Science and Technology in Cultural Context
Exhibition OFF LABEL

DAW 2011

Committee & Contact

Overview 2011

Previous DAWs


Off Label Ideologies

Nine Levels Conversation


Art Placebo

Nine Levels Between

Emotional Landscaping

Film Portraits


Laptop Circle Jerk

Electro Shambles

Limbic Media

K(no)w Picnic

All Workshops

An Excursion


About Victoria


Hotels & Transport

Press Reports

Sponsor Infos


Last update: December 06, 2011, at 05:50 PM

The Art of a Placebo

Invited & Proposed Projects/ Artists:

"T.R.I.P.", Monica Studer & Christoph van den Berg (CHE)
"Psych|OS ", Hans Bernhard (CHE)
"Ras de l´Eau". Christiane Oppermann (DEU)
“Manifest.AR”, Will Papenheimer & John Craig Freeman (USA)
“Valentin”, jake moore (CAN)
“Radio Silents”, Steve Bates (CAN)
“A Dance to Acknowledge the Tahltan Land as a Tahltan Nation Technology”, Peter Morin (CAN)
“PrayStation”, Justin Love (CAN)

Related Performance Events → more

Host Institute:
Open Space

Art Clay (CHE) & Doug Jarvis (CAN)

Open Space → more info

Wednesday 26 October to 2 November 2011, 12:00 to 17:00 Daily

About the Exhibition

The Art of a Placebo examines the strange case of effects without cause, and speculations that are curiously imagined into existence. The exhibition is premised on a proposition -- a claim that has no guaranteed or verifiable meaning but which nevertheless attempts to provoke real engagement, both critical and imaginative. The exhibition is a placebo -- a magical moment of artistic provocation, creating imaginary instances of creative and contemplative substance.

As strange as it is, placebos have always had something in common with art. Just as the pharmacy grew out of alchemical and apothecary practices, perhaps modern science in some way returns to its ancient roots with the consideration of placebos -- moments that proceed according to the rules of suspended disbelief -- instances where minds and bodies strategize to imaginary ends, despite the absence of demonstrable science. One might even say that placebos represent moments of defiance, magical off label possibilities of the unscientific that manifest despite the laws that say they shouldn't.

Here the pharmacy connects to the contemporary art gallery in ways both metaphoric and literal. Both are places where one might go to be effected -- whether by the reality of consumption or by imaginary provocation, is perhaps of only secondary importance. Both provide compelling visual possibilities for the imagination, whether the fantasies of a colorful apothecary cure, or the white walls of representative display. And the effects are both physical and psychological as well; whether alterations of perception or of physiological constitution, what art and placebos have in common is a deep connection to the demands of human desire and the imagination.

This exhibition presents a variety of artworks that explore the notion of effect -- real or imagined. In some cases powerful metaphors for the placebo powers of art, in other cases literal accounts of imagined alteration, The Art of a Placebo fuses electronic culture with artistic practice to interrogate the therapeutic, cathartic and cosmetic ideological impacts that are the result of art today.

About the works:

The T.R.I.P. (Transcendence for Real and Implicit Personalities) project

Monica Studer (CHE), Christoph van den Berg (CHE)

The work deals with basic questions concerning drug-induced consciousness expansion in PCs. Some programs have the same intoxicating/cathartic effects on computers as hallucinogenic substances do on the human organism. Persons in trance states have a very essential experience of their own selves. In computers, which lack ego-consciousness, there is an expansion of computerized consciousness: a "self-less" flash of cognitive abstraction. This occurs in digital devices precisely at the point where there is indeed a surpassing of normal physical boundaries of a corporeal or technical-instrumental nature. Although developed for entertainment purposes, it was observed that T.R.I.P. Pharmacograms™ programs induced trances not only in human users but also, and especially, in the computers themselves.At present, there are 8 different programs that produce varying effects on the computer architecture. The main parameters of the program sequence speed up or slow down the normal frequencies, combining and rhythmically synchronizing certain RGB values with HSL values, which in turn has a hypnotic effect on the graphic CPUs. This results in an abandonment of the physically determined space-time structure in abstract-imaginary space.

Psych|OS Digital Cocaine - Children of the 1980s


"We(3) are the children of the 1980s, We are the first internet-pop-generation. We grew up with radical Michael Milken [The King of Junk Bonds] and mythical Michael Jackson [The King of Junk Pop]. Hans Bernhard is loaded with 10 years of internet & tech [digital cocaine], mass media hacking, underground techno, hardcore [illegal] drugs, rock&roll lifestyle and jet set [etoy]. His neuronal networks and brain structures are similar to the global synthetic network he helped build up and maintained subversive activity within. And now they are "infected" by a manic-depression [WHO ICD-10, F31.1.] (1), both Hans Bernhard and The "Network" are infected by this structural disorder. Waves of mania and depression are running through the technical, social and economic structures. Contemporary high-tech societies deal with hardcore brains using bio-chemical "agents" to control the internal information flow, we call them psychotropic drugs. Hans Bernhard was legally sloshed by Zyprexa®, Temesta®, Dominal®, Depakine®, Neurotop® (4). But how can we treat a mentally ill global network?"

Ras de l'Eau

Christiane Oppermann (DEU)

The video work „ Ras de l´Eau“. Created in Hanover, Germany, depicts a „video within a video“ as the content of the film - a performer gliding over the surface of the river Leine- is reflected in the water and is filmed by the camera. Patches of open sky, reflections of animate objects such as bridges, birds and trees, reflect poetically on the water’s surface, as the performer glides along with birdlike movements moving are more reminiscent of swimming, flying and diving into a timeless openness.

I Shall Please

Manifest.AR (INT)

"I shall please," the translation of the Latin word "placebo'', suggests the willing complicity of a patient to imagine a cure. This empty control procedure might also be applied to various belief systems necessary for us to create what we understand as reality. Increasingly our intermediary existence between physical and virtual lives raises these questions about that which we have previously dismissed as purely ephemeral. ManifestAR founding members and artists/doctors Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman will fill prescriptions of the experimental augmented reality drug Virta-Flaneurazine AR, to volunteer test subjects at the VF mini clinic. Test subjects will be screened and admitted into the VF AR clinical trial program, where their mobile devices will be prepared. They will receive instructions on what to expect and how to create screenshots of their experience and relay those results back to the clinic for display. As the drug takes effect, users will be guided on a walking tour/trip from the clinic to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.


jake moore (CAN)

The medical term placebo is primarily associated with deception and is often used to indicate that humans are easily fooled while the remarkable potential strength of believing in something bringing about physical change is lost. There can be seen in the more commonly held analysis a kind of cynicism that perpetuates a mind and body separation that does little to advance or engage us. Valentin, is a video installation that projects the artists own blood under an electronic microscope onto the gallery wall. Rather than feeling macabre or visceral, the video suggests something floral, or topological, it is seemingly impossible that this colour and activity could exist within the barrier of our own skin. The projected image spills over and is interrupted by a large cast iron urn of fresh cut flowers arranged in the Dutch vanitas tradition. Painted onto the wall is the shadow of the urn so that the image spills over the “real” urn. As such, Valentin uses the visual tropes of cliched romantic life conflated with their medical actualities and visual and material cultural references. The flurry of potential associations created by this orchestration focusses on sensorial experience as inseperable from desire, and intermixed with knowledge.

Radio Silents

Steve Bates (CAN)

Radio Silents is a radio transmission consisting of layers of silent reel-to-reel tape broadcast from a low-power transmitter in the gallery space. Radio Silents is in response to two texts, one by Heinrich Böll (Murke’s Collected Silences) and Walter Benjamin (On the Minute). Both of these texts include different experiences of broadcasted silence. In Benjamin’s case, the accidental silent broadcast is a moment of terror, one to recover and repair. In Böll’s case, his protagonist, a radio producer who steals strips of reel to reel radio recordings of silent pauses in between sounds on the radio, finds solace in the radio silence. In fact he seeks them out and edits them together, listening to the collected silences later at home in the evening as a form of reverie.

A Dance to Acknowledge the Tahltan Land as a Tahltan Nation Technology

Peter Morin (CAN)

A Dance to Acknowledge the Tahltan Land as a Tahltan Nation Technology is an installation/performance which priviledges Tahltan Nation technoligies in the creation of a new Tahltan Nation informational matrix which can be utalized in the creation of new Tahltan Nation meaning. We gather together to witness the creation of a new Tahltan Nation dance. We gather together to witness the creation of new Tahltan Nation songs by old Tahltan Nation singers. We gather together to witness a Tahltan Nation computer. The Tahltan Nation is comprised of three communities in Northern BC. The Tahltan Nation authored and signed a Declaration of Independence from the governement of Canada on October 18th, 1910.


Justin Love (CAN)

To use the PrayStation a user puts on a medical grade brainwave (EEG) interface and selects one of the eight most popular religions to pray to using a “prayer dial”. After a five second calibration routine the system will analyze a user’s brainwaves for activity that is similar to praying or meditation. The analysis is based on previous research of brainwave analysis during prayer and mediation such as the studies conducted by Azari et al. and Aftanas et al. When a state of prayer or meditation is detected, software agents are born into a digital canvas and assigned an image as an aesthetic ideal based on the religion that is currently selected. Once born agents move throughout the canvas and transform pixels they occupy to be closer to the pixels in their aesthetic ideal. Agents have a limited life span so a population will die out when prayer or meditation stops being detected. Over time a painterly collage will emerge based on the cumulative prayers of the systems users. The system supports up to two simultaneous users.

Copyright @ ETH Zürich
Page last modified on December 06, 2011, at 05:50 PM