Eduardo Kac Receives ARCO/Beep Acquisition Award at ARCO 2006
Eduardo Kac received the ARCO/BEEP New Media Art Award for his work “Time Capsule” (1997). Beep is a Spanish company which is starting a collection of new media art with “Time Capsule”.
The distinguished jury was composed of:
Karin Ohlenschläger, Artistic director, MediaLabMadrid, Madrid (Spain)
Christiane Paul, Assistant Curator for New Media Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Arnau Puig, Doctor of philosophy and art critic, Barcelona (Spain)
Jemima Rellie, Programme director for new media , Tate, London (United Kingdom)
Eduardo Kac was represented at ARCO by Black Box Gallery, from Copenhagen, Denmark.
From now on ARCO/BEEP will host this acquisition award at every edition of ARCO. Kac’s is the foundational work in the collection, which will be housed in the Beep Foundation (at a building to be dedicated to presenting the collection to the public), in Reus, just outside of Barcelona.
Time Capsule is an installation that consists of seven sepia-toned photographs, an x-ray, and a flat screen mounted with a microchip and a syringe. The piece further develops a performance by the artist that took place in 1997 at the Casa da Rosas, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. During the performance Eduardo Kac implanted a microchip into his ankle live on TV and on the Web. The type of chip he implanted is used for registration and recovery of lost animals and contains a sequence of numbers: 026109532. After insertion into his ankle-an area of the body emblematic of slave and prisoner containment-the chip was scanned through the Web. An integral part of the performance, this remote scanning of the digital information inside the artist’s body was also transmitted live on Brazilian television. Still live, the artist registered himself via the Internet in a remote database as the animal to be identified as well as the owner of the animal.
The piece is itself a time capsule containing elements that allude to the past, present and future. The sepia-toned photographs of the artist’s ancestors in Poland before 1939 stand for the past. The x-ray reveals the present, the chip that is still today inside the artist’s body. The flat video screen shows the artist implanting the microchip, a technology that in 1997 was considered part of a distant human future but which is progressively becoming more socially widespread, as exemplified by its current official use in hospitals and among hacking communities. The artist has also speculated that microchip implants will become more common in contemporary art in the future.
Time Capsule is also about memory, migration, and mutation. The artist implanted the microchip in front of the seven sepia-toned photographs to establish a contrast between the analog externalized memory (photograph) and the digital internalized memory (microchip implant). While microchip implants can save lives (of lost animals, of unconscious hospitalized humans) it can also be used as a tracking and surveillance technology, raising serious questions about identity and privacy. Surveillance of public spaces may one day, Time Capsule warns us, be complemented by surveillance of private data in our bodies. The piece is also exemplary of Kac’s continuously evolving reflection on the relationship between humans and animals, and suggests that digital technologies may give rise to new hybrids of animal, machine, and networks.
When a remote participant scans the artist (i.e., retrieves the information contained in the chip), the artist does not feel anything. The record of the presence of the artist is placed outside of himself seamlessly. This is similar to how movements of humans today can be traced by records of use of cell phones and ATM cards. The action of inserting a chip inside the body raises issues of who has access to and control of memory. Time Capsule poses questions about the human condition in the digital age and who has control of the body and the codes present within it.
ARCO and BEEP
The international contemporary art fair ARCO is 25 years old this year. It was held in Madrid from 9 th to 13 th February 2006. In its solid career as one of the major dates on the international art circuit, ARCO has stood out for its unlimited support for the creation of an art market in Spain, for its support for collecting and for managing to situate Madrid at the center of the international art world.
Following the experience of welcoming over 180,000 visitors and the work of over 2,000 artists last year, ARCO 2006 organized a varied range of new, thought-provoking features aimed both at the numerous interested members of the public and at a professional audience made up of artists, museum and art center directors, commissioners, experts, gallery owners and representatives of international institutions.
The varied proposals offered by the main Spanish and foreign galleries, in combination with the 4th International Art Experts Forum, and the celebration of art awards have made attendance at the Fair essential to take the pulse of the latest developments in the art world. This is why ARCO and BEEP have decided to cooperate within the framework of the second edition of theblackbox@arco by organizing the ARCO/BEEP New Media Art Acquisition Awards in support of New Media Art.
theblackbox@arco’06 is a program curated by specialists which sets out to fulfill ARCO’s commitment to New Media Art and brought a select, multidisciplinary vision with the participation of leading international galleries.