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Verena Konrad


On an exhibition by Thomas Feuerstein at the Tyrolean State Museum Ferdinandeum, 4th July to 2nd September 2007



In the the course of the nineties, Thomas Feuerstein developed his artistic method of ‘conceptual narration’, in which various media are deployed, from drawing, photography, painting, sculpture all the way to installation, video, Internet, and radio play. The method combines facts with fictions, and raises the question of dogmas and paradigms, forming the basis of orders and systems. It is the relation between individuality and sociality, above all, ruled by stories and confabulations, that forms a latent thread through Feuerstein’s works.


For the exhibition at the Tyrolean State Museum Ferdinandeum, Thomas Feuerstein has chosen the figure of the trickster for his protagonist. The mythical character, appearing as rogue, knave, storyteller, and crafty grumbler devoid of morals and norms in numerous myths and narratives, disturbs familiar orders, destabilises systems and social structures. In Feuerstein’s exhibition, the principle of the trickster appears in three different shapes, namely ‘politician’, ‘daemon’ and ‘parasite’.

The politician is the trickster of order and organisation. Derived from the Greek polis he originates from the interplay between individual and society. In the context of the exhibition, the political trickster appears in new works from the series ‘Körperlose Organe’ (Bodyless Organs). Starting out from molecular models, Feuerstein designs a sort of ‘social physics’ or ‘political set theory’, in which the individual, as a singular ball, becomes the basic building block for constructing sculptures. The objects remind us of clouds of gas, taking on shape and temporary form according to the ‘social state of aggregation’.


In ancient Greece, the word daimon referred to the allocation and distribution of fate and was regarded as a universal life principle, causing either order or disorder. Heraclitus’ Ethos Anthropo Daimon (i.e. ‘The character of man is his fate/divine purpose’) points to the daemon’s power to decide either on the happiness or unhappiness of man.

Since the twentieth century, finally, daemons, as technical helpers in everyday processes, have come to infiltrate our lives. Since the sixties, daemons have been a commen terminus technicus in computer sciences. DAEMON (disk and execution monitor) denotes automated processes running in the background of operating systems and server programmes. DAEMONs serve as allocators and distributors of data and pieces of information, and they monitor and control countless processes of everyday life. Their power results from the invisible shadowy existence of micro-processing, deciding on working or not-working. Automatisation and cybernetic self-monitoring are proof of the present-day daemonisation of society.

The principle becomes clear in the installation ‘Botcafé: Daimon Coffee Server’ (2007), governed by DAEMONs or their derivatives (Bot, Crawler, Spider). If a search engine’s bots visit Feuerstein’s website [], the Coffee Server serves up a cup of coffee. The IP addresses, furthermore, are decoded into colour values (RGBA), whereby they leave graphical traces, which are then visualised by a computer programme. The room-filling installation ‘DAIMON’ (2007) sets the work of DAEMONs in relation to the uncanny atmosphere of the traditional idea of daemons. A darkened room houses the allegory of an electronic daemon. Four sculptural objects stand or hang inside this room, connected to each other by a multitude of black control wires. At each visit of a bot, the daemons enter the objects, cause them to vibrate, and set in motion a sound carpet programmed by the musician Chris Martinek.


In the culture of ancient Rome, daemons were genii and as such the guardian spirits of man. In the term genius they have been kept alive by Western philosophy and in the Romantic cult of the genius the word came to epitomise the ideal artist. Originally, the parasite was a temple servant who was responsible for the administration of sacrificial offerings. He fed the daemons and gods and later became a metaphor for an unequal exchange, in which symbols are exchanged for physical matter. The parasite turns into the philosopher and artist, who exchanges his work for food and material goods. In biology, the parasite is an organism that lives off another organism. Represented by a tapeworm inside an intricate glass intestine, the parasitical trickster takes on a bio-technical role with Feuerstein. What is interesting here, above all, is the interrelation between parasite and host who, in the case of the cattle tapeworm, is man himself. The parasite lives in a paradisiacal state, in which inside becomes outside, intestine becomes world, and the body becomes intestine. As a figure of change, the trickster permanently alters his appearance, comes up with surprising possibilities, and becomes the ideal narrator for ‘conceptual narration’.

The installation and sculpture works in this exhibition are further put into context by drawings and graphical works. These depict various aspects of the trickster principle and, in their interplay between image and language, e.g. NLP – THE NEW TOURETTE – SPIN DAIMON (‘DAIMON NLP’, 2007), appear like picture material from a fictitious scientific encyclopaedia listing various manifestations of a species, a species living inside our heads and our cultural programmes, and controlling our thinking and our desires.