A limitless world
There are certain people who are intelligent, but in their presence the future seems at the very least rigid and rectilinear if not dark and threatening. And yet there are others blessed with the same intellectual potential who have a surviving quality that creates a rare and unexpected phenomenon. In their company the world seems limitless and possibilities that we may never have dreamt of come to the surface. Talking to them can open up new horizons of unforeseen, and often unorthodox, potential.
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Within this category we find, for example, one of the most prominent figures in the contemporary art world, the artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, Hans Ulrich Obrist.
It’s no coincidence that one of his friends and colleagues Daniel Birnbaum, former director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, shares the same energizing virtue.
Nor is it a coincidence that Birnbaum has decided to leave his job as director of this prestigious institution – the best known in his native Sweden – to venture into directing an up-and-coming London company founded, as he explains, by “a handful of good people”, Acute Art, which according to him has scarcely 7 employees. The company specializes in the use of virtual reality and augmented reality within art.
We crossed paths at the Venice Biennale where he said: “in two years I bet you that 50% of the works presented at the Biennale will involve virtual reality.”
Daniel Birnbaum is behind an Abramovic retrospective that is travelling all over Europe (see the report about Marina Abramovic).
Hilma af Klint
Daniel Birnbaum is also on the board of the Hilma af Klint Foundation, established in the name of the pioneering Swedish abstract artist whose retrospective at the Guggenheim museum in New York attracted over 600,000 visitors.
Artists and VR
It would seem that the former museum director’s dance card, to send artists into virtual reality, is impressive: Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramovic, Bjarne Melgaard…
He also cites in passing names like Christo, “he understood that virtual reality could be used to document his work,” and James Turrell: “he told me: ‘promise me that we will make something that can be seen with the naked eye not the camera.’”
And he’s found a platform to exhibit Acute Art’s works in Berlin at the Julia Stoschek collection. In October he will be showcasing the creation of Bjarne Melgaard.
I saw him again at Art Basel and he stated that: “they say by 2023 half of American households will have access to virtual reality.”
But Birnbaum embraces considerable uncertainty: “I see my activities in virtual reality as a curatorial endeavour. But I have to admit that I have no business model. I still don’t know how we’re going to make money, how these works will be commercialized. These technologies are still in their infancy.” He often reiterates the fact that the individual helmet that this kind of viewing requires is an ugly object and he would be trying to make it lighter and better evolved.
Klee and Benjamin
Daniel Birnbaum likes quotes. He’ll be talking and in no particular order will throw in a phrase from Paul Klee: “art is what makes the invisible visible” or Walter Benjamin, who said that artists anticipate that which does not yet exist.
He concludes by evoking John Cage, who is often cited when talking about technology. “People talk about John Cage and his HPSCHD from 1969,” (a composition in which some of the sounds are generated by computers): “It’s a bit of a shame isn’t it? He’s moved on to other things now.”
The video interview
Other things like virtual reality. Daniel Birnbaum sums up in 8 words, and ends by saying: “My dream is to discover new art forms.”
New job/Virtual reality/ Reality/Museum/ Lonely experience/ Marina Abramovic/Next dream/Memory
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