Interview with Aids-3D
Johannes Fricke Waldthausen: When, and why, did you move to Berlin? How was it an influence, or is Berlin influencing your artistic practice now?
Nik Kosmas: We moved to Berlin in the fall of 2006 as exchange students at UDK and then we spent (a very brief) period in Mark Leckey’s class at Staedelschule in Frankfurt. We stayed ever since then because of all of the standard reasons why Berlin is a convenient place to base an art career out of.
JFW: You currently live between Berlin yet you are American raised. How does this affect your perception of Berlin as artists? What makes this city attractive for international artists to live in?
NK: We’ve answered this question so many times it should be a matter of public record at this point, but I’m also starting to wonder if the automatic answer makes sense anymore. It used to be that it was cheap, open, and had a relatively deep international impact, but now I’m wondering what it is to be here in 2013, maybe a bit post-whatever it was, but then again... it’s still cheaper than NYC or London...
Daniel Keller: I guess the Berlin Dream is probably about as much of a scam as private art school is for the vast majority of people who try it out. The lucky few who’ve made it work in Berlin have been able to inflate their incomes along with the rapidly rising costs of living.
JFW: Earlier works of yours like world community grid water features (2010) often conflate new technology and internet culture, environmental issues, scientific experiments, and a criticism of neo-liberal practices. You also recently have founded a company called “Absolute Vitality” (2012), where collectors can participate by buying shares of it. Can you say something to this? What are recurring subjects in your work?
NK: Our studio is in a MacBook Pro mediated “cloud”, our main instrument for navigating current issues, esoteric e-commerce, customized industrial production, art world PR, and social network distribution. The bulk of our output is sets of conceptual sculptural works conceived within an efficient and almost algorithmic framework, which could be reduced to Object(s)+ justification(narrative charge) + 1 unique formal variation. The works embody a question about the value added by the absurd “efficiency” of its component materials. For instance, the philanthropic output of a grid-computing-enabled water feature or the “energy” generated by chaining awareness wristbands together into an outline of a painting. As a rhetorical device, we tend to play “the strawman”, exaggerating and over-identifying our role as two-headed value-adding-prosumer-hydra-artist. The intent is critical but at the same time inherently complicit and seemingly ambivalent.
DK: Absolute Vitality Inc. is a shell company registered in 2010 by Wyoming Corporate Services in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We purchased Absolute Vitality Inc. to function as a “Special Purpose Vehicle” for an exhibition at Neuer Aachener Kunstverein in 2012. The company owns a mixed-media sculpture (which serves as an advertisement for itself and as container for its legal documents). Essentially, Absolute Vitality Inc. is the fiscally advantageous formalization which leverages the existing relationship between artist, gallerist, and collectors into a collective unit. Our first shareholders meeting will be held during gallery weekend where Absolute Vitality’s future activities will be voted on by the board of directors.
JFW: Which project are you currently working on, and what are inspirations and influences for this project?
DK: We are working on a solo show at T293’s space in Rome. The main piece that we’re working on uses a Tobii gaze-tracking camera to measure the eye movements of a group of unemployed Hartz-IV recipients we hired off Craigslist while they watch a 30 minute compilation of national tourism ads sponsored by various publicly funded tourism boards. Instead of the using this data for any research purposes (or to optimize advertising strategies), we’ve simply outsourced and appropriated the subjects’ gaze-data into a spectacle of info-decor, illuminated on a massive sculptural video curtain. The consumptive gaze is inverted into a productive brushstroke, crowdsourced to low-income Berliners.
NK: The show is a satirical speculation on a near-future where labor, consumption, marketing, leisure, and protest have been automated and outsourced, and humanity becomes, absurdly enough, increasingly “unnecessary” to the continued maintenance and growth of the global economy.