Palmette à la Montreuili is the centerpiece installation of Mia Marfurts 2019 same-named exhibition at ACRUSH Zurich. The installation stands in a 100 m2 square, white and brigth lit space. One of the four walls that defines the space carries 5 paintings, the adjacent wall a framed large ink drawing. Under the center-piece, yellow and magenta water sausages cross each other‘s path. Can we talk about the paintings first, they seem to dominate the show?
I know the paintings are real and very present, but they were finished last Saturday, so they are still fading into my reality and will continue doing so for some weeks to come. Don‘t get me wrong, I like them a lot and I worked on many versions of them for the past year, but only digitally on my laptop and some tests here an there.
A: When I vistied you last week, you had a sample of a gray and white chequered wallpaper behind one of the paintings.
M: I liked the idea of having the paintings floating on the pattern, so the whole wall could have been like that. The pattern is code for ‚transparency‘ in the digital age. Today the artist may start with a white canvas, but she might also choose a transparent one, if she works for example in Photoshop, as I do. I also experienced the famous constriction of the white canvas. A transparent canvas makes it easier for me at least.
A: So you say the wall would have been there but also not there?
M: It is more about the paintings. A white wall can be as constricting as a white canvas. The chequered background references to that fading into my realty I just described.
A: But you decided not to do it.
M: The three days that passed seeing the works on the white wall helped to connect to the works in a good way. They feel great on white, so no need for the background.
A: Can you say something about the development process of the paintings?
M: It all started with a first group of paintings in 2013. Back then I had to digitally sign for the first time at my local post office to receive a parcel. A week later I signed again on the same counter for a wacom tablet, a human machine interface that precisely detects your movement with a pen. Similar to the one at the post office just a little bigger. I did a bunch of signature paintings, so I basically just signed on the wacom tablet and transfered all the information to a big plotter with a brush lousy attached. Very improvised but it worked. The plotter scaled the gesture up and instead of feeling like a giant, I felt like a ant with a tiny hand doing such small signatures in comparison. They became more abstract than I thought, just by scale.
A: I never saw the signature paintings?
M: No one really did and they don‘t exist anymore. They worked more as a transition to what I describe as my personal involvement with caligraphy and technology. I saw a documentation on signature machines like Polygraph or Autopen used by a good amount of Presidents and CEO‘s. Or the mechanical signing contraption build by the Swiss watch maker Pierre Jaquet-Droz in 1738. The wacom tablet records your gesture in highest detail, I scribbled and drew a lot of random lines, then started to delete let‘s say two hundred Bézier points out of a thousand, building straight lines in the middle of a gesture. Mirorring, slightly scale and versioning some parts of each gesture. Keeping the origial ductus intact, but also abstracting it in reference to straight forward xyz coordinates.
A: Those are the works you showed 2014 in Fribourg at WallRiss and developed furter for the ‚Superior Props‘ Show in 2015 at 1857 in Oslo. I think the drawing on the wall is also from that time.
M: Yes correct, I showed some of them in Fribourg and Oslo. The Rabitt in this show is also from 2015.
A: What can you say about the new series?
M: I was interested in fat lines, so they do not any longer qualify as lines but become areas. Layering, use of different techniques, quality of textures and gloss grades.
A: Can you tell me how they are done?
M: Three techniques are involved. Silkscreen printing, digital printing and the plotter with a real brush. Each of the five paintings has a digital original that can be traced back to my wacome gestures and was then adopted to the real canvas. Each of the five works has a different process sequence, following pure instinct.
A: About the center-piece that also gave the title to your show ‚Palmette à la Montreuli‘. I googled it, it is a term for a fruit breeding practice?
M: Alexis Lepère revolutionized fruit breeding in the 1830ies with new cuts and tree education, espcially for peaches. He went as far as to write ‚Napoleon‘ with espalier trees and possibly delivered the best peaches ever to the French court. I am intregued by the human compulsion to dominate nature. Trying to optimize nature for your own good. Manipulate the one thing of such great complexity that created our sheer existence. The paradox of optimizing perfection. Palmette à la Montreuil works as a modular system. A fennel and an orange were scanned and milled out of aluminum in a way that they can work as a connector to join construction wood. Like a scaffolding system. I set-up one possible of many versions, I can also imagine additional fruits and vegetables joining the structure.
A: So the structure could be indefinitely big.
M: Indefinite sounds definitely too big. I could imagine a structure in a garden of 8 to 16 connectors maybe? Good would be to see it terdrilled by wild plants, worn down by the weather, maybe building a pergola. Or the beams could support gardning tools or a collection of kids toys. I also like the idea that you could add parts or remove some over time.
A: Does it work as critque that humandkind should pay more attention to nature?
M: No, I definitely think that we should take better care of nature, but the work is not about that. One aspect maybe, why not. But there are many other layers playing into it. My works are always about a lot of things, therefore it is also complicated to talk about them. They also develop over time. I see aspects in earlier works that only now come to light. In the end I always listen to my gut. Maybe the work is about awareness, a wooden construction beam is often made out of different trees, glued together. Or how does a fennel look before it gets cut into the shape we know? The paradox that we want to dominate natural systems in general, how everything is connected, depending on each other.
A: That‘s also what the water sausages are about no? You titled them Acqua Felice, like the famous Roman Aqueduct.
M: Yes, taming water or nature plays clearly into this work. Or painting, I used Epson Ultra Chrome ink to dye them, as I did for the Oslo drawings. I like the idea of more physical gestures in space. Like using a fat 3D paint brush. But they are also just containers filled with water, like myself and all other creatures out there.
Mia Marfurt is a Swiss Artist living and working in Zurich.
Anthony Threshold is a fictive individual who is much interessted in many things.
Why do we dream?
Apparently AI reached the level of complexity where it is not capable of explaining every underlying reason for its actions. What does that remind us of? Intuition, I guess. Or, in the language of my field, the Unconsciousness. And what might the Unconsciousness be? Without going into psychodynamical theories it seems safe to suggest that a purely conscious apparatus would be overwhelmed with processing our extraordinarily complex environment. So, certain information must be handled in a second, unconscious, entity.
Now, I am willing to assume that our dreams do come exactly from this second layer of our mental apparatus. Does it mean that there is a chance that a complex AI would dream? Dreaming as a byproduct of processing a complex environment? Maybe.
Still, cautiousness seems sensible when comparing computers’ artificial intelligence with man’s brains. As Robert Epstein pointed out recently in his article „The empty brain“ in the Aeon magazine, our understanding of our intelligence alters its analogies depending on the developments of our Zeitgeist. Neither the hydraulic metaphor of ancient times, the electricity metaphor of the 1800, nor the comparison with computers in our time are capable of describing our brain’s intelligence properly.
Usually Artificial Intelligence has a goal which its capabilities are directed to. It manages to find unique ways of dealing with its task, but it is still bound to the goal; a teleological machine. Is this valid for us humans as well? What is our goal? Survival? Of the fittest (meaning procreation)? Are all our capabilities designed to master our extraordinarily complex environment to survive? Evolutionary theory might suggest so, but our cultural accomplishments give us hope that our intelligence is indeed not that artificial.
Dr. Oliver Pintsov, 6 June 2017 Psychiatrie & Psychotherapie FMH