© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Thomas Scheffer


Impulse-dependent video installation, 2016

META is an Impulse-dependent video installation for video projectors and video screens. The video installation reaches this kind of interactivity without interfaces and sensors.


In the current digital age when the language of the image is in a continual state of perceptual slippage, the artist Thomas Scheffer challenges anew the meaning of conventional perception. He restores to images a unique sensory corporality and a subtle sense of personal visual engagement. In the work ‘META’ he has developed a video with pseudo-random format effects that derive in the first instance through the artist’s ability to manipulate interstitial inadequacies of computer technologies. The outcome is a subsequently downloaded and ever changing image that creates the unique possibilities of individual states of sensory interactivity. However, unlike the conventional system of mechanical or dexterous interactions with a screen (metaphorically a picture surface) in this instance it is the slightest sensory movement of the head or body that generates the random response of the image on the screen. Where this differs from conventional interaction the effect is never completely materially repeatable, since the pseudo randomness denies a fully cognisant or aware state of repeated exactitude. It remains pseudo-random and we must suppose since in cosmological terms there can never be pure randomness as such in a given material world. That is the case even if you accept what quantum theorists claim, namely that a state of pure randomness does not need a condition of physicality.

The screen image ‘META’ is therefore as its title suggests the effect of a denoting change of position, something that exists behind that of mere first visual appearance. But what is innovatory in this context is that denotation resides in the viewer’s unforeseen variable state of engagement with the work. In a witty sense while Foucault (et al) spoke of the death of the author, the outcome of the work transferred to reader or viewer, in this instance Scheffer’s observer becomes both the author and viewer of the effects that are generated. The colour image ‘META’ is primarily blue and red, psychically and symbolically material-temporal and sidereal, it gives off the sense of an active expression with an optical connotation.  The outcome is an charged image of animated informalism, reminiscent of the post-war informel or of the ‘abstract expressionist’ tendencies as seen in painting, while at the same time evoking the optical resonances of altered perception that comes from an interactive participation in the work. It is part of Scheffer’s aim to create a unique body of work that fuses the physical and emotional, creating images that incorporate a whole range of various sensory optical experiences. Whether realised in colour or in multi-screen black and white projected variables as his investigation and pseudo-random realisations seen in ‘CYTO’, the ambition is to establish a new visual language of human experience. It is for this reason when downloaded and projected these images take on the essential meaning and literal truth of the term ‘moving pictures’ as the image contents on screen apparently rush headlong towards you. This is far from and intentionally distinct from the narrative propensities of the conventional uses of film and photography. It is a pure optical informality that reinforces the process of looking.

A return to the phenomenology of perception after the semiotic and conceptual concerns of the last thirty or so years, opens up again the reinvigoration of the process of truly looking at things as pure phenomena, as separate from the looking for things through the signifier-signified-sign equation. What Thomas Scheffer strives for is the desire to create an unfettered state of imaginative opticality, to reach out towards an expansion of the visual experience within modern life human culture today. To do this we must return to the body, to the Dasein or ‘being there’ within the actual experience. Yet we are not talking simply about the physical body as material entity, notwithstanding its obvious component necessity, but rather that of cognitive body of bio-chemical consciousness. That is to say the synaptic bodily processes that feed into our essential phenomenological experiences of the world. With all the contemporary and opaque discourses concerning virtuality, it has become important again to establish again where phenomenal realities begin and end. We need to re-generate our contact with the phenomenal ‘real’, rather than divert ourselves into the relativized ‘reality’ that currently grounds the conditions of contemporary life. The artist Thomas Scheffer is on a quest, he is in fast pursuit and is aim at creating a new personal-interpersonal language of seeing. If his works challenge the viewer, they do so with the aim of human betterment, that is in order to better understand the confused optical seeing world in which we live.

© Mark Gisbourne

Sunday, 15 May 2016