WRO online thematic path
Apr 13-19, 2020


WRO online thematic path
Apr 13-19, 2020



We still do not know whether androids dream of electric sheep. We do not know either whether machines will start thinking on their own and immediately put up a revolt. What we do know is that, for now, we can join artists in exploring the purposiveness and purposelessness of machine autonomy.

The week opens with the documentation of a piece by Niklas Roy. In 2012, a mechanism installed in the elevator at the WRO Art Center moved it repeatedly upwards and downwards, sending it on empty runs between the first and the second floors. With the elevator wasting energy in this way, it was made crystal-clear that it did not have to serve to transport people – that another machine could operate it, generating power consumption in the process. After all, is the ride of an elevator full of people actually more important than its empty run? The Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine calculated the kilojoules used up by the elevator in real time and printed the collected data straight into a garbage bin. In the world where the ideas of degrowth and sustainable development are obtaining increasing currency, Roy’s site-specific installation powerfully reveals how illusory they are. The machines produced within capitalist economies siphon off and devour even without us contributing to it.

Sofas are as a rule safely positioned on four legs. However, during the WRO Biennale in 2015, Jacob Tonski furnished the Wrocław University Library with quite a bizarre sculpture – a sofa teeter on one leg. The wobbly piece of furniture could be knocked over, upon which it fell into pieces. Tonski fitted the object with magnetic elements so as to make it easy to reassemble it and put it up on its one leg again. While Balance from Within is supported by technologies which are used to help maintain balance in the outer space, where any foothold is hard to find, in Wroclaw, the leg of the sofa was actually propped on the floor situated on planet Earth. Tonski’s kinetic sculpture was thus subject to the forces with which we all grapple, and, with proper support, it behaved like humans do, opposing the laws of gravity.

A race track within a museum building is a unique sight to see. The Vinyl Rally by Lucas Abela combines the artist’s two passions – car rallies and music. In 2013, an installation imitating a race track was put up in the National Museum, where Abela designed a vinyl record-lined trail where cars were running, operated from the cockpits straight from penny arcades, which were still a common fixture in Polish spa resorts in the 1990s. As the tiny vehicles racing along the vinyl track were fitted with styluses, controlled by the users who were navigating the cars, an extraordinary soundscape in the vein of noise music was produced, with the motion of the wheels amalgamating with the audio effects of the styluses grazing the records.

Quayola’s sculpture and video series Captives explores tensions arising among the artist, the idea, and matter. In dialogue with Michelangelo, who viewed any work on various materials as bringing out forms which lay hidden deep down in them, Quayola uses the computer to design his sculptures and an industrial robot to produce them, whereby he expands the Italian master’s vision by adding a digital matter, which reveals an entirely different visual potential than classic sculpting representations. However, rather than highlighting the difference in experiencing such objects, the juxtaposition of the old and the new aims to demonstrate that the digital, which is commonly believed to be immaterial and thus implicitly inferior and fleeting, is in fact anything but.

The word “text” is etymologically derived from “fabric/texture,” and specifically from the act of weaving/braiding, that is, combining at least two components into one entity. Not only texts can be woven; music also can, especially if we use a sewing machine, with its repetitive clattering and its needle that pierces the air and the fabric in and out, in and out. The WRO Biennale of 2011 was graced by Cecile Babiole in what was, interestingly, her first visit at the festival, even though she had won WRO’s first Sound Basis Visual Art Festival over 20 years before. Stich’n’Glitch is a performance in which the sewing machine is used as a musical instrument. The ceaseless, drone-like sound, which was (and sometimes still is) a routine, daily experience for many women, morphs into a weapon of emancipation and a means by which the machine is transformed into an artistic artifact. The forgotten, unused child of the industrial revolution returns as a specter loaded with the baggage of meanings and history (or, more precisely speaking, herstory).

It is the first time that our online show has presented some of the documentations we produced at Ars Electronica in Linz. In 1996, the world’s oldest festival of electronic art put on display the Inter-Discommunication-Machine by Kazuhiko Hachiya. The title of the piece essentially reflects its gist. Hachiya used screens and cameras to construct a machine which connected two people, at the same time sending them into confusion, as having put the device on they saw themselves through the other person’s eyes. While binding people together, Hachiya effectively disconnected them from the world, their own figures, and their own gaze.

The week closes with another instant classic. In 1994, Woody Vasulka (who died last year) came to Ars Electronica with The Brotherhood – Table III (Friendly Fire), a machine which was in a way meant to cap the 20th century as an age in which the cinema was the dominant medium. As technological progress was developing and transforming narrative modes, Vasulka sought to integrate several image-producing objects which, instead of being fully subjected to pre-programmed history, would show worlds generated inside the machine, rather than borrowed from the external world. (C. W.)

Niklas Roy (DE)
Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine
documentation of the site-specific installation
WRO Art Center

Jacob Tonski (US)
Balance from Within
installation documentation
Wrocław University Library
13th May – 30th June 2015
16th Media Art Biennale WRO 2015 Test Exposure

Lucas Abela (AU)
Vinyl Rally
installation documentation and an interview with the artist
National Museum in Wrocław
8th May – 30th September 2013
15th Media Art Biennale WRO Pioneering Values

Quayola (IT/UK)
installation documentation
Wrocław University Library
13th May – 30th June 2015
16th Media Art Biennale WRO 2015 Test Exposure

Cécile Babiole (FR)
performance documentation
14th May 2011
Apocalypse Hall, Jerzy Grotowski Institute
14th Media Art Biennale WRO 2011 Alternative Now

Kazuhiko Hachiya (JP)
Inter Dis-Communication Machine
documentation of the work and an interview with the artist
Design Center Linz
3rd – 6 the September 1996
Ars Electronica 1996 / Memesis – The Future of Evolution

Woody Vasulka
The Brotherhood – Table III (Friendly Fire)
installation documentation and an interview with the artist
Ars Electronica 1994 / Intelligent Environment