Johannes Grenzfurthner

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Johannes Grenzfurthner in 2012

Johannes Grenzfurthner (born June 13, 1975, in Vienna) is an Austrian artist, author, director, researcher. He founded the art and theory group monochrom.


  • If I had not grown up in Stockerau, in the boonies of Lower Austria, than I would not be what I am now. The germ cell of burgeoning nerdism is difference. The yearning to be understood, to find opportunities to share experiences, to not be left alone with one's bizarre interest. At the same time one derives an almost perverse pleasure from wallowing in this deficit. Nerds love deficiency: that of the other, but also their own. Nerds are eager explorers, who enjoy measuring themselves against one another and also compete aggressively. And yet the nerd's existence also comprises an element of the occult, of mystery. The way in which this power is expressed or focused is very important.
  • Historically speaking, the first wave of the punk/new wave (approximately 1976-1983) was primarily a movement of creative abuse of hardly-ever-used consumer media technology. Parents (usually technophile Baby boomer dads) bought expensive equipment like 8-track recorders, Super-8 and Polaroid cameras and later VHS camcorders and only used it to "document" birthday parties and other eminently boring ceremonies. But the rebellious teens found interesting new things to do with the dust-collecting media tech, and it started one of the biggest DIY revolutions of the 20th century. So punk (years before cyperpunk) was a movement of youngsters goofing around with (aka appropriating) consumer tech.
  • I think that the figure of the nerd provides a beautiful template for analyzing the transformation of the disciplinary society into the control society. The nerd, in his cliche form, first stepped out upon the world stage in the mid-1970s, when we were beginning to hear the first rumblings of what would become the Cambrian explosion of the information society. The nerd must serve as comic relief for the future-anxieties of Western society. And the transformation I'm talking about is already in full swing: the police gaze of 19th- and 20th-century disciplinary society made visible the individual, which is illuminated by power. In our burgeoning technological control society, the individual is x-rayed and algorithmized. Even worse: the individuals x-ray themselves, willingly putting themselves on display.
  • The widespread inability to understand technological artifacts as fabricated entities, as social and cultural phenomena, derives from the fact that in retrospect only those technologies that prove functional for a culture and can be integrated into everyday life are 'left over.' However, the perception of what is functional, successful and useful is itself the product of social and cultural--and last but not least--political and economic processes. Selection processes and abandoned products and product forms are usually not discussed.
  • In a media-based society (and of course there is no such thing as a non-media-based society consisting of more than one person) it is the signs and significants, the meanings and habits and conventions of speaking and thinking, the images and stereotypes which control everything. It is important to analyze how it is represented and of course what is not represented or how it lacks representation. It's not so much Rupert Murdoch – whose assholeness I will not dispute – that we should attack, but rather something I would call the cultural grammar of the public space. Power is formed within such a grammar. Access and non-access to each and every thing is regulated in its realm. Meanings are negotiated there.
    • talking about Guerilla Communication strategies in "Urban Hacking", transkript, p. 98
  • The human is a narrative being. We construct emotional machines, so-called “stories”, to communicate, to share the world in which we live and make it collectively experienceable. And we are pretty good at doing that. Since the primordial soup at some point mendelized into primate brains, we have either been fleeing from big cats or telling others about our escapes from the clutches of big cats. Sitting around the campfire, interpreting and breaking down the world, charging it with aura. Initially this was all very mythopoeic, and slowly it became more differentiated. But even in the post-Enlightenment age, world interpretations are not necessarily particularly rational. Good stories sell well, and the best stories are the ones that hit you in the gut, regardless of whether they would hold up to a Wikipedia check or not.
  • Oh, Tolkien, that miserable Catholic. He even hated refrigerators. A technophobic academic who probable would have fucked Ireland, if Ireland were fuckable.
  • Companies like Nike already use Graffiti as a standard variety in their marketing campaigns and the first people who read Naomi Klein's 'No Logo' were marketing gurus who wanted to know what they shouldn't do.
    • talking about Guerilla Communication strategies in "Urban Hacking", transkript, p. 106
  • Since the advent of modernism, artists have been seeking to loosen the entanglement of work and subject, because they saw themselves pushed into a role that they did not necessarily want to occupy: one which offered freedom and independence on the upside, but in combination with isolation and powerlessness on the downside. While the workers of the Fordist factory developed collectivist strategies to pursue their goals, the particularities of the artist's existence – cast as productive eccentricity and manic-depressive individualism – made it more difficult for artists to organize to achieve their demands and improve their precarious living and working conditions. It was only with great difficulty that this group, condemned to autonomy, could free itself from the prison of its freedom.
  • The information age is an age of permanently getting stuck. Greater and greater speed is demanded. New software, new hardware, new structures, new cultural techniques. Life-long learning? Yes. But the company can't fire the secretary every six months, just because she can't cope with the new version of Excel. They can count their keystrokes, measure their productivity … but! They will never be able to sanction their inability! Because that is immanent.
  • I think that Man in creating God somewhat overestimated his abilities.
    • aphorism used in mRIF
  • Imagination is an abuse of power.
    • aphorism used in mRIF
  • Computer games are embedded in the cultural framework of technological developments. In the study of technological development and creativity, focusing attention on the failure, the error, the breakdown, the malfunction means opening the black box of technology. Studies have convincingly demonstrated that the widespread inability to understand technological artifacts as fabricated entities, as social and cultural phenomena, derives from the fact that in retrospect only those technologies that prove functional for a culture and can be integrated into everyday life are "left over." However, the perception of what is functional, successful and useful is itself the product of social and cultural--and last but not least--political and economic processes. Selection processes and abandoned products and product forms are usually not discussed. According to Langdon Winner, there is a sense in which all technical activity contains an inherent tendency toward forgetfulness.
  • Contemporary art -- the field we are usually working in because there's money -- is mostly concerned with systems or systematic concepts. In the context of their work, artists adapt models of individual art-specific or economic or political systems like in a laboratory, to reveal the true nature of these systems by deconstructing them. So would it be fair to say that by their chameleon-like adaptation they are attempting to generate a similar system? Well... the corporate change in the art market has aged somewhat in the meantime and looks almost as old as the 'New Economy'. Now even the last snotty brat has realized that all the hogwash about the creative industries, sponsoring, fund-raising, the whole load of bullshit about the beautiful new art enterprises, was not much more than the awful veneer on the stupid, crass fanfare of neo-liberal liberation teleology. What is the truth behind the shifting spheres of activity between computer graphics, web design and the rest of all those frequency-orientated nerd pursuits? A lonely business with other lonely people at their terminals. And in the meantime the other part of the corporate identity has incidentally wasted whole countries like Argentina or Iceland. That's the real truth of the matter.
  • I always wonder what the official web site of the GDR would look like if they were still around. Would they use Flash? Or HTML5?
  • The future is like the Jetsons, plus rape.
    • at Hope Conference 2010 in NYC, talking about the necessity to deconstruct the patriarchal structures of Western society
  • Long time ago I called the greasy stuff on touch displays "hackerfat"... but it's better to change that to "socialsmear".
  • The Capitalist system is a highly adaptable entity. And so it isn't surprising that alternative spaces and forms of living provided interesting ideas that could be milked and marketed. So certain structural features of these "indie" movement outputs were suddenly highly acclaimed, applied and copy-pasted into capitalist developing laboratories. These qualities fit best into the tendency in which -- by the end of the seventies -- bourgeois society started to update and re-launch using the experiences gained through countercultural projects. Mainstream harvested the knowledge that was won in these projects and used it. Normalizing dissent.
  • The emergence of new media (and therefore artistic) formats is certainly interesting. But etching information into copper plates is just as exciting. We think that the perpetual return of 'the new', to cite Walter Benjamin, is nothing to write home about - except perhaps for the slave-drivers in the fashion industry. We've never been interested in the new just in itself, but in the accidental occurrence. In the moment where things don't tally, where productive confusion arises. That's why in the final analysis, although we've laughed a lot with Stewart Home, we even reject the meta-criticism of innovation-fixation articulated in 'neoism'. The new sorts itself out when it lands in the museum. Finito.
  • I always loved the grand dichotomies of life. Dogs and cats. Cats and mice. Like Tom and Jerry. But as someone who grew up in Central Europe I never understood how a mouse can live inside a wall. Walls are made of bricks! They are not hollow. Way later I came to understand, when I learned that US-American houses are just made of wood, and their walls are really hollow.
  • Christianity is a death cult gone horribly wrong.
  • Everything in German sounds like a war crime. And everything in Austrian German sounds like a war crime served with whipped cream.
  • Hasta la victoria siempre! Never forget! And let anthropomorphized kiwis puke evil provitamins on Jean-Luc Picard!
  • Did you know that if you removed all nerve cells from your brain and laid them out end-to-end in a straight line, you would die?
  • Whenever I go to a botanical garden, I think of killing people with a spade.
  • Monotheism is a dictatorship. The number of the beast is 1.
  • Vegas is gorgeous hyperreality, but most of the stuff people like here is not my cup of tea. I don't gamble, and I don't like Penn & Teller. I'd rather be locked into a basement full of Philip Glass recordings.
  • Liberals believe being friendly and fair will make the world better. But our world runs by horrific rules. Fair-play doesn't change the rules. You just accept them.
  • Watching a Norwegian film: character screams "Satan" and the English subtitle reads "Christ". That's was I call subliminal messaging.
  • Mankind is a sexual and tool-using species. So it's never old news to deal with the intersection of human desire and ingenuity. As biohacking, sexually enhanced bodies, genetic utopias and the plethora of gender have long been the focus of literature, science fiction and, increasingly, pornography, we explore the possibilities that fictional and authentic bodies have to offer.
  • Rammstein is an award-winning music-based German-teaching system for American goths.
  • Dreamt I had a meeting with the Austrian Film Institute about a grant. They told me I would never get one, but I should try insurance fraud.
  • I remember when I got a new device for my computer. I connected it to the landline phone plug(!), and the device called another device and sang a robot love song to it. That made the devices connect, and I could go online and exchange messages. That was one of the most important things that ever happened to me, breaking my isolation. It helped me to reach out to other folks all around the globe. Communication is key in nerd culture. But beware if that communication fails. You can create toxic troll wastelands! Not even robot love songs can help you with that!
  • There are still films about bank robberies, but let's be honest, the biggest financial crimes today aren't happening in banks, they're happening on Wall Street. This is happening in the completely abstract datasphere. Capitalism is dependent upon this commodity of speed. Making a film about a bank robbery is maybe funny, but it's completely anachronistic. We have to tell the stories of the 21st century, specifically in a way that people can relate to it.
  • Leftist memes are 25 pages long and have footnotes. (Original German: Linke Memes sind 25 Seiten lang und haben Fußnoten.)
  • [Glossary of Broken Dreams] was born out of the frustration that debate culture (not only) on digital platforms has become radically fragmented and fractalized, making it hard to call it discourse. It's a Tower of Babel-like context confusion that pleases me as a nerd, but as a political being who wants society to progress, it doesn't please me at all. [...] I just thought it was time for something like a political spring cleaning of concepts. Because picking up the broom and taking a chance to get rid of stuff is the only way to prevent us all from becoming social liberal hoarders. One of my examples is the concept of privacy that, at the moment, everyone coddles like a puppy. Let me say this, as a good old Neo-leftist, I'm having problems with the conservative and deeply bourgeois can of worms that the privacy debate entails. I think it's time to change our thought patterns here. Instead of trying to find ways to defend our privacy come hell or high water, we should ask ourselves why privacy is such a major concern for us? Is what we're trying to achieve here just reformist symptom-control rather than a solution to the underlying problems?
    • from an interview about Grenzfurthner's film Glossary of Broken Dreams (via Boing Boing)
  • It's not working from home, it's living at work.
  • Conspiracy theories (actually: hypotheses) are comforting, anthropocentric, affirming constructs. They assume that someone runs the world, that someone is in control. The sad truth is that nobody is in control. That's way more terrifying.
  • My nerdy teenage rebellion was to confront my parents with the scientific method, challenging their weird beliefs, asking for peer-reviewed data and scientific context. I remember that one day when I was 15, I asked my mother to use her divining rod and a piece of paper to determine the first 30 decimal values of pi. It took her three hours and not a single one was right. That felt like a huge success, but she just told me she had a bad day because of the full moon. Tomorrow she would try again and would succeed. And if not, who says that the 30 digits of pi in the math books are actually right? Maybe her version was correct in the first place and she had access to a higher knowledge? It simply wasn't possible to challenge her.
    • From Kapital issue #12 (December 12, 2021), translated from Slovak

Quotes as Nikita P. Chrusov[edit]

Quotes in character as Soviet Unterzoegersdorf's ambassador Nikita P. Chrusov.

  • After the Soviet Union turned into many, many little non-Soviet countries... it was crazy. It was like a lot of pop-ups on Firefox, and you try to click them away, but it doesn't work!
  • Is Corona laboratory-made? Nah. I think it's way more reasonable to assume that a bat fucked a pangolin. And some guy then fucked that pangolin. Mystery solved. Occam's razor.

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