notes : Oliver Sann

excerpts from Notes : Oliver Sann

[3] EDITORS’ NOTE: Brian Holmes writes of the Willis Tower Trading Centre in Chicago, “the empty rooms of the photographs contain the rigidly modular architecture of contemporary financial power: imposing black rectangles of blinkered vision, the trader’s secret world of screens. On such screens took form the simulated environments of the housing bubble, where inhabited spaces became fictional signifiers of an impossible wealth, before their owners went bankrupt in reality and left them behind as the residue of an historic crisis.” Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann. Volatile Smile. (Nürnberg: Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2014). Abandoned financial infrastructures reveal an uncanny contrast between the vacuity of their operations and their physical remains. Once tools in the hands of most powerful actors, now deserted, diminished into ambience…. A tender pulse remains suggesting their bygone purpose. These miniscule material traces linger, imbued with just enough memory to reveal their prior function and inner processes. Such artifacts scavenge narratives of power and struggle, manipulations and growths—“globalised financial non-places” that cyclically leave behind these dry, empty moltings.

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Sann brings our attention here to the origins of seemingly complicated technologies… the primitive state of tools, and how they have evolved into the parasitic and mutating systems which constitute what we are calling here the technosphere—invisible and sometimes intangible. Tools (if there was ever such a simple idea or thing) are conceived of as early figurations of human technology, and have now spatialised and extended far outside the material bounds of individual objects. Many of our earliest human tools carry the memory of warfare, and the abstraction of contemporary conflict transcends primitive weapons as tools for sovereignty and control through complex networks of spatial dominance.

Geissler and Sann, in addition to the abandoned infrastructures and housing presented in their Volatile Smile project, have previously compiled a series of photographs called “Personal Kill” (2007). This collection depicts the interiors of buildings intended for urban warfare-training in the United States. In this series, we see that the city is not a setting for warfare—not a neutral space to be navigated—but is an intricate system that activates and negotiates as a weapon in itself. Cities are developed/controlled through the intensified militarisation of police forces; racial genocide executed through paramilitary operations, infrastructures of public and private spaces maintaining control and accessibility to its citizens.