Roman Kirschner

  • Processes of material transformation. Metamorphosis in art practice?

How do artists deal with material that is put into motion by information? What is the potential contained therein for renegotiating our material reality?

Things are increasingly pushed aside by non-things. Non-Things are information.1 They can spread like wildfire and be at different places at the same time. The material basis of information has seemingly become replaceable. Artist are declared to be mere semionauts.2 However, materials have always been carriers of messages and meaning and even the purest piece of information needs a medium to exist. The process of information needs the material’s potential for change. Science and art look for suitable materials and processes and try to shift the general perception from new to newly transformed.

Simon Starling has made transformation a matter of principle in his artistic work. It can be seen in his works Tabernas Desert Run and ShedBoatShed (Turner Prize 2005). In ShedBoatShed he transforms a wooden shed, that he has discovered on the banks of the Rhine, into a boat. He steers it to Basel and transforms it back into the initial shed for his exhibition there.
Boo Chapple wants to show us the complexity of our living environment, which is based on transformations, by transforming bacteria found in the lower intestine into the red base material for the production of a lipstick. Julien Maire uses a slow motion material in his performance „Model for an Apocalypse“ that he has developed over a period of 10 years. It consists of granulated metal and glue that reacts in a highly specific way to his attemps to shape it. Especially the last two exemples would be unthinkable without the contact to life and material sciences and their preliminary work. Boo Chapples worked at the Tissue Art and Culture Institute of the University of Western Australia. Julien Maire’s slow motion material seeems to be connected to the work of the Granular Media Group at the Penn State University, which is researching and modelling the fluid behaviour of granular matter.

From my primary place of research at the Academy of Media Arts I intend to develop cooperations with researchers from the life and material sciences3 as well as converging technologists and artists from various fields, to collect materials, processes and stories surrounding them. In focusing on algorithmicity, dimensions of human perception, histories of development and the potential for imagination,4 this research will invoke ethical, ecological and social implications. Results shall be reproduced particularly with regard to modifications and occured mistakes.

The interest for this field of research and thinking is rooted in my personal artistic practice.5 The results shall be made accessible to a wider creative public in the form of a database and a book or catalogue publication.

1 Vilém Flusser, „Dinge und Undinge“, Hanser 1993
2 Nicolas Bourriaud, „Radikant“, Merve 2009
3 First cooperation: Laboratory programm of the Art & Genomics Center at the University of Leiden (NL)
4 Im Sinne Gaston Bachelards. Siehe zB „L’eau et les rêves: essai sur l’imagination de la matière“, LGF 1993
5 Project overview at