David Jablonowski: Tools and Orientations, BALTIC, Gateshead

Now open at the BALTIC, Gateshead, David Jablonowski presents Tools and Orientations. Running until 2 June, this is the first solo exhibition by the German artist in a public gallery in the UK. Jablonowski’s work investigates the history and potential of communication in visual culture. His sculptures, videos and installations explore cultural aesthetics, display systems and information transfer, from calligraphic manuscripts to TV advertising and the World Wide Web.

Interested in the representation of language, the artist explores how different information technologies transmit and manipulate data. His work incorporates found texts and video footage, while combining a wide range of industrial and organic materials including aluminium, plaster, Styrofoam, ceramic, stone, wood, carbon fibre, plants and exotic spices. He also uses components from reproduction technology such as offset-printing plates, inkjet printers and flatbed scanners. The artist is fascinated by the sculptural possibilities of these materials and objects as he overlaps, layers, grinds and cuts into different surfaces and embeds, stacks and dismantles technological devices to make intriguing assemblages made on a varying scale.

Tools and Orientations is made up of an installation of recent sculpture and video together with specially commissioned new work. Volume 2012, consists of three large rectangular blocks which resemble slabs of stone, but on closer inspection are made of Styrofoam which have been carved, weathered and inlaid with lengths of aluminium. Smaller objects, including works from the series Future of the Document (Nastaleegh) 2012 and Imposition 2010, rest on fragments of Arabic calligraphy and imagery from the Manesse Codex (a medieval songbook), their delicate structures inspired by early writing scrolls.

Jablonowski produces a non-linear history of technology, some of it is already outmoded and redundant: a Gestetner Rotary Cyclostyle stencil machine sits alongside a modern Canon inkjet printer in Multiple (Gestetner) 1.78:1 2011. Video portraits of IT pioneers associated with the invention of the Mouse and the Hyperlink explore the origins and authorship of these tools. New work in the exhibition focuses on recent forms of communication technology which function through human touch and the traces and marks we leave on our touch-screen devices. A series of wall-based reliefs, Untitled (touchpad) 2012-3, map the swipe marks and fingerprints from the artist’s phone and tablet onto aluminium and glass; a diary of his haptic explorations. In entering the installation, visitors become part of the sensory world and also part of a new information network that Jablonowski has created.

David Jablonowski: Tools and Orientations, until 2 June, BALTIC, Gateshead Quays S Shore Rd, Gateshead, NE8 3BA.

1. David Jablonowski, Screenshot 2012, Projector, granite, offset printing sheet, aluminium, spices, leaves, 50 x 82 x 66 cm, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam, Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.