Biennial as Visual Information­


    The concept of “Overlapping Biennial”, belongs to the 2META+ Group and can be seen as an artistic strategy, as a meta project.
    What would its innovative elements be? On the one hand, the method of exhibiting the artworks, coded in a similar manner, and, on the other hand, the curators’ voices, who suggest their own Biennials, their own discourses regarding visual information. These discourses relate, one way or another, to the dimension of the visual information, to its substance and its complexity, to what Charles Bennett used to call “logical depth”, to the “buried redundancy” of the visual message. They relate to the hardly predictable informational content, with a high value of entropy (a bit entropy, measuring both information and disorder), to the pervert randomness of information, to the type of hazard that the dispute Einstein-Bohr referred to regarding God and dice. It is a question regarding what we are used to call creativity, art limits, new methods of perception and representation, in a time of negative entropy in which the history of life is written, when “evolution preferred a sloppy way of information transfer” [1].
    Let’s take it step by step.
    The physical representatio­n of artworks through a mediated form (QR codes) and virtual data access put together physical and virtual realities. “Visualizing information” is an important step. It offers a visual perspective of how codes behave and work together, introducing a mental model of both the proximity and experience of the object. It’s a perspective that regards both the object and non-object.
    In “Overlapping Biennial”, due to the code’s physic­­­al structure, it becomes extremely organic. While the code itself (the programmer­s code, for instance) has a mathematical certainty and is exceedingly unambiguous, the natural codes create self-organizing systems (the complex DNA molecule obeys the laws of physics, the living cells are born and die etc.). The natural codes, besides sending the information, also have a physical background; they are connected with the physical reality.
    We start wondering: is visual information inevitably physical (linked to a physical form)?
    “Information is Physical” is the title of a famous article written by Rolf Landaner, which states that process calculations obey the laws of physics and also require physical objects. “If a bit is a mark on a stone tablet, a hole in a punched card, or a subatomic particle with spin up or down, he insisted that it could not exist without some embodiment” [2]. But not everybody shares his opinion.
    “It from Bit”, Wheeler’s famous statement leads to “Information first, anything else afterwards”. “A black hole has no hair” was his way of stating that nothing but mass or any other physics measurement can be seen from the outside. He wrote that the black hole "teaches us that space can be crumpled like a piece of paper into an infinitesimal dot, that time can be extinguished like a blown-out flame, and that the laws of physics that we regard as 'sacred', as immutable, are anything but” [3].
    Information, perceived through its measurement unit: the bit (an elementary particle, which is tiny and abstract) deals with codes and abstract operations.
    Abstract information, mathematized, dematerialized can be associated with the dematerialization of conceptual art, with non-object art and everything else related to it.
    ”Conceptual art is a meta-critical and self reflexive art process; conceptual art ­­­­de-emphasizes the value traditionally accorded to the materiality of art objects” [4].
    The entire process of art, from object to concept, from a defined physical object to a “system of thought” or even by replacing the art object with “information about art object” leads to post-object art. The theoretic object replaced the real, physical one [5].
    ”Our mental representations give ideas their forms, in a way, representations are the face, or the mask of ideas.”
    On the other hand, the inverted perspective – the one that links information to object (“Information is Physical”) – is closer to natural codes. Inevitably, the codes used in the Biennial are physical (even if they represent a mediation process).
    The physical mark of visual information, which implies direct corporal experience from both the art object and the participant, redefines real and virtual spaces and places that we were used to call “producers, viewers and consumers” in real and digital spaces alike. The cyberspace (seen as a new type of public domain, a new dimension of social sphere), a dynamic, open, interactive, generative, a “participatory universe”, reconfigures the public space and the social sphere. “All things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe” [6].
    Just like other disciplines use digital images to visualize information (from their specific field),“Overlapping Biennial” works with mediated images: the physical mark of codes to visualize the artists’ works. “We realize the strong parallel between the symbology of the printed ­­­page and the structural and iconographic complexities of appreciating a painting or sculpture” [7].
    Today’s technology allows us to access visual information in a field, which is still at its beginnings, with direct or mediated visualizations, complex visual representations and linking multiple layers. The great gain of the entire Biennial (of the curatorial and artistic discourses) is actually the interconnectivity.
    A few questions arise regarding this aesthetics of participatory mediation: Is visual information “inevitably physical?” Is it, eventually, inevitably visual? Can an artwork change its form? Or, to be more precise, can we perceive that an artwork can take simultaneously more than just one shape? Can it be about an overlapping of visual shapes for the same piece of artwork?
    These are just a few questions that trigger other questions when we think about an “indeterminate cloud” that flows “in a determinate universe”. We invited several curators to join us for this experience: Ami Barak (assistant curator: Marie Gautier), Branko Franceschi, Călin Dan, Hanna Alkema, Hilde de Bruijn, Judit Angel, Lea Rasovszky, Silvia Saitoc & Matei Sâmihăian, Magdalen Chua, Maria Vassileva, Mirjana Peitler Selakov. In their
    turn, they invited some artists. We share the emotion of happiness of being together.

    2META+, București
    Catalogul Bienala Tinerilor Artiști, ediția a V-a, Overlapping Biennial, 2012

    [1] Lowenstein, Werner R., The Touchstone of Life: Molecular Information, Cell Communication and the Foundations of Life, New York, Oxford University Press, 1999.
    [2] James Gleick, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, Pantheon, 2011.
    [3] Rolf Landauer, Information is Physical, Physics Today, may 1991.
    [4] John Archibald Wheeler, At Home in the Universe (Masters of Modern Physics), New York, American Institute of Physics, 1997.
    [5] John Archibald Wheeler, Ibidem.
    [6] Edward A. Shanken, Art in the Information Age: Technology and Conceptual Art.
    [7] Jack Burnham, ”The Aesthetics of Intelligent Systems”, in On the Future of Art, New York, Viking, 1970.