KUNSTSAELE BERLIN (D). January 16th – April 16th 2016
Extract from the booklet accompanying the exhibition: “Sky Nude” and “Wow-Signal” by Franz John.
“Wow!”, wrote the astrophysicist Jerry Ehman in August 1977, deeply impressed, in the margin of a computer protocol where he had recorded an acoustic signal from outer space for a full 72 seconds with the Big Ear Telescope. A signal of this intensity had never been recorded before and has not been seen since, and its origin remains unexplained to this day — which is why it has gone down in scientific history as the “Wow! Signal”.
In his work, Franz John often explores experiences like these, which are at the horizon of human world
perception. In several recent exhibitions like Natural Affairs (2015, Austria) or The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman (2016, Berlin-Germany), with Wow Signal and Sky Nude he presented two works that demonstrate his continuing curiosity for the frontiers of the unknown. These two pieces share some common ground, as both examples centre on recording traces, on shadows — they present light and sound from a planetary perspective, which operates on the rotation and perceptual angle of the Earth. If the project Sky Nude is based on an optical scan of the sky taking place over 24 hours, an “earth exposure”, made using one of the first readily available scanning devices of its kind, Franz John´s current piece Wow-Signal concerns the search for extraterrestrial life on an acoustic level. He adapted this legendary specimen of human perception into a replicable and visually perceptible version: He reproduced the Wow! Signal of 1977 using a dye solar cell, which has been laser cut into the shape of the signal and which utilises cutting edge solar technology that allows the generation of energy using the photosynthetic capacities of plant cells. The cell, measuring 35cm x 50cm and hung in a window on the sunny side of the exhibition space, is activated when exposed to light, transmitting the signal on the chip through the exhibition space in a highly symbolic manner. As the acoustic “revival” of the reconstructed signal, produced in close collaboration with the Berlin radio specialist Elektra Wagenrad, is made possible by the photosynthesis of the plant-based solar cell, John´s work points back to the initial principle of all known life on Earth. Text by Clemens Krümmel
Monika Baer, Michael Dreyer, Katja Eydel, Moritz Fehr, Franz John, Svenja Kreh, Dominique Le Parc, Zilla Leutenegger, Alvin Lucier, Gregory Maass & Nayoungim, Achim Mohné, Karin Sander, Sigune Siévi, Rolf Walz, Xiaopeng Zhou
Compiled by: Clemens Krümmel
Exhibition link: Der Schatten des Körpers des Kutschers
Franz John: Wow-Signal (audio)