ABSTRAKT IV year: 1999,
Abstract IV
BILDER Nr. 157
„Contributions to a Discussion on a Kind of Abstract Sculpture“
An Interview with Herwig Kempinger, by Maren Lübbke

M.L. I would like to begin with a question directly related to this picture catalogue (booklet), since you have decided not to show any pictorial material - although that is the purpose and intention of the picture catalogue - but to only include text. Why?
H.K.: My work doesn’t lend itself too well to reproduction. And I have always seen this as an advantage – even if this may sound funny – because I believe it is a good thing that a piece of work can only be shown in its true presence. I don’t like the quick leafing-through. Although being able to reproduce a work of art well may be practical. But I don’t begin my work with this in mind, it just ends up that way – they end up being hard to reproduce. And anyway, I like the connection that exists between my work and these abstract exhibitions - it is very interesting to only be able to get an impression of a piece of work, for a change, by reading about it.
M.L.: You decided to show a series of your works at the exhibition, which are two-dimensional in their formal appearance – independent from whatever of the room may reflect itself in the work. But you normally react in your work, to a great extent, to the situation of the room, which cannot be portrayed in just a photographical reproduction in a catalogue. I thought that this might perhaps also be a reason why you decided not to show the pictures in the picture catalogue. Or is the installative thought instilled in the two-dimensional work itself as well?
H.K.: When a piece of work functions properly, then it changes a room, if it doesn’t function properly, then the room changes the work. It is interesting to be able to transform rooms with slight alterations and take them to another level. Even the pictures – which in this case have a clear limitation – in contrast to an arrangement in a room, in which one is initially prepared for a room situation – do so, when mounted on a wall. You just do it differently every time. As if you had a certain number of elements at your disposal, which are put together differently according to a given situation – and which function onto themselves and deal with the room in a certain way. That is, if one would like to call it that, an installative character, but I wouldn’t typeset it that strictly.
M.L.: To come back to the pictures: they are a piece of work that develops into a sculpture through mental proximity.
H.K.: That applies to all of my work and isn’t just a specification of the group of work that I will be showing.
M.L.: Perhaps we can now define the term ‘sculpture’, which gives your work another meaning: for it appears, to begin with, a little strange that an artist should come up with the idea to take away a sculpture’s three-dimensionality and transform it into a two-dimensional structure. I am aware that sculptures nowadays in no way have to definitely be bound to the 3-dimensional realm – the representatives of conceptual art, at the latest, have proven that sculpture can manifest itself in forms other than the traditional structural forms – in the mind, for example…However, you don’t follow a conceptional purpose and challenge the viewer to think, but are concerned with the moment of evaporation and have once used the term ‘water vapor’ – as an ideal sculpture.
H.K.: I am pursuing a personal problem, for I have discovered long ago that three-dimensional works can never be optimally presented. There is a different room situation every time, a different lighting situation, one can move around, in short: one is dependent on the given circumstances in a given room, and they are usually not very ideal. That is why I move three-dimensional objects by means of photography into the two-dimensional realm, because in this two-dimensional area I can control the parameters. Ultimately, I became more interested in - and am interested in to this day - the fact that the two-dimensional surface is the contemporary form of space. One can assume that the perception of the world or reality today mainly passes through the two-dimensionality of the media: TV, film or, in the past few years, through the internet - the computer. Thus we take up information about our environment, our social surroundings first and foremost two-dimensionally. Furthermore, what made it interesting for me to work with two-dimensional space is that space has in a certain sense become an anachronism, because it is exactly that which we have the least of – an endless resource which has become a privilege, which only a few can afford.
M.L.: You have opened a referencial relationship, that includes social and even critical phenomena..But in the end the purpose is still to open a transcendental space?
H.K.: Which is of course a purely imaginary one.
M.L.: Really? That isn’t necessarily clear to me. If you photograph a white surface on which shadows appear, that at first I do not even see until I let my glance wander, only then does a tangible space open up – even if only fleetingly. Or do you mean imaginary in the political sense, in terms of developing even societal conditions?
H.K.: If you look closely, then the space in my work is naturally purely imaginary. It is not illusionistic, it is an imaginary space. I always try to avoid a form of illusionism. That is why there is no perspective or anything similar – these common classical aids that help create space on a surface. The space is indeed imaginary, for it exists only in your mind. The surface remains in reality a surface. We could also, of course, say that everything that the brain perceives and records isn’t imaginary at all, but that is another topic…
M.L.: Okay. In this context, painters like Marc Rothko come to mind. Although he works with a completely different medium – do you see yourself as working in the same line of thought?
H.K.: All these labels are only interesting for the discourse, for the work itself they play absolutely no part - if we are dealing with painting, photography, film, or anything else, it doesn’t matter. Of course I believe that as an artist one can only work with one vocabulary, which upon coming across disagreement, supports its ‘arguments’ with what is happening at the moment and with what has already happened. One is concerned with it, because that is simply the area in which one works. One could just as easily say that influences originate from a certain formal process, or from certain music that one has heard, from certain places one likes to visit or from books that one has read. Oftentimes the work is however in contrast to all these things. I know many people whose work is very limited, but who, for example, love unbelievably opulent music. It is not always the case that someone who works sparingly lives a frugal life – it is often the exact opposite. Otherwise one wouldn’t be able to stand oneself.
M.L.: Would you say that there is an absurd streak in your work? On the one hand, you use the medium of photography – as an objective medium – but on the other hand digress from what is said of photography, and that is that it is a copy of reality.
H.K.: That isn’t quite correct. Everything you see in my work really exists. I can only use the tool in ways other than it was meant to be used and the underlying characteristics of the tool: that something must have been in front of the lens, to have been brought onto the picture…
M.L.: That is true. Although you drastically digress from photography’s documentary character.
H.K.: I just concentrate my attention on very simple elements…
M.L.: If I understand correctly, then it is more a concrete work than an abstract one.
H.K.: I still believe that there is no such thing as abstract photography – as a strict term, although these terms are boring anyway, really so boring.
M.L.: I am less concerned about questions of style than with the thought: is there a picture that portrays reality – not in the sense of its authenticity but in connection with the question – whose parameters are decisive in making a picture realistic. A painted picture is always put together out of abstract surfaces, even if it appears realistic in the end. I am rather more interested in finding a way or line of argumentation that would resolve the categorisation of abstract versus real. And not because I find categorizations fundamentally useless, but because they allow new parameters in the perception of pictures to be brought into the discourse.
H.K.: One can of course pursue this to absurdity: the nicest holiday picture is really an abstract arangement of molecules, that have arranged themselves in such a way so that we see Mama and Papa in the water. In the end, it depends on the distance of the eye of the beholder from the object. But I don’t know if this method of seeing things is very meaningful, because then one inevitably ends up in a kind of physics, that doesn’t exactly make the approach to art or to a particular work any easier. On the contrary. In the field of art it is more meaningful to see as big structures and connections as possible, instead of dividing them into smaller and smaller parts. The thought, “How do I even look at a picture?” distances you from that which you are looking at – very fashionable in the past 20 years. How do I perceive art, how do I look at something, how do I see something. The process becomes more thematicised than the thing itself – which was also at one point interesting and completely legitimate, but one can then not wonder if the original object of contemplation is left standing or disappears. What is really interesting in this respect was already said in the first half of this century – for example of Wittenstein. What we are experiencing now is the embellishment of the then fashionable icing over.
M.L.: Aside from the discourse theory: The “Troubled Walls” are therefore clearly asking the viewer to let their glance wander?
H.K.: Continuations of perception or interruptions.
M.L.: That only reflect the picture? Or what about the surroundings?
H.K.: The picture should identify itself as picture, it has to declare itself, but should also engage in a kind of interchanging relationship with its surroundings.
M.L.: Formally the procedure is thus: you seal off the surfaces, and place thick glass in front of the photograph so that the surroundings are mirrored in the picture. The room continues endlessly. There are no bounds.
H.K.: But there is a limit.
M.L.: There is a limit in that the thick glass brings about an almost tangible character.
H.K.: Exactly, through this hermetic sealing it defines itself clearly as something distinguishable from the background.
M.L.: In your work, are you primarily concerned with the breaking up of certain perceptual categories, with the creation of a new or specific perceptual experience? Or would you – especially with the backgrounds of your arrangemental work, in which you, for example, worked with the corners of a room (Brigitte Huck spoke enlighteningly of the “turning inside out” of the perception of the room) – also say that that is a statement on the White Cube and all that which clings to the room? Are you also trying to comment on a certain exhibitional situation, or more precisely formulated: are you criticising institutionalism?
H.K.: I am mostly interested in changing a given room situation with the least amount of ‘operative’ measures, with very small or with the least possible amount of interference, to turn something familiar into something unfamiliar. In some arrangements the corners of the rooms were very suitable, because that is an area that has never really been used in art. The corner is somewhere where there is no place for art. On the other hand, one can produce extraordinarily many things there, because right there the room defines itself as a closed space, one can break it open right there. My work is necessarily always a kind of attitude towards that which a visitor of a certain institution expects, when he enters a room. I found it interesting, while working with the arrangements that concentrated on the corners of rooms, that they ignore the part where art usually takes place: the first glance falls into empty space. But the white wall, this empty space, was very much a part of it. A clamp is stretched and one cannot tell whether that which is inbetween doesn’t belong to it, but it naturally becomes part of the whole. In the moment when we place things in areas where normally no artistic creations are expected, people do not see anything at first glance - they look around and think: the room is empty.
M.L.: But you don’t see yourself in this context as being in the same category of artists who would like to criticize institutionalism with their work?
H.K.: Perceptual experiences are far more important. I can, in the moment where I think of what I’m doing, only place myself in the position of the viewer. I can’t place myself in the position of the institution, or better: I could, but that doesn’t interest me. I am much more interested in the individual who walks in there to look at it. That is the position I can identify myself with; I know it well for I am constantly in that situation. It is simply closer to me. This may be a na?ve approach, but I can come to grips with it, because it is familiar to me. I have to know the positions with which I deal with very well. I have to know of all the possible disappointments or expectations, so that I can deal with them. I don’t work for an institution, I work – I’m saying this naively now – only for those who look at the things I do. And this shorter path interests me a little more. I don’t really care about the institution. Institutions are a little like what garages are for cars. But if you drive at 160 kmph on the highway, you wouldn’t be thinking of the garage, either.
M.L.: I have seldomly met an artist who says he works for the viewer. I am aware of the theory of receptional aesthetic in the way art history has developed it, but most artists – at least those I have met so far - would say they work for themselves, or they work because they have a mission to fulfill, which mostly isn’t connected with the viewer directly, but follows so called “higher goals”.
H.K.: We are all observers. You are familiar with this yourself. We are constantly going to museums and gallerys, and it isn’t that the artist is never an observer. The artist is more of an observer than an artist. That is a very familiar role. In the end, it is the instance with which one has to deal with. An institution is something impersonal. It has a certain status in society, which says: art does or doesn’t belong in a museum or gallerys should be commercial or informative. We can discuss this of course, but to be honest it really has nothing to do with my work. That is just too distant for me.
M.L.: Would you say that you take on a romantic attitude with your work?
H.K.: Where did you get that idea, that there is a romantic attitude? Where is the romantic element?
M.L.: Oh boy…a romantic attitude would maybe be one about a process of internalization. It came to my mind because your photographs are perhaps about the attempt to create a boundless room, a room that has endless width and depth and in which one can fall into or disappear.
H.K.: Does one disappear in it? I think one is thrown back at oneself. Each picture is a kind of interface, where part of you goes in and something is thrown back out. Ideally both differentiate themselves from each other a little, so that the original structure is slightly changed (altered).
M.L.: If it is about erasing the boundaries of a room, about width and depth, and also about eternity, about a transitional process (see the cloud motive in your work) and the topic of self-evaporation; and you try to help light, in its elements but not in its tangible appearance, back onto itself – then it has less to do with dematerialisation (that too) but more to do with a spiritual attitude, that I now find more or less spontaneously romantic.
H.K.: I find how you have interpreted this as romantic rather interesting. I would never have thought of that. Yes, it’s true of course: it is about thoughts of disappearing boundaries, of clear delimitations, of spatial emotions without clear bounds. It irritates or bothers me when someone says this or that begins here and ends there. And then one walks to the other side and it still begins here and ends there. These clear definitions of space, that encompasses the three-dimensional object, bother me. One can say this surrounding is ideal, that one isn’t, but in the end it has nothing to do with it. I am interested in the opposite: how do I manage to eliminate these boundaries. If it were possible to create a sculpture without clear boundaries in space, I would probably do it. It just isn’t technically possible yet. Therefore all my two-dimensional pieces of work are actually nothing more than contributions to a discussion on a kind of abstract sculpture. Contributions to immateriality, that are unfortunately only able to be realised through material things. And that’s why it is perhaps better to talk about the exhibition, because in this way one is able to get closer to the picture than if it were printed in a catalogue. Maybe that is romantic. I don’t know. Maybe this running after things is romantic. Because at the same time I know that these attempts on a surface, these two-dimensional propositions can always only be, like I said, contributions to a deliberation. These are just thoughts thereon. What does romantic even mean?
M.L.: If I were malicious, I could say: a romantic attitude is one that passes concrete circumstances in life by, an unwordly attitude. In respect to your work, I could say: if a spacial demarkation succeeds, then that is a take off to another dimension.
H.K.: And if one would interpret it affably?
M.L.: Then I would perhaps say: a romanticist does not cling on to things. And in respect to your work: Taking off to another dimension isn’t a bad thing.
H.K.: Would you call an artist like Turrell a romanticist?
M.L.: Perhaps. Or actually maybe not. For although I admire Turrell very much for his arrangements that free you from concrete movements in a room, and where the light physically disturbs your whole body’s usual movement mechanisms – the afterpictures bother me; those that you take with you out of the arrangement and that literally show you that you have been subject to an optical phenomena that can be traced back to irritations on the retina.
H.K.: What we’re talking about then is something quite different. Apparently it is always about a discoursive process. That one sends something out and – like I have briefly mentioned before – something comes back, that changes us a little, influences something. It is more about a discoursive topic, in that one does not fall into a known bottomlessness; instead, something comes from the other side. That is the ideal case in a work of art. If the information that comes back at you shakes your structure a little off balance, pushes you a little out of the position you’re usually used to. That would be ultimately the ideal situation, be it intellectual or emotional. Nothing better than that, but unfortunately happens seldomly. That means, the examination of a work of art is actually always a very personal one. Because when one looks at it, one naturally changes it completely. Maybe this whole view is unbelievably romantic.
M.L.: The romantic as a form of self-referential sharpening of perception. One looks at something’s appearance and the room opens. And in that I can test my own perception or it gives me something else back. That would then be the process, that takes place in that room…
H.K.: And when you leave, is all of that gone?
M.L. Maybe you will leave and continue thinking on a different kind of level. Either you think: wow, that gave me a special kind of kick, that was - so to say – transcendent; or you take it to an intellectual level, after the motto: what photography is capable of doing these days?!
H.K.: And where is the area of transcendence in that?
M.L.: Distancing oneself from the material? Or rather: drifting into space…?
H.K.: That word is so strained. When I hear transcendence, I always see meditating yogis or something before me. That doesn’t interest me at all. But yes, if it takes us away from the material – great! The material is only important as long as it is a vehicle – a means of transportation for something else. I reject material that is of primary significance. I can agree with you in the sense that, if transcendence brings me away from the material character.
M.L.: What is your experience with working with the computer? For with the latter, there is no tangible material anymore - only abstract data.
H.K.: I like the computer, because you can do everything with a certain calm and composure. You sit infront of it and have all the time in the world, you can save if you want to continue working at a later time. What is scary is the endless number of options, and that you can always delete things or simply just do it differently. That is a problem one has to learn to deal with. But at some point you calm down. And stop making decisions that are usually made with a finality. Criteria like good and bad become different. And I find it rather comforting that all that is just saved bytes, and that one can continue moving in the direction of immateriality.
M.L.: It is interesting that you have decided to work with a clearly decipherable motive, of all things, in your computer work: clouds. In photograhy many things lead to ‘nothing’, ultimately, to create volume – and at the computer you scan in clouds – a real classical motive! – in order to work on them digitally. If it were vice versa, it would sound a little more logical, more understandable…
H.K.: It is interesting – everyone always thought the earlier works with light in the late 80s, that are simply dark and light, would be easy to do on the computer. Then I tried it…and funnily enough: it never worked. It was always too calculated. The disruptions were missing that made it more interesting. It became too perfect, seemed unbelievably smooth to me. The work that is done with the camera and light can never be achieved with such perfection. They just work better. It looks completely different. This small difference was important to me.
M.L.: What was the motivation behind the cloud motive?
H.K.: There too it is about temporary volume. The cloud is for us the quintessence of the temporary, it is there and then gone or completely changed. I found it enticing to work with something like that, with something so fleeting, which one can still bring into a shape. And at the same time it is very important to me too – and this is a political moment we haven’t spoken of at all yet – the concept of beauty. I know that this is the ‘unword’ in art. Under no circumstances can it be beautiful. That is something that interests me very much, not just in art, but also in our life in general. In products, that often look unbelievably sexy – they often have a kind of seductive beauty that I find exciting, and I find that exciting in art as well. Interestingly enough it was the Americans, mostly, who dealt with the concept, perhaps because the longing for it is more manifest there. In Europe it is an ‘unword’, that should not come up in relation to art. That is something that is always in the back of my mind, something we should not forget. But maybe that is also unbelievably romantic.
M.L.: Right, beauty in art is actually not even discussed, is considered taboo. Beauty is at the most a category, that one can use to describe the love of self and egocentricism in society in the late 90s, the aestheticising of life. In the sense of: does the shape of my fridge still fit with my momentary lifestyle, and does it match my surroundings (and that includes the scene in which you move as well). But in my art discourse, the term beauty – making it physical in a picture - doesn’t appear any more. In this respect it seems logical to work with the picture of clouds on the computer, and also to escape the accusation of naturalism.
H.K.: I never leave there. I think I have never done a work that doesn’t directly have to do with what can be found or seen behind this door. I don’t actually know why, but it is so. The most essential thing is that the computer remains invisible. I really believe that is the decisive Manko in the most part of computer art. That it is always explicitly seen as computer art, which is completely meaningless. It isn’t about the tool, but about the thing itself, and that is exactly where the possibilities of the computer lie - that one can work with it without seeing it.
M.L.: On the one hand, the problem with the computer is that, as a medium, it is placed very firmly into the foreground, that’s right. On the other hand, it seems to me, the fact that one can create relatively good pictures relatively fast with the computer, that funnily enough do not last for very long, is also problematic. And I am still not clear if it is because the medium is still not being dealt with professionally or simply because an artistic piece of work must oftentimes identify itself as computer work straight away… working with this medium is evidently not a matter of course yet. It can’t be avoided, it must always identify itself. It actually only becomes interesting when the computer-generated picture no longer places such importance on the medium itself.
H.K.: If it gets a certain matter of course like everything else and doesn’t just come with a label, if it becomes just a tool, an instrument in the creation of pictures. If how to do these things isn’t a secret science anymore. We are already on the way there. Just as with the work on the internet. The internet is a priori not of quality yet and most of the work doesn’t function either; one asks oneself why it is in the internet if it can be printed in a catalogue. Here, too, one must learn how to use this medium naturally with its specific possibilities.
M.L.: Even if your work is about dematerialization: doesn’t it worry you that your work may lose specific qualities through the use of technical media? The cloud pictures, especially, appear very opulent, as if they express the wish - in contrast to the extreme reductionism that usually accompanies your work, although they stay true to your theme of the demarkation of volume - to bring back a bit of nature into the picture.
H.K.: Water, for example, is something wonderful. I watch fewer sunsets than this surface in constant motion. If one can achieve something like that in the field of art, that would be fantastic – a surface, that constantly remains the same but is never identical, which one can stare at for hours, because something is constantly changing and something is constantly happening, and yet not very much. I believe it changes you a little. Seen in that respect, water surfaces are very subtle precursors to the TV picture. An analogy can still be found in the white static – propably the best program. But in the way in which nature is presented to us – and with that we return to the beginning of our conversation, when we were talking about the mediatized perception of reality: one often sees wonderful landscapes or cities in movies, but the camera clips only give a certain perspective: this part is cut out and that part is left out and so on. In the mediatised world, nature is always portrayed as ‘bigger than life;’ and when you are really there, then everything is all of a sudden just ‘life’. That is why, for me, the computer stands between the camera and the picture. That’s how I can interfere with my creations. Nature itself is actually always disappointing.
Exchange exhibition: part 2
BILDER Nr. 156
Art-Photography from Austria : Six Individual Positions

On the beginning of Susanne Gamauf‘s work Herbarium there are similar strategies as which they are used by museums of natural history like to find, collect and arrange things to get a high grade of information. But it’s not to get a solid methodical consolidation - it is her interest on shape, color, structure and the confrontation of the photographic moment with the scanning artistic look when she draws: „I pull the petals off, I take apart, my eyes look along those new appearing information and then I arrange them on a sheet transformed into the two-dimensionality.“ The pleasure in artistic discovery, interpretation and use overlap with scientific research.

Maria Hahnenkamp traces the ambivalent definition of the female in its symptomatic everyday quality. With her methodical references to photographic or filming processes such as projection, (serial) repetition, fragmentation, cut-out, montage, superposition, index, positive and negative, she makes the transforming and also aggressive potential, which lies in the (unconscious) imaginary processes, comprehensible. She succeeds in conveying this transforming quality as a process of abstraction and at the same time in capturing it in the real, material object. The photographic image of a piece of draped fabric, the scraped off surface of a photography or picture fragments, which have been sewn together by machine in a new arrangement, are indexes of a physical contact with the body and at the same time represent it in a continuously shifting projective form. (from: Silvia Eiblmayr: On the Dialectic of Methodical Perception in Maria Hahnenkamp. Catalogue M. H. -Vienna/Salzburg 1996)

Dieter Huber‘s Klones are computer generated photographs. His simulations also work emblematically, even if their sense seems to have become lost. Since there is nothing in writing, the viewer is tempted to read the pictures in their double meaning: first as a composition of signs and second as one whole single object closed within itself, whose sense, however, remains a mystery. Unlike their forerunners in art history his pictures are no longer mirrors of a perfect order of nature - i.e. an order commensurate with the human mind, but are now the expression of an obvious disorder that, paradoxically, displays itself as if it was perfectly in order. (taken of „Notes on Dieter Huber‘s Works by Bernd Schulz). Peter Weiermair, director of the Rupertinum in Salzburg writes in „Visions of a Different Possible World“: No other contemporary artist has employed advanced techniques of computer-generated photography in presenting moral, aesthetic, scientific and religious aspects of change in our „nature“ in such a subtle and dramatic manner.

Michael Michlmayr comments his work Finestra as follows:
Finestra results on the intention of making the cameras view-finder, which normally is only the limiting window every photographer has to look through, become the focus of attention. This „picture“ always shows a selected part of the whole scene, and so I combine the detail with an additional level: those which is in a right angle to the image itself. The subjects mainly deal with the parameters of time, light and shape - the basics of photography. (Michael Michlmayr / June 1998)

Klaus Pamminger's works have their starting point in the querying of conventional habits of seeing and perception. “What is the meaning of the images that evoke everyday things and how can perceptions be initiated and made more acute? [...] In his environments the real and the depicted merge with the imaginary. Visitors at the same time become participants of the spatial exhibition course and the artistic staging, and spatial and temporal reference levels merge with each other.” (Sabine Schaschl) / Stella Rollig in her speech to -out of standby-: The idea of simulation, that in the epoch of new media always is an intermediate level between experience and reality, that we actually pass through the world by its representatives, ...(is something, Pamminger concerns with since years now) [...] I think, two analytic and strategic methods, which seem to be of present interest in today’s art, get linked. First is the querying of the place of art. The white cube -the exhibition space- opposite these places, the attempt, to place art in midst the everyday; ( Eikon 26/27-99; p. 53).

As Susan Sonntag once pointed out, man in the industrialized world defines his existence in terms of pictures which become aspects of reality, whereas primitive peoples are afraid of having their pictures taken for fear of losing part of their selves and hence part of their reality. In our culture, however, we require a host of photographs which taken as a whole offer evidence of our existence. By using SLIME, a children’s plaything, to create his portrait photos, Robert Zahornicky delivers a resounding blow to our trust in pictures and our yearning for a semblance of beauty. The very transience of pictures corresponds to the material transience of the species which exist only briefly, before their ephemeral materiality dissipates. A photograph of a situation or condition as such (of those slime covered and subsequently doctored faces) merely offers a picture of picture that has been processed, whose claims to eternity per se appear futile. The mischievous use of a children’s plaything in all its hues immediately takes issue with the seriousness of the contemplative process. (from: Species, Notes by Sabine Schaschl, 1999)
Exchange exhibiton, part 1
texts by: Lisa Le Feuvre

BILDER Nr. 156
Is this Home or Elsewhere?

There is something about the way that we define ourselves that cannot be removed from an idea of place. Our individual histories are firmly related to the world around us, and in order to be elevated from nowhere to somewhere a specific location needs to mapped onto experience. Being aware of relationships between ourselves and the surrounding environment is important to our negotiation of everyday life. It is difficult to make sense of our visual culture without taking into account how the context that we inhabit influences our ways of seeing.
Like the finger print or the bullet hole, the photograph is an indexical sign that cannot be separated from the physical presence of what it is attempting to signify or represent. When we look at a photograph we understand it in terms of what we do not see as much as what is revealed before us. Far from existing as an objective document, the photograph is mediated through a web of contextual information. In this play between what is present and absent, understanding the photographic image is contingent, on the image and viewer's locations. The Reflective Surface is concerned with investigating this relationship through six diverse strategies that turn space into place through an anthropology of home and elsewhere.
Bringing together six artists from two different countries, The Reflective Surface is a project that moves across and responds to a number of different locations (Finland, Sweden, Austria and England). Through an interrogation of place and identity, each artist's practice draws on the viewer's own sense of location. Anna Brag's ever growing work Prototype is in the process of constructing a new community, the members of which can clearly be identified through their physical appearance. In each location where the work is shown, six women are invited to have their hair cut and dyed into a specific style. Documented and geographically pin-pointed, it is impossible not to try associate the differences that separate this physically similar tribe with the individuals' home locations. There is something similar at work in the images presented by Clifton Steinberg. His objects and images focus on the ways that we seek to represent ourselves in public, be it through our own appearance or through the way we mark out our own domain. Threaded in front of the view of the landscape that we can see through the gallery window are a series of plastic key rings designed to hold an individual photograph - something to remind you of home. Steinberg has filled these key-fobs with images of home, endless images of home, that reveal how individuals alter their habitat to make it their own.
Shizuka Yokomizo too deals with the way that individuals make their mark on their own domain, but this time the gaze of the camera and viewer is met with the self possessed stare of the one who calls this place home. In this series, Strangers, Yokomizo makes contact with individuals whom she will never meet, and enters into a contract to photograph them looking out onto the street from their own domestic space. Taken in a number of different locations that The Reflective Surface vists, a sense of territory confounds the voyeuristic content of these images. The power of the gaze firmly lies with the subject who turns the camera's stare into a controlled portrait of themselves. These moments of self reflection are also apparent in Martyn Simpson's cut outs. Simpson's images shift from lunar landscape to domestic confines as we try make sense of what we see before us. These abstracted forms reflect a moment of complete self immersion, that moment of staring into space, of looking at the very fabric of the surrounding building. Far from abstract, these are very concrete images of the walls of the contemplative cells in Le Corbusier's monastery La Tourette.
In many ways the photograph will always be a self portrait of the image's author, as it is a subjective and partial view of reality that is being re-presented to us. Although appearing in his own images, Per Hüttner's series taken in the prime sites of consumerism draw attention as much to the surrounding urban space as to the incongruous constant figure. Clad in the latest sportswear, Hüttner is depicted running a ceaseless marathon from place to place: like the Bechers' anthropology of industrial capital or Steinberg's cataloguing of domestic facades, Hüttner's shopping malls seem to point to the minutiae of divergence rather than the first sight appearance of similitude.
Dislocation and displacement are fundamental to a sense of home: we need to recognise elsewhere in order to recognise what is here, and to identify ourselves. Intrinsic in this are the ways in which specific places -be it home or elsewhere- are presented back to us. This subjective view is a product of wider cultural concerns that are constantly shifting in response to the zeitgeist. Bengt Olof Johansson's work mediates on structures of representation that form both the codes of artistic practice, and the way that we understand the world around us. Utopian representations of landscape, and transit between home and elsewhere are brought together in a construction that makes the visitor to the exhibition aware of how integral their own presence is to the completion of the art work around them. Johansson's work encapsulates the concerns of The Reflective Surface : it questions the how we read and negotiate our surrounding environment.

Lisa Le Feuvre
BILDER Nr. 155
Norbert Meier
The arrangement “Bielefeld/Theesen 12.7.1995, 11.30 - 15.30 Uhr” is an extension of my earlier spherical panoramas on the aspects of ‘direction’ and ‘movement’. The previous network of single photos laid side-by-side on a flat surface is taken to another level through a visor. On this level, movable panes are lead diagonally through the screen of photos in two directions. From pic-ture to picture, viewed one after the other, they complete a rotation of 45 and 22.5 degrees, respectively.
The surface arrangement consists of several panoramas; their suspen-sion varies according to spatial circumstances. In each case, however, there are two variations of suspensions: 1. In which the panorama depicts an overall view of the area; the pictures are ordered in the se-quence they were made. 2. In which the pictures are ordered accord-ing to the system of rotating panes, which are laid out horizontally. The beginning and ends of both panoramas can theoretically be com-bined into a cylindrical shape, vertically or horizontally.
An additional depiction of this work dates back to 1996/97 “Flächiges Kugelpanorama, gedreht” (“Flattened spherical panorama, rotated”). The pictures are not only ordered on a flat surface in the sequence they were made, but are also rotated according to the angel of the camera.
Finally, the arrangement was completed with the addition of the two photospheres “Drehende Fotokugel” 1996/97 and “Fotokugelzoetrop” 1999, that depict the surrounding area on their outer and inner surfaces using the same motive or system.
Norbert Meier

Peter Seipel
„RASTER-FAHNDUNG“ is the exciting search for human pictures in the microstructures of surfaces of postcards from around the world. It is also the search for historical and contemporary printscreens on postcards originating from various countries and differing time peri-ods.
Technique: Postcards that are found in fleamarkets, antiquity stores or in private households are examined with high-resolution micro-lenses. With the support of a lighting technique specially developed for this purpose, the tiny motives are subsequently photographed.
Result: In contrast to the traditional Blow up – the granular structure of the print, not the grains of the film, appears in the pictures. The lighting occurs on diapositive-film or on colour-negative film of me-dium sensitivity and fine granulation. At the subsequent developing of the prints, no further manipulation or processing of the pictures takes place.
Content: The coincidental figures of a postcard motive become the main ‘actors’. Their appearance (fashion, hairstyle, accessories, and used cars) represents the time variables in the face of tradition (archi-tectural monuments, landscapes, beaches, stretch of water, etc.).
The resulting pictures of the program “Raster-Fahndung” are selected finds that can no longer be associated with the original picture post-card. Usually, the photographer and viewer of a postcard have, as a rule, mainly focussed their attention on the principal theme. People and vehicles were usually only included as an ‘enlivening element’ in the designing and examining of the motive. The coincidental moment of the original illustration creates poses that are never prearranged, but are absolutely natural. The pictures hidden in the microstructures therefore portray– similar to the prints of an automatic camera – ‘fro-zen’ moments of every day life. Thus, the photographs are of an al-most documentary nature. Furthermore, according to aesthetic crite-ria, “Raster-Fahndung” follows the geometric and colourful composi-tions in the microstructures, in which chance also plays a part. Through microphotography, the print technique with which a postcard is produced in series stands in the foreground. Granular, linear or dotted screens - and out of their overlapping resulting Moiré-structures at the offsetprint - are also brought to stand out through micro-photography; just as the colour impressions are dismantled into the three complementary colours yellow, magenta and zyan, along with the colour black. The typical colour design of print work is as equally important a time variable as are people’s appearances. It was defined by the then dominating aesthetic of the film and print colour chemical industry. By laminating the surfaces of postcards, colours were able to remain authentic over the centuries. Coloured black-white prints are, however, subject to more or less stronger changes (bleaching, colour-tone-shifts, etc.), as are postcards with matt surfaces, that often display signs of use such as tears, folds or dirt.
Presentation: The glossy prints are mounted on 16mm thick acrylic glass-planks. The surface of the prints remains uncovered. The planks raise the pictures away from the wall, giving an impression of depth and weight. In this manner, the two-dimensional photograph becomes a three-dimensional object– similar to a carton postcard. The plank structure, visible from both sides, additionally symbolises the screen-shaped search for human pictures. The pictures should be viewed from a distance of three meters, where they will also be more perceptible. Only when the viewer steps a little closer, do the pictures dissolve into their colour and screen structures. The pictures can be viewed, depending on screen size, in various formats of 13x18 to 50x70 centimetres.
Peter Seipel
ABSTRAKT III year: 1999,
abstract III
texts by: Maren Lübbke

BILDER Nr. 154
The photographic work of Inge Dick (born 1941) is to be understood as a consistent continuation and expansion of her conceptual paintings, respectively. Her painting, which she has pursued since the early 70s to the present day – has to do with making colour formations visible, that are influenced by light and its change over time. Her painting can be described as a methodical measurement of light, which is portrayed in her paintings almost exclusively by the usage of the colour white. Only at first sight do her paintings seem monochrome, but as the viewer takes a closer look, the finer nuances and the colour palette found in white, which are revealed through the reflections of light and that were captured on film by the artist, become visible.
Inge Dick tries to get to the bottom of colour realities through her light measurements. For in the knowledge that our perception is subject to conditioning, that lets colours oftentimes appear corrected, her work is conceptionalized to allow light appearances to be experienced in the concrete and in the present time. Her work is not a “mimetic translation of things in the perceptual world”, but is an attempt to portray the ‘immediateness of reality’ in picture-form (Heinz Gappmayr).
Parallel to her painting, she has also been pursuing photography. In general, Inge Dick works with polaroid material, that is especially suitable for her ‘field of research’, as light and its appearance in colour is immediately and distinctly visible. In “Ein Tages Licht Weiß - 13.6.1996, 5.07 – 20.52 Uhr”, for example, a total of 99 polaroids were exposed through a timely series of daylight intensity, that depict a part of a white wall. A decisive factor in the accentuation was the exposure meter: as soon as a subtly differentiated light-value of plus or minus 3 to 4 tenths of a second by unchanged camera focus was given, a picture was taken. This work showed that similar variants of what Inge Dick had to achieve through exact measurements in her paintings, can be depicted with photography: the density of shades of colour through time. The photographed white surface, according to lighting, portrayed itself in an amazing color spectrum of white to the various shades of blue to black.
In addition to her work with the polaroid camera, Inge Dick photographs the blue of the sky. In the latter, she once again displays the extent of her artistic talent with her work on the divine, to want to capture the substance of light and its constantly changing appearance over time. For that which is actually abstract – light and time – Inge Dick tries to make tangibly experiencable through her exact impressions. The blue of the sky – as the color of depth and distance, but above all as the color of light and shadow – is portrayed in Inge Dick’s work once again in all its nuances. A sky, that appears as a constant blue in our eyes, is seen in photographs as a continuous colour sequence of light blue to dark blue.
Inge Dick brings this movement through the choice of small extracts to light: through the allotment of pictures as colour sequences do the changes in colour – influenced by light - become at all distinguishable and visible for the eye of the beholder.
Only recently has Inge Dick begun screening her photographs of the sky with the help of a digitalized picture preparation. The rough screen of the sky doesn’t only show various shades of blue, but – similar to her paintings – an entire palette of various colours, as well. These works are on the one hand a commentary on the colour spectrum which, due to conditioned perceptual experience, often appears different than it really is. And on the other hand, this series of photography lays down the structure in which colours are produced. We are not just dealing here with an attempt to make the immediateness of reality tangibly experiencable, but also with a self-reflection of the medium that Inge Dick uses for her work. Making the photochemical process visible to the viewer, allows the viewer to see that photography – a suggestive medium of objectivity of the pictured reality– is also a medium of the transformed picture and perception of reality. The experienced reality in photography is therefore also a reality that is conveyed through the medium.
Most importantly, however, Inge Dick’s work is about “the portrayal of light through the passing of time – and vice versa – the passing of time with the help of light.” (Eugen Grominger)

Maren Lübbke
Georgian Photography
texts by: Natia Tsulukidse

BILDER Nr. 153
Photography – A Mirror

“Photography – a mirror” which reflects and captures everything within its frames. Its subject is “reality”, but a reality in which the camera unexpectedly finds elements both fantastical and unreal. A variety of national characteristics and individual expression are revealed through the differing viewpoints and conditions under which this “reality” is observed and captured.
The history of Georgian photography begins in the first half of the nineteenth century and is largely characterised by documentary photography. Thus this work forms a precise, richly detailed record of contemporary life, customs and fashion.

The first Georgian photographer to receive a mention – Alexander Roinischwili – put together a collection of archeological and historical works, which, besides its documentary value, is of great artistic worth. It includes contributions from other contemporary artists such as Ermakov (whose collection already included around 2500 negatives and 3000 “stereopaare” by 1901). Artists Sanis and Engels, among others, are also worthy of note.
By 1894 the “ Society for friends of photography Tbilisi” had come into existence. This society held its first independent exhibition in 1895. Later the group changed their name to the “Photographic society of the Caucasus”. This step on the part of Georgian art photography proved a great inspiration for future development (leaving aside the small steps backward occasioned by pressure from various political regimes).
In the following period the photography of Guram Tikanadse stands out, as do the numerous exhibitions and successes of the Photoclub “Georgia” in photography competitions all over the world.

The “short” but significant history of the second national photoclub “View” began in 1985. Its members Yuri Mechitov, Guram Tsibakhashvili, Dato Sulakwelidse, Boris Schawerdiani, Marian Kiladse, Dsano Demetraschwili and Gia Dschawelidse differed so sharply in their viewpoints and goals that the club broke up after a short time. Various independent groups and movements eventually emerged in its place.

Natia Tsulukidse

The exhibition in FOTOGALERIE WIEN presents the two most important movements and groupings in contemporary Georgian photography.
Documentary Photography: Yuri Mechitov, Gogi Tsagareli, Irene Abzhandadze, Natela Grigalashvili.
Art Photography: Guram Tsibakhashvili, Georgi Sumbadze, Nikoloz Tsetskhiadze, Oleg Timchenko.

Yuri Mechitov’s work reveals that docomentary photography is fiction - that real documentary work is only ever a stimulus. The documentary aspect is inevitably influenced by the artists’ personality , “choice” and artistic interpretation.
Gogi Tsagereli camera picks out fascinating exceptional cases, unexpected truths, whose reality often breaks through the boundaries of human feeling and memory. Photographic time – the past brought into the present – and eternity are his themes.
The series of photographs by Irene Abzahandadze were taken in the refugee settlement Sabirabad; the whole settlement appears to be constructed of thin cardboard. “The Journey of a Foreign Eye” in the foreign town, presents something extraordinary, something exceptional in the life of its inhabitants. They look into the lens and seem, through it, much happier, stronger, more beautiful; but at the same time the lens reveals the pathetic hovels and hopeless living conditions – “My House is my Castle”.
The works of Natela Grigalashvili were all taken in a particular local setting. Her work could be described as studies of the existence of a small simple village. Her depictions are accordingly easily comprehensible; her photographs themselves resemble distant memories.
Art photography gives the photographer the freedom to introduce elements of illusion as well as reality. This basic truth of art is clearly shown in the contrast in the series “Explanations” by Guram Tsibakhashvili. The synthesis of text – very precise laconic dictionary definitions – and photography points out the contrast between feelings and precise explanations.
Nikoloz Tsetskhiadze works mostly with photocollage; many of his photographs resemble a coloured labyrinth – man in the labyrinth is not looking for truth, but his childhood.
In the works of Georgi Sumbadzi illusion – which only exists within the photographs themselves – is the most important component. His pictures do not depict any “full scene” but are characterised by small details. Fragments of surroundings, which, through their compositional arrangement, have the power to reveal much more.
The photographs of Oleg Timchenko are self-portraits in which the artist denies his own individuality and which also break territorial and spatial boundaries. “If paradise exists anywhere, then it is equally distant from any point in the world” is the both key message and the title of his work.

Natia Tsulukidse
ABSTRAKT II year: 1999,
texts by: Maren Lübbke

BILDER Nr. 152
Kilian Breier (born in 1931 in Saarbrucken) is one of Germany’s most important contemporary exponents of the “non-appliance based” school of photography. From his earliest artistic work in the 50s up to the present day he has worked within the conditions and with the opportunities that “camera-free” work dictates or provides. In this endeavour – and this seems to me vital to the understanding of his work – he has neither been driven by a strict concept of what his work should be, nor given himself over to free experimentation, but has trodden a middle path between the two. Breier’s generative photography, with its minimal use of traditional photographic form, is based on a systematic and methodical approach – following a rational principle of visual examination - using rows, for example, to create a structured, rhythmic moment. But it also remains open to “mistakes” or chance, which are an integral part of the work and which can be traced back to the reaction of the material during the actual creation of the work.

Breier advocates the emancipation of traditional technique from the individuality and materiality of the conventional photographic process. He is for the opportunity to direct picture form in a more conscious way. The cause of this questioning of the fundamental medium and material–specific characteristics of photography was definitely the realisation that camera-free photographic art enables a direct reproduction of reality in the picture, while motive-dependent camera work automatically entails a “portrayal” of reality – a problem that has accompanied photography from its very beginning. Breier’s complex artistic work is guided by the questions “What is the medium?” “What is time?” and “What is chemistry?” (Thilo Koenig) and according to Meinrad Maria can be grouped into five periods:

Photograms and chemical graphics first appear in the 50s. Already in the early photograms we can see the artist’s desire to structure, which later manifests itself in the development of the grid pictures with mathematically regular structures and which takes Breier into the circles of the Dusseldorf ZERO group in the 1970s. The ZERO group aimed to objectivise picture technique and to work directly with light as part of the structuring of the picture. This approach has always been important to Breier, although Breier tries to stress the process of creating art and alongside the light factor always makes the time factor important - a fact which brings him closer to the kinetic school of art. Therefore it is only logical that Breier continued to work on chemical graphics in the 60s, because, above all other things, these pictures were no longer static or “finished”. The chemical treatment of the surface of the photographic paper with fixative causes effects which lie to a certain extent outside the artist’s control, because of the constant oxidisation process which the paper undergoes when exposed to light. Alongside this process lie the artist’s attempts to spy out light – luminograms are formed, which represent systematic explorations of light effects in photography.

His elevation to the position of professor of photography of the faculty of fine arts in Hamburg in 1966 led Breier into a broad field of media and communication work in the 70s, which nevertheless did not prevent him from pursuing his own photographic work. The chemical graphics remain central to his camera-free work through the eighties and into the nineties. As always the decomposition and process of change which the photographic paper undergoes fascinates him as an expression and documentation of the effects of time. Experience and memory are the central concepts, which underlie these works. They open up for the viewer a real and visual experience of the metamorphosis that Breier’s photographic surfaces undergo above and beyond the basic abstract composition.

Maren Lübbke
BILDER Nr. 151

Maria Haas – Self-portraits 1997-1999

In front of us we see a collection of loud colourful photographs – self-portraits of a young woman.

Maria Haas retires into her work; leaves noisy New York life behind her; shuts herself in empty rooms. Here, within the room’s setting, she dramatises her body and her characteristic props. It is always these props or “finds” which inspire her picture series; meticulously collected, hoarded until – arranged in the room – they provide the context for her person.

While the figure dives into water coloured by feeling, we immerse ourselves with the voyeuristic eyes of the outsider in an alien world. The themes with which the artist confronts us are not “easy”. Maria Haas is both the subject and observer in an examination of religion, sexuality and violence and invites us to share in this introspection.
While the New York works are characterised by shrill colour, the more recent pictures are composed of a mysterious darkness. Maria Haas takes sacred forms and paraphrases these in her compositions with the use of alien objects. The human figure is hardly distinguishable against this background from the (inflatable) doll; colour and light values melt into each other – the roles of the participants seem to be interchangeable.

The artist in the compositions enters into dialogues and interaction with dolls, comics and portraits of the Madonna. Often several sequences of movement are captured in one picture. Maria Haas is a free agent within the confines of the composition.
Maria Haas’ works have no title because she has the ability to express intense feelings and impressions in colours and accessories without resorting to words.

Alexandra Uedl 1999



Sylvia Kranawetvogl’s photographs portray people she has never met. The faces, which look back at us come from the shop windows of fashion stores in various big cities. Disguised by light reflecting off the glass, the faces mingle with reflections of the outside world: shops, people hurrying, the facades of buildings.

The world of advertising and everyday reality meet, illusion and reality melt into each other. In her installation work “Brave” Sylvia Kranawetvogl is working with outsize photographs, video and sound.
BILDER Nr. 150
The temporal context of the pictures and the representation of our historical inheritance are Salvatore Puglia’s field of work.

In the exhibition he adds shadow to the rediscovered images, which often makes them more recognisable than the originals themselves which are often dim and dirty, like memories of the distant past. But one must understand his works more as the capturing of history than as the “art of memory” - like our history they lie between that which was lost – and that which is still in existence, between pieces of evidence and isolated fragments, between that which is shown and that which stays hidden or is even concealed. Consciousness lies on the boundary so that both – image and historical past – can never be observed separately but instead are subject to an aesthetic process.
Puglia’s creative approach involves the combination of a particular theme with a particular materiality. Both elements are free within the constraints of a formal framework, and taking into account a certain element of chance in the combination.
In his most recent work the frames disappear and the actual objects themselves fragment. The remains of an interrupted and incoherent past are reproduced on pieces of natural latex and become the elastic shrouds of a witness without inheritance. * Born 1953 in Rome, he lives and works in Rome and Paris. In 1987 he received his Master’s in history from the university of Rome / 1979-1980 He studied social sciences (Ecole des Hautes en Sciences Sociales) Paris / 1980-1981 College for drawing and printed graphics, Calcografia Nazionale, Rome / 1980-1985 numerous research pieces on history and art history. DMITRY VILENSKY
The Art of Forgetting

A deep frost reveals to the body its future temperature J. Brodski, 4. Ekloge (Winterekloge)

Russian culture is marked by particular attention to death. In view of the complete absurdity of everyday life, death – as a mysterious, exciting journey, which leads to another higher reality – becomes something utterly positive, of the utmost importance – a foretaste of ecstasy.
The most important art is the art of dying. It is not at all the theatrical ritual of leaving this life. It is more about learning to integrate death into life, to seek out and hold onto the traces of mortality – particularly one’s own mortality - in everyday life even in those places where you would hardly expect such traces to exist. That is in fact the theme of these works – a theme which has been explored and recognised in Russian art (from Malewitsch to Brodski, Tarkowski and Kabakow).
As photography is able to cross the boundary between life and death it is a fully unique medium. By reinforcing the existing with the past, it speaks constantly of “forgetting” and reminds us unceasingly of our past. It enables us to experience an incorporeal state - and this is where the real ecstasy in contemplating photography lies.
The basis of my project is formed by photographs, which document everyday life in the streets of St Petersburg. The choice of this city was not arbitrary as St Petersburg is the most lifeless of Russian cities. Her unusual beauty was always connected with a fading, wilting quality, with “forgetting” and emptiness and catastrophe. I was not interested in an abstract portrayal of the city and its historical fate, which has already been more than adequately reflected in art, but in the life of the people in the city, which takes place against a fairly ugly backdrop. In St Petersburg it was much easier than in other places to understand how the unavoidable presence of death is able to alter radically our perception of everyday life. Every scene, however banal, becomes enormously valuable through the oppressive feeling that the fragile warmth of life is ultimately doomed. To reflect this feeling I decided to print these photographs on enamel ovals traditionally used in Russia on the anniversaries of deaths to ease the mourning process. This seemed to me to be the most honest way of portraying a reality, which has “once and for all escaped life”.
In this project the arrangement of the works in the gallery played a special role. It is of the utmost importance that the first impression of an observer is that of an empty room. Only when they have entered the room should the visitors discover the numerous small enamel ovals and the huge semi-transparent works positioned close to the ceiling. A feeling of simultaneous overabundance and emptiness should be the project’s dominant message.

Dmitry Vilensky.
ABSTRAKT I year: 1999,
texts by: Maren Lübbke

BILDER Nr. 149
Mina Mohandes

Mina Mohandes is not a photographic artist. This is not because she practises camerafree photography and not because her work doesn’t draw explicitly upon historical experimental forms of photography such as the photogram. But rather because she is in no way restricts herself to camerafree photography as a means of artistic expression. Quite apart from her photographic work we are also familiar with both her early drawings and her current three-dimensional works, which should be valued to just the same extent as her photographic pieces. For Mohandes doesn’t subordinate the theme of her work to one medium-specific concept. Rather she adopts with great ease various different media in order to treat her theme from different perspectives. Painting, which marks her starting point as an artist, remains her major point of reference. And although today Mohandes makes no use of any traditional painting techniques, her work could be described as painting – by other means. To this extent Mohandes’ works are “abstract” - FOTOGALERIE WIEN’s theme for this year – in two respects. On the one hand there has been a process of abstraction in the sense of an emancipation from traditional artistic media: painting became transposed into another opportunity for artistic expression and thereby transformed. In this way her works defy any simple formal classification. On the other hand Mohandes’ works are abstract in their pictorial expression.

With a supposedly casual gesture she creates a space, extends it, but doesn’t sustain it, rather she calls it into question – that’s how you could describe Mohandes’ oeuvre.

For example in her photographic work a simple stroke on a two-dimensional surface creates a sense of enormous depth. A developed film is lit after the artistic treatment of the surface and produced in various formats. Besides astonishing colour effects which almost suggest a contradiction of colour theory – since on the photo the colours appear fundamentally different from those which are used for painting – Mina Mohandes fills the two dimensional surface “in order to generate spaces. Her lines turn into plastic structures, which adopt a characteristic state of suspense between organic tubes from some slightly spooky future time and computer generated models of a molecular world” (H. Kempinger).

For her three-dimensional work Mohandes uses simple media, not typically used for works of art such as rubber rings – a material which in everyday use is eclipsed by its everyday function and even in its very form has no immediate presence. The artist creates through this anti-art material works which give rise to a relationship of tension between volume and vacuum. For Mohandes expresses in her work at the same time the capacity - or extension of space and its dissolution. On the one hand one could say that the artist succeeds through the accumulation and compression of a material which in itself occupies no space but rather normally encloses and contains space to produce presence. On the other hand the opposite conclusion is equally justified. For the fullness which Mohandes creates consists equally of a vacuum which is inherent in the formal qualities of the material. Mohandes’ works in which rubber rings are joined together into ornamental structures and fixed to the wall with pins take life from the hollows and spaces which arise through their construction. Considered from a distance the material disappears – we perceive the work as a fragile wall painting. Her floor work in which rubber rings are dispersed over the whole work space with the effect of cutting it off, or used to define surface areas while not denying access to surrounding space, create a different if comparable effect. Here material and form are self-referential: the compression of nothingness. In her ball-objects this principle is taken ad absurdum whereby the rubber rings enclose nothing but themselves.

The interplay of volume and vacuum and the sudden incapacity to distinguish between these two factors to force an explicit meaning in the artist’s message seems to me an essential quality in the oeuvre of Mina Mohandes. Furthermore what seems to me to be characteristic of her artistic method is her isolation of one clear message from its casualness and its succinct purpose - its artistic evaluation and re-evaluation, granting it in and through the work concentration and presence, without harming or negating its qualities.

Maren Lübbke
BILDER Nr. 148
For the beginning of exhibition year 1999 and as part of its series “A presentation of works - Austrian artists who have had a sustained influence on contemporary photographic art” FOTOGALERIE WIEN is presenting Leo Kandl - a captivating observer of normality, a master of the moment, who advanced from photographic reporter to champion of an art which tries to approach reality through the means of a head on, unstage-managed photography.
Leo Kandl presents himself as a meticulous chronicler of the banal. With precision and from a relaxed distance he has been pursuing the multifaceted aspects of every day life since the late 1970s. Unobtrusively he tries to document those facets of life which seem too trivial to excite our attention but in their totality make up what we experience as reality: the atmosphere of Vienna, the specific lifestyle of this city, moments of this conglomeration which cannot be comprehended in the abstract – a world which for generations and through the most various traditions and trends has been perpetually reforming.
“Werkschau IV” offers a sample of the most important works in this context and tries to give an overview of his immense ouevre from 1977 onwards. This exhibition encompasses the early Portrait Series – spontaneous polaroid shots of passers-by – the legendary ”Weinhaus” Series taken between 1978 and 1984 and the Street Pictures, snapshots of Vienna en passant. Following his obsessive reconnaissance of the public domain Leo Kandl’s interest focuses from the mid-eighties on the intimate, the private. The studio-lit Self-portraits with Fruit document a playful experiment with the senses. The Museum Pieces like the series From the Fund focus on the collecting impulse. This collection, put together in the early nineties, becomes the central theme and implicit cause of a recent examination of the human image.
Since 1996 the individual has again become the centre of attention in Leo Kandl’s work. The Viennese models – contemporaries found through advertisement – who pose in front of the camera in their own clothes and according to their own wishes, appear strangely ambivalent compared to his earlier works. On the one hand they caricature in their directness the exalted word of models and model photography. On the other hand they represent reality, are images in the classical tradition of Memisis. In their undisguised direct language they show two things, namely that which is and that which we (secretly) wish to be: people who simply and self-confidently form their own individual relationship to the world, their existence within the context of the urbane.

Maren Lübbke