Karl-Heinz Klopf

Karl-Heinz Klopf


This text has been performed in context of the installation Environments at Disc Site at the 4th Media and Architecture Biennial Graz, 1999

In this short paper, I would like to present some reflections as an ambience of thoughts about my video project Environments and this installation entiteled Environments at Disc Site. This ensemble, which you can see here, consisting of different elements should be regarded as interface of several contexts and topics. Some of them will be mentioned in the course of this paper. In a certain sense my spoken text forms a linguistically expanded environment of the work.

We feel and recognize that our life and our environment changes quickly and in an accelerated way. The technical innovations and in particular the quick spreading of the computer in connection with the expansion of the networks are made responsible for above changes. The computer with all its possibilities encompasses almost all ranges of life, in the center of which we find man’s relationship to place, space and time. I am interested in changes, form and usage of space, surrounding and big cities. Space becomes more and more urban space – and this not only because already half of the world’s population lives in cities. Rather it is the increasingly denser fabric and the growth of utmost different operations that maintain the functioning of the systems of life and thus cause the expansion of urban structures to the remotest consciousnes. Urbanity does not simply mean: obstructed nature, obstructed space.

This penetration of everyday life with new spatial substances produces hitherto unknown and also barely conceivable ambivalent conditions, frictions, breaks, and contradictions, that we feel and recognize fragmentarily, but are not yet able to conceptualize.

There are visible signals of this change. For me the most interesting ones are projects and designs of built environments, in the way as we set up ourselves, what the effects of infrastructeres and new life styles look like: Symptoms of design, architecture and the developement of cities.

One may think in this context of urban utopias, that have always been challanged by newest technical achievements and social circumstances. For architects, urbanists and visionaries the big stimulus is to sound out the limits of potential life forms and thus create physical shapes. They struggle with that, what technology generates, in particular they struggle with the structures of transport and cosequently with the transmitters of information and communication. At this point I would like to undertake a small outing into the field of architectural history and would like to mention some visionary and conceptual examples; first of all from the period prior to the massive appearance of the computer that is from the 50ees and 60ees, projects however that contain aspects of density, superposition, speed, network, nomadism, hyper-structure etc.

- Constant’s New Babylon is a visionary project of a city of the future where social live has been transformed into an architectual play. A vast network consisting of a mesh of multilevel spaces spreads evermore, eventually covering the entire planet.

- Japans metabolists were interested in the connecting elements, the installation of infrastructures and links that make possible the exchange among the different objects. The connections become more important than the connected parts.

- On the other hand the Archigram-group fascinated with architectonic and urban designs, such as the Plug-In City or Walking City, attempts representing the world in technological utopias that emerge through interactions of man with his mechanic ambience as well as objects. Dennis Cromptons project Computer City from 1964 already demonstrates the beginnings of a network that resembles the nerval system.

- For the British architect Cedric Price designing architecture means to him distorting time, space and speed. The buildings thus developed should be tools that to the individuals open up new opportunities. For him, the dimension of time is an important structural element. Unlike Archigram, for Price the modern communication technologies don’t need a specific case, exemplified in his projects Oxford Corner House (1966) or later on in Halo (1990), a revitalisation project of a village in former Yugoslavia: The installation of an electronic infrastructure, usually installed underground, hovering above the village, thus visible.

- In the 80ees, in a period when evermore TV channels became available, when zapping became popular, personal computers entered homes, and the infrastructure of the Internet developed, the Japanese architect Toyo Ito thought up his projects that he traced from the phenomena of the electronic sphere. In his article Garden of Microchips he desribed in graphic form the transition of the object oriented mechanic city to the city of electronic objects, information, data flow etc., that lacks any causal context between form and function. Ito attempts to create a whirl in the field of electronic streams in order to establish a space for the replacement of the erstwhile genius loci.

- Ito’s friend and colleague Rem Koolhaas has recently distanced himself more and more from the omnipresence and the exaggerated evaluation of architecture by concentrating his mind on the developement of cities. He characterizes the new urbanism as a reshaping the psychological space. Since, according to Koolhaas, urbanism meanwhile penetrates everything and thus avoiding any control, sooner or later it becomes an essential carrier of phantasy.

What constitutes a city: Superimpositions, density of events, complexity, crossings, feedback-mechanism etc. has its seamless extension in the electronic media and digital environments. Increasingly more people spend increasingly more time in netted environments and pursue their needs and requirements. Work takes place more and more in online-collaborations and online interactions.

Physical, electronic and mental spaces create dynamic conglomerates, which in turn generate new modes of language, behaviour and living resulting in a new conception of the urban.

As to city and network experience a six month stay in Tokyo in 1995/96 has been an important personal impuls. There was almost no day without beeing online, navigating in the net, writing and receiving e-mails. I worked on a video project about the spaces of Tokyo, that juxtaposed individual spatial experiences with the presence of built environments. The film deals with built and individually projected spaces, and of spaces between, all of which communicate with each other. My physical presence in Tokyo, my research on the promises and the dayly interaction in the digital environment constituted an elementary bases and impulse for my video entiteled Environments which you can view here and which is part of this installation „at disc site“.

The concept for the video originated in the idea of representing conditions of physical and digital environments in different cities and cultures. In contrast to my Tokyo project I dealt here with the multitude and variety of city spaces and places and at the same time with the approach to global environs and the interfaces of the digital networks. Both spaces, different in substance, clearly separated in the film, correspond with the two levels: video and audio.

- The video level shows parts of various cities, such as Bangalore, Berlin, Bombay, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and others.
- Simultaniously, the audio level represents the digital environments of net participants, who report on experience made, statements and episodes pertaining to everyday life in the net. At the same time, the space of the net becomes an individualized space, brought to alive by the immediacy of personal projections.

The field of tension, generated by the superimposed spaces produces an undefined vacuum, which can be entered by the phantasy of the onlooker—an atmosphere in which one can imagine possibilities of future environments.

It was important to visit all these cities physically and experience them in the way I did and where at the same time I could interview the people. The concentration upon a city seen through the camera and additional talks about net experiences has been an ambivalent process with the stimulus of a new view of space.

Corresponding to the regions, the statements reveal cultural different approaches about the digital networks and can only be exemplified in the video without claiming a comprehensive representation.

The video Environments displays merely a small part of it, reduced to a few passages that are intertwined. One is quasi beamed in all directions from city to city and from story to story. This structure, however, fixed in the film in a linear way corresponds most likely with the idea of a back and forth and the hopping from site to site and between different applications within a net structure. Likewise, the jump from a statement to the next episode and once again back to the sequel of an interrupted story and place viseted before . . . this agrees with the associative nature of a net journey in the course of which one clicks links out of interest or curiosity. Links that carry you to another place as a consquence of a place just visited.

The different approaches of people of different origine in the context of the respective city and culture are various, which I don’t want to further emphasize. I leave that up to your attention while watching the video.

Now I would like to add a couple of sentences regarding the installation at hand entiteled Environments at Disc Site.

The video Environments will be and has been shown in different

contexts, in differing situations and spaces. Accordingly, different installations evolve, representing a connecting link between the situation in situ and the topic of the video. Thus the existing parameters of space and the context of the representation form a point of departure as well as a contextual and formal expansion of the video.

The revolving dance platform integrated in the floor is the base for the installation. For the dancer such a revolving disc achieves a mechanized acceleration transforming the individual corporally into an expanded experience of space.

Parallel to the existing disc, hovers a second one, that can be used for this event in several respects. It constitutes the viewer's standpoint for watching the video. Equipped with headphones the rotationg view of the onlookers wanders through the space clinking time and again the places and spaces of Environments.

The momentum of motion used here is a potential that puts the vision in a constant linearity and carries on in a symbiotic way the flowing and montage of the film in physical space.

The material of the film was used for a book that is also part of the installation. For me the transformation from one medium to the next is inasfar exciting as I gained another access to the contents providing me with a totally different approach to the topic and with new references.

In the book all text clips are published in the sequence of their mounting in the video. As each clip has its own page the respective part has been isolated from the larger context thus establishing a new receptive level.

The upper margin of each page displays the time position and the duration of the text clips in the video. Thus it is easily recognizable when the relevant part of an interview shows up in the film. Between the texts there are video stills in irregular succession.

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