The Agency Gallery London
05.10 – 12.12 2016
Opening: 4.10.2016 – 6pm
Dominique Koch‘s exhibition Maybe We Should Rejuvenate the Words rather than the Bodies at RINOMINA comments on the condition of a calcified capitalistic model on the verge of collapse, and strives to redefine the interaction between art and reality – beyond the convergence of various research areas. Koch‘s film Perpetual Operator, shown in the exhibition along with an audio installation and a sculptural setting, examines models of repetition and endless loop systems, taking the jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii as a prime example thereof. In analogy to the life cycle of the “immortal jellyfish,” a line of questioning focuses on the endless loop as a concept, as well as its relationship to contemporary social structures. The jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii is the only known living organism that does not die, unless by external force. Its cells can rejuvenate themselves, and then grow old again. Thus it possesses a theoretical immortality, or at least an infinite life cycle.
The film‘s narrative is based on two conversations about the loop of accumulation and destruction within today‘s financial capitalism, as well as the role and place of social revolutions within such a system, held by Dominique Koch with the sociologist Maurizio Lazzarato and the philosopher Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. The respective statements are juxtaposed with the jellyfish‘s fate, bringing forth unexpected intellectual intersections from this hybrid form of analogy.
Within the exhibition, the ideas of the film are translated into an installation, expanding the discourse into an open, spatial dispositive. In a collaboration between Dominique Koch and the Japanese musician and poet Seijiro Murayama, the poet recites the possible combinations of jellyfish DNA, which are engraved on metal pipes.
As a composition of images, shapes, voices, texts and sounds, itself looped, an open system is created, in which new correlations are generated and themes are brought up which are usually drowned out in the flow of images and information.
The Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish, considered by biologists to be immortal because it can regenerate its DNA up to 14 times and therefore technically be born again, thus becomes the comic hero of a complex work, capable of commenting on the state of a capitalist model on the verge of collapse while at the same time comparing it to the equally rigid paradigms of the contemporary art world. Dominique Koch’s work has always sought to redefine the interactions between art and reality. She takes fields of knowledge that are normally remote from each other and brings them together in specially conceived workshops. Content drawn from widely differing areas of research converges on the instant of its mediation, creating unlikely encounters but also, often, revealing urgent concerns that normally pass unnoticed amid the ceaseless flow of information. In A Shadow is Not a Substance, she combines the fate of a particular type of jellyfish, statements by the philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi as well as a vocal interpretation by the poet Seijiro Murayama, who reads out the possible combinations of DNA in the jellyfish as if reciting a Dada poem.
A preoccupation with language runs through Dominique Koch’s work like a golden thread. She uses language to reflect on the philosophy of language as well as for performative experiments with a strong visual impact, whilst at the same time embracing fundamental questions about the relationship between language, thought, body and world. The artist works with a variety of means of expression such as gesture, conversation or digital automatism and asks questions about their significance for the constitution of subject and for social communication.
In the new installation Beyond Chattering and Noise, which Dominique Koch presents in her solo show at the Centre culturel suisse in Paris, language continues to be negotiated as code, as discourse and as a material to be sculpted. In this piece, Koch investigates Christian Marazzi’s and Franco Berardi’s theory of semiocapitalism, her notion that in the age of digital financial capitalism both language and finance are organised according to the principle of an exclusively relational symbolic model and reduced to an act of recombination. In consequence and in accordance with the diminishing utility of money, for Marazzi and Berardi the connection of language to the world, to the human body and to social reality gets lost in the digital age. This leads in their view to more and more areas of life becoming automated and political decisions being made without human input.
The starting point for Koch’s attempt to tie language once again to a body, a voice or a reference point, without creating a relationship of cause and effect, is a token which establishes the connection between language and money. It served as proof of membership to the Académie française which has been overseeing the normalisation of the French language since the 17th century. On entering the installation, designed as a stage with two entrances, in the middle of the room one sees strips of film with lines of words reminiscent of a barcode or a poem. The lines come from a text Koch extracted from the material of her conversations with Marazzi and Berardi on semiocapitalism. The fragmented text montage, reminiscent of this discursive background, is digitally processed and played as vibrating sound installation somewhere between chattering and noise.
Dominique Koch’s works show that language as performative and transformable material can continue to have significance for the articulation of human existence. In this regard her works overcome the prohibition on language in art which, following on from linguistic pessimism, applied even for the iconic turn in the 1990s. The physically situative dimension becomes important for meaning, understanding and autonomy in that she keeps verbal material in constant movement whilst expressing it in ever new ways. At the same time the many transformations make evident the infinite potential of linguistic action in Koch’s works which surpasses any theoretical determination.
Heidi Brunnschweiler, art critic and curator, Basel and London, March 2015
The main links between language and body, text and mise-en-scene, intersect in the concept of performativity. Derived from the English verb “to perform”, the term has various levels of meaning, referring both to the action-related “performance” (Ausführen) and to the dimension of “presenting” (Aufführen) which is coupled with the linguistic and physical staging. The linguistic-philosophical interpretation of these terms is based on the lectures by John L. Austin published in 1962 as How to do things with words. Austin describes linguistic statements as performative and assumes that they concur with actions and create facts. In her seven-part work Emotional Diamonds, Dominique Koch addresses the links between text, language and facts. With recourse to a computer program that analyses emotional differences in the human voice, the artist makes abstract diagrams. These computer-generated visualisations capture the measured states of mind of different speakers in terms like “somewhat energetic”, “fairly passionate” and “a little less thoughtful”, thereby creating identity types, such as the “intense thinker” or the “confident man”. By suggesting analytical-scientific integrity, the computer program creates a congruence between the speakers’ linguistic-performative performance and character traits that ultimately imply certain actions and behaviors. […] Dominique Koch’s video work Interpretation (2014) also deals with the potential of stagings and the processes of translating between written models, spoken language and physical expression. In this work, the software she already used for Emotional Diamonds analyses spoken language, with the speaker reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions. In the subsequent process of translating the states of mind ascertained, the explicit question arises of “how to play”. Guided by a theory of theatre arising from Russian reform and Polish avant-garde theatre, the actor interprets emotions as physical gestures.
Gioia Dal Molin
Jochen Hempel Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of the Swiss artist Dominique Koch (born in 1983), who uses sculptures, video installations and performances to explore both the communicative and referential boundaries of language and the voice as a means of communication. The multifaceted processes of human speech are characterized by ambiguity and disruptions. Speaking is a performative act, the circumstances of which add a semantic dimension to what is being said. The differences between spontaneous speech and staged performance or nuances of the voice and forms of corporeal expression supplement or transform the message of what is being articulated. Koch’s video installation Voice Training (2014) shows actors practicing the method of voice training. The latter was developed in the 1960s by Zygmunt Molik at the Polish theatre institute of Jerzy Grotowski. It focuses on releasing creative energies and seeks to attain the unity of body and voice as a foundation for good acting. Ideally, the actor is to reach an altered state of consciousness in the process, a state that Grotowski describes via the self-coined term of “translumination”. Regarding the employment of the voice, Molik specifies: “When we are singing together, we have just the material, a kind of raw matter.” The sculptural work One May Also Be a Character In a Play II (2013) pursues the question as to which semantic nuances the sound of the voice can add to information that is uttered verbally. While a narrative structure is transposed onto a new one, the installation illuminates the process of the production of meaning. Koch had asked an actor to recite passages from Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay “Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions”. The artist then had the recorded performance be analyzed by a software that was programmed to recognize the emotional conditions within the voice. The software “comments” the spoken presentation via terms that describe the emotional nuances in the spoken language, thus implicitly judging the truth and validity of what is being said.In this way, Koch is able to initiate a critical exploration of contemporary systems of power – in this case, Layered Voice Analysis technology, which uses spoken language as “material” for entirely new and intrinsic revaluations of meaning. With these terms, Sartre’s written original text is juxtaposed with a meta-text, which Koch has printed as a continuous script on mirror film. In the installation, the sculpture is complemented with the original Sartre book. The series Emotional Diamonds (2013/14) draws on a further dimension of software-operated voice analysis. The software is also able to determine the characteristic features of a speaker and to transpose audio recordings of various authors and artists into the visual form of a diagram. Like a series of transformed portraits, these automatised typologies fill the first room of the exhibition. Koch’s video work Interpretation (2014) documents a performance, in which a different actor translates the abstract terms from the meta-text’s language analysis into corporeal improvisations. He performs a psycho-physical training method, which likewise originates from the Grotowski’s theatre institute and which was originally inspired by Vsevolod Meyerhold’s method of biomechanics as well as Konstantin Stanislawski’s theatrical teachings. Here, too, the tension between control and spontaneity is at play. In the works shown in this exhibition, therefore, Dominique Koch stages a series of transformations that address the speech act and its corporeal and situational requirements – both in today’s age of artificial intelligence and within historical contexts such as the reform theatre of the twentieth century. Recurring elements are the voice as a shaping element even prior to the semantic construction of significance, the transformational potential of the linguistic expression, the interplay between fact-based and fictive narratives as well as the tension between the act of dramatic production, chance and spontaneity.
One element of contemporary photography is a concern for surfaces and the investigation of their supposed smoothness and impenetrability. Swiss photography classes at the Zurich University of the Arts, the ECAL in Lausanne, and HEAD in Geneva have trained a number of artists who, in addition to exploring questions of content, have primarily addressed issues specific to the medium. Have new developments in photography been made due to the digital turn? How is our relationship to the tangible exhibition object changing, when photographs are no longer shown in photo albums but as files on screens? What happens in terms of perspective, when a continuous number of new applications and platforms allow the private to become public and the public to become private? Are surfaces the true content of our time? And from the standpoint of art, what kinds of conclusions can be drawn for the current and future production of works of photography?
Including purchases and gifts to the collection of the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Surfaces – New Photography from Switzerland demonstrates how works in collections are updated and transformed in close collaboration with artists, even after entering the museum context. These fluid forms of a work allow it to exist in multiples states and gives rise to new discursive interpretations. […]
Dominique Koch’s black-and-white silkscreen prints amended in ink oppose the notion of photography as static testimony. In Koch’s work, documentary motifs appear manipulated and estranged: entire landscapes have been erased away, while hypothetical statements and fragmentary texts take their place. Not only does this open up room for interpretation of the portrayed subjects; the images also invoke skepticism about image processing, analogue and digital alike. Do we see in photographs representations of realities or malleable surfaces?
With Thomas Douglas & Jan Bluthardt
Based on the different texts published in Dominique Koch, Collection Cahiers d’Artistes 2013, a new sequence is scripted from the existing material, words and sentences were recombined and thus suggesting a fresh narrative structure, story, order and finally new meaning.
The works of Dominique Koch (1983, Paris) are often based around texts. She removes them from their context, dissects them, looks for possible ways in which they can be recombined and thus reveals new meanings. For the video and audio work Imagine a Situation where the Rules of the Game Change (2012), in collaboration with Normen Perke and with which the artist won the Kiefer Hablitzel Prize, she invited four people who work professionally with language to speak about the boundaries and possibilities of language. After the discussion, which reminds of the form of a talk-show, the artist isolated the sound material as individual, separated voices in simultaneous translation. For the exhibition at Kunsthaus Glarus the recorded conversation is reassembled into a new fragmentary narrative. She has actors speak this, and presents the result as an audio work with the title A Duet (2012) in the exhibition space.
Our perception of contemporary documents in contrast to cultural products is the focus of Dominique Koch’s inquiry into the fictional content of history.
Endnote (2011) is based on the assemblage of footnotes, which Koch has detached from their original context, and converted into a dialogue between two actors. In this way she refers to the construction of history which is always accompanied by parallel narratives and can be understood as the intersection of playback and performance.
The Agency Gallery London
05.10 – 12.12 2016
Opening: 4.10.2016 – 6pm
Solo Show at Rinomina, Paris
08.09 – 25.09.2016
Opening: 08.09 – 7pm
Salon international d’art contemporain
26., 27., & 28.08. 2016
Völkerkundemuseum – Universität Zürich
08.07 – 18.07.2016
Opening: 08.07 – 6pm
Messe Basel, Hall 4
14.06 – 19.06.2016
Opening: 13.06.2016 – 7 to 10pm
Musée Gassendi / CAIRN Centre d’art
25.01 – 27.03.2016
Opening: 25.01.2016 – 6pm
Station 21 Zürich
Film screening + discussion
16.12.2015 – 7pm
Screenings and performances
04.11.2015 – 5pm
08.11 – 15.11.2015
Opening: 08.11.2015 – 11am
Centre culturel suisse Paris
30.05 – 12.07.2015
Opening: 29.05.2015 – 6pm
Kunst Raum Riehen
23.05 – 28.06.2015
Opening: 22.05.2015 – 7pm
20.03 – 25.04.2015
Opening: 19.03.2015 – 6pm
Kunst Raum Riehen
4.10 – 9.11.2014
Opening: 3.10.2014 – 7pm
22.8 – 29.9.2014
Opening: 21.08.2014 – 6pm to 9pm
Swiss Art Awards 2014
17.06 – 22.06.2014
Opening: 16.06.2014 – 6pm to 10pm
Galerie Jochen Hempel Berlin
14.03 – 26.04.2014
Opening: 14.03.2014 – 6pm
08.03.2014 – 24.08.2014
Villa Renata Basel
4.12.13 – 4.1.14
Opening: 3.12.2013 – 7pm
Hear – La Chaufferie Strasbourg
13. & 14.12.13
Opening: 12.12.2013 – 6.30pm
Mains d’Oeuvres Paris – Saint-Ouen
06.07 – 31.07.2013
Opening: 05.07.2013 – 6pm
Kunsthalle Basel (staircase)
26.05.2013 – 18.08.2013
Opening: 25.05.2013 – 6pm
Sic! Raum für Kunst
20.04.2013 – 25.05.2013