMA FERRANTE (1975) is a multi-disciplined artist living and working in Berlin. She is also a self-declared anti-religionist. See Timkat 2009.
ADAM FOXWELL is an American audio engineer who has worked internationally, consulting on acoustical room design, sound isolation and mechanical noise control. For META, he presents a study on noise exposure in On the Hunt for Silence in Dubai.
JACQUE FRESCO (1916) is an industrial designer and social engineer, author, lecturer, inventor and Futurist. Based in Venus, Florida, he is developing the practice of Socio-Cyber-Neering. Read the META interview Back to the Future—The Venus Project.
Dr. BRUNO GLASER is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Soil Science and Soil Geography at the University of Bayreuth. For over several years he has been conducting Amazonian dark earth research from a soil science perspective including soil fertility, sustainability, and archaeology aspects. See Terra Preta .
MARA GOLDWYN (1976) calls herself an artist but does not show anywhere and would never actually introduce herself as such. She has an existential allergy to genres, categories and identity constructs. See Showing the Opposite Side of the Death Machine.
LINDA MAI GREEN (1987) is a photographer and curator based in Berlin. She also co-runs curatorial collective Una Tittel. For META article A Bridge and Not a Goal, she interviewed artist Serena Porrati.
Artist CAI GUO-QIANG (1957) was born in China’s Fujian Province. While living in Japan between 1986 and 1995 he began to experiment with gunpowder as a medium, gaining international attention. He has gone on to exhibit world wide and to produce large scale pyrotechnic art works. See On Explosions.
Sculptor PATRICK HILL (1972) has exhibited widely in the US and internationally as an important representative of the contemporary Los Angeles art scene. David Kordansky Gallery provided META with images of Hill’s work for Patrick Hill—Sculpture, Associated.
ASDF Makes founder DAVID HORVITZ (1983) is a man of many ideas. One could say this American artist’s medium is the Internet, though it may be more accurate to say that he works in interactive projects. See ASDF—Read On.
RUA MINX is Donna Huanca (1980), an artist who deals with clothing as shelter, transportable homes for nomads and cultural and genetic traces. Her various projects have received a range of support, from the Dallas Museum of Art to Städelschule, Frankfurt; from the Incehon Women’s Biennale Korea to British Vogue. She launched META’s downloadable artist piece series with Mask Maker.
Artist PIETER HUGO (1976) has spent his whole life in Cape Town, South Africa, though travelled extensively pursuing his characteristic brand of documentary photography. A 2002-3 residency at the Beneton Group Communication Research Center, Fabrica, also led to work with Colors magazine. In 2006 he was awarded first prize in the World Press Photo competition’s Portraits section. Welcome to Nollywood explores a recent project carried out with the Nigerian film industry.
Idnert B. Zlatan
ZLATAN B. IDNERT is an audio engineer who has worked in the fields of modelling for outdoor noise propagation, building acoustics and ground borne vibrations. He has widely consulted on acoustical engineering projects. See On the Hunt for Silence in Dubai.
JAN KEMPENAERS (1968) is an artist and documentary photographer based in Antwerp. He creates mute images of semi urban-places. Regardless of geographical context, his photographs speak powerfully to the post industrial condition and of the technologized human subject. See Spomenik, the Monuments of Former Yugoslavia.
TAO LIN (1983) is an American poet, novelist and short story writer. He is the author of Shoplifting from American Apparel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, and Bed, as well as two poetry collections, you are a little bit happier than I am, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Lin’s second novel, Richard Yates, was published in September 2010.
See Tao Lin’s Crossword Puzzle.
TAMMY LU is a Canadian artist who makes drawings and artists’ books. She is the cover artist for the New Metaphysics philosophy series published by Open Humanities Press. See more of her work here. For META she did the drawings for METAphorism.
DAVID MAISEL’s (1961) photographs chronicle the complex relationships between natural systems and human intervention. His work is included in many permanent collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Maisel lives and works in the area of San Francisco. See Blooming Souls.
SERGEY MAXIMISHIN (1964) photographed for the Soviet Military Force Group on Cuba from 1985 to 1987. A learned physicist, he worked in the scientific and technical expertise laboratory in the Hermitage Museum and has gone on to become an award winning press photographer.
See The Dostoevsky of Photography.
CONNIE MENDOZA (1971) is a media artist, working between Berlin and Barcelona. Fata Morgana and Other Optical Phenomena discusses her film, in which Mendoza travels back to her birthplace to trace the complex relationships of her childhood to Chilean history and space travel, thereby producing images that mediate the perception of time as a highly subjective matter.
RACHAEL MORRISON (1981) is an artist, curator, and a librarian at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She is the creator of an art work and a documentary film about the blind telephone hacker Joybubbles, as she describes in 718-362-9578.
TIMOTHY MORTON (1968) is a philosopher and ecologist, and a teaching professor at Rice University. He also is one of the leading figures in the philosophical movement of Speculative Realism. For META he penned some pithy aphorism on the paradigm shift in metaphysics. See METAphorism.
Architect WILLEM JAN NEUTELINGS (1959) has taught at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam and Harvard University. His firm, Neutelings Riedijk Architects, is located in Rotterdam. He wrote Spomenik, the Monuments of Former Yugoslavia on Jan Kempenaer’s photo-documentation.
Nikolaj Nielsen is a Brussels-based journalist. For META, Nielsen considers the provocative film "Enjoy Poverty Please" by Dutch artist Renzo Martens in regards to the The Lucrative Business of Chaos and Aid. For more of Nielsen's writing, visit his website.
Yoshua Okón was born in Mexico City in 1970 where he currently lives. In his often absurd and provocative art, Okón stages partially scripted scenes using non-actors whose own identities and histories make up the true, underlying story. See Octopus. Okón founded the artist-run space La Panadería in 1994 and the artist-run space and school SOMA in 2009, both in Mexico City.
LISE PATT is the founder of the Institute of Cultural Inquiry, a peripatetic visual think tank currently headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. Over the years she has treated ‘collaboration’ as an artist medium, in the development of a non-profit organization that embraces ‘collective camouflage’ in their ongoing projects. See Inquiry into the Institute of Cultural Inquiry.
KONRAD PETROVSZKY (1977) is a historian specializing in the intellectual history of Southeastern Europe. He wrote a PhD thesis on early modern historiography in Ottoman Europe at the Free University, Berlin. He talks Romania and reenactment in The Body of the Event.
Italian artist SERENA PORRATI (1981) is now currently enrolled in the inaugural year of the MA in Art and Science Program at Central St. Martins in London. She lets META in on her Nietzsche in Turin archive for Linda Green’s article, A Bridge and Not a Goal.
SUSANNE QUEHENBERGER is a Cultural Studies student at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Her focus is climate change, specifically its potential to bring about societal restructuring and the role of art in this scenario. Since 2007, she has worked as an urban gardening activist. For META, she shares her thoughts on geoengineering in Artificial Skies.
Haitian-born, DC-raised MAX RAMEAU is a pan-African theorist, organizer and founder of the group, Take Back the Land. He has worked on issues ranging from economic development to ex-felons. He discusses the US housing crisis in Desperate Times, Desperate Measures.
MILO RAU (1977) is a journalist, essayist, historian, playwright, translator, teacher, film-maker, blogger, reenactor and director of IIPM (International Institute of Political Murder, or Institute for Theoretic and Artistic Reenactments). See The Body of the Event.
AILEN ROC studied various esoteric fields such as ceremonial Magick, Sexual Magick, Tantra, Astrology, Tarot, the Quaballah and different astral-levels along with Psychology. She is currently working on her own tarot deck and a book combining certain occult fields with elements of psychology. See XI. ARS DE REX—Sexual Magic, the Art of the King.
ALAN SHAPIRO (1956) is a key contributor to the fields of idea philosophy, software engineering and social choreography. At 15, he began studying at MIT and has more recently published a book on Star Trek and given talks at the Transmediale and Ars Electronica festivals. In an interview with META, he explains why “Being against work as it is constituted today is fundamental.” See A New Computer Science is Underway.
SITU STUDIO was founded in 2005 while its partners were studying architecture at The Cooper Union. Operating at the intersection of architecture and a variety of other disciplines, Situ Studio’s work has been enriched by close collaborations with geologists, writers, engineers, biologists, activists and artists. See Out of Control.
GARY SMALL, M.D., is the Director of the UCLA Memory and Aging Research Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is the author of iBrain Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind. See This is Your Brain on Technology.
COSETTE THOMPSON is a French-American human rights consultant and freelance writer based in Arizona, USA, where she directed Amnesty International for many years. Her current interests focus on the contribution of artistic expression to the field of human rights and on the protection of threatened languages. See Sentenced to Read.
van Haarlem Dr. Michiel P.
DR. MICHIEL VAN HAARLEM (1964) is the Managing Director of the LOFAR Foundation in the Netherlands, a part of the ASTRON Institute. The astronomer discusses the next generation of telescopes in META’s Harmony of the Spheres.
Vanden Eynde Maarten
Belgian-born MAARTEN VANDEN EYNDE (1977) lives and works between Rotterdam, Brussels and Saint Mihiel. His projects span all art media, focussing on topics of ecology, archeology, biology and zoology. In 2006 he founded Enough Room for Space for “the creation of physical, virtual and mental space for cultural initiatives by initiating and coordinating events and residence/research projects worldwide.” He enlightens META on plastic in Plastic Reef.
Swedish photographer ULRIKA WALMARK (1970) traveled across North America, Israel, Palestine, Iran, India and South Africa from 2003 to 2007, collecting portraits for her project The person behind the person. She now lives in Berlin.
Artist CHEN WEI (1980) works in Beijing and Hangzhou, incorporating influential objects and happenings from his past into the realities of modern China. He is represented by the Platform China Contemporary Art Institute in Beijing. See Archeology of the Future.
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|A New Computer Science is Underway|
|Claude Cahun—A Sensual Politics of Photography|
|The Clothing of Nature|
|On the Hunt for Silence in Dubai|
|Far Beyond Stalactites and Stalagmites|
|The Body of the Event|
|Sentenced to Read|
|Spomenik, the Monuments of Former Yugoslavia|
|XI. ARS DE REX—Sexual Magic, the Art of the King|
|Tao Lin’s Crossword Puzzle|
|The Art of Showing Art|
|Photography and the Invisible|
|Patrick Hill—Sculpture, Associated|
|Showing the Opposite Side of the Death Machine|
|Desperate Times, Desperate Measures|
|A Bridge and Not a Goal|
|The Poetry of Document|
|Stories of Life and Love in Today’s Actual Arctic|
|Out of Control: Experiments in Participation|
|Fata Morgana and Other Optical Phenomena|
|The Nine Lives of Kaufhaus Jonass|
|The Harmony of the Spheres|
|This is Your Brain on Technology|
|Back to the Future—The Venus Project|
|Inquiry into the Institute of Cultural Inquiry|
|The Lucrative Business of Chaos and Aid|
|Welcome to Nollywood|
|Chronicle of Deaths Foretold|
|The Dostoevsky of Photography|
|Archeology of the Future|
|Terra Preta—Amazonian Earth|
By Willem Jan Neutelings
You’ll see Spomeniks on strategic outcroppings, lofty passes and sweeping plateaus: gigantic sculptures, firmly anchored to the rocks. They are objects of stunning beauty. Their abstract geometric shapes recall macro views of viruses, flower-petal goblets, crystals. They are built of indestructible materials like reinforced concrete, steel and granite. Some are solid, others hollow. The largest Spomeniks even afford access to the public, teetering on the boundary where sculpture becomes architecture.
Hardly anyone outside of the former Yugoslavia is aware of their existence, and within the present ex-Yugoslavia, no one really wants to be reminded that they are there. Twenty years ago there were thousands of them, of every conceivable size, shape and description, but in the early 1990s, the majority of them were destroyed, dismantled or in the best case, abandoned to the natural elements. Only those large and heavy enough to thwart vandals are still standing today, derelict and forsaken. Yet these objects were built just a single generation ago, in the 1960s and 70s, as memorials for the Second World War. Those who commissioned them have since passed away, but their architects and sculptors are still living. In the 1980s, the monuments still attracted millions of visitors, but a decade later their appeal vanished. They have become submerged in a new age, rendered unintelligible to the current generation. Their symbolism has been lost in translation as the visual language has changed, their signals muffled by a shifted worldview. The monuments have been the objects of blind fury and now, of indifference. What remains is pure sculpture in a desolate landscape.
The Spomeniks’ background unfolds a strange story. Other monuments from the same period, such as the Atomium in Brussels, remain crowd pleasers. Sculptural works by western artists of the same era are universally respected and warmly embraced, having become part of the art historical canon. It is only very rarely that they fall victim to acts of blind destruction, as was the fate of monumental sculptures by Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet and Fritz Koenig, which had the misfortune of being located next to Al Qaeda’s target in New York.
Incidentally, Fritz Koenig has created memorials for the concentration camp Mauthausen and for the Munich Olympic Massacre. It is one of history’s odd twists that it was in fact a non-memorial work of his, the 8m high ‘Sphere’ from 1967, that was salvaged, heavily damaged, from the wreckage of the World Trade Centre and turned into the memorial for the victims of 9/11. It stands in Battery Park, in all its scarred glory, like a Spomenik in reverse. It is understandable that statues of Stalin or Saddam, no matter how well they may have been crafted by their creators, have been pulled from their pedestals as icons of dictatorship. What is remarkable about these Spomeniks, however, is that they are completely abstract, devoid of the cult of personality often found in Eastern Europe. They are not busts of great leaders, they bear no symbols like stars or sickles, do not depict workers or farmers’ wives brought to life in muscular marble.
The objects reveal an iconography of festive decorations: flowers, streamers, lanterns. Their stance is neutral, referring to nothing but themselves. They fit seamlessly into the Sixties-era aesthetics of Barbarella movies, Paco Rabanne dresses and Lava lamps. And yet, every single one of them is a memorial monument to the most atrocious events of the Second World War, marking the sites of bloody battles and sinister concentration camps. In multicultural Yugoslavia, however, the Second World War was a layered and ambiguous situation. Not only a war of liberation against the aggressor Nazi Germany, it was also a civil war with complex oppositions between ethnic population groups who fought one another from different points on the ideological spectrum, such as the Partisans, the Ustaše and the Chetniks. For this reason, the war monuments could assume neither a heroic nor a patriotic guise. In other words, they had to be neutral enough to be acceptable to both victims and perpetrators. After all, once the slaughter was over, the former opponents had to collectively form the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia together. Hence the choice of a neutral, almost frivolous visual language, whereby the Spomeniks look more like sculptures in an open air museum than the usual war memorials full of military pathos and thundering cannons as were erected at Verdun or Stalingrad.
The good intentions of the artists and the politicians ultimately proved to be the tragedy of these objects. The Spomeniks were places of forgetting, while they should have been places of remembering. They formed a cheerful backdrop for the bright future awaiting the socialistic model society, the official policy line of which was to smooth over all of the former conflicts. Many commentators on the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s thus declared that the events unfolding were the inevitable extension of the Second World War. The fury unleashed upon the Spomeniks after 1992 was not merely settling the score with the old socialist system, but was also the exposure of that hidden history which had led to the reopening of Pandora’s box in the first place.
The Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers undertook a laborious trek through the Balkans in order to photograph a series of these mysterious objects. He captures the Spomeniks in the misty mountain landscape at sundown. Looking at the photographs one must admit to a certain embarrassment. We see the powerful beauty of the monumental sculptures and we catch ourselves forgetting the victims in whose name they were built. This is in no way a reproach to the photographer, but rather attests to the strength of the images. After all, Kempenaers did not set out as a documentary photographer, but first and foremost as an artist seeking to create an image, so powerful that it engulfs the viewer. He allows the viewer to enjoy the Spomeniks' melancholic beauty, but in so doing, forces us to take a position on a social issue.
The photographs raise the question of whether a former monument can ever function as a pure sculpture, an autonomous work of art, detached from its original meaning. Can a Spomenik follow the opposite trajectory of Koenig’s ‘Sphere’? Can it live on, after its ideological progenitors are dead and gone and its symbolism is no longer intelligible? It has been know to happen. Think of the Casa del Fascio in Como, the headquarters of the Italian fascist party, built in 1936 by the architect Giuseppe Terragni and revered worldwide as an icon of the modernist architecture of the 20th century. Over time, it has managed to completely disassociate itself from the original clients and the sinister plans that they hatched within its walls.
The Spomeniks have not quite reached this stage yet. They currently stand forlorn and forgotten, where they once would have been encircled by singing young pioneers and long-skirted oldsters with flowers and candles. No people appear in the photographs. They have the air of the morning after a party: the smell of cigarette butts and stale beer, sodden streamers and guttered lanterns. It is the memory of the socialist party that is all over now. And yet, this is precisely what enriches the monuments’ meaning. In their dilapidated condition, they are no longer symbols of victory, but for the first time, true symbols of a newfound mourning. They seem to grieve for the horrors that took place where they stand, 60 years ago. Perhaps this makes them richer, more seasoned, beautiful and effective now. They no longer charm with their pristine beauty, but their gritty countenance commands respect. That is the conjurors’ trick of the Spomeniks, which Kempenaers masterfully reveals in his photographs.
SITU STUDIO is a reserach, design and fabrication firm based in Brooklyn. Their space-altering, site-specific architectural installation reOrder augurated the Great Hall project in the Brooklyn Museum. For reOrder and other projects, see Situ’s website.
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