Brigitte Kowanz: Infinity and Beyond / Austrian Pavilion, Venice Art Biennale 2017. Venice (Italy), May 10, 2017.
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Brigitte Kowanz developed her own artistic vocabulary of light over the course of more than three decades of artistic work. Vocabulary is meant literally here to the extent that Brigitte Kowanz deploys light as language, as code. She employs pure light as an autonomous media, just as in former times the painters worked with pure colour. One important aspect of her light art is the use of language deriving from the experience of urban spaces and the ideography of Conceptual Art. Her work for the Austrian Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia represents the culmination of her vocabulary – the use of neon light, mirrors, reflective metals, writing, codes, and informations.
Kowanz is a poet and architect of light. Her light space at the Biennale Arte 2017 presents the interlocking of physical material space and immaterial virtual space. The body is situated in real space. This space is simultaneously expanded for the body into a virtual space by means of mirrors, two-way mirrors, artificial light and so forth. The words conduct the visitor in a conceptual space, in a fictional space, in a mental space. She models or references the Internet’s global data space. With this light installation, an extension of her previous light boxes, Brigitte Kowanz not only offers a sensory experience but also addresses a technical development that radically altered human life: the Internet. Brigitte Kowanz thus made use of two statements about the Internet, which she translated into Morse Code. With the date 12.03.1989, she referenced the presentation of the Internet at CERN, Geneva, by Tim Berners-Lee. With the date 06.08.1991, she commemorated the moment when the first website went online, when the Internet became accessible for all.
Civilisation increasingly finds itself in a space beyond writing. Compared with “real space” created by the data processing performed by natural sense organs, this space is quite different. The new electromagnetic media, from telefax to telephone, from radio to TV, have given rise to an immaterial electromagnetic data space whose apogee is today’s internet.
Light is immaterial and an electromagnetic wave. Morse code makes use of electromagnetic waves. The symbols of Morse code travel on electromagnetic waves with no body, pure signs in a virtual space. Hence, it is of compelling artistic consistency and logical stringency to combine light and Morse code so as to highlight essential common features: immateriality and virtuality.
Morse code thus becomes a work principle of her entire oeuvre as Morse code, the interruption of signal sequences, embodies the states of existence and nonexistence, presence and absence, reality and virtuality. The communication structure of the electromagnetic age and the concomitant experience of space becomes apparent: immaterial communication and mobility of messages with no physical messengers.
This reflecting light space is aptly titled Infinity and Beyond because it represents the opposite of a black box, a virtual infinite space. Before the Big Bang, before the genesis of light, the universe was probably what still threatens the universe today – a black hole. The black hole is the cosmological place where mass implodes and light disappears. To some extent, the universe represents the victory of the light box over the black box. As such, Brigitte Kowanz’s light installation Infinity and Beyond is a cosmological model, a miniature of the universe about which we only know what light tells or shows us. The cosmic messages of light also require receivers. Light is the message of the universe and Brigitte Kowanz is a messenger of light. (Peter Weibel, from: Biennale catalogue Brigitte Kowanz, 2017)