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thankworthy

Monochrom

monochrom is an international art-technology-philosophy group, founded in 1993. Its offices are located at Museumsquartier/Vienna (at 'QDK').

The group's members are: Johannes Grenzfurthner, Evelyn Fürlinger, Harald List, Anika Kronberger, Franz Ablinger, Frank Apunkt Schneider, Daniel Fabry, Günther Friesinger. In November 2005 Roland Gratzer joined as PR content manager, and in December 2006 Jacob Appelbaum became official monochrom ambassador.

The group works with different media and art formats and publishes the German book and zine/magazine series Monochrom.

Monochrom is known for its left-wing political work/civil society work.

The group's website functions as a collaborative digital art community.

Monochrom administrates Dorkbot Vienna.

In December 2005 Monochrom bought the Lord Jim Lodge, an art brand founded by Jörg Schlick, Martin Kippenberger, Wolfgang Bauer und Albert Oehlen.

Since 2007 Monochrom is European correspondent for Boing Boing TV.

Comments

"Since 1993, the Monochrom members have devoted themselves to the grey zones where systems intersect: the art (market), politics, economics, pop, gaiety, vanity, good clean fanaticism, crisis, language, culture, self-content, identity, utopia, mania and despair. The technique underlying Monochrom's work is that of being and working in the fields of Pop/avant-garde, theory/reflection, interventionism/politics, gaiety/lust/tragedy, (self-)configuration/mystification. The project Monochrom pushes into and beyond these fields is 'networking' events, people, possibilities, material, impetus and identities." (Zdenka Badovinac, Moderna Galerija Ljubljana)

"Monochrom plays off the incompatibilities of psychological and virtual codes against each other in a funny, ironic and melodramatic way." (Reinhold Grether, Telepolis)

Project examples

  • Schubumkehr (1995-1996)
    • A manifesto propagating 'internet demarketing' and deals with negative aspects of early net culture.
  • Mackerel Fiddlers (1996-)
    • A radical anti-representation/anti-recording music movement that partially refers to Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone. To quote the manifesto: "We set value on developing a form of viral resistance by systematic infiltration of symphonic orchestras. A New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1984) could have been transformed by at least one Mackerel Fiddler and Austria's image would have been ruined worldwide. [...] These days, self-production and 'embarrassment sells' have become the golden rules of media, be it radio, TV, or telegraph. Thus it is not only legitimate to be ashamed of ones activity as a Mackerel Fiddler, it is also thankworthy. Failure is beautiful! Disgrace is sunshine!"
  • Exot (1998)
    • A tele-robot remotely controlled via a web-interface/chat forum. The robot was supported and operated by a big community. The robot's basic structure was built out of remodeled Lego bricks and equipped with a Fisheye lens camera. The project was presented at art festivals and technology presentations.
  • Soul Sale (1998)
    • A "spirituo-capitalist" booth where project members tried to buy the souls of passers-by for $5 per soul. A total of fifteen were purchased and registered. These souls are still being offered for sale to third parties with power of disposal. The group sees the project - beyond all philosophical discourses and argumentation seeking to prove the existence of god - in the classical sense of a market driven by supply and demand. The soul is a tradable commodity, a form of virtual capital.
  • Soviet Unterzoegersdorf (1999-)
    • The fake history of the "last existing appanage republic of the USSR", Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. Created to discuss topics such as the theoretical problems of historiography, the concept of the "socialist utopia" and the political struggles of postwar Europe. The theoretical concept was transformed into an improvisational theatre/performance/LARP that lasted two days.
    • In 2005 Monochrom presented the first part of a computer game trilogy: "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf - The Adventure Game" (using AGS). To Monochrom it was clear that the adventure game, an almost extinct form of computer game, would provide the perfect media platform to communicate the idea of "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf". Edge (games magazine) chose the game as their 'internet game of the month' of November 2005.
  • Scrotum gegen votum (Scrotum for a vote) (2000-)
    • "A form of political commentary for about fifty percent of the population" Masculine individuals (whether in sex or gender) are seated nude in a special chair attached to a flatbed scanner. The scans then may or may not be sent to various politicians. The project won the NEBAPOMIC 2000 (Network-based Political Minimalism Counteraction Award) in the category of small country with political tendencies towards the conservative right.
  • Minus 24x (2001)
    • Monochrom's pro-failure/pro-error/pro-inability manifesto, hailing the "Luddites of inability". Quote: "Turning an object against the use inscribed in it (as sociolect of the world of things) means probing its possibilities. [...] The information age is an age of permanently getting stuck. Greater and greater speed is demanded. New software, new hardware, new structures, new cultural techniques. Life-long learning? Yes. But the company can't fire the secretary every six months, just because she can't cope with the new version of Excel. They can count their keystrokes, measure their productivity ... but! They will never be able to sanction their inability! Because that is immanent."
  • Georg Paul Thomann (2002-2005)
    • Monochrom was chosen to represent the Republic of Austria at the São Paulo Art Biennial, São Paulo (Brazil) in 2002. However, the political climate in Austria (at that time, the center-right People's Party had recently formed a coalition with Jörg Haider's radical-right Austrian Freedom Party) gave the left-wing art group concerns about acting as wholehearted representatives of their nation. Monochrom dealt with the conundrum by creating the persona of Georg P. Thomann, an irascible, controversial (and completely fictitious) artist of longstanding fame and renown. Through the implementation of this ironic mechanism - even the catalogue included the biography of the non-existent artist - the group solved with pure fiction the philosophical and bureaucratic dilemma attached to the system of representation presented to them by the Biennial.
    • An interesting story related to the Thomann project took place once the São Paulo Art Biennial was underway. The artist Chien-Chi Chang was invited as the representative of Taiwan, but the country's name was removed by the administration from his cube over night and replaced by the label, "Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei." As the members of Monochrom discovered, China had threatened to retreat from the Biennial (and create massive diplomatic problems) if the organizers of the Biennial were thought to be challenging the "One-China policy." Chang's open letter remained unanswered. Under the guise of Thomann, Monochrom invited artists from several countries to show their solidarity with Chang by taking the adhesive letters from their countries' name tags and giving them to Chang so that he could remount "Taiwan" outside his room. Monochrom wanted to show that artists do not necessarily have to internalize the fragmentation and isolation imposed by the rat-race of art markets and exhibitions as society-controlling imperatives. Several Asian newspapers reported about the performance. One Taiwanese newspaper headlined: "Austrian artist Georg Paul Thomann saves 'Taiwan'".
    • In 2005 Monochrom released a press info that "Austrian artist and writer Prof. Georg Paul Thomann died in a tragic accident at the tender age of 60". On 29 July 2005 they staged his funeral in Hall in Tirol. Thomann's gravesite remains in Hall. Georg Paul Thomann's tombstone shows an engraved URL of the Thomann project page.
    • Georg Paul Thomann is featured in RE/Search's "Pranks 2" book.

  • Roboexotica (2002-)
  • The Absent Quintessence (2002)
    • Feature films were drastically cut and thereby wrenched out of their genres (hardcore porn, splatter, eastern/kung fu, zombie etc.). These genre films — all of which are characterized by a certain anonymity and a mass-produced look — have been stripped of their "essential" scenes (for example, all sex scenes in the pornography, all fight scenes in the kung fu films). Thus, the material has been reduced to a bare-bones plot that had actually been conceived only as filler, but its aesthetics and stereotypical narrative patterns now make it easy to contextualize. The project tried to analyze these "re-released" shorts and to filter out interesting subtexts.
  • Towers of Hanoi (2002)
    • Members of the group entered a bank and exchanged 50 euros to dollars, then back again to euros - and so on - until the money was gone. Afterwards the group calculated how many times you have to exchange the global amount of cash (20 trillion euros) from euros to dollars until it vanishes completely. It was calculated that if this process was completed a total of 849 times using the global amount of cash, 18 cents would remain.
  • 452 x 157 cm^2 global durability (2002-)
    • Together with Patick Hoenninger. Milk packages collected in many countries. The standardized format of the Tetra Pak offers a worldwide frame for creative variation, which becomes visible on the 9.5 by 16.5 cm front of the packaging. According to the group, the relation to pop art not only exists in an aesthetic but also in a social dimension, reminiscent of Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility."
  • Blattoptera (2003-2005)
    • Artists were invited to design a gallery-space for their tribe of South American cockroaches. Each month a different international artist, or arts group, was invited to design an environment in which the cockroaches are placed, to act as audience for, and as aesthetic judges of the work.
  • Brandmarker (2003-)
    • How well do people remember the logos of large corporations that sell consumer goods? An attempt to evaluate the actual power of commercial brands by making people draw famous logos from memory.
  • Viennese Factionism: Eigenblunzn (2003)
    • Members of the group prepared blood sausage out of their own blood and ate it ('auto blood sausage'). The performance was accompanied by political essays about the 'autocannibalistic' tendencies of the global economy. The event also can be interpreted as a critical statement about art, art history and the art market (Viennese Actionism).
  • Instant Blitz Copy Fight (2004-)
    • People from all over the world are asked to take flash pictures of copyright warnings in movie theaters. Monochrom (in cooperation with Cory Doctorow) collects and exhibits those pictures as a copyleft/Free Culture statement.
  • Udo 77 (2004)
    • A musical about Udo Proksch, a fascinating figure in recent Austrian history. Born to a poor family he rose to become the darling of Austrian high society before landing in jail on a life sentence for sinking a ship and its crew in order to cash in on insurance of nonexistent goods. His perfectly tuned network of sponsors, friends and political functionaries could not hush up the scandal and many of his associates joined him in his fall from grace.
  • The Flower Currency (2005)
    • A project to explore a value exchange system, created and owned by children, to enable artists to collaborate on the creation of interdisciplinary art works.
  • Being Buried Alive (2005, 2007)
    • People in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto had the opportunity to be buried alive in a real coffin for fifteen minutes. As a framework program Monochrom members held lectures about the history of the science of determining death and the medical cultural history of "buried alive". People buried alive not only populate the horror stories of past centuries, but also countless reports in specialized medical literature. The theme of unintentional resurrection by grave robbers also runs through forensic protocols. ("Being Buried Alive" was part of the "Experience The Experience" tour.)
  • Brick Of Coke (2005)
    • Monochrom created a 'Brick Of Coke': they put twenty gallons of Coca-Cola into a pot and boiled it down for a week until the residue left behind could be molded into a brick. The performance and talk dealt with the sugar industry and other multinational corporation policies and Coca-Cola as a symbol of corporate power. ("Brick Of Coke" was part of the "Experience The Experience" tour.)
  • Growing Money (2005)
    • To quote Monochrom’s press statement: "Money is frozen desire. Thus it governs the world. Money is used for all forms of trade, from daily shopping at the supermarket to trafficking in human beings and drugs. In the course of all these transactions, our money wears out quickly, especially the smaller bank notes that are changing hands constantly. [...] Money is dirty, and thus it is a living entity. This is something we take literally: money is an ideal environment for microscopic organisms and bacteria. We want to make your money grow. In a potent nutrient fluid under heat lamps we want to get as much life as we can out of your dollar bills." ("Growing Money" was part of the "Experience The Experience" tour.)
  • Magnetism Party (2005)
    • In form of a staged college party Monochrom deleted all the electromagnetic storage media that they could find with a couple of heavy-duty neodym magnets. Monochrom stated that the Magnetism Party was an attempt to actively come to terms with one aspect of the information society that is almost completely ignored by our epistemological machinery: forgetting. The slogan was "Delete is just another word for nothing left to lose". ("Magnetism Party" was part of the "Experience The Experience" tour.)
  • Illegal Space Race (2005)
    • Monochrom placed the planets true to scale (sun, 4 meters in diameter at Machine Gallery, Alvarado Street, near Echo Park) throughout the Los Angeles cityscape. Then they conducted an 'illegal space car race' through the solar system. ("Illegal Space Race" was part of the "Experience The Experience" tour.)
  • Catapulting Wireless Devices (2005)
    • The catapult is one of the oldest machines in the history of technology. Monochrom created an ironic statement about progress. The group build a small medieval trebuchet and used a couple of issues of techno-utopist magazine Wired as a counterweight to catapult wireless devices (e.g. cell phones or PDAs) at the greatest possible distance. ("Catapulting Wireless Devices" was part of the "Experience The Experience" tour.)
  • 1 Baud (2005)
  • Farewell to Overhead (2005)
  • Arad-II (2005):
    • The members of Monochrom staged a fake/ public theatre performance about a deadly virus outbreak at 'Art Basel Miami Beach', one of the biggest art fairs in North America. Monochrom dealt with the networking/business aspect of the art market, the post-September 11, 2001 attacks hysteria about biological warfare and the media coverage about Avian influenza (bird flu). Press release quote: "In mid-November of 2005, Günther Friesinger visited the Ulaangom Biennial in the Republic of Mongolia. [...] He directly departed to Miami to attend some meetings at Art Basel Miami Beach. [...] There is acute evidence that he is carrying a rare, but highly contaigent sub-form of the Arad-II Virus (Onoviridae family), of which Freiburg virus is also a member. [...] Friesinger is walking around the different art fairs in Miami Beach and is spreading the pathogen. The situation is critical. A worldwide outbreak – due to the many visitors from all over the world – is imminent. [...] We want to find all the people that Günther Friesinger smalltalked to and handshaked with. We want to retrieve and destroy the business cards he has spread. Additionally we must take him into custody and in the event of his death cremation is absolutely necessary."
  • Waiting for GOTO (2006):
    • The reference point monochrom chose for their theatre-project 'Waiting for GOTO' (Volkstheater Wien) is the theatre classic 'Waiting for Godot' which is projected into the future by modernistic references to science-fiction. In ‘Waiting for Goto’ we meet 'ideological delinquents' in a distant interstellar future who are separated from their bodies and locked up in two female students who are able to earn their college fees and make ends meet thanks to this job. The play presents us with Monochrom's portrayal of everyday work in a neo-liberal society, double consciousness, the endurance of incorporated contradictions by fragmented subjects, and the exploitation of the living body, self-alienation.
  • Café King Soccer (Café König Fußball) (2006)
    • In June 2006, Monochrom created the art installation 'Café King Soccer' at NGBK Gallery in Berlin. The installation deals with the soccer corruption case in whose centre we find referee Robert Hoyzer. Monochrom reflect on the fact that soccer has at all times mirrored the dialectics between the culture of subjectivity of the working class and the assertion of objectivity of middle-class culture. The former is represented by the collectives that meet in the game, the latter by the referee, an exemplary civil subject conducting the game by acting as its objective opponent. The Hoyzer case violated this agreement. In it, Hoyzer is – especially in the forefront of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany – also a tragic character, because he acted out his inner self-contradiction as an exemplary civil subject in a publicly effective way. At the same time, the Hoyzer case is itself an integral part of the game – merely because of his exemplary immolation as a scapegoat which seems to correspond exactly to his role on the field - and conditio sine qua non of its perpetuation.
  • Campaign For The Abolition Of Personal Pronouns (2006):
    • Monochrom propagates the creation of gender-neutral personal pronouns. In an activist way the group states that there is a relationship between the structure of language and the way people think and act (see Constructivism).
  • Lord Jim Lodge powered by monochrom (2006-):
    • The Lord Jim Lodge was founded during the 1980s by the artists Jörg Schlick, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and Wolfgang Bauer. Every member was obliged to use the lodge logo and/or the "Sun Breasts Hammer" symbol and the slogan "No one helps nobody" in his work. The group's declared goal was to make the logo "more well known than that of Coca-Cola". Thanks to the international recognition received by the oeuvres of Kippenberger, Oehlen and Schlick the Lord Jim Lodge has already attained a relatively high degree of notoriety. Still, the logo's dissemination has remained – despite the international reputation that these artists have achieved – within the framework of the art system and its peripheral importance. As an intentional addition to works of visual art it was in the end limited by their material form of existence. In March 2006 it was announced that Monochrom has assumed ownership of all trademark and usage rights of the artist Jörg Schlick's Lord Jim Lodge. Monochrom took part in a contest by 'Coca Cola Light' ('Coca Cola Light Art Edition 2006'). Quote Monochrom: "This puts us in a position to set in motion long overdue synergy effects between Coca-Cola and the Lord Jim Lodge. The only possibility for realizing the challenge formulated in the lodge logo is to use a habitat in the merchandise world as a vehicle of transmission for guiding the message through that world’s channels of distribution and into public consciousness. [...] Thus we would like to use the prize as a trial run for such a form of cooperation/competition. Coca-Cola and Lord Jim Lodge – together at last! The symbolic-economic capital of the Lord Jim Lodge and the economic-symbolic capital of Coca-Cola will be brought together, paving the way for a better future. For a world of radical beauty and exclusive bottles in small editions! In the end we are all individuals – at least as long as nobody comes along and proves the contrary." Monochrom won the prize. The logo of "Lord Jim Lodge powered by Monochrom" was printed to 50.000 Coca Cola Light bottles.
  • Taugshow (2006-):
  • Arse Elektronika (2007-):
    • Monochrom organizes a series of conferences about sex and technology. The first conference was held in October 2007 in San Francisco and dealt with pr0nnovation (the history of pornography and technological innovation) and featured speakers such as Mark Dery, Violet Blue and Eon McKai.
    • Arse Elektronika 2008 deals with Sex and Science Fiction ('Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep?') and will be held in San Francisco in October 2008.
  • Sculpture Mobs (2008-):
    • Monochrom promote a concept called Sculpture Mobs. At the 2008 Maker Faire in San Mateo, California Monochrom trained attendees to erect public sculptures in a simulated Wal-Mart parking lot in just 5 minutes before "security" was called. Quote: "No one is safe from public sculptures, those endless atrocities! All of them labeled 'art in public space'. Unchallenging hunks of aesthetic metal in business parks, roundabouts, in shopping malls! It is time to create DIY public art! Get your hammers! Get your welding equipment!" (press release)
    • Monochrom teamed up with the Billboard Liberation Front to create a political illegal public sculpture called "The Great Firewall of China" at the Google Campus in Mountain View, California.
  • Der Streichelnazi / Nazi Petting Zoo (2008):
    • The group staged a public "Nazi petting" or "hugging" on a heavily frequented Viennese shopping street. The piece is a political and ironic statement about Austria's Nazi past and how Austria deals with it. Quote from their video documentation: "In 1938 Austria joined the Third Reich. Millions cheered Hitler and in the referendum 99.75% said 'yes' to 'Greater Germany'. But after World War II, many Austrians sought comfort in the idea of Austria as "the Nazis' first victim". Factions of Austrian society tried for a long time to advance the view that it was only annexation at the point of a bayonet(te). But it's time to embrace history. It's time to remember the feel-good days of 1938. It's time to let our real feelings out! It's time to hug the Nazi, Austria! Finally!" (Video)
  • Carefully Selected Moments (2008):
    • Monochrom publishes a Best-Of CD featuring re-recorded versions of some of the group's favorite songs (CD).

Publications (incomplete)

  • "monochrom" / magazine and yearbook series. Published in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007
  • "Stadt der Klage" (Michael Marrak, 1997)
  • "Weg der Engel" (Michael Marrak and Agus Chuadar, 1998)
  • "Who shot Immanence?" (edited together with Thomas Edlinger and Fritz Ostermayer, 2002)
  • "Leutezeichnungen" (edited together with Elffriede, 2003)
  • "Quo Vadis, Logo?!" (edited by Günther Friesinger and Johannes Grenzfurthner, 2006)
  • "Sonne Busen Hammer 16" (edited by Johannes Grenzfurthner, Günther Friesinger and Franz Ablinger, 2006)
  • "Spektakel - Kunst - Gesellschaft" (edited by Stephan Grigat, Johannes Grenzfurthner and Günther Friesinger, 2006)
  • "Das Wesen der Tonalität" (Othmar Steinbauer; edited by Friesinger, Neumann, Petrik, Sedivy, 2006)
  • "Sonne Busen Hammer 17" (edited by Johannes Grenzfurthner, Günther Friesinger and Franz Ablinger, 2007)
  • "VIPA" (edited by Orhan Kipcak, 2007)
  • "Als die Welt noch unterging" (Frank Apunkt Schneider, 2007)
  • "pr0nnovation? Pornography and Technological Innovation" (edited by Johannes Grenzfurthner, Günther Friesinger and Daniel Fabry 2008)

Exhibitions and festivals (incomplete)

Awards

  • 1st prize of 'E55' (Vienna/Berlin) 1999.
  • Nestroy Theatre Prize (Vienna) 2005 (together with 'The Great Television Swindle' by maschek and 'Freundschaft' by Steinhauer and Henning) for Udo 77 (2004).
  • Coca Cola Light Art Edition (2006).
  • Videomedeja Awards Special Mention, Novi Sad, Serbia for Net/Software Category for monochrom's "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf/Sector 1/The Adventure Game" (2006).
  • aniMOTION Award Honorary Mention (Sibiu, Romania) for Interactive Tales for monochrom's "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf/Sector 1/The Adventure Game" (2007).
  • MEDIA FORUM/Moscow International Film Festival, Jury Special Mention (Moscow, Russia) for monochrom's "The Void's Foaming Ebb", (2008)

External links

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