The examination of language as written text or spoken word forms the basis of Thomas Feuerstein’s works, which consist of translations, transformations and processes. His works incorporate both information and biotechnology to form communicating vessels and narrative networks and are realised in a variety of media, including drawings, sculptures and paintings. The processual sculptures featured in the exhibition CANDYLAB embody both symbolic and molecular transformations in an artistic manner.
For CANDYLAB, Thomas Feuerstein creates a setting that is part Viennese apartment and part laboratory. A mix of art nouveau furniture and bioreactors evokes associations with eating, reading, digestion and writing. At the heart of the exhibition is the processual sculpture PANCREAS, which gives bodily form to the books through biotechnical means.
PANCREAS (gr. pán = “all”, kréas = “flesh”) transforms language and literature, books and paper into sugar through the process of fermentation. The glucose (a simple sugar) produced from the cellulose of the books actually functions as a fuel in the CANDYLAB exhibition, which facilitates the growth of in vitro cultivated brain cells in a hand-blown glass brain. While the brain cells in the work PANCREAS are exclusively fed by Hegel’s “Phenomenology of the Spirit”, other types of books, like fiction, philosophy or cookbooks, produce the material for sugar glass, which then gives rise to sculptures and illustrations. When mixed with potassium nitrate, sugar extracted from science fiction books, for example, is transformed into rocket propellant for the sculpture IDEE (idea).
In its dual role as a work of art and technical function – a combination specific to Feuerstein – the glass sculpture SARKOPHAG (sarcophagus) produces alcohol from glucose.
As a source of energy and meaning, sugar draws from a variety of frames of reference, from biology and economics to capitalism and notions of paradise, to mythology and science. Sugar acts as a storage shed of narrative energy, which then entangles Feuerstein’s artistic methods of “conceptual narration” for us into real and artistic fictional stories. His “transformation machines”, which interweave scientific, social and economic realities into artistic narratives using conceptual aesthetic processes, set alchemistic cycles of production – both of meaning and potential – into motion.
Thomas Feuerstein (*1968, Innsbruck, Austria) studied art history and philosophy from 1987 to 1995 at the University of Innsbruck. Since 1997 he has had teaching assignments at various of Universities in Austria and Switzerland. Feuerstein’s work is created in a variety of media and includes installations, environments, objects, drawings, paintings, sculpture, photography, video, audio dramas and internet art. Essential ingredients are the connection between linguistic and visual elements, the tracing of latent links between fact and fiction and the interlacing of art and science.