Mechanical cogwheels that clump together as systems and then flow apart again, or entire planetary systems orbiting around their suns? With the exhibition "Assemblisms" Niki Passath creates a technological world that unfolds in organic compositions. Beginning as a Peter Weibel student in media art, Passath soon devoted himself to painting that can be described as performative, in reference to his cello studies: In the "Robotic Symbiotic Performance" paintings are created in painting actions performed by the artist and his robots, which he constructed and produced. In different choreographies the robots of the artist develop an obviously own expressive ability in which the artificially intelligent gesture became an artistically acting machine. In a symbiosis with the body movements of the artist, robot and human together develop the painting. As a reference to practices of Viennese Actionism or "action painting", painterly works are created that fix the traces of the processes during the performance performatively in the canvas.
In "Assemblismen" at Galerie Lukas Feichtner, the artist now develops a kind of term to describe his paintings via exhibition and work titles of the series. The Dadaist practice of assemblage becomes a starting point - a structure of many levels. The French authors Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari developed a philosophical theory dealing with the concept of the assemblage in their authoritative work "Mille Plateaux" in 1992. The assemblage does not describe accumulations of similar things, but "unformed matter, destratified forces and functions" [Mille Plateaux, Berlin 1992, p. 699.]. They thus argue that certain mixtures of technical and administrative practices open up new spaces and make them intelligible by deciphering and recoding territories.
"Assemblisms" can be defined as a term in relation to Passath's artistic practice as follows: The artist uses media art tools to apply painterly methods in a performance. In this way, not only are the boundaries of the different art genres blown up, but beyond that, to speak with Wassily Kandinsky, a "synthesis" between art genres but also between art and science takes place: Different methods from different genres and scientific ́disciplines ultimately result in a painting. The painting becomes a pictorialized structure: Not only theoretically but actually configured by "machines," they are the result of a synthesis of different methods and technological (as well as philosophical) approaches. As if each painting as an assemblage would consist of "a thousand plateaus". Thereby the different plateaus symbolize themselves as many successive studio performances that produce the final painting as a composition between man and machine.
Referencing Chinese science fiction author Liu Cixin and his work "The Three Body Problem" from the Trisolaris trilogy, Passath's "Assemblisms" addresses the question of the blessings or calamities of knowledge and non-knowledge. As Weibel noted, "an artificial intelligence does not exist," but what if it would paint? If we knew what creativity was, could we recreate it in 0 and 1 as code? If we knew what actually constitutes the moment of creation in art, described by Goethe as the "divine spark", could a robot paint if we programmed it accordingly? And which pictures of which worlds would this robot create? The question would then no longer be whether androids also dream of sheep, but of what else they could dream. Passath develops such a world, or rather image worlds, in his paintings: An organic yet mechanical scenario of dreamed realities.
Elisabeth Passath [art historian, curator]