The story begins with the so-called surf clubs. In the early days of Net Art, artists shared their interest in the culture and aesthetics of the internet. They collaborated on new means of expression and programmed drawing tools themselves – painterly means born from the spirit of communication. The techniques that Ernst Markus Stein uses for his idiosyncratic computer paintings derive from this repertoire of digital DIY. With the aliasing of a 16-bit aesthetic, a reduced number of characters and a limited color index, he composes accurate form studies or narrates strange situations in people’s lives.
For Stein’s solo exhibition at KM, Berlin, the digital works were transferred to textile formats for the first time. The idea arose from the artist’s fascination with punch cards, which were used in the wake of industrialization to automate weaving mills and later in an increasing number of area to automate data processing, thus laying the foundations for digitalization. It was not the end products that formed the starting point of the idea to transfer, but the affinity of the methods. To realize the weavings and embroidery, the artist first collaborated with the machine embroiderer Steinke Design, who for 30 years have been producing patches for the biker scene in the district of Unna, then with the family firm Stickerei Sonnenblume in Fulda, and finally with the engineering and software company ZSK. These collaborations are the result of an artistic attitude that understands painting foremost as establishing contact and does not situate itself exclusively in the art world but also advances into discourse-distant spheres.
Stein’s paintings, created on the Nintendo 3DS or in ASCII character code, can now be viewed as woven or embroidered pictures. Abstract studies such as zaunstudie (nyc), stadt or einfache zigarette derive from formal experiments with self-programmed models. At first sight, they stand in contrast to the figurative and narrative pictures, some of which even contain text elements. The works innere karte and warhead hardhat era belong to a series of speculative maps reminiscent of drone views and detection attempts. Stein’s poetic system as a whole resembles cartography; it records and registers the world while at the same time giving rise a longing for unknown places and distant forms of life.
Now that the digital paintings exist as physical objects, an online presentation of the show has been created in cooperation with Jules LaPlace that reminds one of point-and-click adventures. Hidden in the hypertext are further worlds of the artist. In the gallery, a tape loop rotates and a GIF animation along with a carousel slide projector narrate the eponymous geschichte von jemand [story of somebody] – this person knows that something is lost and therefore everything is different. The large-format weavings carbourgh and leatherface are about hasty departure and surprising contact termination. All works revolve around a moment of unexpected change that demands immediate rethinking. Another wprld is possible.
Text: Iris Dankemeyer
Ernst Markus Stein (*1984 in Mittweida) studied at Kunstakademie Münster (2004–2006) with Daniele Buetti and at Universität der Künste Berlin with Lothar Baumgarten (2006–2010, Meisterschüler). Since 2018 he compiles the sound performance series Geflüster for KM, Berlin, with various artists from the electro acoustic genre and conceptual concrete music. Stein’s artistic works, drawings, poster, sound installation, performances and online presentations were shown at Transmediale at HKW, Berlin (2019), in Plovdiv (European Capital of Culture 2019), at ZKM Karlsruhe (2017), at 1646 in Den Haag (2014) as well as for the broadcasting stations WDR and ORF. As DJ ShluchT and DIY Church he released various LPs and Tapes in collaboration with labels like stence quo (Antwerpen), more records (USA) und ZamZam Records (Bristol) and realises radio shows and workshops, i.e. for cashmere radio, Radio 23 and reboot.fm.