Max Neupert

Max Neupert studied media art with Prof. Ute Hörner at the Burg Giebichenstein Academy for Fine Arts and Design in Halle (Germany) and Prof. Luc Courchesne at the University of Montreal (Canada). He has held residencies and exhibitions at the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) in Montreal, the Art Today Center for Contemporary Art in Plovdiv, and the Goethe Institut in Sofia, Bulgaria. His projects have been acquired by the collections of the German Ministry for Environment, the International Airport Montreal and the Museum of Civilisation Quebec. His audiovisual environment Breakup was presented in São Paolo, Sydney, Melbourne and Weimar. Since 2008 he has been teaching Media Arts at the Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar. In 2011 he initiated and hosted the 4th international Pure Data Convention, a week-long venue with conference, exhibition, workshops and concerts which attracted 140 people from 26 countries. His research in “Satellite Astrology” has been presented at the ISEA 2010 and resulted in shows in Sydney and Weimar. Neupert is a Ph.D candidate and focuses on video imagery as sampling material in a musical context.

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Essay: Breaking the Timeline

Time naturally is one of the essential ingredients in New Media, if not the essence of it. When “New Media” became the concern of conservation-restoration specialists and later as the term started to sound awkward because of its aging newness, quite a few institutions preferred to name it differently. In The Netherlands for instance, the Association of Video Artists founded Time Based Arts, a distributor of video art in 1983. V2_, an artists collective in Rotterdam issued their Manifesto for Unstable Media in 1987. In 2005, I noticed a guy with an ironic pin: New New Media at the transmediale in Berlin, which is something like the obligatory annual meeting of artists and theorists of the field. Apparently there is a need to distinguish the contemporary from the new – even if it is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the problematic designation of such works. Time and its manifold aspects in time-based-media were interests of mine when I started my studies and have since come to form the core of my research today. In summer 2010 I taught a class called “Breaking the Timeline” at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar where I focused on time as a principal matter in the process of creation. Film editing places clips of footage into a linear flow. As we manipulate the timeline we brake it. But what is a broken timeline? In storytelling, there is seldom a real-time flow of time, especially in movies. You would not want to watch the characters of a movie sleep just to wait for the plot to continue. Naturally, there are exceptions: “Russian Ark” from 2002 for instance, a 96-minute movie shot in one take with a steadycam. Screenwriting is the art of condensing a story into theatrical-time. Editing is its counterpart, in post-production, where sequencing shots makes the strongest possible impact on the viewer. But has our exposure to such condensing of time affected our attention span which arguably has become shorter since the dawn of the moving image. Peter Zorn, a filmmaker, producer, and media art curator, writes [1] that “the average shot length of a Hollywood feature film in 1940 was nine minutes; today it is around four”. He sarcastically adds, that experimental montages [such as Tony Conrad’s The Flicker] probably only marginally influenced this development of the mainstream in comparison to the so-called MTV aesthetics. It’s not only in films that our attention has been segmented into smaller chunks. Time itself has become elastic. Researchers at the Intel Labs coined the phenomenon plastic time [2]. When tracing people’s computer usage they found that through computers and mobile devices “even the busiest of us still manage to surf the Internet”. We have dozens of tabs open in our webbrowser and at the same time answering our phone, text, email, instant messages, Skype calls, Facebook chats and what-not-else apps, we seemingly have perfected multitasking and parallel processing in our daily life. “There are many aspects of our day, such as computer usage, that fly under the radar, that can be done not just in a rushed manner but at the right time, and be bent and stretched in such a way as to enable people to interweave the multiple activities going on in their lives, in both relaxed and high-pressure moments. This bending and stretching we are calling plastic time, and it is one of the key ways people engage with the constraints and opportunities of modern life. These social conditions mean that people use technologies to create more distractions for themselves, not less.” Some might call this procrastination.
But neither of those outcomes is what concerned us for the “Breaking the Timeline” class. With Breaking the Timeline my goal was to investigate techniques of editing where the timeline itself becomes the subject of the narration. Let’s give a few examples of works in Time Mutations exhibition that also deal with time in this way:
I was fascinated by Beom Kim’s video work Untitled (News) when I saw it at the Venice Biennale in 2005, a work where a rather unusual newscast is presented in a TV set. Kim had edited together words sourced from numerous news items broadcast on a Korean news channel to make up a new narration. Several news anchors are edited together so the discontinuity of their appearance in clothing and hairstyle as well as the flickering informative image thumbnails of the covered news become preeminent. Instead of the serious news the announcers now speak of obvious vacuities, childish dreams and wild speculation. “Sooner or later it will be the time for meals and for sleep. And after some sound sleep, it already will be the next day.” The contrast of the setting and the content is already strong, cumulates when the moderator ponders about how he can make his hairstyle appear the same every day by remembering how he had looked the previous day standing in front of the mirror. The mundane philosophy is comical and yet poignant in its Zen-like simplicity.
A different kind of meditation is Stephen Nolan’s endless loop This Desert was Once a Sea. Mother. A lonesome cameleer rides towards the camera, but isn’t getting any closer. Only nineteen frames taken from David Lean’s movie Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are seamlessly repeated over and over. This micro-loop traps the rider in the scintillating mirage of the desert’s horizon. In This Desert was Once a Sea. Mother. time becomes infinite and inescapable. It’s the loop’s principle that condemns Sisyphus to perpetual repetition.
In Tommy Neuwirth’s video work Untitled different times happen simultaneously. In a performance act Neuwirth moved along a bicycle rack. In the post processing the structure of the rack was used to slice the video and mask parts off of it.
In Sofia Dona’s work Twinning Towns: Leipzig—Detroit parallel timelines become the apparent motif. A carefully selected set and vantage point mirrors similarities in different places. Empty, abandoned public pools in both cities make the backdrop for two trombonists performing each of them alone. Only in the video they become united together fusing their voices to a duet.
Music is a highly temporal phenomenon, so it’s no wonder that many time-based-media artworks rest in the shared interspace between music and fine art, as in both disciplines we experience mutating time. Besides Granular Synthesis’ monumental installations Cory Arcangels Video works like A Couple Thousand Short Films About Glenn Gould and Sven König’s audiovisual live performance sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ! Gabriel Shalom’s tediously edited videos have been highly influential for my own work. Shalom calls himself a videomusician. In wash choose peel chop rinse different stages of the process of making vegetable soup stock are examined in detail by editing in the level of samples instead of the frame as the smallest unity for the editing. Based on cubism, the collapse of multiple perspectives and time into one still image, he coined the term hypercubism for the incorporation of interaction and/or the manipulation of the timeline into a moving image. Hypercubism thus is an augmentation of the linear flow of time into a complex flow. In our show Time Mutations we are representing the above aspects of the manipulated, infinite, simultaneous, parallel and the augmented time in one exhibition.