What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

August 17, 2023

Urs Fischer
July 20 - September 16, 2023

Urs Fischer

Urs Fischer's Denominator (2020-22) is four high-definition LED screens forming a 12 foot by 12 foot cube. It displays a constantly changing array of clips culled from various international television commercials from the 1950s to the present. This bombastic work is presented alone in the center of a cavernous but otherwise empty space across the street from the main gallery where it can be seen from the street beckoning curious passersby to come inside. It is an ever-moving, fast paced digital collage that is more about information and information overload than a critique of the strategies of advertising.

Denominator follows on the heels of Fischer's other recent technically sophisticated digital projects -- CHAOS #501 (2022) and the series CHAOS #1 - #500 (exhibited at the Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles in 2022 and also released as NFTs)-- for which 500 found objects were 3D-scanned from every angle and shown as pairs projected on three large screens oscillating against a white background. The objects connected and intersected with each other in mysterious and unpredictable ways. Fischer later combined all 500 into the single channel work CHAOS #501. Here, the individual objects move independently rather than as pairs. This movement is generated by a computer program that sets the flow of the objects as they cascade across the 349 inch wide LED screen. The objects range from toys to furniture to clothing to detritus and are meant to represent every-day "stuff" that has been discarded for whatever reason. Through the scanning process however, the objects are "repaired" and "cleaned up" to giving them a new life. A similar strategy occurs with the collection of advertisements in Denominator.

Browsing anonymously using a VPN, Fischer and his team collected thousands of advertisements from online sources such as "YouTube" which were compiled into a database. Later, an AI engine / custom algorithm was employed to sort through the clips according to specific "directions" -- grouping them by color or theme to be displayed in sequences that move as different sized rectangles across the LED surfaces. As the images flow over the four sides of the cube they appear to be carefully choreographed rather than a random layering. While the number of clips presented within the display is not stated the imagery does not appear to repeat. Rather, fragments traverse the sides and around the corners, layered on top of each other and often obscuring what is below. Objects, talking heads and textual fragments in different languages appear and then disappear. The display is seductive and mesmerizing. Some of the clips are for well known products like Coca-Cola though others are for European products less familiar to U.S. audiences. While recognition is a factor, what stands out is the relationship between the fragments and the way they behave on the display to become a collage of different sized rectangles that move in front of and behind each other similar to the movement of the found objects in CHAOS #501.

Both works are more about the collective -- imagery and experience -- rather than the individual assets. The takeaway is not a product -- whatever the original advertisement was created to sell -- but a feeling -- a cacophony of clips that are familiar and discordant. It is interesting to try to follow a single clip as it travels around the cube changing its size as well as its position within the numerous layers until it eventually disappears, only to be replaced by another clip that catches the eye for whatever reason to be tracked and lost over and over again. For those of us drawn to the big screen, yet loathe to commercials, this artwork is surprisingly playful and provides much to contemplate as it presents, or rather re-presents years of diverse and unrelated content organized by machine learning or an AI algorithm rather than being choreographed by human eyes and thought.