the finite digital
all digital colors diachronic
the film lasts 12 days,
this is an excerpt of 1 hour and 12 minutes.
The artist Johannes Franzen of Frankfurt is projecting 16,777,216 colours in rapid succession onto two surfaces installed especially for that purpose on the façade of the Goethe-Institut in Budapest. That is the number of all of the digital colours based on the RGB colour space. On the projection surface in front of the entrance, the colours change at a frequency of four per second, a rhythm the human eye is just barely capable of following. At a height of about twelve metres, however, where the sequence is four times as fast, our senses concede victory to the storm of colours after just a few seconds; we no longer perceive individual images but a pulsating glow.
In Franzen’s works of the past years, the concern is always with (among other things) the premises of human perception, and thus with the limits to that perception. He confronts the objectivity of the digital world with our conception of reality. The reflection becomes a physical-philosophical process that far exceeds the ability of our light-sensitive sensory cells to react. The partial failure caused by the collision with reality is an integral element of every projection – and another deliberate aspect of Franzen’s strategy. A pale flickering in the late morning hardly betrays the thunderstorm of colour that will rage in the sky above the Ráday utca 58 on a clear night. And since the installation will be on view until early December, it can be surmised that rain and snow will likewise change the projection’s conditions.
Prof. Nadja Mayer
The immaterial medium of light has long since found its way into artistic production. As a symbol of the divine, it left its mark on the church windows and gold grounds of the Middle Ages; in its profane appearance as light modeling the landscape, it is found for the first time in the paintings of the early Renaissance (Domenico Veneziano); and in the Baroque it serves to dramatize and stage painting (Caravaggio), sculpture and architecture (Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini). With the beginning of the technical revolution, it becomes the bearer of modern belief in progress and the leitmotif of Futurism. It is photography, which develops at the beginning of the 20th century, that first perceives light as a medium that, by transforming things into an image, frees them from their materiality. László Moholy-Nagy summed up this experience in 1928 as follows: "The light-sensitive layer, plate or paper is a blank page on which one can note with light as the painter does with his tools." The Hungarian-born artist, who worked at the Bauhaus in Dessau from 1923, was less interested in photography as a medium than in a "new way of seeing". The driving element was the demand for objectivity, for an art free of fluctuating moods and sentimental feelings, as was attested to a bourgeois art: a technical art, a machine art at the height of the times, and corresponding to the social upheavals at the beginning of the 20th century.
Thus, one of the most famous implementations of this attempt is the Light-Space Modulator, developed by Moholy-Nagy since 1920, but not shown until 1930 at the exhibition of the Deutscher Werkbund in Paris. This 'light prop' consists of a cubic box with a circular opening (stage opening) on the front. Around the opening, on the back of the panel, are mounted a number of yellow-, green-, blue-, red- and white-colored electric light bulbs. Inside the box, parallel to the front side, there is a second plate with a circular opening, which also has electric incandescent lamps of different colors. Individual incandescent lamps light up at different points based on a predetermined plan. They illuminate a continuously moving mechanism, constructed partly of transparent materials and partly of openwork materials, to create the most linear shadow and color projections possible on the walls of a darkened room.
In the work of Johannes Franzen, born in 1967 in Alf an der Mosel, one can also speak of a 'light prop', although the apparatus is obviously different from Moholy-Nagy's: a simple image projector, also called a video beam, takes on the role of the box, an LED panel inside it the electric bulbs, and a computer program the mechanics of the movement. 16 777 216 colors are spit out by this machine, projected onto a surface or wall in a room extending into the color-light beam. One could thus speak of a light-space modulator of the 21st century, of an object that is also at the height of the times, and thus the demand for objectivity, for an art free of fluctuating moods and sentimental feelings, would also be conceivable if it were raised. Franzen's apparatus provides a precise answer to the question of the number of digital colors in the RGB color space, which is decisive for digital photography, and here, too, one could identify a closeness to the artist colleague who died in 1946. 16,777,216, this number thus represents the maximum number of colors that a digital photograph can have, which conversely means that the number of all possible digital photographs is finite. Whereas in the exposed photograph, the once digital color image points of light materialize, the colored light coagulates, as it were, it experiences its immaterial appearance in the projection. Fleeting as our gazes often are, it becomes a weather glow in which the DNA of the digital is embedded, consisting of just that number of possible colors.
The theme of the four-part installation series "Mehr Licht" ("More Light") at the Goethe-Institut in Ráday utca 58, which presented light installations by artists from Hungary and Germany on the façade of the building from 2012 to 2014, is fulfilled in Franzen's work in a double transformation: the color pixels calculated by the computer materialize in photographs and at the same time experience their immateriality in space with the help of a projection apparatus. Fullness with simultaneous finiteness form the parameters here.
Matthias Wagner K