From: IN%"[email protected]" "Art Criticism Discussion Forum" 9-JUN-1993
To: IN%"[email protected]" "Howard Lawrence"
Subj: Warning: (Long) descriptions of M. Rodemer's work

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Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1993 17:41:34 +0000
From: Michael Rodemer <[email protected]>
Subject: Warning: (Long) descriptions of M. Rodemer's work
Sender: Art Criticism Discussion Forum <[email protected]>
To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
Reply-to: Art Criticism Discussion Forum <[email protected]>
Message-id: <[email protected]>

In response to your inquiry about my work, I am posting the following
descriptions of some pieces that have been realized. The chronology goes
from most recent into the past. I hope this is the kind of info you meant.
I will forgo discussion of what I consider the didactic aspects of it.

Michael Rodemer

P.S. Is there any reason we couldn't/shouldn't post compressed images of
our work to share with the group? It's possible to attach a file to an
e-mail, which can be downloaded and viewed.

>MICHAEL: I probably gave a slightly disappointing answer in my post, Cyberness.
>I am interested in your elaborating about your work and how your work
>explains itself. What are your pieces like specifically. A lot of people
>are talking about art, but I'm not sure which simply write about art
>and which make art.
"Lifewalk" 1993
Exhibited in the Forum VEBIKUS, Schaffhausen, Switzerland.
A collaboration with Christoph Rust, Hannover, Germany.

The piece is a labyrinth equipped with sensors to trigger a computer to
play back pre-recorded spoken texts to a visitor walking through the piece
wearing cordless headphones.
The first version of this piece was realized in Schaffhausen out of wooden
lath hanging from the ceiling at chin-height. Infrared sensors were used to
enable the progress of the visitor through the maze to be relayed to the
computer. There were three sets of texts available to the visitor; these
could be chosen before entering the labyrinth by pushing a button and
hearing a sample of the text. One set of texts was compiled in German by
Christoph Rust and consisted of reflections on artmaking, art marketing,
(pre)conceptions about art; another set was written in German by Hildegard
Weeg, a free-lance writer from Frankfurt, and consisted of the musings of a
female character, possibly a secretary, which gave one insight into her
life; the third set of texts was written by M. Rodemer in English and
represented an interactive story, wherein the visitor could make choices at
Y's in the way, and whereby these choices had consequences for the further
progress of the story, even for the identity of the character.
Planned future versions of the piece will contain additional stories and be
made of different materials.
The initial concept for the piece was Christoph Rust's; additional
development was done collaboratively. C. Rust built the actual maze, M.
Rodemer realized the interactive computer installation within the maze.

"Sie sind hier. Jetzt." (You are here. Now.) 1992
Exhibited at the Kleine Galerie, Hannover/Langenhagen, 1992
and as part of Mediale '93 at the Galerie J.W.Jans, Hamburg, 1993

The installation is concerned with the phenomenon of our existence in time
and space: how often do we become aware of where we are at the moment? --
and if we should be in one place bodily, but in another in our minds, where
are we exactly? -- in what relation do we stand to time and space?
The installation consists of three related parts, each of which takes up a
different way of experiencing time and space.
A triangular steel tank filled with water stands atop a column; water drips
out of a valve on the tank and into a trough that traverses the space of
the gallery, flowing down the trough and out through a pipe that penetrates
the wall. Outside it drips onto the sidewalk, runs into a storm sewer,
flows from there into a nearby stream on its way to the sea. (In the case
of the Hannover installation, the water flowed over a hundred miles through
various streams, into the Weser River, past Bremen and into the North Sea.)
This dripping water creates, during the course of the exhibition, a
continuously growing conceptual line of water drops between the visitors in
the gallery and the ocean.
In counterpoint to this representation of a linear conception of time and
space is a cyclical concept, manifested in the installation by a circular
copper trough surrounding the column supporting the triangular tank.
Visitors may turn the handle of a wooden crank, connected via a wooden axle
to a sandstone drive wheel, thus setting in motion an awkward, rumbling
wooden mechanism which tips the copper trough so that the water in it flows
in a circle. Once per revolution, a switch is tripped which causes a
computer to play back through a small loudspeaker on the piece one of a
number of sounds stored on its hard disk. These are sentences or sound
collages having to do with cyclically occurring events, some banal, some
important: the seasons, daily rhythms, the flow of money through many
hands, the rise and fall of one violent dictator after another all through
A third part consists of a set of headphones and a chair draped with raw
canvas. Visitors may sit on the chair and don the headphones; when they do,
they hear the voice of actor Gregor Trakis speaking one of a number of
short narratives which seek to transport the listener into another place
and time, be it childhood, adolescence, or an ominously empty city street
at night. At the end of each text, the listener is jerked back into the
present, thus re-establishing distance between the imagined state and the
present moment and place.
Most of the texts are by M. Rodemer, but many were improved and new ones
added by Holger Schroder, a dramaturgist and free-lance writer at the
Landestheater Detmold, Germany.

"Lamp" 1992
Exhibited at the Museum for Holography and New Visual Media, Cologne

Visitors to the exhibition see only a normal floor lamp with a (for
Germany) typical foot switch in the cord; the cord disappears through a
wall into another room, where it is connected to a computer. The lamp's
shade hides the fact that the bulbs have been replaced with small
loudspeakers. When visitors step on the switch, the computer plays back one
of a number of sounds stored on its hard disk, randomly playing a different
sound each time until all have been played.

The sounds are sentences, spoken by an actor, Gregor Trakis. They invite
the visitor to consider that which they were expecting to result from their
depressing the switch, namely light. Continuing to activate the piece gives
the visitor a meditation on light, composed of common sayings, quotations
from literature, lengthier prose passages that consider various aspects of
light, scientific observations, etc. Most of the texts are by M. Rodemer,
but many were improved and new ones added by Holger Schroder, a
dramaturgist and free-lance writer at the Landestheater Detmold, Germany.

This piece is closely related aesthetically and technically to the
following piece.
"Sitting/Sitzen" 1990
exhibited in Hannover at ArtWare 1990.

One of the chairs "speaks" English, the other German. Until a visitor sits
down, one of several invitations to sit is played back at intervals through
speakers concealed within the chair; once someone takes a seat, the program
selects and plays other sentences.

Each piece's repertoire consists of about 150 digitized sentences, some
being aphoristic, others more everyday expressions of the purposes and
significance of sitting. I wrote some of these so that they build up an
idea when played back in cohesive groups, while others could stand alone
and were selected "at random" in such a way that they didn't repeat until
all these sentences had been played once. Thus, there was control over what
was going on conceptually at the same time that, for the visitor, what
happened was non-predictable and apparently non-repetitive.

I wrote the program in Pascal on the Macintosh, recording the sounds with a
MacRecorder. The English sentences were all by me, as were the first
versions of most of the German texts; the latter were improved and added to
by Holger Schroder.

Monument to the Victims of National Socialism. 1987-present
Selected for "Recognition" at Ars Eelctronica 1990
Never exhibited.

Some fifty million people died in the war and concentration camps
perpetrated by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945. The horrendous magnitude of
this crime escapes the imagination, and the people who suffered are
gradually being lost to memory with each new generation.

To remember each individual -- abstractly, yet in a personal way -- I have
developed a monument in the form of a computer program that is capable of
counting from one to fifty million over a period of twelve years, starting
over at the end of every twelfth year since 1945. The counting is carried
on silently -- one death every 8 seconds -- by the computer until a person
(a conscience, a memory) enters the space of the monument; then each number
is counted aloud, in one of the many languages spoken by the victims, using
previously digitized speech stored in the computer.

During the "speaking" of the number in a particular language, one would
also hear spoken, in the same language, a phrase denoting relationship,
such as "our mother," mon frere," unsere Schwester," etc. The overlapping
of these sounds strengthens the human aspect of the counting, adding
another dimension to the abstractness of the numbers.

This would be a "white room" installation: the computers and amplification
equipment used would not be visible, nor would the loudspeakers or the
infrared sensors which detect the presence of visitors.

It seems to me ironically appropriate that this remembrance turns the means
of technology and instrumental reason, perverted by the Nazis to murderous
ends, towards humanistic ends.

I would be glad to respond to your questions and to receive your criticisms
and suggestions.

Michael Rodemer
Dept. of American Studies
University of Tuebingen
Wilhelmstr. 50
[email protected]
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