WERKSCHAU IX - FRIEDL KUBELKA
from 22.06.2004 to 29.07.2004
Friedl Kubelka Bondy
Dr. Monika Faber
The camera cuts through time and space inevitably by choosing the moment of the photograph and the perspective. Each photographic picture splits the river of time, separates a ‘before’ from an ‘afterwards’, that are not represented. The enclosed image space refuses its surroundings, simply cuts them off.
Friedl Kubelka’s work is a continual discourse with these immanent specifications of the photographic medium – here in the retrospective, which encompasses so much of what she has not yet shown, it becomes particularly clear. The fact that most of her work is directed at first sight against these restrictions, that they speak of waiving such obligations and exclusions, lets her preoccupation become only the more clearer.
Friedl Kubelka’s most well-known works, the Daily or Yearly Portraits, almost insist on evading the pressure of the non-recurrent moment, the singularity of the time of the photograph, through repetition.
By their sequencing the individual photographs win a temporal dimension, it seems. But pictures that are created one after the other do not result in a film – and a "report" with its suspense-creating moments, the illusion of a "plot" would then again speak of a spontaneity of photographing, which Friedl Kubelka does not trust, cannot trust in.
No "action" is carried from picture to picture, but flowing time and the agreement of the rhythm of the photographs created between photographer and model, a rhythm, which can take both involved to the limits of the bearable: Not just a clipping, but many cuts – do they become any less painful? Or should we relent to the association with a cut in live tissue, which is repeated multiple times for scientific comparative purposes? Friedl Kubelka’s method has something analytic about it, something of scientific precision and thus also distance from the "object" of its observation; this can also be determined in those works which were created long before her decision to pursue studies to be a psychoanalyst. But we shall not let ourselves be deceived: The stringency of Friedl Kubelka’s concept cannot be compared to a Valie Export, which, in the same period, was an important artistic concern for the extension of the spatial and temporal possibilities of the camera. Export’s concepts are defined in such a way that the personal execution by the artist is not necessary – which would be unthinkable with Kubelka - her operational presence as counterpart to the model, as someone there to note, is indispensable - is part of the concept.
When she was asked to photograph municipal buildings for a book project, Friedl Kubelka quite consciously looked for a possibility to develop a similarly precise, disassociated photographic technique.
It took her some time to come up with an idea of how she could transform the photographic rhythm of the "Portraits" into a rule of equidistance, which would allow her to avoid the clear, unique angle by connecting the products of many angles (and concomitantly times): Again she insisted on the form that prescribes the concept, but took liberties in the implementation: The passing of time between the photographs only apparently describes the duration of the path between the individual camera angles – which the viewer at first sight experiences as such. The variability of the lighting conditions points, however, to the fact that hardly regular time intervals can have lain between the moments of photographing. But to recognize this, we ourselves must take some time to look at the architectonic montages of the artist, follow their hypothetical way along the buildings, how they let the gaze slide upward ever further.
Friedl Kubelka has devised this method almost contrary to her original training: Her training at the Graphic Training and Research Institute had to be "product-oriented” as preparation for her work as professional photographer; the goal was to produce "exciting" pictures that were easily readable and lastingly impressive. The fact that many years later, when she was developing a concept for a photography school herself, she did not demand this from her pupils but rather specified complexity and intensity, belongs to the broad field that Friedl Kubelka measures her work in as psychoanalyst, artist and teacher and constantly expands. Add to this the fact that she, contrary to other graduates of the Graphic Training and Research Institute who pursued an artistic career – did not principally want to detract and detracted from photography as a profession. The fact that the complex results – such as her attempts at fashion photography – did not correspond to the usual conceptions is not all too surprising. Here, too, she placed photographs - that were taken consecutively - next to or against each other, in order to give the model more space and time. Such a procedure could hardly serve the quick grasping of the fashionable props of the pictures; apparently Friedl Kubelka lost sight of these as well with respect to the women who agreed to model for her.
But also the single frames, which show people from Friedl Kubelka’s environment, relatives or friends, admired film producers whom she met in the course of the years, never convey the feeling they were created out of a moment: Friedl Kubelka avoided (and avoids) apparently almost in panic the idea of the "decisive" moment, that was enforced during her training period like a doctrine for enlightened photography with the camera and that postulated the rapid visual apprehension as (also) ethical realization. But the fact that she does not consciously try to keep her pupils in the "School for Artistic Photography” from such a method speaks in favor of her openness.
This cannot be so easily imagined: respect for the opposite is one of the fundamental characteristics of this artist, who at the same time creates space for the "model", as it defines and specifies a physical and mental relation to the artist: Time and space of the pictures noticeably measure the flowing lifetime and paced off space of the artist, whose presence becomes strikingly clear in this way at the exhibition at Fotogalerie Wien, although upon her own request none of the large sized "Yearly Portraits" are present in the retrospective. This almost physical presence of the artist within, at first glance, an exclusively conceptional method and the possibility of encountering herself and others without coming too close to them in a voyeuristic manner, must appear special at a time when proximity and a fast moving lifestyle control the field so evidently.