What's On / LUX Events / Erkki Kurenniemi: The Future is Not What It Used to Be, Goethe-Institut London, 15 January 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

Erkki Kurenniemi: The Future is Not What It Used to Be

Friday 15th January 2016, 6pm

Goethe Institut London
50 Princes Gate, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2PH 
£5/£3 - Please book via Eventbrite

To celebrate the UK launch of Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History: Erkki Kurenniemi in 2048 (MIT), edited by Jussi Parikka and Joasia Krysa, LUX and BIMI present a screening event around the work of two visionary Finnish artists: technology pioneer Erkki Kurenniemi (b. 1941) and moving image artist Mika Taanila (b. 1965).

Over the past forty years, Kurenniemi has been a composer of electronic music, experimental filmmaker, computer animator, roboticist, inventor, and futurologist – a  “scientist-humanist-artist” who attempts to find the technological essence of the human soul. Relatively unknown outside Nordic countries until his 2012 Documenta 13 exhibition, ”In 2048,” Kurenniemi is at last receiving long-overdue international recognition. Taanila’s 2002 essay documentary The Future Is Not What It Used to Be deftly intersperses never-before-seen archival material from the early years of electronic art, including excerpts from Kurenniemi's unfinished experimental short films, with more recent footage of the artist obsessively collecting video, audio, and found objects - artifacts of a stream-of-consciousness digital diary. A decade later in 2013, Mika Taanila completed the reconstruction of Spindrift, a 1966 lost film by Jan Bark & Erkki Kurenniemi, which will also be screened.

In the presence of Mika Taanila, professor Jussi Parikka (Winchester School of Art),  Dr Joasia Krysa (Liverpool John Moores University/Liverpool Biennale) and professor Matthew Fuller (Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University).

With the support of the Finnish Institute, London.


The Future Is Not What It Used to Be
Mika Taanila, 2002, 35mm, dialogue in Finnish, English and Swedish, 52 min

Is the merging of man and machine really possible? Or has it already happened? This is a film about 1960s avant-garde music and film, the early history of microcomputers and the open questions of 21st century science. It is also a portrait of the nuclear physicist/artist Erkki Kurenniemi (b. 1941), one of the unsung pioneers of early electronic art. Kurenniemi has been exploring the potential of virtual reality and interactive computer art in diverse projects since the early 1960s. The film is structured around Kurenniemi’s “manic collection project”, in which he constantly and feverishly recorded his thoughts, everyday observations, objects and images, with the ultimate aim of merging man and machine – thereby reconstructing the human soul. 

Jan Bark & Erkki Kurenniem,  1966/2013, 16mm on 35mm, sound, 14 min

Spindrift was a project initiated by Swedish composer/musician Jan Bark. In 1965 he proposed SVT to produce an experiment for a new kind of “music for black and white TV”, exploring audiovisual synesthesia. Bark’s friend Erkki Kurenniemi programmed the animations with Pace TR-48 analogue computer at Helsinki University’s Department of Nuclear Physics where he was hired as an assistant while being a student at the same time. These animated sequences were then shot directly off the computer screen, some of them treated with optical printer later on. The screening print and the negative of Spindrift were lost, most likely destroyed accidentally in the early 1970s.

The reconstructed film is a not the definite form of what Bark and Kurenniemi achieved. The editing is based on the surviving 16mm positive ”work copy” film reel, which has been cleaned and re-scanned. The soundtrack is compiled from the two 1/4” unedited tapes containing music composed for the film, edited now on the basis of Bark’s hand-written “mixing process chart”. This reconstruction of sound and image was done with the help of Bark’s work diaries, laboratory notes and reminiscences of people who were involved in the making or saw the film screened in 1967.

The screening will be followed by a reception.

Copies of Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History: Erkki Kurenniemi in 2048 will be made available for purchase at the event for a special UK launch reduced price (cash only)

Image Credit: Still from The Future Is Not What It Used to Be by Mika Taanila (2002). © Kinotar