whitehot | June/July/August 2007, WM issue #4: Markus Selg @ Daniel Hug Gallery
Trying to describe to Markus my impressions of his show.
Describe to the best of your ability.
Impressions of …artifact.
Fact checking the imagination of Markus Selg,
what dreams are made of.
What is it?
What is it not?
Why is there a kind of opposition to it amongst people ive met so far who’ve seen it?
Alarmed by fiction landing whimsically where it will as it creates its own genre of verity.
The show was named Delphi, which is the historical location of an Oracle of ancient greek civilization and worship, now an important archeological site.
I try to first describe what I need to eliminate from the show for myself before I can think about the actual work and get to a more essential idea at play in it
The smaller works photo-collages on paper, which I felt resembled studies, are intricate and detailed illustrations of imaginary cathedrals or temples. Actually I realized later I had avoided closely viewing these works out of an immediate disinterest and in retrospect can only describe one of the images I had encountered with any certainty. Maybe this is a point of interest.
But firstly it was that I thought the smaller works, studies what have you, were not only unnecessary to the overall installation, centrally comprised of a large sculpture and painting but were a distraction and felt like an add on or afterthought.
I also think they had too much clarity in their resolution at that scale and less of the blurry lack happening in the other two works,but for different reasons.
The colonial adventures of 19th and 20th century bringing exotic artifacts is brought to mind and given yet another going over by a European artist.
The imagery can come off like a parody of objective archeology. a pastiche of cultural artifact much like another computer generated contemporary imagery, the science fiction worlds of computer gaming. A pastiche of appropriations without accountability to sources and cut and assembled for the whims of the artist.
But this is what we do.
Because we cannot help it. Our minds are incapable of containing form in absolute terms and however intricate we can only hope to construct partial images from blocks and flecks of memory even mentally let alone with writing , painting or computer drawings…
Partial recollection although ill consider that maybe its just me, partially remembering the exhibition while writing about it later, which I am actually quite sure is happening.
Selg seems to have chosen a starting point and then filled in the blanks with computer flux, colours and texture whatnot until some other kind of recollection occurs again and this once rendered his process of construction this highly subjective picture returns to the dis-clarity of process and the artistic business of conjecture.
Its strange too that the giant sculpture also has this effect, it is kind of impossible to identify a single period to attribute its architectural character to, although mostly I think it felt like what was left out of the artists memory was most of the building, it was blankly constructed, an anti room with no interior ;of course! Another instance where the appearance of a surface is the only impression retained by memory and the only representation of an entire thing. Had the only details of this strange object, its tiled column sections, been excavated intact or contrived this way, one has to take a position on viewing as to when to apply disbelief.
The model was like an exposition of an archeological dig which reconstructs a whole model with both the actual recovered portions and possible missing forms and structures, built from prop and display materials, blocks or an artists rendering of the unknown portions.
The architecture was a frontal structure, faux brick columns holding a romantic style mural of a colourful but unremarkable fantasy idyll?. the main structure both anterior and posterior quarters of the standing cube sculpture is a neutral green coloured melamine surface display/support and there is a nook set within its middle where a primitive/german expressionist carved ‘devotional’ figurine occupies another strip of this phony antiquity. The display structure extends into space beyond the point of being a mere support to the reconstructed “artifact’ and gives the impression that it is representing an absent original form or context.
Im lightheartedly trying to identify fictional antiquity and finding the references are more art deco than ancient there are also hopscotch links to Frank Lloyd Wright, 20th century romanticism, Greek, Aztec, Egyptian, African art and science fiction.
A strange collage of human culture, garbled and misunderstood.
Much as contemporary gaming and animations pick and choose at whim and make up for emptiness by blurring and textural static. and much as people have done through the ages as they construct an impression of the world from incomplete sources of information at the same time as lack of material becomes an acceptable neutrality or outer-space of knowledge which cannot be grasped, one always returns to the defaulting forms of familiarity even as they hover spectrally at the edge of the void.
Because we are just making it up.
Because its always mostly a misunderstanding.
Making the most of not knowing.
Primitive computer art.
Mans primitive comprehension and equally primitive facility to produce a likeness of reality.
The idea is quite interesting too and much of our lives and memories are used this way. Only noticing certain details and our minds otherwise filling in blank space and solids with crude and block filling meant to support the details we are more certain we have experienced.
I am curious to how I would reconstruct this show from memory if I was required to, as even though ive “seen” or at least encountered it three times, sure that my version of things would have only vague resemblance to the actual exhibition.
So the problem seems to repeat itself although now its my turn to get reality wrong or at least to alter another form.
That I, would create my own version and complete it to my own measures of both recollection and inventiveness.
Markus the archeologist, who sifts the sands of an optical computer desert recovering artifacts of interest, batches of which will be shuffled and reconstructed in the digital studio.
The references for Markus Selgs’ imagery, appropriated photos, collaged into digital painting and drawing exquisitely rendered on a computer then printed on large canvas, appear as delirious horror filled images of monster figures firstly and then proceed through identifications of their fragmented make-up as primitive artifacts styled as technological science fiction creatures. magnificent ancient terrestrial and alien architecture and civilizations in states of warrior aggression and magicians, shamanic activity and fragmentation of worlds. Apparently.
Atmospheric storms and cataclysm one associates with the mythical actions and worlds of warrior figures, dieties and upheaval, vivid chromatic saturations of terrifying destructions or creations of worlds and civilizations are alluded to. There is nothing banal or mundane here, it is all action and nothing in between, well there is no between there is no extreme because it all occurs on one level of activity which is invented activity except for the traces of the artist, so one is left only with textural and colour variances. Ultimately this is the only content.
Its all either sublime or meaningless. The problem lies in the imagery being so absolutely oblique and game-like. Because the images are such a diversion of ones attention but offer little to grasp from any perspective but that of fantasy, viewers are left with precious few options by which to enter the work.
In fact it quite repels relating as we encounter alien monstrosities in mid drama.
I don’t think Markus does know more than anyone about gods and fantasy worlds or lost civilizations. I think he is actually only vaguely aware of the shapes and forms he is toying with and I think that only in this absence of facts can his genius for invention proceed.
Markus exalts the imagination above factuality and he has chosen subjects which have no dispute with, and no responsibility to anybody’s sense of objective realities.
It is the basis of all dreaming. All dreams are made of this stuff.
Imagination is ultimately experienced subjectively.
Imagination is alienated.
Entertainment is ultimately non productive.
Imagination sets its own rules and ultimately irrelevant activity.
Male juvenile fantasy.
Imagery is like a hypnotic mind trick for humans. Visual culture is a diversion and a means unto itself.
Its alienating and disconnecting.
It might be that these works work well in parodying the human imagination as it recreates a lucid process of constructing pictorials but from a very selective batch of image sources.
Leisure time entertainment.
Art is all these things really.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief