(*1984) she lives and works in Vienna. Michaela Putz studied Art & Science at the University of Applied Art and Communication and Political Science in Vienna. In her works, she is interested in the self-image of humans in times of ongoing virtualization. She examines the reflections on the surfaces of contemporary communication technology, searching for the contrast between the warm and alive human bodies leaving stains of fat and dirt on the sleek and cool surfaces of the screens. In her photographic works, she captures and transforms the smudged traces we leave on those screen through our bodily interaction with these machines. Through the reflections, layers are being added to create images of mystical black mirrors. Her works have been exhibited in various shows internationally, including: Ars Electronica Festival Linz 2018 (Bildrecht Gallery Space), TIM NOLAS, Künstlerhaus Wien, WUK, WL4 Art Space in Shipyard (Dansg, Poland), Angewandte Innovation Lab (AIL), VBKÖ, Blütengasse 9 or BETON7 in Athens (Athens Photo Festival 2018). She received grants from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and got awarded with the Förderpreis für Bildende Kunst Burgenland 2018.
The Infernal Machine is a bomb that could go off at any moment. A danger that lies in the dark; even though we might know about its existence. Like Oedipus - who knew about his prophecy, but exactly fulfilled it unknowingly - we wander in the dark. In Michaela Putz’ words “we are blind and we are being blinded, as he was.”
In the dark. Like our portrait on screens, lured by technology and prone to merge with virtuality. Is there a danger in feeling attracted to all these digital surfaces reflecting back onto us? Is it a real threat to lose connection to everything lively around us? Will we give up being human (whatever this means) to neglect our bodies, the bodies of our lovers, the body of nature and live on as bodiless creatures in the cloud? Is this a prophecy that we might try to avoid but fulfill it nonetheless?
Michaela Putz takes a closer look at idealized images reflecting on screens; in this case our self-images on smartphone screens. An interesting phenomenon of the selfie culture is the number of selfies that have been taken in front of the mirror while using a flash light. While taking these images must have obviously aimed to produce a good self-portrait, they show a flash instead of the person’s face. Even though this picture contains an error that leads keeping the image to absurdity (a selfie without a recognizable representation of ‘self’), these images are still being shared on social media channels. Isn’t it funny that our smartphone is producing pictures and serves as a mirror at the same time?
"Mirrored Landscapes, Imprinted Memories"
In early 19th century, the Claude Glass was a common tool among picturesque artists: A small, convex-shaped black mirror that could fit in the pocket and helped to frame the beauty of a scenery. Nowadays, our small black mirrors are our smartphones, on which the surrounding reflects itself. Taking these pictures was a step back in my past. To be seen on the photos is the hill behind my family’s house where I used to spend a lot of time as a kid. Nowadays, I usually don’t go there. I only look at it from the distance. Some paths we don’t walk anymore.
I took the photos while they were reflecting on my smartphone screen. And so it became one with the traces I left on its surface – fingerprints, fat and dirt. The landscape of my childhood looks distorted and smudged. A bit unclear, out of focus. The way my memory changes my past. I usually take pictures to remember. Later, I can look at them on my smartphone. Or share them on instagram.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have a smartphone to help me remember. No need to capture anything, no need to share. I was so immersed by this surrounding that I thought I remembered it clearly. But then, we all leave our imprints on our memories.
And so the past changes.