ARTE Creative

"Isn't a part of what you might call Fluxus philosophy just being unprofessional?" said Curator René Block, trying to narrow down the Fluxus phenomenon. With his long-term project "Sender Mittelfranken", (Middle Franconia Station) artist Bernhard Krauß rejects the form of professionalism you would expect to find in a television program. While early video artists like Nam June Paik and Wolf Vostell deconstructed the broadcast television image, Krauß's deliberate dilettantism is suited to the regional station format. Long before the invention of Youtube, he recorded short performances, found objects and everyday observations with a simple digital camera. His clips are an average of one minute long, the style of which oscillates between amateur video, TV activism, Fluxus and conceptual art. In 2002 he began stringing these videos together, without narrative intention, under the name "Sender Mittelfranken". Krauß knows Middle Franconia well; he grew up there. But his view through the camera of things and situations is detached, and everyday life seems unfamiliar, in a Brechtian sense. Whether crisp bread, a soap box, a fireplace, German flags, the "Platz of Deutschen Einheit" (German Unity Square) or the Franconian winter landscape, everything looks peculiar. Krauß follows the principle of one video per location. He films the dull plastic surfaces of a fully automated public restroom to the sounds of tailor-made ambient music. He introduces a run-down seat of the German-Russian Cultural Center, or shows asylum seekers between a fence and makeshift housing, sitting at a grill. The artist occasionally offers up laconic commentary, which is then roughly translated into French by a computer program. "Das Freibad von Schweinau" (The Schweinau Outdoor Pool) is a bright blue painted surface on a meadow. The signifier and the signified differ, resulting in a dry joke. Or he contextualizes a dramatic sculpture, a gift from Nuremberg's sister city, with the exclamation "Danke Skopje!" (Thanks, Skopje!). This episode of "Sender Mittelfranken" encompasses one year. The video begins with a hike along well-beaten paths and ends with a blackbird ruffling its feathers in the snow. The picture of an indiscriminate TV antenna serves as an intermediate image between videos, as the program jumps quickly between a touristic view and its dark side. In 2007 Krauß set up his first Youtube channel, and has since filled over 20 channels. Is a new kind of artistic practice possible on this internet platform? In the episodes of "Sender Mittelfranken", most of the faces are cut out. This way no private lives are made public -- a function that video usually fulfills in "reality" as it's manifested on Youtube. Since the 1960's artists have deconstructed new media like television and later the internet, or used it according to their own parameters. Krauß sees his artistic gain pragmatically. If you "distribute the video clips across different channels, whether local or categorized by different content or form, an archive is created which is public at the same time". The playlist function can also replace video editing. By utilizing Youtube, Krauß also challenges the privileged image of the artist. He publishes material in a place where the reception of art is non-existent. But through the discrepancy between locally centered, obsolete regional television and the digital tools of web 2.0 culture, Krauß infiltrates a medium where the majority of its contributions are created in teenager's bedrooms across the globe. But for Krauß, the question of format is connected to the "assumption of an audience"; that there are people "who will watch it". With its volumes of unorganized data, that's something Youtube can't yet guarantee. On the other hand, Gerry Schum's legendary film gallery failed on public television. "Sender Mittelfranken" just keeps going, and signs off with a video of the teen band "Zwangsversteigerte Doppelhaushälften". Vera Tollmann