Tobias Klein’s Virtual Sunset
The expansion of interconnectivity between people worldwide and its impact on artists and artists’ interaction with their audiences is a complex issue explored in the 2012 installation Virtual Sunset by Tobias Klein. The installation is composed of a large grid from which are suspended hundreds of tentacles of PVC tubing emitting a series of vivid colours from cadmium orange to lemon yellow to Cerulean blue. Viewers are encouraged to walk through the installation, a corporeal element juxtaposed with the otherwise visual connotations of the words ‘virtual’ and ‘sunset’; for the piece is a time-based compilation of photographs of sunsets taken by online participants and uploaded to the project’s website, which you can visit here.
The sunset is a natural occurrence common to the experience of every living being and yet can provoke powerful feelings in the beholder. Klein demonstrates the complexity of our growing dual-identity as natural beings and avatars, straddling the line between the realms of the material and immaterial. On the Tobias Klein Studio website, we are told that by uploading images of sunsets from across the world, we produce a “simulacra of a shared singular sunset”, a result which reflects the desire within online communities to produce a similarly shared (read common) yet personalized and ultimately paradoxical ‘universal’ experience.
Klein’s installation uses subject matter common to us all, yet provided through a medium which is as versatile as its goods are intangible. Interestingly, the problems surrounding artworks relying on viewer participation over the internet are articulated in the format of the installation, since there is a negative correlation between the viewers’ comprehension of the function or implications of the piece and his or her proximity to the actual physical object. In other words, by way of the Internet I can, from across the world, not only understand the artist’s intent and process, but also manipulate his artwork. On the other hand, if I was merely (and I use this term fully understanding the irony) to visit the piece on-site, I would be at a loss to recognize the object’s purpose.
There is, however, room for redemption; while the Internet-participator has the upper-hand in the sense of being more ‘informed’, the on-site viewer has the opportunity to interact with the work physically, becoming part of the virtual sunset in a corporeal way. Which experience can be said to be more ‘true’? How do we define shared experiences and how do we categorize levels of human interactivity? Can we? Whichever way you see it, Klein’s installation poses us these questions in a stirring and enticing manner. For more on Tobias Klein’s work, please visit the Studio website here.