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Abstract History Machine (2017)

Psychogeophysical mapping takes as its object the way in which metal can catalyze not only new chemical reactions but also social and economic relations and clusters. It is a cartography of the hardwired power relations by following the metallic and chemical relations in speculative art practices. –– Jussi Parikka

How can we perceive History?
Starting from this question, the work takes one of current technologies “fittest” designs to explore historical developments in technology, science, art and culture by creating a “time-sculpture”, which utilises the principle of a dynamic archive. By doing so, it scrutinizes human time-perception and history and takes as an approach to simulate history’s artificial timeframe at a scale, perceivable by humans.

A textual starting point for the work consists of two dimensions: first, an archeological analysis of media artifacts, following Siegfried Zielinski’s notion of “deep time” and second, a geological aspect arguing with Jussi Parikka. The concept of “deep time” explores dynamic time-processes in a vertical and a horizontal search algorithm, opposed to a linear idea of cause and effect. Deep time is therefore rhizomatic complex, process-based and implies historical contingent developments without a clear start and end. The second aspect is the transfer of the archeological idea to geological realms. Following Parikka’s ideas, media artifacts are qualified by specific materials and minerals, which – to use Parikka’s term – “catalyze” our social, economic and media thinking. Sediments, in this context, represent different geological time frames, “shaped and hardened by history” (Manuel De Landa (1998) Thousand Years of Nonlinear History). These rocky layers thus allow us to browse in history like in a book – a geological archive so to say.

With these thoughts in mind the ‘Abstract History Machine’ explores mineral media sedimentaries of the “East” (CAC, Shanghai, Cina) that, importantly to say, were in a constant correspondence and exchange with the “West”, thus making it difficult to say what direction drove a certain innovation. That moves the artifact to the center of a diffuse cloud of possible outcomes which reach also into the present (like phase space of a certain dynamical system).

This concept also illuminates Eastern developments “that the West proudly celebrates as innovations of [their] Modern Age” (Variantology, S. Zielinski). In this sense, the concept comes from the idea of a historical vector of developments in technology, science and art that points from the East to the West (China: S. Zielinski, Middle-East (Baghdad): H. Belting). In a later period, this vector changed the direction and is changing the direction again now (not in a sharp turning point but in a gradient).
If you look closer, this macro-vector is also split into micro-vectors – means, this global and long-time-process is like a fractal making single developments on small scales also a product of these repetitive circulations. So the sculpture, in its cyclic sense, also represents this loop – not just in time (vertically), but also geographically (horizontally). So the question is not just about the arrows of cultural movement – and this is where it all becomes geological – but also about the question of movement in time, depth, geological and material worlds. Important to say – this is only one of multiple vectors that are forming an even more complex system.

In a second process, after the research of the artifacts for the work (what could be called “sorting”), essential innovations for the smartphones were decomposed into their mineral components and conserved in representative temporal sediments of a fictitious “Ice Core” (geopolitically promoted by rare earth elements). A layer of each mineralized artifact is in this way emerging like ash out of an erupted volcano, which was once falling down on top of the arctic ice and got captured with the next snow falling on top of it. This way, all climatic events were conserved in the ice, making it possible for us to observe them. The work adopts this idea by simulating an ice core, which with its multiple layers represents a media-artifact-history.

The core, with its cyclic idea, is permanently moving upwards, literally growing. By getting constantly taller, the core is exposed to entropic processes (heat of the surrounding area), which, over time is melting it and unfold its precious freight. The released elements, together with the molten water, is then captured, iced and put back into the system as the undermost element of the Ice Core, pushing up the whole framework again. As a consequence, a dynamical
loop evolves where the sculpture is in a constant change of growing and shrinking. In doing so, these repetitive processes are utilizing the morphogenetic potential of water in terms of the aggregate states of frozen, fluid and gas, as well as their specific properties at these stages. In this complex process the temperature acts as a catalytic converter, promoting the different phase states, sorting and shaping the minerals into constantly changing layers.

By using this intensive property of water, the process can be thought of and analyzed as genetic algorithm, which refers back, as also the name of the work reflects, to the Deleuzian Idea of an “Abstract Machine”. The concept explores a complex system as a “map of relations between forces”, which can be thought of as a diagram of the multiple interconnections between each single part of a system at a specific moment (see Figure 05. and 09.). This could be imagined as a picture of a flock of birds frozen in shape, which emerged out of the sum of their collective movements.

© 2021 Daniel Franke

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