“More than a cabinet of curiosities, more than a terrarium, more than an aquarium”: a captivating look at thirty years of artistic work by the Austrian-French artist duo Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau.
Working at the intersection of natural science, technology, and art, Austrian-French artist duo Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau pioneered the “Art of Interface”—innovative technical interfaces that enable physical interaction between simulative visual worlds and the world of natural sensory organs. Early on, the pair used algorithms to represent not only forms of the living but also their evolution and growth. Edited by Karin Ohlenschläger, Peter Weibel, and Alfred Weidinger, this publication in the Leonardo book series brings together key works of the artists since the early 1990s in pictures and text contextualized by renowned international authors: Reinhard Kannonier, Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, Birgit Mersmann, Tomoe Moriyama, Karin Ohlenschläger, Ingeborg Reichle, and Siegfried Zielinski.
In the artists' installations, which are possible only through interactions with the viewer, devices designed by the artist couple produce novel virtual realities and immersive environments. In “Portrait on the Fly,” for instance, a viewer stands in front of an interactive plasma screen, behind which a swarm of thousands of flies is moving. Gradually, the flies settle on the shadowed areas of the projection, thereby collectively reproducing the person's likeness. Works such as these, now almost classics of digital art, open a new horizon in which artworks can function as living systems. As Peter Weibel writes, their work is “more than a cabinet of curiosities, more than a terrarium, more than an aquarium; it shows mythical creatures, artificial creatures, [and] a so far unseen panorama of imagination and technical ingenuity.”
Karin Ohlenschläger was a curator, art critic, and the artistic director of LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijon, Spain.
Peter Weibel was Chairman and CEO of ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. He was the editor or coeditor of other ZKM volumes including ICONOCLASH, Making Things Public, Sound Art, Global Activism, and Critical Zones (all published by the MIT Press).
Alfred Weidinger is curator and writer, and the managing director of OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH in Linz, Austria, and the former director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, Germany.