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  [DISCO FLOOR_BOOTLEG:4. Angela Bulloch]

Verein Medienturm
Großmarktstraße 8b, A-8020 Graz

With the “work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility” something has been lost – something which Walter Benjamin has described as aura in an essay of the same name. Benjamin defines the aura as “unique appearance of a distance, as near it might be”. This unique appearance is tied to the unique work of art, which – as original and equipped with the legacy of historical evidence – appears in the here and now, indeed only can appear in the here and now: “Since the aura is tied to its here and now. There exists no reproduction of it.” With the reproducibility which for Benjamin is especially characteristical for photography and film, this aura disappears making room for a social concern – the “trend to overcome the uniqueness of each condition by taking up its reproduction”. In other words: the reproduction and reproducibility make feasible the emancipation of the uniqueness; and with this loss of uniqueness, the possibility opens up “to provide the original with situations which are unreachable for the original itself. Above all, it makes possible for the original to make advances to the one who copies either in the form of photography or as record. The cathedral abandons its location in order to be photographed in the studio of an art lover; the choir which has been performed in a hall or outdoors, can be heard in one room.” There is no better description of how the reproducibility has promoted a phenomenon such as the popularization of culture and at the same time has perforated the ideology of the uniqueness. “The cathedral abandons its location in order to be photographed in the studio [...]!” Only this sentence could describe the work of Angela Bulloch – the work of an artist who has been working on “cathedrallike” cultural concepts for years, in order to bring them to the studio and re-edit them: in order to save them from the cathedral by offering the reproducibility and to deliver them under different conditions to the “perceivers”. And Benjamin is right when he says: “At that moment, however, since the standard of authenticity cannot be applied to the art production, also the whole social function of art has revolutionized. Instead of resting upon the ritual, it is based on a different approach, namely on politics.”
Bulloch works with reproduction technologies and, at the same time, she falls back upon subjects which are the social product of these reproduction technologies: these are ideas and experiences which, due to their reproduction, have been brought to a broad public as culture industry and popular culture and depending on the subject have even taken influence on a whole generation. Let’s take her work DISCO FLOOR_BOOTLEG:4, a combination of light and sound installation, of which the components evoke the notion of the 1970s, either by the dance floor with its coloured and illuminated plates made of glass, or by the instrumental version of a “popular disco melody”, released in the course of the same decade: the track “Good Times” by Chic. This impression of an inescapable common history could hazardously be denoted as “collective memory” which is hereby called into mind. A still more risky statement – and still unimaginable for Benjamin at the beginning of the twentieth century – would be that this installation lets imagine an aura of the 1970s, although the whole work is based on reproduction technologies; and even subjects such as the disco floor and the sound are only in a contemporary way reproduced copies of the former “originals”. The rituals in the disco and on the dance floor are not even discussed at this point. Effective, suggestive and gripping: a room filled with light and sound. A presence which also reveals its fascination by that of what it fades out and of what it makes forget. A presence, less directed towards contemplation, but towards something that Benjamin has denotes with “distraction”. Distraction would thus be an instrument to cope with problems, which cannot be solved by means of critique alone, by getting used to them. “Also a distracted person can get used to things. Better: only the managing of some tasks in the state of distraction proves that their solving has become a habit for oneself.” Benjamin thus has rejected a critique which categorizes distraction as a mere diversion from the sorrows of every day life, and he has opened up a field which realizes a piece of culture critique in popular culture.
Bulloch’s work attends to this mixture of distraction, popular culture and culture critique. Starting out from the theory that the contradictoriness of the social and political conditions evades comprehensibility, reality appears as fragment. Thus, the critique itself follows the fragmentary by implication. Its objection is of particular nature. Where the reference to the original still means an impression of totality – transported as aura, merging in the closeness and distance – for distraction only remains the section, the look at the detail, which is not representing the whole anymore. With the title DISCO FLOOR_BOOTLEG:4, Bulloch suggests the interpretation of the glass elements as quotation and fragment of a dance floor. The dance floor itself has fragmented; what remains is an image of memory, which is tied to the detail in order to recall all the clearer the absence of the original. What literally appears is the reproduction of a lost original: the reproduction of reproducibility. The reproduction of reproducibility as topic and theme not only emancipates itself from the original, but itself becomes the subject, which replaces a subject. It is no coincidence that Bulloch uses the same light elements for the “pixel-works”, which recognize in the single element a virtually enlargened pixel of an image area. Again: beyond the belief in the totality of the image, the detail of an image which eludes comprehensibility appears. An image which refuses to be an image; except a fragmented image, an image of distraction. What at first sight manifests itself as aura, at a closer look unfolds as zoom. The zoom, the close up of the detail, the reality of the fragment, is a modified form of the “appearance of a distance as near it might be”. What distinguishes the zoom from the aura is its reproducibility on which Bulloch zooms herself in. The zoom as technical device for perception, however, inherits two consequences: while letting the detail appear gigantic, it turns, on the other hand, the perceiving subject into a microbe. The monumental dimension of the pixels is only the expression for the micropolitics of the subject: a subject which recognizes itself as fragmentary, temporary and resolved. This look at the fragmented and pulverized subject is not gained from the bird’s-eye view, but with reference to the fragment out of the reproducibility’s entrails, out of a cell culture. The subject abandons its place…

Andreas Spiegl

Angela Bulloch


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Angela Bulloch, Disco Floor_Bootleg:4, 2003. installation. Ansicht Kunstverein Medienturm