The globalized world seems at once transparent and opaque. While modern life is characterized by a desire for more transparency in communication, politics and business, limitless access to information has eroded personal privacy, creating an ever-present, now long-running social dilemma. Despite the generally positive promise of transparency, there have been growing doubts about its impact on the community and on our understanding of the public sphere. A tremendous sense of insecurity can be felt at the level of private messaging, for example: while we value the free exchange of information on the Internet, we simultaneously oppose a surveillance society in which personal data is controlled by algorithms. The digital age brought a fundamental shift to cultural-historical notions of transparency.
„Transparencies“ examines the cultural facets and atmospheres of this (non-)transparency. The two-part, joint exhibition project in Bielefeld and Nuremberg is dedicated to developments in „transparent society,“ and asks how these are reflected in current work by contemporary artists. Participating artists deal with the paradigm of transparency and the ambivalence of the term in multiple, diverse ways. They examine the consequences of an algorithm- and data-collection-driven, life-world transparency and explore our changed relationship to privacy, or convey a critical approach to post-privacy society through strategies of refusal or deliberate disclosure of data. Other key points of investigation include interpersonal exchange and its possible control. Besides these effects of a progressive and media-expanded information age, the works examine the fundamental significance of presence and absence, the potential of revealing and concealing, and the handling of knowledge and ignorance within our society. The artists move between different fields in terms of subject matter, focusing on transparency as it relates to communication, politics, contemporary history, economics, sociology and (marine-)biology.
Simultaneous presentations in Bielefeld and Nuremberg reinforce the experience of transparency within the exhibition. Though all the artists have work in both places, they emphasize different thematic and spatial aspects of their work in the two venues. Both exhibition sites are linked not only in terms of content, but also through various media and artistic contributions. Information and works are deliberately withheld, for example, shown only in part or not even presented in the first place, so that the ambiguity of the exhibition’s topic can be felt at each, respective institution in relation to the other. The two, corresponding presentations not only emphasize their parallelism, but also shed light on the transitions between transparency and opacity, making them palpable for the viewer.
In the run-up to the exhibition, the graphic design studio Metahaven developed its own visual identity for „Transparencies“ with a family of logotypes that references and draws on corporate identities for so-called ‚transparent’ products such as clear varnishes or companies like Volkswagen. Considerations on the topic continue in the form of a symposium, a series of exhibition talks, workshops, and a shared project website. On the one hand, „Transparencies“ attempts to locate and update the phenomenon in cultural history, yet it also enables an understanding of the (borderline) experiences of this new visibility from a contemporary perspective. The project concludes with the publication of a comprehensive catalogue featuring texts by Emmanuel Alloa, Clare Birchall, Simone Neuenschwander, Manfred Schneider and Thomas Thiel.
Curators: Simone Neuenschwander and Thomas Thiel
b. 1985 in Paris, France; lives in Paris
Occupying the space between fiction and reality, the works of Neïl Beloufa reject the simplification of cultural stereotypes and devote themselves instead to the diversity of human relationships. Beloufa is known for his video works and projections, which he always embeds in sculptural settings. These enterable, polyperspectival installations are simultaneously sculpture and display and often create fragmentary and semi-transparent images. His work explores topics as diverse as extraterrestrials, nationalism, terrorism and the future, while following no cultural or historically-established hierarchies. Traditional canon, mainstream or exotic, everything is equally relevant and could appear as a reference in one of his films. Beloufa always approaches his projects in a very similar way: he becomes interested in a specific topic or subject matter, and then processes it with professional or amateur actors and shifts its meaning in order to develop a new narrative.
Juliette Blightman’s work explores the permeable relationships that develop between art and life, private and public. For some time now, Blightman has been materializing her everyday experiences as an artist, including those had in the studio, on her travels, in collaborations with other artists and as a mother. Works develop like ongoing diary entries, which she translates into various media including photography, drawing, painting, text and film. Besides her individual perception of time and temporality, Blightman focuses mainly on the process by which her own artistic productions develop. She never shows her archive in its entirety, but as clustered arrangements in installations or in film tableaux where the selection of images reflects societal notions of intimacy and its presentation.
b. 1976 in Chester, UK; lives in London and Suffolk
Visibility and invisibility, concealing and revealing are recurring themes in the work of Ryan Gander, whose practice combines conceptual strategies, reduced gestures and visual immediacy. Gander’s work derives from his current surroundings and interest in everyday life. Like a collector, he appropriates objects, materials and fragments of reality, shifting them into his own system of concepts that invalidates and reinterprets existing rules. His practice takes up various facets of cultural production, manifesting in work that encompasses not only sculpture, installation and photography, but also performative lectures, literature, design and architecture. The works always involve an activation of the viewer’s own experiences and imagination as a key component: gaps, illusions and ambiguities sharpen spectators’ perception, disorienting his audience in a positive way.
Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff
b. 1988 in Minneapolis, USA / b. 1987 in Buffalo, USA; live in Berlin
In their photographs, objects, performances and texts, Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff reflect on the conditions of artistic production, its overlap with service, and its significance for interpersonal relationships. The works of Henkel and Pitegoff often draw from in-depth research into their immediate social surroundings. Beginning with their own observations of the sociopolitical impact of gentrification or the precariat, they question the role of the artist and consider the position and creative space he or she can occupy within these developments. Processuality and formal openness are important elements of their work, an aspect that comes through in their collaborative projects with fellow artists. With the bar and the parallel exhibition space “Times Bar” (2007–2012, with Lindsay Lawson) and performance space “New Theater” (2013–2015) they created places of artistic exchange in Berlin that emphasized both the real event and the collective creative process of productions.
b. 1982 in Los Angeles, USA; lives in New York
Communication and the distance between people feature prominently in David Horvitz’s conceptual work, which he uses to create an alternate logic within both established data transfers and standardized measurements of time. Horvitz employs a variety of distribution and information systems including online platforms, the mail and lost property offices at airports, into which he feeds his images and objects and allows them to continue to circulate. These often take on an uncontrollable dynamic of their own that reflects the emotional components of interpersonal exchange in relation to the virtuality and volatility of digital communication. His works also explore the current value of data in the context of open access culture, along with the role of authorship and copyright law within this framework.
b. 1984 in Tallinn, Estonia; lives in Amsterdam and Berlin
Katja Novitskova’s work shows current changes in dealing with digital images of nature, their influence on human perception and the possibility of visual discovery and insight using imaging techniques. Using digital, high-resolution found image material from science and advertising, her stage-like installations show a world based solely on Internet research and computerized visualizations. She addresses the illusion of authentic naturalness by having clichéd stock photographs, infographics and animation produced as artificial objects and presented in the physical exhibition space along with constructions of industrial products.
b. 1980 in Leiden, The Netherlands; lives in Amsterdam
Daniel van der Velden
b. 1971 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands; lives in Amsterdam
Founded in 2007 by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, Metahaven deals with the graphic identities of politics, economy and culture in everyday visual life. They are particularly interested in an aesthetic of transparency at the intersection of design, architecture and pop culture. The office pursues graphic design as substantive research and understands it as a contribution to a political and social debate. The work finds its starting point in the invisible power and marketing strategies of the Internet, which manifests power structures of information dissemination through digital images, interfaces and design identities.
b. 1986 in Dublin, Ireland; lives in Berlin and London
Yuri Pattison’s latest works show how contemporary digital and real worlds pervade one another, and the impact this steady development has on our society and its economic system. Pattison’s practice includes installation works that he combines with digital source material and videos, technical equipment and sculptural elements. His work employs not only the production possibilities and inexhaustible source of images and information on the Internet, but also the technologies and third parties immanent to the work itself. One aesthetic hallmark of his installations and online projects is the exposure of the technology and media used, which bring mostly hidden processes of information technology into focus and make human intervention visible. Pattison’s works center around absurd developments in the Internet and the real consequences of our online activities, which are often imperceptible to us in day-to-day life.
Opening with greetings by Andreas Wannenmacher (First Chairman, Bielefelder Kunstverein), Dr. Udo Witthaus (Deputy Mayor for School, Citizen and Culture of the City of Bielefeld) and Alexander Farenholtz (Executive Board, Kulturstiftung des Bundes), as well with an introduction by Simone Neuenschwander (Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft) and Thomas Thiel (Bielefelder Kunstverein)
Sat, November 7, 2015
Artists’ talk with the present artists
Thu, November 19, 2015
Lecture and artist talk with David Horvitz
Sat, November 21, 2015
10 am–3 pm
Children’s activity including a guided tour and a workshop for children (6-12 years) with the artist Klaus Braun from Bielefeld
Sat, November 28, 2015
12 am–6 pm
Symposium „Transparenzen“ with lectures by Dr. Clare Birchall, Metahaven and Prof. Dr. em. Manfred Schneider
Sun, November 29, 2015
Guided tour with Juliane Schickedanz
Thu, December 3, 2015
Exhibition talk and guided tour with padeluun (artist and Internet activist, Art d’Ameublement / Digitalcourage e.V., Bielefeld)
Sun, December 13, 2015
Guided tour with Cynthia Krell
Sat, January 9, 2016
10 am–3 pm
Children’s activity including a guided tour and a workshop for children (6-12 years) with the artist Klaus Braun from Bielefeld
Thu, January 14, 2016
Exhibtion talk and guided tour with Dr. Inke Arns (Director, Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund)
Sat, January 16, 2016
2 pm–6 pm
Workshop #wie transparent will ich sein? for teenagers (from 13 years upwards) with Cynthia Krell
Sun, January 17, 2016
Curator’s guided tour with Thomas Thiel
Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft
Fri, November 20, 2015
Opening with greetings by Peter Naumann (First Chairman, Kunstverein Nürnberg) as well an introduction by Simone Neuenschwander (Kunstverein Nürnberg) and Thomas Thiel (Bielefelder Kunstverein)
Sat, November 21, 2015
Artist talk with Juliette Blightman, Yuri Pattison and David Horvitz
Thu, November 26, 2015
Curator’s guided tour with Simone Neuenschwander
Fri, November, 27 – Su, November 29, 2015
Member trip to Bielefeld and attendance at the symposium at the Bielefelder Kunstverein. Event for members; with costs; registration until November 16, 2015; firstname.lastname@example.org
Thu, December 10, 2015
Guided tour with Judith Grobe
Sun, December 20, 2015
Guided tour with Simone Neuenschwander and Judith Grobe
Wed, January 13, 2016
Exhibition talk with Kerstin Stakemeier (Professor of Art Theory, AdBK Nürnberg)
Thu, January 26, 2016
Exhibition talk with Deborah Schamoni (Gallerist and Filmmaker, Munich)
Sun, January 31, 2016
Finissage and book launch of the catalogue „Transparencies“; with a report and a guided tour by Simone Neuenschwander and Thomas Thiel, the curators of the project
Coinciding with the exhibition, the international symposium deepens investigations into the current paradigm of transparency and the ambivalence of the term. Invited speakers from the disciplines of design, literature and cultural studies situate the phenomenon of “transparency” in cultural history, question it in relation to artistic practice and reflect on it in the charged area between individual and society. The symposium expands the two-part, mutually reinforcing “Transparencies” exhibition project at Bielefelder Kunstverein (November 7, 2015 to January 17, 2016) and at Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft (November 21, 2015 to January 31, 2016).
Sat, November 28, 2015
Greetings and introduction
Thomas Thiel (Director, Bielefelder Kunstverein)
Simone Neuenschwander (Director, Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft)
“Durchsichtige Körper, gläserne Wände: Utopien der Transparenz”
Prof. Dr. em. Manfred Schneider (Bochum)
“Approaching Secrecy and Transparency through Art”
Dr. Clare Birchall (London)
Panel discussion with Clare Birchall, Metahaven, Simone Neuenschwander, Manfred Schneider and Thomas Thiel
Reservation and attendance fee
Due to limited access your reservation via email to Cynthia Krell (email@example.com) or Fax (+49-521-178810) is requested. The attendance fee of the conference will be 12 Euro (reduced 8 Euro, Members free).
T +49 (0) 521.17 88 06
F +49 (0) 521.17 88 10
Prof. Dr. Manfred Schneider
Translucent Body, Glass Walls: Utopias of Transparency
“Transparency” was originally a scholarly term. It has its roots in the theology of scholasticism and refers to the aesthetic state of eternal souls. This idea of blessed clarity lives on in scientific and literary concepts from the early modern era and Modernism. It dreams of new utopian conditions of individual and social visibility: won’t our lives be peaceful and perfect once we ourselves, and our world, are completely transparent? This dream of transparency lingers in current debates on mass surveillance, on the end of privacy, but also in demands for perfect clarity in all political and economic activity. The lecture will illustrate the modernization of once-blessed states using images and examples from philosophy, literature and science.
Manfred Schneider, born 1944, is a Literature and Media Studies theorist/scholar. As an emeritus professor of the Ruhr-University Bochum he teaches at times as a visiting professor at the German Department of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (USA). Schneider studied German Studies, Romance Studies and Philosophy in Freiburg im Breisgau. In 1981 he was appointed for the professorship „Neuere deutsche Literaturwissenschaft“ at the University GH-Essen, from 1999 to 2013 he was a professor for „Neugermanistik, Ästhetik und Medien“ at the Ruhr-University Bochum. Main focuses of his research activity are the literature and aesthetics of the modern age, media theory, literature and right. Beside his research projects and teaching Schneider expresses himself over and over again as a critic, commentator, or essayist on the radio as well as in the political feuilleton of different newspapers. At last he published the much notable works „Das Attentat. Kritik der paranoischen Vernunft“ (Matthes & Seitz, 2010) and „Transparenztraum. Literatur, Politik, Medien und das Unmögliche“ (Matthes & Seitz, 2013).
Art concerned with secrecy and transparency, such as that included in this exhibition curated by Thomas Thiel and Simone Neuenschwander, has the potential to shift current understandings and debates about these practices in subtle but important ways. This talk will outline dominant modes of thinking about secrecy and transparency before then considering different approaches prompted by artworks. For example, art can shift the viewer from a purely hermeneutic response to the secret, interested in questions of meaning and interpretive challenges, to an aesthetic response concerned with the distributive as well as affective force of the secret. In addition, in foregrounding secrecy, rather than privacy, certain artworks can redraw the parameters of common debates to ask what it means to think of a ‘right to secrecy’ rather than a ‘right to privacy’. Moreover, some artworks might help us to imagine transparency beyond its current articulation by neoliberalism. Art, therefore, has the potential to wrest secrecy from the securitized, neoliberal state and offer new ways of approaching, conceptualising, and working with secrecy and transparency.
Clare Birchall is a Senior Lecturer at King’s College London. She is the author of Knowledge Goes Pop: From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip (Berg, 2006) and co-editor of New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory (Edinburgh University Press, 2007). She has also edited special issues of the journals Theory, Culture and Society and Cultural Studies. Her most recent research is concerned with the relationship between secrecy and transparency in the digital age and she is part of an ESRC grant to fund a series of research seminars on such issues entitled ‘DATA – PSST! Debating and Assessing Transparency Arrangements – Privacy, Security, Surveillance, Trust’. Alongside more traditional scholarship, Birchall is involved with a number of digital projects. She is one of the editors for the online journal Culture Machine; an editorial board member and series co-editor for the Open Humanities Press; and part of the team behind the JISC-funded Living Books About Life series.
Black Transparency: Fantasy, Subversion, Aesthetics
“Black transparency” destabilizes not just structures of power, it also uproots the secrecy and/or confidentiality of, potentially, every transaction made under planetary-scale computation.
From Sony to Ashley Madison, we are living in a time of unprecedented leaks. But it seems that the zenith of progressive ethical and political ideals connected to transparency already lies behind us. The 2010-2011 social and political causes of radical transparency, hacktivism, and street protest (as characterized by the overlap between WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Occupy) have disintegrated; the narration of the post-Snowden surveillance state has become virtually privatized in the hands of a few central media actors. What are subversive strategies after transparency, and what role is to play for aesthetics?
Metahaven was founded in 2007 by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. Recent books include “Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?” (Strelka Press, 2013), “Uncorporate Identity” (Lars Müller Publishers, 2010), and “Black Transparency” (Sternberg Press, 2015). In 2013 Metahaven was awarded the Cobra Art Prize and named Design Studio of the Year by ICON magazine. Their work has been featured in publications such as 032C, frieze, e-flux journal, New York Times Magazine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Libération, and Paper. Their work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1, New York (2013), the V&A, London (2015), Gwangju Design Biennale (2011), Artists Space, New York (2013), and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2014), among others.
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