Coordinates of connectivity
Finding our way to Holger Friese and back
February, 2002

by Felix Stalder homepage || contact

["Trailer text" for Holger Frieseıs contribution to shrink-to-fit, online art show on]


Arthur Kroker once warned us of the "will to virtuality." Karl Marxıs famous line from the communist manifesto ­ "all that is solid melts into air" ­ was stock in trade of the post-modern critic for the better part of the last decade. Gilder, on the other side of the political spectrum, declared the "overthrow of matter" the most significant event of the 20th century. Atoms seemed so passé. Early on also ventured into the realm of pure virtuality, letting loose, and getting lost in, the mirror cabinets and shadow worlds of code. Leading the way into infinite loops and labyrinths was the fearless crew of Another explorer, Vuk Cosic, evaporated the entire history of art into ASCII, or at least he showed how it could be done by anyone sufficiently interested in comprehensiveness. This was netcultureıs heroic period, indeed.

A few years and few sobering experiences later, our path into cyberspace no longer seems a one way street. Despite uncounted, uncountable hours immersed in the electronic data flows we have not left the body behind, rather, we acquired repetitive strain injuries in our wrists and elbows and a heightened sensitivity for the quality gradings of office furniture.

There is now, one could say, a renewed appreciation of materiality. However, this is not a simple return to the status quo ante. Materiality and virtuality are forever intertwined. Day and night, dreaming and waking. One mirrors the other. Two halves that make one whole, sometimes less, sometimes more. The Internet is not the terminal point of an ever increasing virtuality, but an interface to people and things. Like any interface, it has a life of its own but one that would be meaningless without that which it connects. The Internet is a space and, like physical space, it is all about connections, a connections, though, that is organized not geographically but logically.

Holger Frieseıs contribution to the Shrink-to-Fit project is a patchwork of different connectivities. The game plan is simple enough. Friese downloads 4 compressed files to the userıs hard disk. Once uncompressed, they turn out to be four artist portraits from a gallery located somewhere online, close-by, the pro-verbal "only one click away". Logic space at its best, quite normal these days. But thatıs not the end, itıs the beginning. The files can be rematerialized thanks to a commercial service that prints photo-files onto paper. Here the virtual and the physical meet closely. The service is one click away, but a few days later, a real postman rings at your front door, hopefully not too early in the morning. However, the physical invades the logical space in the form of fine print. The service is only available in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, carving out some arbitrary geographic unit. Moving deeper into domain of the physical, we can also order a frame for our portraits, one that is numbered and signed by Friese himself. However, for the artistıs Midas touch to work ­ turning a simple frame into unique work of art ­we have to buy the frame where Friese, who lives in Berlin, can actually touch it.

We have come full circle. What started out as anonymous, infinitely repeatable, compressed data-download, hangs now on the wall in our living room, sporting a unique serial number and a signature. Itıs almost like in the old times, when art meant physical object made by an artist, if it wasnıt for the heavy pixelation of the print, a reminder of its ever constituent virtuality.