On Tech Trash

Conversation/Chat on Technological Trash and Related Ideas between Noah
Fischer and Gene McHugh.
11:31 AM Gene: so -how did you get interested in thinking about technology and junk? your new pieces seem to be a sort of post-apocalyptic depiction of high tech gone bad.

11:32 AM Noah: yes, I saw the two extremes of the tech/design process: the i-phone of desire on one hand (and all the advertising that goes with it) and the 7 year-old beige monitors in trash piles on the other, on their way to China to be melted down in toxic villages on the other: really the utopian and dystopian together.

Gene: have you researched the “life” of the computer much…i think the birth of the silicon in california being sent to china to be manufactured, returned to california to die and then sent back to china is sort of beautiful and tragic
utopian and dystopian.

11:34 AM Noah: yeah that is compelling and as we begin to understand this thing called Globalism more, it is sort of a touching story that emerges
I mean, when I saw images of “gleaning” the parts from old monitors in China, that was unexpected because it’s so lo-tech, almost pastoral-
So with photographs by Andreas Gursky or especially Edward Burtynsky you have the BIG IMAGE of this new landscape, that’s the form they choose.
I am trying to “muddy” the form more, to problematize and create a self conscious language to talk about the utopian/dystopian mix.

11:36 AM Gene: can you talk a bit more about the idea of language?
Noah: in what aspect of the work?

11:38 AM Gene: for instance the iphones you’re fabricating take the basic iphone design, but you create a sort of semiotics out of the new shapes you create. Sort of materializing the language that is implicit but difficult to decipher in the original devices.

11:41 AM Noah: that’s right…language is important in all of my work- I’ve often worked with it literally as in the speech analysis in Rhetoric Machine.
Gene: rhetoric – the rhetoric surrounding environmentalism is also something we’ve been discussing it gets lost in an ecology of other rhetorics

11:43 AM Noah: right- that’s the case in Pop Ark. and in that case I was looking more broadly at rhetoric, not just from the top down

11:46 AM Gene: it shows that information or rhetorical ecologies can also become “polluted” or so overwhelmed with noise, that it becomes difficult to know what is useful information from what is garbage
Noah: absolutely, so there is language trash….

11:48 AM Gene: yeah and with the web, the amount of language trash we deal with has rapidly expanded

Noah: I think that at the moment, the culture is still figuring out how to define let alone deal with Spam-as it overwhelms us. The new trash that always accompanies industrial shifts is never fully recognized.
But to get back to language, with the new work about monitors I am thinking about a grey area between language and design. You can certainly say that Modernist/Minimalist design it is broadly desired…But maybe just people versed in the basics of design, who studied it in art school for example, feel comfortable with it as a language the way that most people exist within written language.

Gene: so the idea is to create disinformation surrounding the semiotics of design i think your iphone pieces go a long way to doing that.

11:51 AM Noah: I think you said it very well – sort of short circuiting the rhetoric
implicit in the design with another another kind of language I mean, the point is to get some perspective on all of this- the very fast moving
contemporary process, right?

11:54 AM Gene: yeah, i think the role of the artist becomes important
there is official rhetoric and then the artist has to come along and shake things up try to puncture a hole in the mass of rhetorical mess that we’ve dug ourselves into the nightly news isn’t up to the task

11:58 AM Noah: absolutely not!

Gene: haha

12:00 PM Noah: the nightly news is an addiction mechanism on which I am
unfortunately hooked

Gene: hey a bit off topic, but did you see the photograph of sarah palin in an american flag bikini holding a gun poolside?

Noah: yeah you know its photoshopped

12:01 PM Gene: oh fuck
i was hoping not

Noah: no, you can see the original image of a much younger woman.

Palin probably looks better in real life

Gene: yeah she’s kind of hot, right?

12:02 PM Noah: I know

Gene: the sexy librarian thing

Noah: it was a master move in so many ways

12:04 PM Gene: there’s nothing more american than aerial wolf hunting

Noah: nope- that is like mythologically American

Gene: the first reality television candidate

12:05 PM Gene: it’s funny how we’re trying to resist this sarah palin charade and talk about rhetoric but here we are knee deep in it and hungry for more
i guess the point is to maintain some level of perspective, but not be “above” it

Noah: Yeah I can’t resist… Well I make it a point not to have internet in my studio, I go there and try to focus

Gene: that’s smart i’m totally hooked

Noah: I hear you brother staring into the monitor a lot?

Gene: yep – exactly it’s not an object, it’s a warm, mothering light beckoning forth

12:07 PM Noah: exactly, if we deconstruct it, we have a nice lantern to gaze into: the mothering light as you say…

Gene: i’ve always liked this idea of ancient societies staring into the flickering campfire and telling stories and how this has simply mutated into televisions and now iphones and whatnot sophisticated campfires

12:09 PM Noah: I think about that too- funny actually how campfires are so

Gene: they really are i went camping a couple of weeks ago, couldn’t take my eyes off the fire

Noah: something about the idea of infinity- no flame ever the same
there is some promise of infinite yet looping entertainment-as in the daily news for example

Gene: yeah, infinite jest that’s a good book

12:11 PM Noah: I started it couldn’t focus…

Gene: i have a hard time with novels these days, non-fiction’s easier

Noah: that’s interesting- nonfiction is feeding our information hungry brains
like filling up at the gas station for the info economy

Gene: ha Yeah – information really is a drug

12:13 PM Gene: i think the early cyberpunk stuff had it right – we’re a bunch of
degenerate junkies basically

Noah: for sure like in that Woody Allen movie where he imagines people of the future interacting with that drug-orb

Gene: oh sleeper

Noah: right

Gene: that shit is hilarious

12:15 PM Noah: yeah, starting at the monitor could look like that to people of the future or past… actually, starting at the monitor laughing, smiling, frowning

Gene: i just need a little line of drool coming down my chin

Noah: go for it

Gene: yeah maybe i will

Noah: ha

Gene: meh, too self-conscious now maybe later today
Noah: ok

Noah Fischer is a Brooklyn based artist represented by Claire Oliver Gallery.
Gene McHugh is finishing his Masters degree at the center for Curatorial Studies at Bard



The object that we call “monitor” is at once ubiquitous, obsolete, and in the end, perhaps a non-object because we gaze into its pixilated illusion, never directly at its shape and mass. Today the clunky beige boxes adorn sidewalk trash piles because their cathode ray tubes have recently given way to the solid-state flat screen. In a backwards-alchemical shift, they have morphed from object of desire into “e-waste.” In this sense, they now monitor the speed of consumption.

Noah Fischer’s new group of sculptures ask us to reconsider these objects at the intersection between trash and promise. Promise not only of new vision technologies, but of the autonomous aesthetics of Modernism in its search for the perfect form. This aesthetic promise, Fischer argues, is embedded in today’s everyday objects, notably the Apple computer product line. To take an example, the iphone, our new monitor, is accompanied by rhetoric concerning a sublime state reached through reduced geometric form and infinite function. Like a Donald Judd box, this is an object that toys with transcending its object-hood.
The repositioning of consumer items within the context of Modernist art of course dates back to Duchamp, and more recently, Haim Steinbach’s shelves. While drawing inspiration here, Fischer concentrates on process: that of hand-making each object, and on the larger production/decay cycles of consumer objects rather than pure conceptual or formal gesture. Fischer wants you to see the full object-picture, which is never platonic.

Indeed there is trashy side to this story. Behind the sublime promise of the iphone is a vast coal-powered global production industry and even more, a trash filled past; an ever-increasing pile of dead bodies; threatening to gobble up the living present. There are the toxic beige monitors sent to China to be scrapped amid Dickensian conditions, not far perhaps from where next year’s planned obscelences are assembled, begging the question: does this object we call “monitor” really have any function besides to perpetuate the global trash cycle?

Contrary to the rhetoric, objects cannot really be transcended: like bodies their physical presence is absolute reality. Fischer brings the carcass of glass monitor tubes and plastic shells together with hand- hewn and computer generated wooden form to create hybridized benches, chairs, and tables, tweaking “monitor” to a basic physical function: to rest our tired bodies. In another strategic reduction, Fischer revamps monitors as simply lanterns. Perhaps we just gaze at screens like electric campfires; mini-suns to warm our hearts and minds.