The exhibition Between Order and Entropy presents the work of the American artist John Sanborn, who became one of the most prominent protagonists of the American video art scene in the 1970s and 1980s.
John Sanborn is an eminent pioneer of video art. For many years his work was an exemplary model for artistic success that opened the doors to a horizon of new sounds, images and imagination. His early voco-visual explorations had a lead function at a time when the new medium video pollinated like the wild flowers of anarchy, carrying the smell of audacity and the spirit of freedom, far away from contemporary commercial and politically correct adaptations, to the mainstream and market place. To this day his work is characterized by impulses of anti-establishment and a singular idiom of individuality.
Sanborns work ranges from the beginnings of experimental video art alongside a generation of artists such as Bill Viola, Dara Birnbaum, the Vasulkas, to MTV music videos and video games, interactive art, and digital media art. Consulting for Apple and Adobe, he contributed to shaping the possibilities of new image tools and was instrumental to the dawning of the digital image revolution in California at the turn of the 90s. Sanborns more recent work consists of complex media installations that address issues of cultural identity, memory, mythologies, and the human compulsion to tell stories.
Over the course of these career shifts, his work traced the perimeters of a media ecology, exploring distinct institutional and production systems, tracing a network of connections between museums in America, Europe, and Asia as well as festivals, nascent art centers, television networks, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley. It has also been defined by the breadth of collaborators he reached out to, dancers and choreographers including luminaries like Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones, and composers like Philip Glass, John Zorn, Terry Riley, and an ongoing partnership with music and performance group The Residents.
This exhibition is the largest devoted to the work of the artist, who was mentored by the founder of video art Nam June Paik, and composer Robert Ashley, with whom he made the seminal Perfect Lives opera for television in 1983. It brings together a collection of works that spans over four decades of sound, music, dance, interactive media and video exploration. Especially his early digital video works are characterized by high-tech computer editing and post-production, with which he expanded the possibilities of image production of his time. Following several years of activity in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Sanborn produced a variety of new media installations. Since 2015, these have sought to elevate issues of identity and inclusivity.
During those 40 years of media production, Sanborn would also pause to make autobiographical works, until further questioning what was not him pointed to a myriad of possibilities, embraced by a series of recent pieces.
For the exhibition at the ZKM, several works were commissioned, including a dog dreams (of god), and a Virtual Reality iteration of a recent work, The Friend, featuring the actor and director John Cameron Mitchell.
A comprehensive publication on John Sanborns work with about 250 pages in English will accompany the exhibition, with texts by Peter Weibel, Jean-Paul Fargier, Stephen Sarrazin, Mark Alizart, and contributions by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Kit Fitzgerald, Dean Winkler, Homer Flynn of the Cryptic Corporation, Lynn Breedlove, and Robert Cahen. The volume will close with a discussion between John Sanborn and Dara Birnbaum, and an interview with the artist that covers four decades video and media art.
Have a look
Stephen Sarrazin, Philipp Ziegler