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Tensions between public and private, online and offline, techno-lust and everyday life are at the core of Aram Bartholl’s work. His public interventions and installations, often entailing surprisingly physical manifestations of the digital world, challenge our conceptions of reality and incorporeality. Bartholl asks not just what humans are doing with media, but what media is doing with humans.
Aram Bartholl takes three CCTV dome cameras out of the context of surveillance infrastructure and places them on the gallery floor as if they have fallen from somewhere and were left unattended. The built-in auto-tracking function makes the cameras follow any motion in its surroundings. But as they move their lenses, the devices’ center of gravity shifts and causes the cameras to roll around on the floor helplessly. As a result, the software is confronted with even more motion to be tracked. From time to time, the cameras bump into each other or start to follow and trigger each other’s movements. The relentless and helpless movements render the cameras victims of their own sisyphean mechanism. The humor teases out the invisible yet deep contradiction between vulnerability and violence, freedom and control embedded in the flow of urban modernity imposed by technology.
TOP25 (2018) is a series of short 3D animation sequences featuring the 25 most used passwords in the world. By adapting the text of these top 25 passwords into original designs and arrangements by different creators on the Internet, the remixed sequences in the video follow the popular aesthetics and visual concepts often used for YouTube intros. The mechanism of setting up a password presents an illusion of human agency, while in fact passwords have taken on a life of their own, like ghosts veiling the security of user identities and computer systems. To speculate further about a so-called “digitally immortal” future, what would happen if one could not log into his or her own “immortalized” copy?