Michaela Putz is a contemporary artist based in Vienna working in the fields of drawing, painting and post-photography. She graduated in Art & Science at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, which put emphasis on her sociological background and provoked her to conceptualize her art work reflecting on questions such as our co-existence with technology and the future of our memories in the finest way. So we went out to walk around these questions and now we invite you to be part of this light wave of futuristic thoughts, swiping through images, leaving digital traces behind, an observation and questioning of our acknowledged reality.
Besides her individual projects, Michaela is a team member of the artist collective and art space 280A founded in Vienna and gathering members from all over the world. The collective's goal is to reformat artist presence through proactively looking for rather extraordinary projects they can join as a collective...
Michaela: ... and then we are inviting people, artists from our network to be part of the project. In these projects we are represented as a collective even if everyone is doing their own. In the end we showcase our latest projects in form of a publication.
Oh, you have a magazine?
It’s actually a book, which is going to be published three times a year. We launch our next publication, Sentimental Defense, on the 18th of May accompanied with an after-party. It is going to be a pretty neat celebration. After that, the book is going to be available at Walther König and can be ordered directly from us.
What do you mean by post-photography?
Well, everything that can’t be classified under classic photography. Something like searching for new ways in digital post-production. The idea behind 280A is to have a platform where we can present our members and offer exhibitions, publications and opportunities apart from classic gallery exhibitions. For example last February we participated in a residency program in Cassis, France and now we got a chance to join the Unseen Co-Op in Amsterdam as a collective.
How many members do you have and what’s the process of the participation in your projects?
We currently have 19 members who we inform about recent projects and who we invite for collaboration, for example in exhibition projects, artist retreats and other activities.. The members can be found on our website as well. There are various kinds of projects starting from residency programs to projects like the one we had for Elevate Festival where we created a couple of pages of the festival magazine.
How did you personally get involved in arts?
It has always interested me but in the end I started studying Communication Science at the University of Vienna... Still, it didn’t let me go. Sometimes I think I just need longer... I was like in my mid-20s as I decided that I would like to focus on arts. I already finished my studies in communications as I got interested in the Master's degree Art & Science at the University of Applied Arts Vienna which I later applied for.
What’s the ritual of your creation? Where do you get your ideas from?
Usually, ideas come from observing the world around me. Things start to attract my attention, also mundane things. But it also has to do with having time. I really like to let ideas drift by reading a good book or just looking out of the window of a train, I think this is how I get an inspiration and then I start to research it.
Where would you say is the focus of your artistic research?
Currently, I engage myself in the representation of digital traces, fingerprints we leave behind on our smartphones and black screens and with reflections, so how we reflect ourselves but also how our world reflects itself back on these screens. Right now my focus is on these topics and I’ll see what the future will bring. I’ve been interested in languages and writing from the beginning. At the time of the application for the master program I already had an idea for the project I wanted to implement as my master project and which turned out to be Traces of Seemingly Insignificant Gestures.
The initial idea was to examine writing on the computer, but then I got more interested in the writing on the smartphone because I realized the gestures' and movement processes' similarity to hand writing and there was already my idea which I picked upon for my master project as well where I captured writing movements on a smartphone with photograms. Kinda word by word. Such as when you swipe through your phone with your fingers while writing then you are smudging the words you wrote before and new layers are coming to it at the same time. And I captured these layers through light in the dark room and I use LED lights to exhibit the photograms.
All in all, a lot of things come into play in my work, my initial interest lies in the process how technology progresses a new way of writing and new gestures as well as the digital traces and datas we leave behind. As I started to research on this topic back then I also realized, what other people partially already know now, that you would think writing on a computer or a smartphone is something standardized and handwriting is something individual but that’s not true. Your writing on a computer can be analyzed exactly on the basis of the pace, rhythm, intensity of your writing even on the basis of your spelling failures.
What books would you recommend to read to better understand the correlations you use in your projects?
Currently I'm reading the book Saving beauty by Byung-Chul Han, also the texts of Boris Groys have been an interesting source for me recently, like the article Art, Technology, Humanism by Boris Groys on e-flux. But I also like to read about historical stuff such as how landscape painters always had a tiny black mirror in their pocket with which -by holding it up and reflecting the landscape on the screen- they found the object of their paintings. I used this theme for my project Mirrored Landscapes, Imprinted Memories, which I actually created for an invitation of 280A.
I grew up in the southern part of Burgenland, we moved there from Vienna actually when I was nine years old... And there was a hill behind our house where I spent a lot of time up-and-down in the tall grass. I find it exciting to be thematized since we don't have too many memories from our childhood. I found it interesting to make a perception around being somewhere in real and taking it all in unfiltered as compared to the constant awareness of being able to go somewhere and save everything in our smartphone. You approach the experience in another way by not having the opportunity to take photos. So I captured this feeling in association with reflections in the tiny black mirror landscape painters have been using and in our modern black screens.
Here Michaela's insights into two further projects of hers. Selected works are available at ARCC.art
These are analogue photos of a ski holiday from my private archive and I played a little bit with the art of remembering what I addressed in my previous projects as well. I just thought to myself; how come everyone is taking care of analogue photos and trying not totally touch them through? And I played with the idea what the photos would look like if they were digital and made a parallel to how we remember ski holidays and things in general... Sometimes consciously hiding things in order not to be able to be seen and remembered clearly.
Knowledge and reality do not necessarily coincide. The initial thought was that we, human beings as a whole are coined by words. We are words, conversations and then texts, written texts with time in a wider sense. Therefore, we are our own assumptions and things we are taught how the world is functioning. And I made drawings out of layers graphically capturing things we know as facts and then I took all these layers, put them on each other and created a new landscape of human knowledge. So it became a sketch of ideas, a questioning of old ideas and new landscape out of our current landscapes and our currently perceived forms and borders.
Text by Barbara Böröcz
Cover photo by Michaela Putz