TEXT ME • Neja Kaiser – Pulse

TEXT.ME Young Curators

A second life

On Samira Arrami’s ‘Pulse’


By Neja Kaiser

Richard Wagner based his idea of ‘the consummate artwork of the future’ on Gesamtkunstwerk, frequently translated as ‘total work of art’, according to which all or many art forms are combined in ‘the integrated drama’. A comparison of these Wagner experiments with the installation Pulse (2020), created by Polish artist Samira Arrami, is probably completely unjustified. However, no one can deny that Pulse gives this incredible all-encompassing artistic experience to the viewer, since it stimulates more than one human sense.

The installation, represented for the very first time at the Media Art Festival 2021 in Leeuwarden, consists of five cubic blocks that together, thoughtfully arranged in the space, remind one of a group of model skyscrapers. They were built out of liquid crystal screens, carefully cut in a special way from previously broken and consequently discarded LCD televisions. The display panels, full of unusually bright pixels, fading and distorted shading, color issues, cracked lines, and dark spots, are turned into compositions of aesthetically pleasing visual patterns that inspired Samira Arrami, who is at her true core a painter, to create the installation in the first place.

The impressions do not remain static. The color of the pixels and the transparency of the screen change depending on what electrical impulse is randomly but periodically transmitted to the screens by a generator. This brings me to the title of the installation. The artist explains that the name of the work comes from the sounds coincidentally made by the electro feeders. However, I cannot help myself from searching for a connection to the fact that in medicine, ‘pulse’ is equivalent to measuring the heart rate of a living creature.

It was the artist who told me that in 2021 human beings will discard an estimated 57.4 million tonnes of electronic waste, which outweigh the Great Wall of China, the world’s heaviest human construction. It is possible to replace broken TV screens, but it is a major repair. Since the cost of a replacement screen is almost as high or higher than the cost of a new TV, most people simply decide to buy a new set and give the old one to a service point. Often they just stay there, which means they are simply thrown away or sold for parts.

In Pulse, Samira Arrami gives the screens a second life, with pulse and all. To be precise, she does not repair and recover them as a manipulation tool. No; she changes the ontological status of a simple piece of electronic waste that was once used as a television. It is now a comprehensive artwork with a hypnotic effect.

About the author

Neja Kaiser (she/her) developed an intense interest in modern and contemporary visual art with political and/or ethical dimension(s) while studying for her BA in Philosophy and Art History, which led her to continue her education at the University of Groningen. In September 2021 she returned to the Netherlands as a Ph. D. candidate to explore politically engaged performance art after working as a curator at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška (KGLU).

Neja is a recipient of the AD FUTURA Scholarship Award.

Portrait (c) Dobran Laznik