Startle Reaction

Startle Reaction, an exhibition of works by Torsten Lauschmann is on view at Dundee Contemporary Arts till 8 January 2012.

Skipping Over Damaged Areas is a compilation of movie titles, sequenced to form a new narrative. It is screened in the first gallery with Misshapen Pearl, a film that assembles street scenes and television footage, with Lauschmann’s voiceover reflecting on the streetlamp as a manifestation of the physical and ideological shifts that accompany a consumer society. While the upbeat tone of Skipping Over Damaged Areas contributes a celebratory tone to technology’s ability to alter histories for new narratives, Misshapen Pearl reveals the uneasiness of living in an era of consumerism fuelled by technical advancement.

A phrase in Misshapen Pearl speaks of the street as a “space motivated by aesthetics rather than discourse; you are witnessing it by watching this film”, articulating the way contemporary society has demarcated activities within a sphere labeled as culture, comprising elements that excite and entertain for our consumption. This line of thought is set into motion in the the second gallery, where one is not just witness to, but a participant in an interactive space that values an aesthetic experience activated through light and sound.

Torsten Lauschmann; byt 2011; Projection, oak boards, various objects; Dimensions variable; 3 Mins (looped); Installation view, Torsten Lauschmann, ‘Startle Reaction,’ DCA, Dundee 2011

Historical elements are drawn upon in individual works, in particular, cinematic icons and features that once represented cultural and technical advancements. On entering the gallery, one sees byt, an installation of angled shelf boards with two mirrored projections of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator in which he satirizes Hitler and fascism.

Torsten Lauschmann; The Coy Lover 2011; Yamaha Disklavier, snow machine, controlling software; Dimensions variable; Installation view, Torsten Lauschmann, ‘Startle Reaction,’ DCA, Dundee 2011

In the center of the gallery, sits The Coy Lover, a piano that begins playing when the gallery is darkened, accompanied by falling snow. Similar to the emptied function of the shelf boards when angled, the insertion of a self-playing piano seems redundant and rather melodramatic, yet gives a strange pleasure and joy when experienced.

Torsten Lauschmann; Dear Scientist Please Paint Me 2011; Luminous paint, moving headlight, controlling software; Dimensions variable; Installation view, Torsten Lauschmann, ‘Startle Reaction,’ DCA, Dundee 2011

To this extent, Startle Reaction opens a conception of technology away from the parameters of function and mechanics, towards one as a manifestation of imagination that stems from, and fuels a desire for experience and delight. Neither is technology a device that merely obliterates tradition for the new. Dear Scientist Please Paint Me is a light projection that dances along and bounces off the luminous-painted wall, creating illuminated spirals that fade in time.

Torsten Lauschmann; Father’s Monocle 2011; Custom built game engine, meniscus lens, motor; Dimensions variable; Installation view, Torsten Lauschmann, ‘Startle Reaction,’ DCA, Dundee 2011

The temporal nature of the illuminations contrasts with the ideas of infinity evoked by Father’s Monocle, a whirlpool of numbers made to ceaselessly converge through a rotating meniscus lens.  Technology is deployed to present a dimension of time beyond rational categorizations of the past, present and future, and a channel for these to meld into one experience.

All images courtesy The Artist; Mary Mary, Glasgow and DCA, Dundee

Photography credit:  Ruth Clark