BAW JOURNAL: As the winner of the Gasag Art Prize you will open a solo show at Berlinische Galerie during Berlin Art Week. As far as I know, it evolves around the early days of the internet, right? Quite a broad topic!
Marc Bauer: Well, yes. That is the general departure point: the internet, digital life and its roots in Post-World War II computer science, AI—the whole, admittedly really broad spectrum. I wanted to look at the shift that had happened: from the utopic and democratic tool the internet still was in the 1990s to this dystopic, dark and twisted thing it is now—misinformation, conspiracy theory, and so on.
So what exactly can we expect in the show?
The show, which is titled ›The Blow-Up Regime‹, will comprise of two rooms. The first is dealing more with the history of the internet. For example, there will be a work showing the Z1 from 1937 by Konrad Zuse, one of the predecessors of modern computers, a reproduction of which is on view in Berlin’s Technikmuseum. But there will also be some drawings that show stills from films like ›2001: A Space Odyssey‹ (1968), ›Metropolis‹ (1927), or ›Terminator‹ (1984)—films that evolve around the idea of an »intelligent machine« that will take over. For the second room, which will feature predominantly wall drawings, I recomposed imagery I found online—mostly landscapes from video games. I also worked with author Sibylle Berg, whose texts I incorporated into my drawings and with Pyrit, a musician who composed a soundscape for the show. Oh, and there will also be E-paper screens!
E-paper screens—quite an interesting choice, given that you try and address the internet and digitisation through drawing, your preferred medium. Because E-paper is made to mimic the look and feel of analogue writing, drawing and reading.
Yes, that’s true. I sometimes work with animation, but when you animate a drawing, it almost automatically becomes film. Just the use of certain devices and technologies—projections, flat screens, and so on—seems to be enough for drawing to get the look and feel of film. So I started to experiment with E-paper devices to develop a specific presentation for slideshows. It is actually quite an old technology. In a way, it is almost analogue, as it works with electromagnetism. Plus, it is very sustainable. It doesn’t take up too much energy.
Speaking about media techniques—there is quite a bit of a gap between so-called digital culture and drawing. Is this obvious distance between medium and subject deliberate?
Well, for me it really is about a certain moment of translation. It makes a big difference to look a drawing of an image you may normally experience on a screen. It offers a moment of slowing down that opens up the possibility to relate a-new to these images and maybe to internet culture as a whole. Usually, when you see images on Facebook, or Instagram or TikTok or whatever platform you are using, you usually just scroll down—and the next image, and the next, and so on. You simply consume it like candy. In contrast, the medium of drawing feels somehow more precious. People are aware that a drawing needs a certain time to produce—and they are willing to give more time to experiencing it, too. But there is another point about drawing that is important for me in that regard: Drawing is a rather unprecise medium. It necessarily comes with its little idiosyncrasies and if you re-draw an image, it never exactly matches the original. This, too, functions like a filter between the original image and the viewer. Mostly, when I take existing images and draw them, it is this displacement of context and of medium, that I have in mind—and that, in a way, changes the experience we are having.
»Drawing really mimics the process of memory. You start with a line, and eventually an image grows out of it.«
Throughout the 20th century photography shared a privileged relationship with history. Before that it was painting—but it never was drawing. How do drawing and history relate for you?
I enjoy about drawing that it doesn’t come with the heavyweight of art historical baggage. Drawing was always seen as the medium to sketch out an idea, to take a note. It is a rather more preliminary technique, and never was considered as sophisticated as painting. This gives me a certain freedom. Drawing really mimics the process of memory. You start with a line, and eventually an image grows out of it. This is a bit like remembering a faint smell, and all of a sudden, you conjure up a full image of a certain situation from the past. In a drawing, you can also interfere in this process of remembering and start to alter the remembered image by inventing or adding something new. Drawing is a technique that speaks a lot about process—mainly its own. When I draw after pre-existing imagery, drawing always is to be understood as a re-construction, a re-building. It is at the same time extremely precise, because I always try to come as close as possible to my memory of this or that image; and it is extremely un-precise, because a re-construction necessarily loses a lot.
For your shows, you usually do a lot of research. How does this show up in your work? Does the research translate directly into artworks?
No, not necessarily. With each work I do, I want to understand and learn. But at a certain point in the work process, it’s more about forgetting again what I learnt and understood—to then create a narrative that will, in a way, quote this research. At a certain moment, I really to quite literally »draw« from memory.