hubert blanz

digital surroundings
audio/video installation, 16:9 format, 11:14 min, Hubert Blanz, 2001

The Downward Gaze

Wolfgang Fiel

The analogy is obvious, the result baffling. In his work titled Digital Surroundings Hubert Blanz creates a kind of ‘patchwork’ with an assembly of dismantled CPU circuit boards. On a closer look, one discovers that the forms of the electronic components soldered onto a conductor board possess a significant potential for construction, which Blanz uses as ‘hardware’ for building an associative spatial structure.

By interpreting the assembled configuration as an urban structure, he creates an analogy between the sculptural qualities of his source materials and the morphology of an urban landscape. In order for it to be perceived as an urban landscape Blanz turns the viewer into a helicopter passenger, who, flying over the densely staggered buildings in a virtually endless urban agglomeration gets a sense of what Christoph Asendorf termed as the “spatial revolution” in his book Super Constellation 1), which has radically changed our visual perception since the beginning of aviation in the early twentieth century. Super Constellation was the name of the legendary long-distance planes by Lockheed, a leading company in civil aviation. For Asendorf it stands for the entire era of civil aviation and space travel, but can only be comprehended when looking out of the plane’s window.

Initially represented by the virtual network of international civil aviation as the final cartographical description of the world, it was given yet another global dimension by the World Wide Web. Having altered not only our perception of space forever but also the very appearance of built urban space, the Web is not merely virtual in nature. Taking this as his leitmotif, Blanz liberates the visual aspects of the electronic components of their intended functions and heightens their physical presence by shifts in scale creating thus the impression of a real cityscape.
While the soundtrack of the visual flight shows that the positivist paradigm of total overview, and therefore also total control, could be a self-deception, the modulated and incessant sound of helicopter rotors triggers associations with apocalyptic dislocation.
In Blanz’s work, exact simulation does not result in concise realism – and system errors are part of the programme.

1) Christian Asendorf, Super Constellation. Flugzeug und Raumrevolution, SpringerWienNewYork, Vienna, 1997.

Translations: Nita Tandon, Vienna
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