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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Joachim Blank, Karl Heinz Jeron

SCANNER++ is a device that creates a facsimile of the outside world. On the outside it looks like a copy machine. Joachim Blank and Karl Heinz Jeron have put together twelve conventional A4 format scanners to form a square comprising 4 x 3 devices and mounted them on a 40cm high metal frame. This is covered by twelve sheets of bullet-proof glass so that it may be walked on. The exhibition visitors may walk around on the installation, sit down on it or put objects on it. They assume the role of images to be copied and objects that the scanner registers at a low depth of focus and transforms into a digital representation. The scanner turns photos or texts into image files. In this case it takes a snapshot of the audience and collects traces of hands, feet or articles of clothing, in focus or blurred—and always unpredictable. All the scanners are controlled by a computer and started at varying intervals according to a random choreography. Anything touching the screen at that moment is automatically scanned, filtered and rearranged, then passed on to a local Web server and displayed after a brief delay on a projection screen with a data beam. The exhibition space is illuminated by both the scanners and the brightness of the projection screen, on which a WWW browser may be viewed. In this browser the distorted scanning results are depicted in the form of a 4 x 3 Java applet, which is conveyed to the data projector by the Web server installed on the controlling computer. The data stored on the Web server is then transmitted to the Web site http://sero.org/scanner at the same time.

In this way the exhibition visitors create the contents of the Web site. Due to the brief delay and the strong distortion of the data, they cannot completely control the images that appear, yet they can influence the contents. Internet visitors, on the other hand, can access the entire archive of the created documents: the new scans are transparently superimposed on the old ones. The visitor can “click through” the available images. The actions and intentions of the exhibition visitors remain hidden from the Internet visitor, who thus becomes a passive archeologist of an interaction between technology and chance.

The context of SCANNER++ is a series of projects on the theme of “Informationrecycling/I(nformation)-Smog.” Blank & Jeron’s earlier works, such as without addresses at Documenta X ( http://sero.org/without_addresses) or “DUMP YOUR TRASH!” ( http://sero.org/dyt) use the Internet as a copy machine, in that documents that were already there on the Net are treated with various procedures and presented in a new form. With minimal interaction on the part of virtual visitors—text input or a mouse click on a navigation surface—the layout of the Net contents was automatically redesigned by a software agent and made available on the Web site in this form. Despite their standardized creation, these representations are reminiscent of personal documents and auric objects, such as letters or engraved stone tablets, an image in which the documents can be ordered and actually made by hand.

With SCANNER++ this method is reversed. The project starts from a real space and uses the technique of “scanning” (lat. = to stress) to translate it into digital information. This perhaps most obvious, but also most radical transfer from analog to digital information is like a metaphor for making the world readable in the age of the “information society.” While SCANNER++ at first glance seems to promise a simulation of the space and the actions carried out in it, this is actually questioned and subverted, so that the project raises the question of the actual value not only of information, but also of aesthetic interaction, which it represents in a way that is already almost paradoxical, half objective, half processual.

Text: Gerrit Gohlke, Blank & Jeron