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Thomas Feuerstein: For He's A Jelly Goo Fellow

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2016-07-24 14:47

What do you think of when you hear the word “slime”? Is it the snot monster or the trembling hand holding a scalpel in biology class? To artist Thomas Feuerstein, it’s the quicksilver robot "T1000" from Terminator 2, able to take on any form. 


Psychoprosa is a large installation consisted of nineteen artworks that together transform Chronus Art Center’s 500 square-metre gallery space into something reminiscent of a futuristic alchemy studio. In the laboratory vessels, green liquids run fast in the flexible PVC tubes and all the way round up to the largest one as if they were startled. On stepping in, people who didn’t read the brochure may have thought they’ve just entered Frankenstein’s secret basement laboratory.


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"Our culture tries to keep us dry and clean,” explains Feuerstein, " We always try to keep our faces dry, we try not to sweat, we clean our noses, we try not to have tears in the eyes, and so on.We have a culture of mummification, always trying to remove moisture from substances.Slime for me is a broader concept of culture theory. And on the other hand it’s an interesting medium of sculpture for me. For traditional sculpture, statues are made of bronze or marble, but this is a new concept to describe a form. It’s a form, but it’s an anti-form, as well." He says that 'slime' is a central theme in his exhibition Psychoprosa.

The Greenhouse of Slime


On the “L” shaped wall next to the exhibition entrance is mounted a series of 28 lithographic prints that unwinds parallel to the story For He’s a Jelly Goo Fellow, the literary source for the exhibition. The entire installation, which branches off into the exhibition space, serves to demonstrate how “psilamine” and the slime are produced, and to display the products.


The “greenhouse” is dipped into an atmospheric green where the algae and fungi are cultivated in bioreactors. A chemical process is employed to extract a synthetic substance from algae and fungi to create the molecule “psilamine”, which does not yet occur in nature. The remaining biomass comprises a slimy material, which develops a viscous consistency after heating, cooling and mixing: thick threads and veils form a transparent, liquid sculpture.


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These hybrid sculptures were even anthropomorphized and personified by names such as Iuturna or Élaine, combining laboratory apparatus, sculpture, standard lamp, and futuristic house plant.


In accordance with the appliances present in the room, Feuerstein has given the individual areas telling titles: Greenhouse, Gate, Laboratory Kitchen, Cooling Chamber and Factory. The two final stops in the exhibition, the Cooling Chamber and the Factory, see the slime being manufactured and processed. The dimly lit Cooling Chamber contains innumerable white refrigerators that hold the tinned slim “Psilamine”. And in the Factory, the spectacular Accademia dei Secreti, which forms the conclusion and climax to the entire installation sees transparent slime being pumped through enormous glass vessels in vast quantities.


Sculpture Of Nightmares


“For me, slime is also a concept of contingency,” Feuerstein says. “It has all forms inside of it, but it’s always liquid, it’s a nightmare of a sculpture. In our culture, we are afraid of slime, because slime is a symbol of negative things. Nevertheless, people are born in slime and end in slime in the grave.” 


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The artist’s works in the 1990s can be characterized by an examination of the media and technological conditions under which a globalized society unfolds, before he began to investigate questions regarding biotechnology. His artistic starting point is one of boundary crossing, whereby he examines the interfaces between different disciplines, directions of thought, fields of research and science, and between politics and society. In this process he wanders effortlessly among scientific facts, mythical superstition and futuristic science-fiction visions. In the exhibition Psychoprosa, Feuerstein has conceived a spectacular installation on the borderline between art and scientific experiment. He connects new groups of work, as well as earlier pieces with a similar set of themes to produce a multilayered narrative pointing to the future of a society shaped by its novel biotechnological possibilities. 


Feuerstein says that the title of the exhibition, Psychoprosa, fuses two notions - “psycho” points to an inner or spiritual life with personal experience and perception while “prosa” indicates narrative or scientific literature - that subtly reveals a special narrative method. 


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“If we were to consume the molecular sculpture’s psilamine, solid objects would deliquesce and begin to flow in our perception,” Feuerstein explains, ’In this way the psychotropic effect of the substance - which the exhibition visitor does not experience but can only imagine - is reflected in the exhibition.” Crossing and confusing the borderlines between our inner and external worlds is a central aspect of Feuerstein’s Psychoprosa. The slime that permeates the entire exhibition in a real as well as a thematic sense highlights questions regarding the definition of the individual and the dissolution of social boundaries. Referring to science, technology, psyche as well as animist materialism audaciously through this nondescript substance, Feuerstein has been attempted to give the audience a new outlook on a less idealistic world torn apart in the contradiction of craving for nature yet falling for scientific forces. 


 ▲About Thomas Feuerstein 

Thomas Feuerstein was born in 1968 in Innsbruck, Austria and works as an artist and author in the fields of fine art and media art. He studied art history and philosophy at the University of Innsbruck and received a doctorate degree in 1995. From 1992 to 1994, along with with Klaus Strickner, Feuerstein was co-editor of the magazine Medien. Kunst. Passagen., published by Passagen Verlag in Vienna. In 1992, he founded the office for intermedia communication transfer and the association Medien.Kunst.Tirol. In 1992 and 1993, Feuerstein received research commissions from the Austrian Ministry of Science on art in electronic space and art and architecture. Since 1997, he has been a lecturer as well as visiting professor at the University for Applied Arts Vienna, Bern University of the Arts, the F+F School of Art and Media Design Zurich, University of Innsbruck, Applied Science University Vorarlberg, and the University Mozarteum Salzburg.



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