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Ohne Schnur: Kunst und Drahtlose Kommunikation

by Katja Kwastek, Editor
Revolver Archiv fuer Aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt/main and Cuxhaven Kunstverein, Cuxhaven, 2004
228 pp., illus. col.
ISBN: 3-86588-025-8.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent


In 2004, the City of Cuxhaven in Germany, commemorated the founding in 1904 of the first radiotelegraphy station to guide the ships sailing the Elbe with an exhibition and colloquium on the theme of wireless communication and art. The project chose the somewhat naïve expression ‘Ohne Schnur, Kunst und Drahtlose Kommunikation’, literally ‘Without Cord, Art and Wireless Communication’, as it’s title, referring to a 1997 TV commercial. The idea was to better convey the fascination that is linked to this form of communication, which technically speaking would have to be termed wireless and not cordless. The book contains essays by the participants at the colloquium and brief presentations of the art projects that were presented during April and May of 2004.

As soon as wireless — or cordless if you like — communication became a technical reality, it was appropriated by both visionaries and artists for their dreams and projects. In 1904, Hungarian inventor Nikolas Tesla wrote: "A cheap and simple device, which might be carried in one’s pocket, may then be set up somewhere on sea or land, and it will record the world’s news or such special messages as may be intended for it. Thus the entire earth will be converted into a huge brain, as it were, capable of response in every one of its parts" (p. 17). And in the same year, futurist Filippo Marinetti coined the term ‘immaginazione senza fili’ (imagination without cord) to express the total freedom of artistic expression in an analogy to ‘telegrafia senza fili’ (cordless telegraphy). Wireless surely captured the imagination of hundreds of artists and each scientific or technological innovation was practically immediately used by someone or other to exploit its potential of quasi-simultaneity. Artists used telegram, fax, satellite, mobile phones, wireless LAN etc. — admittedly not all of them cordless — to transcending the physical limits of person-to-person communication and bridging the distance between even the most remote places on earth, and in space.

Kasimir Malewitsch, Suzanne Duchamp, Guillaume Apollinaire, Viktor Tatlin, to name but a few, where among the first to be inspired by radiotelegrapy, as Dieter Daniels notes in his insightful essay ‘The Miracle of Simultaneity’. According to the author, radiotelegraphy marked the beginning of another phase in globalization at the beginning of the 20th Century. (That other icon of technical ingenuity, the Eiffel Tower, was only saved from demolition because it found a new function as a radio transmission station.)

From the other essays, it is worth mentioning that Stephen Wilson attempts to develop a taxonomy of wireless artists in ‘Artists as Researchers in Wireless Communication’ and Wolfgang Strauss, Monika Fleischmann and Stephanie Zobel analyse the transformation of physical, emotional an epistemological spaces through the use of mobile means of interaction.



Updated 1st August 2007

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