AUGMENTED CITY

Text written by
Gauthier Lesturgie

With an artist
Norbert Delman

Watch
the video

Norbert Delman wearing sportswear runs on a treadmill in front of a large video projection of heavily edited views from Warsaw. A female voice starts an alarming countdown: “25mn before annihilation”. Addressing to “you”, she describes a wounded city ripped apart by conflicted tensions. Many times over she instructs the running artist (and the audience at the same time) to “inhale and exhale”.

augmented city

Augmented City is made up of synchronous images in flying frames, overlapping with each other, evoking familiar windows’ choreography from computer screen. Thus, recognizable places from Warsaw are disrupted by images of recent events happening in the Polish capital, heavily covered by media, along with more abstract visual compositions.

The installation in itself (treadmill facing moving images) and some visual effects influenced by the 90’s digital aesthetics, bring us back to the video arcade. Nevertheless, the artist-player here does not have control of his wander. He has to endure to go through. Indeed, Delman does not take us for a picturesque sightseeing in Warsaw. The atmosphere is oppressive: while looking at Warsaw’s urban landscapes, pop-up windows appear suddenly as elliptic vehicles of covered by media, often violent content. Warsaw’s urban fabric is being disrupted by filmed football fans fights, demonstrations, dog teeth, and blood puddle. Łukasz Dziedzic’s (johnlake.pl) industrial and troubling sound composition augments this suffocating scenery along with the artist’s steps and strong breathing.

augmented city

Video pace is in contrast with static scenes: a person standing in front of a few Warsaw’s known landmarks. For instance, the Palace of Culture and Science, the Sigismund’s Column or the Mały Powstaniec statue, stand as concrete marks of past struggles which shape  today’s identity of the city. By colliding current events, reported by media, with these memorials of the past, Delman portrays the urban landscape as a multi-layered fabric. Indeed, in some way we can think of the city’s structure as a millefeuille, made up of juxtaposed time stratums. Here, the multi-layered pattern of the internet aesthetic (multi-framed pop-up windows) shares dynamics somehow analogous to the urban density.

Obviously, Warsaw is a very singular candidate when thinking of a “city as palimpsest”: 85% of its surface has been razed in the aftermath of the World War II. In Delman’s work, Warsaw’s public space shows us a genealogy of violence which alarmingly echoes today’s situation. These filmed memorials seem to speak against a toxic amnesia existing in some current political statements and directions. Therefore, chosen term “annihilation” at the beginning of the video, together with the last written sentence “Burn everything down”, sound as a dreadful reminders of events in Warsaw’s biography. Notably the planned destruction of Warsaw in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 (which the Mały Powstaniec statue symbolizes).

norbert delman

Broadcasted images surely affect our imagination and how we experience our environments. More than being an attribute of the internet, Delman’s aesthetic mimics a common mental mechanism, somehow duplicated by the internet. Indeed, we do not think in a linear, single-media and perfectly organized way. For instance, when thinking “Warsaw”, a multitude of pictures amalgamate, interfering with each other.

norbert delman

In Delman’s video montage, the volatile nature of these fleeting images tells us as well the necessity of saving them. The work uses digitized files, and in a way, halts their constant flux. It becomes a poetic archive of these ongoing events.

Augmented City is an urgent aesthetic reaction from an artist confronted with events taking place in his hometown. Delman renders this conflicted forces occupying Warsaw public space and media discourse. While watching the artist running on his treadmill, we quickly understand that it is the physical symbol of an escape.

Text by Gauthier Lesturgie

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