from 06.09.2001 to 29.09.2001
Ulrika Byttner, Thomas Wrede
Looking for Bambi
My work generally deals with metaphors, developing installations where intimate elements, treated as objects take on a general aspect. The term multimedia is used to indicate coexistence between sculptural elements and video, associated with particular areas such as platforms or stages. The platforms are places for individual fictions. They are also control areas where notions like distance and security meet with the facts of social reality and its organisation of desire, maintaining satisfaction at a low level. Security deals with protection and surveillance and at the same time the system seems to generate its own fears and therefore justifying its coercive character.
In my most recent work, a new parameter emerges which is the presence of animal symbolism. In "Looking for Bambi" the animal archetype takes the place of an exchange value. It is a structural element of transport between the public, common sense and the intimate landscape.
As in a crime scene, what remains of Bambi, the dog and the hunter are disposed on the platform, creating a waiting room where something might or should have happened. In this situation of absence and presence "Looking for Bambi" induces a doubt about the relation predator / prey. “Looking for Bambi" is a possibility of fiction staging out personal mythology into collective drama.
There is a strong link between the human and my fascination with artificiality; objects become scenarios and they are almost always substitute objects. Video is an intimate part of this artificial existence. Images in motion are like immediate objects of consumption, without depth or history. While objects spring directly from the reality principle, the electronic material of video might facilitate the emergence of phantasms.
The birds stand in the air and scream. Epitaph for 15 small birds
For many years, Thomas Wrede photographed the Wewerka-Pavillon at the Aa–See in Münster. For many years, his camera captured the work of other artists in this large glass show-case. He circled them at every hour of the day, in every light, continuously searching for the optimal setting. Sometimes he noticed a dead or injured bird next to the glass panes. Nothing else. Until one day his eyes caught a white shadow in the light of an oncoming car; a minimal trace of dust, tiny bits of fat, secretions, blood and feathers – a barely visible breath without form or contours. In the bright light, the dust gave way to crevices and shreds. The sun painted a cruel miniature on the glass.
Wrede had to look very closely to realize that a split-second, the impact of a bird, had been captured in time here. Fifteen photographs, much more than mere exposures, resulted from this observation; making the moment that occured long before the exposure visible, is aided by the quiet, unspectacular remainder of an abrupt, often deadly shock. It is in the nature of photography to capture split-seconds. The great photographers of the early nineteenth century literally saw an ‘imprint’ of nature in the photograph. Wrede was, with all empathy for daily animal tragedy, fascinated by the delicate variations of a myth of the birth of photography. In his pictures, the decisive moment lies long before the camera has access to it. The momentous, the photographic – the “imprint“ – is thus doubled, if you will: involuted. The photograph stresses this medial precision.
At the same time an almost magical process, that extends further than an eight-fold enlargement, begins. From the fleeting to the transparent dissolved trace, a picture of dangerous liason is created and gains a perplexing presence. I do not know how, without chemographic manipulation, Wrede achieved this. How he reconstructed the birds’ bodies, their movement, dynamics, concentration and curvature. How a bodiless phantom suddenly takes form yet remains immaterial. How a tortured, vulnerable and oversized memory is corporeally projected as a luminous vision before a black, cosmic background.
Every photograph is an unsentimental memento. A silent scream that is cautiously, almost tenderly inscribed in the foundation. Every photograph is expressive far beyond the purely documentational. The dark ground gives the deadly moment weight, drama, graduation, almost monumentality.
The horrible moment appears reconstructed yet surpassed in a strange manner. The result removes itself from the sensational fixation on an animal catastrophy. Would it be going too far to associate an epitaph for fifteen dead birds that are resurrected in the photograph? As mentioned already, Wrede’s work reminds me of the early photographers’ dream to bring nature to self-portrayal. Almost all pioneers from Ni?pce to Henry Fox Talbot proposed the idea of a ‘nature imitating’ process. Ni?pce: “Nature itself leaves an imprint on the plate.“ – for which he proposed the term “Physautotypie“, which means self-imprint of bodies. The plate camera of the previous century should capture what would occur during a direct body imprint: more than the eye can behold. This strategy of imprints influenced the photography of the nineteenth century, as the strategies of enlargement do in our century. Both are essential in the work of Thomas Wrede. Both are artistically translated: imprint and enlargement that allows the imprint to be legible. Once again the great Fox Talbot from his book “The Pencil of Nature“ written in 1844: “A magic effect of photography takes place when the photographer discovers things that he does not observe with his bare eyes while examining his photographs.“ Therefore, Wrede is in the best tradition of photographic curiosity, without using the camera voyeuristically.
The remark, that he has therefore established a monument for fifteen small birds sounds much too pompous and sentimental. I nevertheless place it at the end.
Manfred Schneckenburger: Epitaph for 15 small birds. Revised Opening-Address in: Light, Botho-Graef-Art Award of the City Jena 1998.