Cycle of Prayer

Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter

Following on from the 19th century Romantic landscape, this video cycle in 4 parts shows landscape as a reflection of an inner state. Perception as a seismograph of one’s own mood – very personal, flawed, and always oscillating between reality and fiction, between observation and thought.

Forces of nature mingle with landmarks of civilization and do not depict glorified places of longing. In the frenzy of speed, the moment evaporates and yet always returns – like the seasons.

All the videos are looped – without beginning or end, and seemingly endless – like the collective murmuring of a rosary or the Lord’s Prayer.

Spring

Spring as a symbol of joie de vivre, as the Romantics saw it? Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”, a different impression emerges here:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers. (…)

(from: T.S.Eliot, The Waste Land – I. The Burial of the Dead.”)

Summer

A sandstorm bathes the passing landscape in warm yellow. Beautiful or terrible? Terribly beautiful? Are these the harbingers of an apocalypse that we ourselves have caused?

Or a wondrous natural spectacle?

Are we on the run?

If so, where to?

Or is the land fleeing? From us?

Vilem Flusser (Czech-Brazilian media philosopher and communication scientist) comes to mind, who once stated that “rootedness” and “home” are “inventions” of our time – the Romantics were also inspired by this – when man has been a nomad for most of his evolutionary history…

Autumn

Rain pattering on a window makes the landscape behind it seem strangely alive.

Is it breathing?

Is it raging, accompanied by thunder and lightning?

A harbinger of imminent death – in winter!

Winter

Landscape rushes by again (I can’t help thinking of Schubert’s “Winterreise”). This time it is the “homeland” that is traveling. Maybe it won’t come back?

The monotonous rolling noise on the old railroad sleepers sounds like an echo from the past.

About the spatial dimension of skinning

A cooperation project by Esther Irina Pschibul and Erika Kassnel-Henneberg

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Pandemic, wars, environmental disasters and social divisions – are these the signs of our times? If so, how do we want to respond? Do we barricade ourselves in and build new bunkers? Or should we do everything we can to avoid needing them in the first place?

In audiovisual, walk-in spatial stagings, we want to explore society’s growing interest in shelters and places of refuge in order to visualize their ambivalences and question clichés. Due to an increasingly threatening socio-political scene, we are particularly interested in an imaginary protective skin, the “personal” protective shell, the intimate place of refuge in our artistic exploration: These intangible shells are of existential importance as a protective layer for people in the struggle for their own identity and culture: What defines me? How can I assert my attitude? What causes and determines my actions? The same question applies to social perception as a whole: How do we perceive ourselves as a collective? What significance do values such as respect and tolerance have for us?

Former bunkers from the Nazi era will be located, examined for atmosphere and usability and used artistically. The interior of the space is transferred to the art space as a virtually animated stage set and serves as a backdrop for our productions.

Sleep Well, My Love

Is this a bedtime story? Hardly! “Mother” is a symbol for “care”. But what is the meaning of “care” and “good mother”? Are there universal criteria that are free of socio-cultural conditioning? In fact, the image of the mother is shaped by social conventions that – viewed over time – have not always been the same.

Memories and fairy tales, the true and the imagined, are mixed together here and, with the help of artificial intelligence, become an animated nightmare.

Language: German

UT: German, English, French, Romanian

Thoughts are Free

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“Die Gedanken sind frei” (The Thoughts are Free) – a German folk song that has been sung many times as an expression of resistance to oppression. The author and composer are unknown. Does the song take on a new meaning when it comes from the “mouth” of an artificial intelligence? What new verses would the intelligence invent in “its sense”? I let ChatGPT write new verses for this thought experiment. Only the first and last verses are identical to the traditional song. The lip-sync animation was also done with the help of artificial intelligence.

Deep Paradise

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The apple was and is highly symbolic in many cultures: be it as a symbol of eternal youth, eternal life, love, fertility, paradise and the fall of mankind.

In this installation, a golden apple floats in the air like a fixed star. Familiar places are reflected on its shiny surface. How are people doing there and in the world?
In contrast, the two-dimensional portraits in this landscape appear strange. Who are these people? The Holy Family? Our neighbours? They never existed, but are the outputs of an artificial intelligence. We live in a time of upheaval. New technologies give us the feeling that we are increasingly losing control over truth and lies, over good and evil.
Is this paradise on earth?

The apple hides a secret inside, because there is a small star made up of 5 seeds. It reminds us that our actions determine whether we come a little closer to “paradise on earth”.

Site-specific installation.

Deep Paradise @ St.Konrad / Augsburg-Bärenkeller, 2023, video with sound, 6:07 min

Szene aus einem Video der Künstlerin Erika Kassnel-Henneberg

Avalon 1+2

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The (golden) apple was and is highly symbolic in many cultures: be it as a symbol for eternal youth, eternal life, for love, fertility, paradise and the fall of man, and most recently as an “item” in the popular game Minecraft. The word “Avalon” has many meanings, but here it refers to the island of Avalon (Gallic-Indo-Germanic abal = apple) from Celtic mythology, which was regarded as paradise.

In an indeterminate room under a blue sky, we circle around two faceless avatars with a golden apple in the middle. Like in a surreal dream, we find ourselves in an endless loop in which the figures display a strange behaviour. Everything seems to revolve around this apple, which in the end remains out of reach for everyone.

1+2: Both videos show the same scene, but from different angles.

This video installation is modified site-specifically. The idea is that the virtual space shows the immediate exhibition environment.

Videokunst von Erika Kassnel-Henneberg

Post Mortem

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“(…) It is difficult to define the spatial dimensions of memory. It is there, the room of my childhood, which I am still tidying and which is still dying, at the same time as its inhabitants, – their mortal shell.. (…)” Tadeusz Kantor

An abandoned house*. The rooms testify that people once lived here. There, reality and fiction, present and past merge with each other. As if in a nightmare, we rush through the rooms and are repeatedly confronted with an old class photo. On the back of the real photo is written: “Born in 1911”. Who were these people? Does anyone still remember them? I lend them my eyes and let them come alive again post mortem. An artificial liveliness – a lifeline against oblivion?

In the midst of these children I (Erika) sit as a link between yesterday and today and think aloud about the fear of disappearance – or can being forgotten also be a grace? The children’s song “When and where will we meet again and be glad?” must remain unanswered.

* This house is the “House of New Realities” – a temporary collective artwork at Bäckergasse 4 – a kind of pop-up museum, which was brought to life by Bluespots Productions in the summer of 2023 as part of the Augsburg Peace Festival. I modified the installation “Post Mortem” for this location. Thus, that one has now itself become a memorandum for those who once animated this place.

Puppet

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2023, video with sound, 3:15 min

The tempting offer of AI-supported applications is increasing. With their help, memory photos are brought “to life”.
Does this bring us closer to the person we remember? Or are we creating something else – something new? Something uncanny?

“Anna” really did exist once. A caption on the back of this photograph tells us that it was addressed to someone who was supposed to remember his “little friend Hela”.

Music: AI-generated

ChatGPT @ Uncanny Valley

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2023, Video with Sound, Animation, 5:17 min, Chat history from 6.02.2023

What ChatGPT has to say about the “Uncanny Valley”.

What or who is ChatGPT? I asked “him” this question, to which “he” replied the following:

“I am an artificial intelligence model trained by OpenAI. My answers are based on the information I recorded during my training process. During this training, I was fed an enormous amount of text from a variety of sources, including books, journal articles, news reports and scientific studies. In this way I was able to develop a broad understanding of many different topics and areas of expertise(…). However, it is important to note that I am not able to gather my own experience and that my answers may not always be complete or 100% accurate. My answers should always be used as a source of information and not as definitive expert advice.”

Polaroid, Screenshot aus der Videoarbeit Sandbox

Sandbox

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Sandbox is on the one hand a sandy playground for children, on the other hand a term originating from software development for an “isolated area within which any action has no effect on the external environment”. (Wikipedia)

We are sitting in a large virtual sandbox that is anything but isolated. There are many toys in it that we don’t know what they are for. And new ones are added every day. We explore them playfully and in the process we come up with ideas – good or bad….

One such toy is Dall-e 2, one of the most celebrated AIs of 2022, which can create realistic images and even artwork from a text-based description in natural language. This creative act is new and unique, and must be judged as the next stage of evolution.

The works Dall-e generates are almost perfect, and yet she generates strangely disturbing outputs in response to seemingly innocuous keywords. It begs the question, is this the toy we would give our children?