Thomas Zummer, portraits of robots & other recent works
May 17 – June 15, 2002
Frederieke Taylor gallery is pleased to announce its second one-person exhibition of Thomas Zummer, entitled portraits of robots & other recent works*.
In this exhibition, Thomas Zummer, who is a distinguished author, scholar and teacher in critical studies, philosophy and film, will exhibit a new series of drawings based on the documentation of early robots and film images. When seen at first, Zummer’s drawings seem to be photographs rather than “man-made” drawings. This is precisely the effect sought by the artist; using a wide range of techniques and materials such as burnished carbon, graphite, micronized iron and pure pigments, Zummer’s drawings are uncannily realistic, yet seductive and sensual.
Zummer wrote the following test on the notion of portraiture which applies to his current exhibition:” Portraiture has had its conventions and habits, its technologies and conceits. At a certain moment portraits of monarchs, of the aristocracy, of dogs, horses, families, children, celebrities, businessmen, dancers, street vendors or anonymous flaneurs, all became fashionable and highly desirable images/commodities. But no matter how mannered or distorted a likeness might be, there was still the presumption of, and allusion to, a ‘presence-having-been.’ This is as much the case with vague impressions as it is with caricature, and extends to the blurs and shadows of motion in photographic processes. But something very strange happens when one encounters the faceless faces of robots. Even as their anthropomorphism diminishes, the reflex towards recognition remains. It’s not, however, that we recognize an animate or human presence within, behind, or at the origin of theses creatures, but rather that the anxious addition of an index of human attributes traces the contours of our own absence, so that allusion here servers the presumption of presence by indicating where we are not.
In making ‘portraits’ of robots – by making drawings of photographs of actual robots – there is a re-mapping of that anthropomorphism in the transfer between media. One might say that something is lost in the translation, and that something else takes place: the uncanny. It is at this point that two technologies of reproduction and representation – portraiture and robotics – share certain common attributes, while at the same time rendering each other exceedingly strange.
Thomas Zummer is an artist, curator, writer and scholar. Recent publications include "Projection and Dis/embodiment: Genealogies of the Virtual," a catalogue essay for Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-1977, (Whitney/Abrams) and "What the Hell in That?," (Beehive Microtitles No. 1) a digital e-book on cinema and the taxonomy of monsters. He is currently completing a book, Intercessionary Technologies: Database, Archive, Interface, on the early history of reference systems. In 1994, with Robert Reynolds, he curated CRASH: Nostalgia for the Absence of Cyberspace at Thread Waxing Space, one of the first major exhibitions to have a significant portion of works available online, and as other forms of transmission. He is the co-editor of the book by the same name. Mr. Zummer¹s works have shown worldwide, most recently at TENT/Witte de Wit Museum in Rotterdam, White Box, and Angel/Orensanz in NYC, and he has forthcoming exhibitions in Paris, London, Edinburgh, Brussels and Toronto. Zummer is a frequent lecturer on philosophy and the history of technology, and currently teaches in the Critical Studies Department at New York University. In 2002-03 he will be a visiting professor in the Transmedia Programme at Sint Lukas, Brussels.
Thomas Zummer lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
*Catalogue available Thomas Zummer portraits of robots & other recent works, ($20 + shipping) FTg publishing 2002