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INSIDEOUT see this page in ENG/FR/NL

Edition: 300

greyboard folder 155*215 mm in 400 gr

5 calc 200 gr

5 folded posters 592 x 420 mm open format in different paper qualities

The editions can be purchased in the 'support'-section of this website

and can be collected at Société by appointment.

Claire Andrzejcak:
The Proust Effect

Steve Van den Bosch:

Sarah Smolders:
The gesture of folding

Beatrice Balcou:
Picture rail, hanger and hook for a drawing by Eileen Gray at Société, Brussels, 2022

Els Vermang: 
insideout you turn me upside down


Exhibition context

Société d'Electricité is an exhibition platform located in a former electricity factory in Molenbeek (Brussels, Belgium) that puts conceptual and algorithmic art into perspective. Without a thorough analysis, both movements seem to be opposites. But are they? What do both have in common that their dialogue can be the subject of an exhibition program?

The thematic group exhibitions that took place at Société between 2015 and 2020 explored the content of the works of art shared by both: language, including instructions and colour, media and the translation of one media into another, units of measurement such as time and space, and so on. It juxtaposed artworks of the first generation of conceptual artists[1] with those of the most current generation of algorithmic artists[2] - and those who can be found in between.

The exhibitions that take place from 2021 onwards investigate the context in which the artworks are exhibited and the media that can be used, and thus examines the notion of exhibiting itself and how it can be expanded. Just as every crisis - including the current sanitary crisis - explores the limits of a system, Société is exploring the limits of its exhibition space and its relationship with its audience in the 'insideout' series. The media used here deliberately seek out an audience, by turning what usually happens inside out and what usually happens at the Société's home can now be contemplated at home. New media made their appearance in art in the 1960s and not coincidentally came from the world of information and communication. The most important medium in 'insideout' is the window. In her essay 'Grids'[3], Rosalind Kraus refers to the window as a tool that brings light into the darkness, but also reflects light and 'locks the image into its own duplicated being'. It was not a coincidence that the PC operating system was named 'windows', but to broaden our view.

Société wants to broaden our view of the common denominators of conceptual and algorithmic art. One of the common denominators is logic. In the case of concept, it is found in the field of language logic and in the case of algorithm, it is found in the field of mathematical logic; true and false versus 0 and 1.

Currents in Conceptual and Algorithmic Art

In his text 'Reconsidering Conceptual Art, 1966 - 1977'[4] Alexander Alberro divides his research into the meaning of conceptual art into three movements: linguistic, analytic and synthetic conceptualism. These three categories are inspired by Emmanuel Kant's 'Kritik der reinen Vernunft' (1781) where he makes a distinction between analytic propositions (statements that are true by virtue of their meaning) and synthetic propositions (statements that are true by virtue of their relation to other meanings). In the case of linguistic conceptualism, an enquiry is made into meaning, and the meaning lies with the (invisible) content of the work of art. Société's 'measurements' exhibition (Sept - Nov 2018) featured Art & Language's 1968 work '100% abstract', where abstract representation is juxtaposed with concrete meaning based on the chemical composition of the painting. In the case of analytical conceptualism, the process is investigated as a guarantee for objectivity instead of subjectivity, the invisible 'content' is as important as the visible 'context' and the meaning lies with the viewer. In Société's 'modus operandi' exhibition (April - June 2017), I activated Claude Rutault's 'method 169' of 1985 where distance to the archive on the one hand and sequence number in the activation on the other hand together determine the coefficient of scale change of the painting. In the case of synthetic conceptualism, the social, economic and political dimensions of the art institution are investigated and the meaning lies in the context. In Société's 'time' exhibition (Sept - Dec 2017), the trace of Mel Bochner's participation in the 'modus operandi' exhibition became a new artwork entitled 'Erased Bochner' or what the artist called the 'archaeology of the future'.

This analysis can be extended to algorithmic art, where the relationship between soft- and hardware on the one hand and open-closed[5] system on the other hand will determine the relationship between the viewer and the work of art in the form of a generative, reactive, or interactive process. In the case of linguistic algorithmic art, it is a closed, generative process: the system generates the content of the artwork. Société's 'time' exhibition (Sept - Dec 2017) featured Claude Closky's 'Two minutes' from 1997, where a loading bar, the icon for the advancement of time, appears for two minutes on a macintosh of the same year. In the case of synthetic algorithmic art, it is a semi-open reactive process: the context passively generates the content of the artwork. For the 'modus operandi' exhibition, I suggested Jan Dibbets to place his 1969 work 'Ten stops on a straight 5 mile road' in a contemporary perspective, and to activate it with Google Streetview. In the case of analytical algorithmic art, this is an open, interactive process where the viewer actively generates the content of the artwork. For the same exhibition I activated UBERMORGEN's 'God Morning' (2017) by following the instructions of a furniture guide and placing the result in the exhibition.

Historical context

Both trends, conceptual and algorithmic art, have their origins in the 1960s, a decade marked by social revolution and technological progress. Under the influence of these changes, new forms of collaboration emerged (collaborations between artists[6] and collaborations between artists and scientists[7]) and new techniques and materials. There was an 'objective' (systemic) reaction to the prevailing (expressionistic) 'subjective' tendency in art.

Relationship between language - logic - computation

Language is used to represent an idea, represented by a word that conveys a meaning. In his work 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus' (1921) Ludwig Wittgenstein proposed the 'image theory' and 'truth conditions' to show that truth depends on the degree of correspondence with reality and that words have meaning only if they represent a fact from reality. A proposition is valid when its conclusion is the logical equivalent of its conditions ('and', 'if', 'not', 'if... then', etc) which can be represented by 'true' or 'false'. The word 'tautology' comes from the Greek 'tautos' (same) and 'logos' (word), and refers to something that is 'true' by virtue of its logic, or a proposition that is 'true' under all truth conditions. In art, a tautology is self-referential in its ability to represent, and as such the proposition therein embodies 'meaning'. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh calls it 'the empiricist approach to vision'.[8]

In Boolean logic, introduced by George Boole in his 'The Mathematical Analysis of Logic' (1847), the values 'true' and 'false' are expressed by '0' and '1'. Boolean logic was preceded by the theories and experiments of Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) who, after realising a mechanical calculator, imagined a calculator that could determine the truth values of mathematical statements. He realised that a formal language was needed, based on algorithms. Boolean logic became the basis of digital electronics and programming: in 1930, Claude Shannon applied Boolean principles to digital circuits and proved that mechanical switches could be controlled using the logic of '0' and '1'.

The artist as designer of processes

The bit, the abbreviation for 'binary digit', is the unit of information in computer communication: a single bit is the amount of information that corresponds to the result of a choice between two equivalent possibilities, or a logical state that can take on two values: '0' and '1'. This 'variable' is responsible for breaking the deterministic aspect of the programme. Internal or external to the system, it is the variable that makes the work of art more or less open or closed. An internal variable concerns a generative process in a closed system. An external variable concerns an interactive process with an audience or a reactive process within an environment. It is therefore the variable that is responsible for the distinction between linguistic, analytic or synthetic algorithms. The conceptual or algorithmic artist describes the behaviour of this variable in an instruction or an algorithm.

The term 'programming' refers to the formulation of processes, 'instructions' or 'algorithms' and often refers to but is not limited to computing, where it is a prescribed set of well-defined instructions for the solution of a problem. Max Bense wrote that ‘the programming of works, namely, the theorization and intellectualization of aesthetic production, demonstrates the integration of the aesthetic processes on the horizon of technical civilization’. [9]The execution of this programme by a computer allows, on the one hand, difficult and/or time-consuming processes to be calculated and, on the other hand, can lead to incalculable results. Both conceptual and algorithmic artist are designers of processes, but the algorithmic artist allows himself to be helped by a computer to carry out the process.

The parallel between conceptual and algorithmic art can as such be drawn in the realm of processes, where meaning lies in propositions and instructions. Jack Burnham, in his introductory text to the 1970 'Softwares' exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, spoke of ‘the effects of contemporary control and communication techniques in the hands of artists’ en ‘(…) the movement away from art objects has been precipitated by concerns with (...) processes (...) and the philosophical-linguistic involvement of Conceptual Art. (…) they deal with underlying structures of communication and energy exchange instead of abstract appearances. For this reason Software is aniconic.’ He also makes a clear connection to the notion of cybernetics or ‘working concept that the behavior of all organisms, machines, and other physical systems is controlled by their communication structures both within themselves and with their environment‘[10] and the computer scientist Marvin Minsky's anthropomorphic image of the separation between body and mind as a representation for the distinction between hardware and software, and the distinction between context, container and content.

In this way, the title 'insideout' also stands for making tangible the underlying logic of a system, characterised by the oppositions between true and false, 0 and 1, inside and outside, private and public, context and content, past and future, as well as soft- and hardware. Placing opposites in perspective allows us to search for meaning. It was conceptual art that liberated words from literature, movement from dance, and sound from music. Today, it is algorithmic art that liberates space. In an age where electronic media enable us to transcend material space into immaterial environments, and to be both physically absent and virtually present, innovation is urgently needed. Or to put it in Umberto Eco's words: 'We do not know how it did it, but it has always been art that first changed our ways of thinking, seeing and feeling, even before we understood what necessity it was'. [11]


[1] Among others Mel Bochner, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, Joseph Kosuth,...

[2] Among others Cory Arcangel, Claude Closky, Jan Robert Leegte, Addie Wagenknecht, ubermorgen,...

[3] Rosalind Krauss, ‘Grids’, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, MA, 1985.

[4] Alexander Alberro, Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. Cambridge, MA, 1999.

[5] Read: The Open Work, Umberto Eco, 1962, Harvard University Press.

[6] For example: GRAV; the ‘Groupe Recherche Art Visuel’.

[7] E.g. Nove Tendencije; 'New 'Tendencies' a series of exhibitions and conferences aimed at sharing research between artists and scientists that took place in Zagreb between 1961 and 1973 and EAT; 'Experiments in Art and Technology' a series of collaborations between artists and scientists established in 1960 by a.. Robert Rauschenberg and engineer Billy Kluver, who worked at Bell Labs and was a friend of curator Pontus Hulten, who asked him to help Jean tinguely create an auto-destructive machine that would be exhibited at MOMA…

[8] Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions, 1989.

[9] Max Bense, Aesthetica III, Aesthetik und Zivilisaton, Agis, Krefeld, Baden-Baden, 1958.

[10] Jack Burnham, Software. Information technology: its new meaning for art. Exhibition catalogue for the Jewish Museum, New York, 1970 & the Smithsonian, Washington. 1971.

[11] Umberto Eco, Arte Programmata. Tentoonstellingscatalogus, Olivetti at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan, 1962.

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