View of “Harm van den Dorpel,” 2015. Left: Very Beta Still (scrum), 2015. Right: Chrysalis (mint) Mark II, 2015.

View of “Harm van den Dorpel,” 2015. Left: Very Beta Still (scrum), 2015. Right: Chrysalis (mint) Mark II, 2015.

Harm van den Dorpel

Neumeister Bar-Am

View of “Harm van den Dorpel,” 2015. Left: Very Beta Still (scrum), 2015. Right: Chrysalis (mint) Mark II, 2015.

“Ambiguity points to the mystery of all revealing”—the title of Harm van den Dorpel’s recent solo show—is taken from Martin Heidegger’s 1954 essay “The Question Concerning Technology.” Deprived of its context, the line itself becomes ambiguous, an empty shell to be filled with any random meaning—and exemplifies the artist’s practice of collage for the digital age. A programmer-cum-artist, Van den Dorpel, born in 1981, is generally associated with the so-called post-Internet generation. The rationale behind this label seems to be that there’s been a shift in sensibility between the Net artists, who specifically worked for and with the Internet, and a younger generation of artists who grew up online and focus on the appropriation of data and content. But the distinction is a dubious one. Taking images and texts from the Internet, the way Pop artists took images from magazines, is common practice and not specific to the post-Internet generation—Richard Prince is just one of the veteran artists who also does this.

Van den Dorpel began to create his own algorithms as a response to the strangely old-fashioned linear structure of social media such as Facebook, in which users simply add one thing on top of another, thus burying older information in technological amnesia. In order to draw new connections within his own work, he programmed an algorithm that connected things in a nonchronological way, his method recalling Tristan Tzara’s technique of cutting up found texts and randomly splicing the snippets together to create a new, chance-based poetry. “I wanted to make a system in which combining works is actually the work itself,” Van den Dorpel said in a 2014 interview. “There’s a curatorial element to my own practice, so sometimes I just make a specimen that I feed into the system and see how it behaves in relation to other nodes, other text, or other images.” The artist takes what sounds like a creative virus spreading through the network from the digital realm into the physical world, making it manifest as painting or sculpture.

This showed featured sculptures made from printed Internet images that have been turned into three-dimensional objects—hollow mock-ups of the pictures they present. The artist calls this “a method of ontological inversion.” Two sculptures, Chrysalis (blue) and Chrysalis (mint) Mark II, both 2015, hung from the ceiling like oversize cocoons. Digitally enlarged images of the eclosion of butterflies (or collages of such images) have been printed on heat-shrink foil, which then encases the image-sculpture, resembling the form of the cocoon it depicts. Holes that emerged through the heating process seem to indicate an organic activity—as if a butterfly might emerge from its chrysalis, unfolding its crumpled wings—yet the shrink-wrap, the same material used in industrial food packaging, simultaneously suggests a permanent preservation, one that would hinder mutation forever.

Also exhibited were abstract paintings on Plexiglas (framed so that the paint is behind the transparent support) and a group of whiteboards featuring text snippets written in marker (VERY BETA STILL, TODO, and WON’T DO), digital prints, magnetic items, and Post-its. The combination of text and image doesn’t seem to be the result of a random process, though—instead, these works appear highly composed. Van den Dorpel, whose latest curatorial project, his second online platform, Deli Near Info, was conceived as “an algorithmic studio with a social dimension,” open for anyone to upload material, here undertook the transfer of technocratic poetry shaped by digital aesthetics into a rather archaic concept of the artwork—yet another shift in his work since his early Club Internet days. Perhaps his disillusionment regarding the Internet as a new and free platform that led him to work with materials again.

Eva Scharrer