Is the string quatuor Transfigured Night by Arnold Schönberg “pure Wagnerian Quatsch”? That’s how video artist Nam June Paik would describe it in 1977. He had “improved” the music by pressing the disc from 78 to 16 rounds per minutes, making it a quarter to its normal speed. Swiss artist and performer Dieter Roth answered in 1979 with his own edition by restoring the original tempo. Improved Tele-Vision, Cornelia Sollfrank’s installation, brings a new dimension to the controversy.
In 2001, Cornelia Sollfrank found herself in this lineage of avant-garde artists by proposing her own version of the work, her own vision of the controversy. Improved Tele-vision is an online work of art in the form of a website. The first space, a “studio” whose interface represents a turntable, is interactive. The turntable plays Transfigured Night in its original version. The spectator is invited, using the control buttons, to modify the play speed while it plays. The second space, the “gallery,” contains portraits of different artists involved along with their claims about their personal motives.
Improved Tele-vision offers a critical and ironic look at the world of art and artists. In a capitalist society where everything, even works of art, become merchandise, it raises questions about the artist’s creative practice by offering each visitor the chance to propose a personal version by modifying the speed of the piece and personally becoming a new author. It is an all the more relevant a reflection in the digital age when copies and downloading allow us to easily get ahold of works and trouble the standard notion of copyright. She thus promotes Paik and Roth as the precursors to a new practice of creation.
Cornelia Sollfrank (1960-) is a German conceptual artist, hacker and researcher known for her early engagement, starting in the middle of the 1990s, with online art and cyberfeminism. Her artistic and academic works often take on the question of copyright in the testing of new models of artistic provenance particular to the digital age, in the pursuit of all types of artistic appropriation, and in the deconstruction of myths about genius and originality.