Focus Artistic Research

Reset the Apparatus! Retrograde Technicity in Artistic Photographic and Cinematic Practices

Project lead: Edgar Lissel
Institute for Fine Arts and Media Art
Duration: 01.03.2016 - 31.07.2019
Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR 343 Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschließung der Künste (PEEK)
Since the early 1990s, the use of “obsolete” media and technologies has figured prominently in contemporary art. What is remarkable about this turn to the so-called outmoded is the sheer range of inventiveness with which “old” media are applied, bestowing upon them new and original uses. This engagement with the materiality and historicity of technology in general and photography and cinema in particular offers a way of (re-)interrogating the very idea of these media and of making manifest their inherent qualities.

Assembling an international and trans-disciplinary team of artists and scholars, this arts-based research project will explore the widespread pursuit of photographic and cinematic devices from the viewpoint of “retrograde technicity.” The project will be led by Edgar Lissel, whose artistic work exemplifies the topic. Two key questions are: How does the concept of retrograde technicity create new knowledge? How can the productive nature of artistic research and the effects of artistic production be mapped?

The term “retrograde technicity” is situated within the broader field of “obsolescence,” but clearly engages with the historicity of technological forms. In a more general perspective, retrograde technicity is characterized by the replacement of technical devices of a “higher” order by technical devices of a “lower” order, and it can take a variety of forms. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the phenomenon of retrograde technicity today is prominent not only in art, but also in popular culture (from the revival of Polaroid photography to such recent inventions such as the LomoKino). Hence, retrograde technicity is a broad social phenomenon that is having a considerable impact on the ways we interact with (audio-)visual media.

In cooperation with our national and international partners (Austrian Filmmuseum; Hubertus von Amelunxen), seven  international artists (David Gatten, Sandra Gibson/Luis Recoder, Rosângela Rennó, Hanna Schimek, Gebhard Sengmüller, Apichatpong Weerasethakul) and three external experts (Ruth Horak, Jan Kaila, Kim Knowles), our project will provide an experimental platform for arts-based research that will benefit all participants and, we hope, observers. This project will result in both a new methodology for artistic research as well as new insights into the concept of retrograde technicity.

One of the key methodological tools and means of exchange and dissemination will be the project website (including a blog and a database), which will document the research process and its results. As well, a workshop, an international conference, a final presentation of the research process and the resulting artefacts, and a compilation of printed materials will be  provided.
Edgar Lissel, Mnemosyne II, 2007