15.09.2010. - 17.10.2010.

White, Yellow, Blue, and Black, one Coincidence, and one Object

Artists: Ryan Barone , Charles Broskoski, Reynald Drouhin, Michael Kargl – aka carlos katastrofsky, Jan Robert Leegte, UBERMORGEN.com

Curated by Birgit Rinagl, Franz Thalmair; CONT3XT. NET

— [...] Then even your Abstract Paintings should convey a content? — Yes. —
They’re not the negation of content, not simply the facticity of painting, not an
ironic paraphrase of contemporary expressionism? — No. — Not a perversion of
gestural abstraction? Not ironic? — Never! What sort of things are you asking?
(Gerhard Richter, interviewed by Benjamin Buchloh)

A reduction of structure, material, and space; if colour articulates itself,
independently of interpretation or context—does that make it autonomous?
Monochromacity has been considered the most essential form of abstraction,
having provided a source of inspiration for non-figurative and nonrepresentational
tendencies in contemporary art, these ideas need to be taken
still further in the age of digital images. The notion of a pure medium proposed
by twentieth-century modernism with its ideals of autonomy is increasingly being
pushed aside by mixed media approaches: In this post-medium condition,
however, the autonomous realms of the world of technical devices and the
intrinsic characteristics of the world of media retain their relevance. In fact, the
specificity and autonomy of media is growing ever more differentiated.
[1] How
does the media quality of a digital image determine its appearance? If the
Internet is used as a tool for communicating artistic expression, how does that
relate to the history of art? Which ways of reading the Internet have users
These questions point to the fact that reflecting on this condition
is not an end in itself, but at best an intrinsic and obvious undertaking.

The exhibition White, Yellow, Blue, and Black, one Coincidence, and one Object
presents eight international positions in Internet-based art that embrace
monochromacity as a formal principle without clinging to the ideological aims
of earlier artistic avant-gardes. The works on display implicitly address the
deconstruction of the digital image via text (code) and explicitly ask whether, in
the face of the present image overload, there are ways of escaping the so-called
crisis of representation. It is therefore possible to read these abstract works of
art as art about abstract art. Other than with the presentational medium of
monochrome painting, their two-dimensionality, [3] which is limited by the
browser and restricted to the screen, is not accepted as the boundary of the
work. On the contrary, the exhibition encourages viewers to pursue the art into
the world outside and to leave the exhibition in order to explore other contexts.
This reference to the sociocultural context and the viewers’ response defines the
exhibition’s political dimension. The focus is on the material, which is not solely
necessary for the existence of these works but forms a complex system of
implications and references to media and society. Between iconoclasm and
image overload, autonomy and new forms of representation, the digital image
needs to find a new position.
It does so by reflecting upon itself and thus
pointing to things other than itself.

The exhibition White, Yellow, Blue, and Black, one Coincidence, and one Object
addresses the conditions determining both the form and content of monochrome
art works. The interaction between these closely linked levels is revealed in
a mutual tension that arises when representing and represented, material and
meaning come under scrutiny. Form does not become transparent with regard to
content. On the contrary, when art is viewed it becomes unclear what the
content is and what the object of representation is.
[4] In the viewers’
perception this results in an oscillation between artwork, exhibition display, and
media references, the political dimensions of which unfold in the etheric realm
of the space–time continuum. It is this tension arising between art and politics,
with neither of the two representing or instrumentalizing the other, that it is
possible for art to become political. For art to develop a political dimension it is
therefore necessary to approach the sensory world or the arrangement of the
original material in a way that is different from what traditional political
categories would appear to suggest.
[5]—Autonomy could therefore be said to
arise from the Here and Now when art is viewed.

In this context, The White Website (2002) and The Black Website (2002) by
UBERMORGEN.com carry modernist trends into a digital environment: the artist
duo has set up websites with white and black monochrome surfaces. An
accompanying essay by Hans Ulrich Obrist puts into words what the art shows
on the screen: To be able to maintain its significance up against the sciences
and their picture-producing procedures, art must look for a position beyond the
crisis of representation and beyond the image wars straight into the blind spaces
of the black black and the white.

Referring to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1913) and his white square
(Suprematist Composition: White on White, 1918) Michael Kargl applies
reductionist forms to the phenomenon of obsession with science and technology:
his webzen (2009) not only points to Nam June Paik, one of the originators of
media art, but also paraphrases spiritually motivated strategies, which are
mediated in the programming code on which the work is based. Charles
, in turn, uses auto-generation to transform his personal reflections on
opportunities for collaborating on the Internet into a collective, participatory
process: Let’s Turn This Fucking Website Yellow.com (2007–2008) is the title of
his website and also a clear instruction on what is to be done to turn a black
monochrome surface into a yellow one. The responsibility in this time-based
process lies entirely within the network.

For Blue Monochrome .com (2008), Jan Robert Leegte articulates his critique of
representation by drawing on the abundant freely available images on the World
Wide Web. A simple zoom on the Pacific Ocean through Google Earth not only
yields a view of a readymade—the blue, relief-like surface of the water—but also
permits an insight into the economics of contemporary information hierarchies.
The colour blue, that is, the colour clearly identified in art history and colour
technology as International Klein Blue, is also the point of departure for Ryan
Barone’s International Klein Blue (Google Monochromes)
(2008). By presenting
an endless sequence of eleven variants of one and the same—allegedly
standardized—colour, which he discovered in a simple Google search, the artist
disproves the assumption that categories like originality and authenticity count
as parameters for digital art.

The random appearance of hexadecimal colour codes provides the basis for
Reynald Drouhin’s playful localization of virtual spaces, too. Deliberately ignoring
users’ rights to free choice, he has programmed his IP Monochrome (2006) to
generate colour surfaces on the basis of data about the location of the computer
that is accessing his site. The resulting surfaces may be read as representations
of the real context.

Michael Kargl’s computer object all you can see (2008) also
gives material form in real space to what is actually virtual. In a linear process
lasting eight days, the artist displays all of the nearly 17 million colours that any
computer screen is theoretically able to represent, proceeding from black to
white, colour by colour, surface by surface, code by code, until perception
arrives at zero.

Birgit Rinagl & Franz Thalmair

[1] Cf. Weibel, Peter: Postmediale Kondition (Exhibition in the context of the art fair Arco, Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid), 2006, online available under:

[2] Röbl, Marie: Abstrakte Erb- und Patenschaft. Streiflichter auf Hintergründe,
Kategorien und Raster, in: Pfaffenbichler, Norbert and Droschl, Sandro (Hg.): Abstraction Now (exhibition catalogue, Künstlerhaus, Vienna) 2004, p. 36, online available under:

[3] Greenberg, Clement: Modernistische Malerei, in: Harrison, Charles and Wood, Paul (eds.): Kunsttheorie im 20. Jahrhundert. Künstlerschriften, Kunstkritik, Kunstphilosophie, Manifeste, Statements, Interviews, Hatje Cantz: Ostfildern - Ruit, vol. II, 2003, p. 931-937

[4] Rebentisch, Juliane: Zur Aktualität ästhetischer Autonomie. Juliane Rebentisch im
Gespräch mit Loretta Fahrenholz und Hans - Christian Lotz, in: Huber, Tobias and
Steinweg, Marcus (eds.): Inästhetik. Theses on Contemporary Art, Diaphanes,
Zurich/Berlin, 2008, p. 116

[5] Höller, Christian: Ästhetischer Dissens – Überlegungen zum Politisch - Werden der Kunst, in: Saxenhuber, Hedwig: Kunst + Politik. Aus der Sammlung der Stadt Wien, Springer, Vienna/New York, 2008, p. 190


Supported by City of Velika Gorica and Ministry of Culture of Republica Croatia. Sponsored by Combis [http://www.combis.hr/]