'Time is Just a Memory' by Dagmar Schürrer

'Time is Just a Memory' by Dagmar Schürrer

Until the 12th of March, Dagmar Schürrer is presenting her newly developed animation and augmented reality application, Time is Just a Memory in a group show titled Kim Jest - Who is Janina Węgrzynowska? curated by Paulina Olszewska which was inspired by the Op Art glass objects of Janina Wegrzynowska. Read the interview we made with Dagmar Schürrer to explore the making of her latest series 'Time is just a Memory', her interest in merging the analogue and the digital sphere and her upcoming projects.

Sedition: The new collection 'Time is just a Memory' originated as a response to the work of Polish artist Janina Wegrzynowska (1930-2010). Could you talk a bit about your interest in Wegrzynowska’s practice, the concept and the making of the new collection?

Dagmar Schürrer: Last year, curator Paulina Olszewska invited me to participate in the group exhibition Kim jest – Who is Janina Wegrzynowska? at Galeria Studio in Warsaw, Poland, which is a group show to examine and celebrate the polish artist’s body of work through the artistic reaction of six contemporary international artists. 

Janina Wegrzynowska’s (1930–2010) biography mirrors many female artists of the 20th century, who despite working intensely for most of their lives, often existed outside of the mainstream, without sufficient support or adequate opportunity for their talent to be apparent. As a consequence, their work is not inscribed into history and often forgotten over time. Paulina Olszewska found some of Wegrzynowska’s paintings in the archive of Galeria Studio, was fascinated by their visionary character and decided to bring them back to public attention.

Op Art object by Janina Wegrzynowska, 1960s, installation view © Dagmar Schürrer

Dagmar Schürrer: I was thrilled by Wegrzynowska’s multilayered Op Art objects – wooden boxes with layered, transparent glass panels painted with luminous abstract shapes, creating an oscillating effect of patterns in motion. In an interview she explained that she had wanted to depict the movement and motion of the busy city of Warsaw in her works, rather than to focus on figurative depictions of everyday life. This was the starting point for creating the base patterns for my new work Time is just a memory - glossy digital cubes filled with abstract 3D-shapes, animated in infinite loops of uniform motion. The work grew quickly, and the abstract tableaus were assembled with colourful avatars, their surfaces resembling the 3D-shapes. The repetitive imagery is alternating with slow camera rides through a dark environment, in which the objects and avatars are arranged in a circle, seemingly frozen in the digital time and landscape. In short slogans the avatars reflect on notions of time and motion, and how these have changed over the course of history. Three of the abstract loops that form the foundation of the work are part of the new collection on Sedition.

Time is just a memory, 2023, digital animation with sound & augmented reality application, 05:06 min, videostill © the artist

You’ve studied Fine Arts at Central Saint Martin ́s College in London. How did you get interested in and started producing works in digital realm?

Dagmar Schürrer: At Saint Martin´s I was studying in the class for time-based media, which included video, sound, and performance. I started working with the moving image early on, using found footage and 2D animation with a strong focus on the pictorial composition. The experimental films often had a painterly quality and were combining abstract geometric shapes with fragments of found footage, which were taken out of their context and rearranged to form new meanings. The films were often shown on monitors in sculptural installations, as I was interested in detaching the moving images from the cinematic two-dimensional screen and working with them as elements in three-dimensional space. From these experimental moving image installations to working with digitally generated imagery, it was only a small step. Software like Blender or Unity became more and more accessible, and it happened quite naturally to produce digital content in 3D space to sharpen my ideas around associative storytelling, image composition and spatial explorations.


Time is just a memory (loop 11), 2023, digital animation with sound, 00:24 min, videostill © the artist

Could you tell us some of the recurring themes or concepts in the visual language you’ve formed in your practice? 

Dagmar Schürrer: I am trying to create an ambiguous tension in my animations, by constant alterations and modifications of digital forms along the border of abstract and figurative, organic and synthetic, emotional and material. This approach is supported by a textual layer, which often works as a poetic interpretation of theoretical and philosophical concepts. It is the bracket to guide the viewer through the associative character of my storytelling. The screen composition is very important for me, and I use painterly strategies rather than cinematic ones in my moving image production. The animations work in loops and consist of repetitive tableaus, which emphasise rhythm and contemplation. For installations, I am still trying to dissociate the moving images from the screen, that´s where my integration of Augmented Reality applications come in – to make the work spatially accessible without leaving the analogue space.

We are already history, and we don´t know it, 2021, digital animation with sound & augmented reality application, 05:25 mins, intallation view, Fitzroy Berlin © the artist

Could you please tell us about the concepts that you’re interested in our relationship to technological development within the digital and the analogue? Does 'Ideal Deficiency' - one of your introductory works on Sedition, speak of this relationship?

Dagmar Schürrer: Yvonne Volkart Schmidt compares Ideal Deficiency in her text to “…an assembly line of images. Controls? Not for us who are thrown into this machine.” The fluid character of the digital and the permanent variability of the same are often recurring topics in my practice. The seemingly perfect and controlled patterns we find in reproducible digital image production often distract from the underlying glitches and ruptures. I am looking at new technology not as our flawless opposite 'other' but rather as an extension of us humans, so the mechanisms and structures of the digital world can reveal a lot about us. One starting point for the more recent work Dreaming is the mind left to itself (2022) was the neuroscientific theory »The Overfitted Brain Hypothesis«, which compares dreaming to a certain aspect of Artificial Intelligence (AI). For AI to deliver meaningful results it needs to be fed with a sufficiently variable dataset. To increase variations, it can be interspersed with noise and glitches. »The Overfitted Brain Hypothesis« draws parallels to the purpose of dreaming and argues that it works as a similar noise injection, so our brain can cope with the many self-repeating patterns during waking world. This is a fascinating back and forth communication between technology and the human mind. I transferred the theory to a poetic interpretation of this altered state of consciousness, its function, and our feeling of presence in it.

Dreaming is the mind left to itself, 2022, digital animation with sound & augmented reality application, 05:23 min, videostill © the artist

Are there any specific research areas you’re interested in lately? 

Dagmar Schürrer: Over the last three years I have produced a body of work that links up with neuroscience, philosophy of the mind and technology to explore human consciousness and its relation to digital and natural environments. I examined different aspects of the feedback loops between human consciousness and new technologies, reflecting on topics like the functioning of our brain, the parallels between organic and artificial intelligence, or the change of bodily perception through extended realities. My focus lies on a poetic, almost surreal approach to inject an emotional layer of interpretation. Does the triangle of consciousness, technology and nature reveal patterns and structures that might help to better understand the entanglement of human and non-human agents?

Dreaming is the mind left to itself, 2022, digital animation with sound & augmented reality application, 05:23 min, videostill © the artist

What inspired you conceptually or technically in digital art, in the recent years? 

Dagmar Schürrer: A few years ago, I have started to integrate Augmented Reality (AR) in my installations. The possibility of merging the analogue and the digital sphere is definitely inspirational. AR allows me to take my digital worlds off the screen and explore them spatially. In the installation We are already history, and we don´t know it (2021) I linked several animations and had the AR content unfold between a sculptural setting of monitors and projection. It is like revealing a digital layer of the world, that has not been discovered until now. I use mostly tablets to present the AR applications, but I look very much forward to AR glasses entering the mainstream market. In the moment they are still quite expensive, and there are still some technical issues to improve – like the small size of the field of vision or the particular materiality of the digital content – but it will be an exciting tool for digital artists. The direction of the user’s view will shift from a small screen in your hands back to your actual environment, which will certainly increase the feeling of immersion.

Dreaming is the mind left to itself, 2022, digital animation with sound & augmented reality application, 05:23 min, installation view © Artemis Gallery Lisbon

What’s next for you? Could you tell us about your future projects? What ideas or concepts are you planning to explore in your future works? 

Dagmar Schürrer: For 2023 I received the Pixel, Bytes + Film scholarship from the Austrian Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport, to extend my research into our future entanglement with non-human natural agents. The outcome will be a body of work consisting of various manifestations. Amongst others I will realize 3D animations and a large Augmented Reality (AR) installation in the public space of Vienna. Starting point is, to see planet earth itself as a conscious entity, as James E. Lovelock and Lynn Margulis supposed with their Gaia-Hypothesis. The key is, that the collective activity of all organisms creates a system that is self- maintaining and symbiotic, including technological and interspecies companionship. One can find a similar approach in the writings of scientists and philosophers Anna Tsing and Donna Haraway. Drawing on their texts I want to create a utopian speculation about concepts of species kinship and explore interactions between, as well as the merging of different species. I am particularly interested in scientific disciplines in which this is already conceived today: Biotech design to create naturally growing materials and architecture, the increasing entanglement of bio data and technology to monitor and control human processes, or advancements on molecular level for food production. All these will influence the poetic and aesthetic decisions I will make during the next year.

We are already history, and we don´t know it, 2021, digital animation with sound & augmented reality application, 05:25 min, videostill © the artist

Mentioned artists
Dagmar Schürrer
Dagmar Schürrer
Followers 73
Artworks 7