Rainer Fuchs


Thomas Feuerstein defines the field of art as the terrain, in which it is possible to meaningfully negotiate between the artificiality of the real or the relationship between virtuality, mediality and reality, for the reason that art itself is a consciousness technique reflective of reality. In some of Feuerstein's work, the notion that neither reality nor art is a timeless fact per se, but rather that both represent constructs with variable meanings that must be repeatedly investigated and communicated, encounters the query and interpretation of media-technical and biotechnical interventions and manipulation as practices of the construction of identity and/as reality.

The deconstruction of dual and polar mental and interpretive traditions and techniques is expressed as a central principle in Feuerstein's work in that he probes social conditionedness, communicatedness and constructedness in precisely those areas that are usually cited as counterworlds, free of interests and history, in the contested zones of civilization and urbanity: specifically in "nature" and especially in the nature of the human being as an organic, biological entity. Feuerstein's art subverts this cliché of counter-worlds. It refers, among other things, to the interference of politics and biology, of culture and nature, by addressing the theme of the media structures of so-called reality and the biotopic structures of the so-called natural as being "facts" that have long been conjoined and mutually defining.

To this end, the areas to which the artist turns include those in which questions of mediatization and of virtual scenarios also relate to the biological and material substance and structure of organisms. As a consequence of the ability to control and construct biological organisms through genetic engineering and human biology, the idea of nature and organic life as being ideology-free and a-historical facts following exclusively natural time cycles, has been emphatically contravened. Feuerstein's fundamental motivation for depicting the concepts of identity, reality, information and authorship as a relational interweaving, is that the significance of constructing identity can also mean the construction of a genuinely corporeal and biological constitution, or that these kinds of constructions are a symptom of social circumstances and objectives. In addition, that radically new possibilities for constructing identity not only reflect contemporary history, but also always evince historical references, is another fact that Feuerstein has brought to light: indeed, part of his work is reminiscent of the history of the ideology of race with its dialectic of selection and elimination, of time-transcending claims, conditioned by ideology, as controlling time and reality.

In his project "Eugen - hire all my information", for instance, the artist makes transparent the artificial structures of social and biological images of identity, which are regarded as natural and organic. In order to call attention to the way and extent that the possibilities of genetic technology manipulations have already long determined, and thus demystified, the ontological status of nature and the human subject as deconstructable and reconstructable, the artist went to a sperm bank in California to insert himself there as a reproducible object in the form of his DNA. He used this measure to illustrate that the technique of sampling also relates to the world of living organisms, and that reality is also co-defined by virtual subjects in the form of stored DNA data that can be called up at any time. His most genuinely personal characteristics, specifically his own genetic code as information that can be called up and reproduced, topicalize the concept of information as a bio-ideological phenomenon and identify the artist as a simultaneously conditioned and conditioning subject. Communication technology and gene technology converge in the concept of information. Both define the individual as a carrier and transmitter of information, showing that identity, both as a biological and as an intelligible fact, is respectively a sum of units of information, which are variable in themselves and in relation to one another and also determine the phenomenon of identity as variable and contingent. Another fact revealed by Feuerstein's procedures is that the representation, reception and transmission of information always presupposed a plane and a system of information. In other words, opinions and judgments regarding reality do not simply exist, but rather are formed in reference to opinions already stated, and reality is defined therein.

Feuerstein's archiving of himself as an interface motif within the existing system of a controlling institution for the production of individuals is a kind of metaphoric act, to the extent that it indicates the double function of all information and every interpretation, of specifically being conclusion and proposal, representation and anticipation at the same time. By transposing his authorship, as an artistic message, to the provision of his hereditary information within a high-tech supported data and information system, he not only shows the concatenation of organic and organigram orders, but also symbolizes the inseparable causal link between research and draft, between "hacking and programming" (Feuerstein).

Just as the representation of history as an inevitably perspectival interpretation has always sought to influence the further course of history, nature also does not simply happen, but rather shows itself, in the issues raised by Feuerstein, as a structurable reality that refers constantly to claims and expectations that are rooted in social power and interest relationships. Feuerstein inserts himself and his understanding of authorship into precisely this mechanism and yet assumes a stance at the same time that is contrary to those systems of self-immunizing reproduction, by inverting the anonymity that is otherwise customary and guaranteed there into publicly receivable authorship.

Whereas sperm banks imply an existing demand or an offer that is deficient or perceived as deficient, a city such as Bombay, to which the artist traveled in the course of his project "Biophily", would seem to imply the opposite: specifically - to formulate it in the cynical language of commodity aesthetics - a surplus of individuals due to uncontrollable circumstances. Yet the supposedly free reign of nature in fact mirrors the precarious, social-historical situation of a metropolis as the framework condition for this kind of uncontrollable growth. Thus, Feuerstein conducted his investigations in the locations that mark the extremes of a field in relation to population. One location marks the meticulous control of offspring, the other the most extreme loss of control over population growth. Yet both poles indicate equally the relationality of the social field and population dynamics, of politics and life.

For "Biophily" - as title a hybrid concept, in which bio-logy and philo-sophy seem to be literally crossed - the artist undertook not only a fictive wedding with a potted plant, but also the concomitant honeymoon in India, one of the most heavily populated countries of the world. The love of life (biophily) has long since been permeated by the love of corrected and constructed life, and in this context, the technique of love as the basis of the reproduction and evolution of life has come to mean the love of gene technology and biogenetic design as well. Someone like Feuerstein, who, in the course of this project, simultaneously topicalizes and disillusions the notion of an idyllic landscape and the romantic background figure in a wedding picture commissioned in the image workshop of "Bollywood", Bombay's film center, also defines authorship in relation to conventional artistic media as a principle that can be delegated. Commissioning a portrait of himself that is simultaneously his own work, allowing himself to be "copied" by others specifically to fulfill his role as author/informer, suggests a comparison with the role of the artist in the previously mentioned project "Eugen." Ordering something and having it made by someone else, or defining oneself as an order number, informer and supplier for other interested parties, are basically complementary procedures, to the extent that authorship is defined here as a productivity transfer and interface action, or to the extent that both cases involve the reproduction of the human being and the rites that accompany this - in one case, in the context of sanctioned social tradition, in the other case, in conjunction with largely tabooed gene technology. The artist's wedding with the plant, which seems to be represented in the picture, indicates a liaison between art and nature from a test tube. Neither an independently created painting, nor naturally organic vegetation characterizes this scenario. The reality, sampled in this picture through painting, of the artificial jungle and the figurative image of a city communicates an idyll that is disrupted, because it is cloned and arranged to the last detail. The rubber tree as the counterpart of the background figure of the artist symbolizes not only domesticated and artificial nature, but the motif of rubber as artificial skin also indicates the motif of the boundary, the delimitation and containment of identity. This theme is further developed by the figure of the artist, whose suit is recognizable as specifically social "dress." The potted plant as cultivated growth conversely also represents nature that has been stylized as the ideal commodity form. As an ideal type, it symbolizes the standardized experience of nature, or the "naturalness" of domesticated ways of living. To this extent, what is depicted here is the marriage between two protagonists, who are already urbanly socialized and informed. In drafting a virtual scenario that still conveys reality in an appropriately contemporary form, this picture is an exemplary indication of what Feuerstein repeatedly expresses as the interference and relationality of virtuality and reality, of ideology and biology. What Feuerstein's praxis makes clear is that one cannot simply use the field of art to investigate social reality without semantically shifting both fields at the same time. Since the object of investigation, both in art and in science, is always a function of the method of investigation and vice versa, art that treats the artificial and constructed "nature" of its "object" cannot avoid a discussion of its own artificiality and temporality. In this sense, the artist does not simply use artistic strategies for scientific and cultural sociological queries and interpretation models; he is not simply a creative explorer of the mediatization of that which is intelligible and corporeally organic. Rather, he is an artist who acts on the constructability and mediatizability of artistic praxis itself. Moving as a "hacker" in the existing systems of artistic technologies and artistic techniques is already enough to make one a programmer of these systems, too.

Thomas Feuerstein
english | deutsch

Ulrike Mair

G. J. Lischka
english | deutsch

Rainer Fuchs
english | deutsch

Margarete Jahrmann
english | deutsch

Maia Damianovic