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US Artist Kai Franz Presents His Unusual Practice in Berlin Exhibition at Rockelmann &

January 25, 2016
Pavle Ivanovic hides behind the pen name of Bob Lansroth as he tries to explore the boundless diversity of artists and the various ways in which they strive to escape the quotidian life. It is through the creative force within us that we must attempt to connect with one another and share our ideas with the world.

Machines, systems, processes and models created by Kai Franz are designed to question our notions of authorship and subjectivity. Pertaining to some ideas of the Arte Povera movement, Franz adds a digital context to it and continues to form a unique practice of his own, in which the digital images are being translated into the nexus of matter and materiality. Through his innovative and unorthodox creative process, the artist reinvents the role of digital tools in art. ROCKELMANN& is proud to host the artist’s first solo presentation in Berlin. The show will feature an array of the artist’s works from the past 5 years, including a series of aesthetic experiments and some of his most prominent pieces. The exploration of Kai Franz’s body of work at ROCKELMANN& is dubbed THE PARTICLES FELL SILENT, and it will provide the viewers with a unique insight into the amazing practice of the US-based artist.

Kai Franz - Untitled Plopps No. 101 After a Stormy Night with Closed Windows
Kai Franz – Untitled Plopps No. 101 After a Stormy Night with Closed Windows

A Methodology that Challenges Notions of Authorship, Subjectivity and Objectivity

Kai Franz was born in Cologne, Germany in 1983, and soon after beginning to study architecture he started delving into computer science as well. At first, his exploration pertained to integration of the digital tools with the architectural design process, but quickly he began developing further interest in software, algorithms and the computational approach. In fact, Kai began creating and writing his own software which would allow him to set up a system in which design decisions would be relative rather than absolute. With this approach, the architect/artist started exploring a new methodology that challenges notions of authorship, subjectivity and objectivity. Franz formed a unique practice of bringing the digital and virtual into the world of physical presence. His oeuvre consists of art which implies the coexistence of the works’ virtual, diagrammatic states in the form of digital drawings, codes and systems. Some of his paintings, or better yet; algorithmic paintings, are deprived of human agency in the execution, where the artist simply drops spoonfuls of paint onto a wooden board, as directed by the instructions from the computer simulation.

Kai Franz - Dual-Axis Precision Deposition System (Plopper)
Kai Franz – Dual-Axis Precision Deposition System (Plopper)

Kai Franz Translating the Digital and Physical into a Single Language of Creativity

The unorthodox approach of Kai Franz could be described as a way of translating the virtual being into a physical artwork. For instance, Dual Axis Precision System (Plopper) is a machine that Franz built from a reworked plotter, and it was used to produce digitally fabricated low-relief sculptures in the exhibition. Of course, a 3D printer comes to mind, however, unlike 3D printing, the Plopper manages to create sculptures or paintings which linger somewhere halfway in-between the digital and physical. In a sense, Kai Franz’s works engage in a painterly discourse about anti-composition where the origins of these works are digital information-based CAD drawings, which are then translated into physical sculptures made from sand and polyurethane. So, the geometric information is conjured in the form of matter and materiality. The visual effect of the finished product gives off an impression of an ancient burial mound or some kind of an eroded form. The wobbly grids even appear like some sort of a digital artifact of a deceased, or even alien civilization.

Left: Kai Franz - Untitled Plopps No. 101 (detail) / Right: Kai Franz - Lump as Particle Carcass
Left: Kai Franz – Untitled Plopps No. 101 (detail) / Right: Kai Franz – Lump as Particle Carcass


As the artist stated himself, artworks like the Plopper activate the will of matter. The materialistic properties, physical characteristics, and behaviors of matter co-author the final product as much as the digital information does. Machines and systems built by Franz speak both the languages of digitalism and materialism, and translate back and forth between them. The pieces created in such an unusual process make the viewer examine thoroughly and speculate about the work’s past, and how it came to be. The artist subtly touches upon the anxiety in contemporary making processes which are focused on “digital perfection”, and effectively shatters the pre-conceived notions of physicality and virtual presence. THE PARTICLES FELL SILENT solo exhibition of Kai Franz’s work is on view from January 29 – March 5, 2016, at ROCKELMANN& in Berlin. The opening is scheduled for Thursday, January 28, from 7 to 10 pm, and the artist talk will be held on Thursday, March 10 from 7 to 9 pm.

Featured images: Kai Franz – CADSeed10100; Kai Franz – Untitled Plopps No. 101. All images courtesy of ROCKELMANN&