Primavera Installation View

Installation view, Primavera 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
© the artist, Photograph: Alex Davies

Primavera 2012
4 October–2 December
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Primavera 2012 was curated by the MCA’s Anna Davis and brings together the work of Dion Beasley (NT), Benjamin Forster (WA), Anastasia Klose (VIC), Todd McMillan (NSW), Kate Mitchell (NSW), Teho Ropeyarn (QLD) and Justine Varga (NSW).

Primavera is an annual exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art for Australian artists aged 35 years and under. The primavera exhibition series was founded through the generous benefaction of Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM and their family in memory of their daughter and sister Belinda.

Works ranged from highly autobiographical performances to more oblique strategies where ‘the self’ is transformed into a fictional persona, represented by an animal, a computer program, the trace of an action or even a pile of nuts. Humour in the face of failure and an acceptance of the comic absurdity of life were other ideas explored in the exhibition as well as themes of darkness and illumination, circular time, the haziness of memory and our ability to conceptually travel through the past, present and future. The works covered a wide range of artistic practices and sensibilities, from drawing, printmaking, film and video, to performance, installation, digital media and photography.

A conversational experiment with Leigh Robb, 2012

A tiny bit of context before the deluge of nonsense:

A 500 to 800 word essay about Benjamin’s practice was commissioned for Primavera 2012. He asked Leigh Robb, both the curator at Perth Institute of Contemporary art as well as a close friend. Over numerous coffees and a few beers they discussed alternate strategies for approaching the essay, wanting to do something experimental but accessible. On the right is one of their experiments which never made it any further than Leigh’s lounge room. The simple premise was to use the statistical algorithms of the work Discourse, but rather than using the source text of Marx or Smith, they would feed it all the words ever written about Benjamin’s practice, and then instead of having a conversation with its own perverted logic, they would open it up to Leigh Robb’s input. This is a brief excerpt of a conversation between Leigh Robb and all of the published words on Benjamin work (as of august 2012).

a conversation between Leigh Robb and all of the published words on Benjamin work, 2012

INPUT: drawing and machines .
OUTPUT: embody that process he said .
INPUT: that process of making visible .
INPUT: or invisible
OUTPUT: more than a semantic content the graphic elements of our natural urban habitat thus constitute an almost imperceptible horizon within which and against which something like communication or representation may happen .
INPUT: so how do communication and representation coexist .
OUTPUT: drawing .
INPUT: so is drawing a form of language
OUTPUT: computer code .
INPUT: computer code is a language .
OUTPUT: code .
INPUT: code is language .
OUTPUT: in a row of gargantuan photographs on the idea of reclaiming these lost stories or objects these earthly physical experiences .
photography isn’t central to your practice .
OUTPUT: automatic .

INPUT: automatic imagery through code
OUTPUT: printers pouring out long ribbons of text one composed of words between karl marx and adam smith s the wealth of nations as the input material .
INPUT: benjamin’s dialogue machines are also drawing machines
OUTPUT: utterly primordial .
INPUT: drawing is primordial and benjamin attempts to program this intuitive process .
OUTPUT: forster is hoping his latest drawing machine that was programmed to draw and has programmed receipt dispensers that discuss marx .
INPUT: benjamin is interested in analogue things
OUTPUT: documented on long white receipt rolls that tumble across the floor in forster s studio were beautifully drawn dog headed masculine bodies which lay beside pictures cut out from health and fitness magazines tentatively underlining the contradiction between the natural male body and the wealth of nations .
INPUT: this was when benjamin was studying cynicism .
OUTPUT: jacques derrida noted more or less in passing that there is a clever conceit and a common view .
INPUT: philosophy in artistic practice .
OUTPUT: forster s art is incisive albeit its incisions are the effect of a work entitled discourse .
INPUT: discursive drawing machines .
INPUT: anti drawing machine .
OUTPUT: that was programmed to draw from observation .
INPUT: but that is incorrect the machine was programmed to draw from code .
OUTPUT: from observation .
INPUT: no from benjamins own system of catelogrizing drawing .
OUTPUT: economics and excess .
INPUT: benjamins recent machines depart from drawing to analysing language and dialogue .
OUTPUT: where to write meant originally to scrape or to scratch on a clay tablet with a contemporary dancer for his project he realised that we are fairly cynical here .

Notes on the Particulates, 2012

In ‘Notes on the Particulates’ (2012) an old dot-matrix printer has been hacked to print tiny constellations of text on a loop of paper. This generates an automatic essay and demonstrates an ill-formed and unrelenting struggle to understand language through language, in language . All my machine-based works are thought experiments. Notes on the Particulates explores the role of accumulation in the formation of meaning. Starting as an empty loop of paper, the printer endlessly re-distributes fragments of Gilles Deleuze’s writings on language from Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense. At first fragmentary, as the text builds up it shifts into legibility. As time progresses this legibility is superseded by nonsense, which is in turn transformed into visual forms, reminiscent of clouds. Eventually, the pulverised and ink soaked paper gives way to its frail materiality: The paper jams – breaks – halts – spasms… Silence. Repeat. The ideal perfection of machines and words is betrayed.

Primavera 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Photography: Robbie Karmel

Drawing Machine (Output = Plotter), 2008-12

Installation view, Primavera 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
© the artist, Photograph: Alex Davies

what is drawing?
Defining a concept is analogous to drawing a boundary line between ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’. The problem with concepts such as Drawing, and more generally Art, is that whenever a boundary is drawn, upon closer inspection the boundary seems inadequate. It either excludes something essential, or else it includes the extraneous.

Benjamin Forster’s Drawing Machine project can be summarised as an investigation of drawing using a specific system-based methodology. This project has two concurrent aims: firstly to explore ideas about drawing, and secondly to raise questions about the authority of reason and logic as methods of understanding.

This is not an investigation of any specific style of drawing, but simply drawing as the act of making marks on a surface; how these marks are made in relation to one another and, most importantly, what knowledge is necessary in order to make such marks. This investigation centres around his attempt to program a computer to draw in a way that is distinctly human, rather than stylistically digital or mechanistic. It is important that his program simulates the human characteristics of drawing because it is exactly the human quality of drawing that he has been attempting to understand. Benjamin believes it is only through comparison and contrast to human drawing that his machine’s drawings reflect the inadequacy of systems to capture the infinite detail of the world.

relevant [ <09 10 11 12 Drawing Machine ]

The Process

Step 1: Look at my own drawings.

Step 2: Formulate formal procedures that encapsulate my ideas about drawing.

Step 3: Express formal procedures in computer code.

Step 4: Compare the resulting machine drawings with my own drawings.

Step 5: If machine drawings = my drawings then STOP, else continue to step 6.

Step 6: Refine formal procedures.

Step 7: Goto step 3.

Note: This machine will never produce the same drawing twice.

Drawing Machine (Output = Plotter), 2008-12
Primavera 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Photography: Robbie Karmel

relevant [ <09 10 11 12 Drawing Machine ]

Discourse, 2010

This work is the result of an inquiry into the process of conversation based purely on statistical probability. The transcript actively spilling forth from the two receipt printers is a hypothetical dialogue between the two classical economists Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

The System.

Each sentence is constructed from the statistical probability within a source text that any given word follows from another. The two source text used are Karl Marx, Capital, Volume II: The Process of Circulation of Capital, and Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book II: Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock.

Starting from scratch the first word is randomly chosen based on its frequency within the source text. Words with a higher frequency of occurrence are more likely to be chosen then words appearing less often.

The next word in the sentence is then randomly chosen from all the words that follow the proceeding word. This choice is informed by the frequency of those words occurring after the preceding word/s within the entirety of the source text. Then the next word is chosen based on the preceding two words, and so on. It is important to note that this specific instance of the system is limited to a maximum resolution of three preceding words. This process continues until the sentence ends. A sentence is ended when there is no word within the source that follows from the preceding word/s, or given a series of words there is a high probability that a full stop, or equivalent symbol, occurs next in the source.


The system of conversation is very limited. There are only two agents within any conversation. The agents take turns in talking. When one agent talks, the other listens until the end. There are no interruptions.

One agent is randomly chosen to begin the conversation. It constructs a sentence from scratch as describe above. When the sentence is finished the listening agent responds.

A response is constructed by searching the sentence received from the other agent for words or series of words that occur within its own source text, or vocabulary. It then selects between these based on the probability of potential words that follow within its source text. Words or series of words that have the largest amount of possible continuation are more likely to be selected then those with fewer. Once selected, the agent then chooses the first word of its response using the procedure described above.

This process is endless.

This work has also been reproduced as a 180 page book, “Karl Marx and Adam Smith: Dialogue. An inquiry into conversation through statistical probability“. Indefinite edition.
Resale price: $49.95

Discourse won the Non-Aquisitive Prize at the 2010 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award.

relevant [ 10 Discourse Rational ]

Discourse (video + transcript)

Discourse, Primavera 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Photography: Robbie Karmel

Adam SMITH: to have been always exported by foreigners who gave in exchange for something that had been purchased with it but only to one or other of those four ways are themselves productive labourers.
Karl MARX: several big branches of business.
Adam SMITH: industry or of certain districts of the country could absorb and employ will return upon it almost as fast as they were emptied.
Karl MARX: until after three weeks are up that is to say in the sphere of production.
Adam SMITH: in general idle and poor.
Karl MARX: capitalists.
Adam SMITH: of money being necessarily regulated by what can commonly be given for the use of the loans.
Karl MARX: borrowed land and capital borrowed by the industrial capitalists employ their capital to pay for labour power and thereby to maintain it.
Adam SMITH: increase very considerably the annual produce of the land and labour of any country which is employed in agriculture not only occasion like the workmen in manufactures the reproduction of a value equal to the revenue of all its dealings.

relevant [ 10 Discourse ]

return to the top