After the Wall

An Internet column by Thomas Irmer
Leipzig/Berlin, Germany
(c) 1995

As Meaningless as a Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach - Art as an Intelligent Game:

The Veterans from Leipzig, Germany, and their first multi-fine-arts CD-ROM.
Where do we go from here? And how fast? These four young East Germans are pacemakers in the world of the new arts. Anticipating the near future, those 30-something pioneers call themselves veterans. It took them 18 months to create Germany's first multi-media art CD-ROM and now they look back to that point when they established a new genre. In five years from now this might be the thing you compare to any further achievement of a CD-ROM Gesamtkunstwerk. What you need is a CD-ROM drive in a multi-media computer and you have left the art gallery for good. Clicking on the menu with the images of its creators, Tjark Ihmels, Micha Touma, KP Ludwig John, and Stephan Eichhorn, you enter a city-like world of about 120, mostly interactive or animated, objects that vary in style or content from cartoons to abstract expressionism, from illustrations to interview. The idea is to get you on an unplanned journey on which many possible stops you may change the inner life of a still life, read interviews with international artists, manipulate colors and sounds with your mouse, click on animated clips, use your voice on the mike to get action go, or look at weird visualizations of Eliot's Waste Land. Yes, it's a game you, an electronic toy and maybe it is as perfectly superb as any of Bach's fugues. But as randomly as your mouse-pad itinerary may be, an insight into the possibilities of this very medium you use will come up. For new artistic forms, well researched, resourcefully designed, and programmed with an attitude that ranges between subtle irony and the mere seduction to make you click, "The Veterans" breaks new ground. Forget the seemingly multilinear click-on-click computer games, forget the art-as-CD-ROM catalogues by visual artists who expected you to "turn page by page" to look at their works created in the traditional media. This is "art as an interface," says Tjark Ihmels. His pixel paintings, reminiscent of abstract expressionism, remain incomplete and demand their finite composition in tone and texture with your mouse as well as with your infinite imagination. What You See Is NOT What You Necessarily Get! Animated clips are Touma's domain. He, who considers himself a painter in the new world of immaterial painting, intertwines mini-movies with scanned paintings and photographs to create a quest for a fourth man (after the 1920s German silent "The Third Man") --- one of the puzzling secrets in this endless puzzle of ever more chances and choices. (A manual - way too easy! - does not come with the package, yet the box and its booklet are instructive.) KP Ludwig John, the most playful computer artist on this disc, demands it all. End a bullfight with your voice, have international ethnic artists talk to you. Never mind, almost impossible combinations are real here, thanks to programmer Stephan Eichhorn. Rhizomatic structures is the message, more than a hundred moving objects its atmosphere. The Veterans want communication, participation and imagination, be it the sampling of historical styles and avant-gardes, be it the disassembling of their own work. Sampling, like in contemporary music, is their collective art. Picassos of the mouse-created style, Jackson Pollocks of the screen, Disneys of the animation, and Andy Warhols in their belief that anyone is ready for this, the Veterans make art history exactly the same moment everyone hits the enter key. No shit.

(for Windows and Apple, 98 DM published by Systhema Verlag, Frankfurter Ring 224, 80807 Munchen, Germany, FAX 089-32 39 03 12, CompuServe: 100563,1254)

The Veterans' address in World Wide Web:

The Veterans' address in CompuServe: Tjark Ihmels 100574,1125.