On the Archaeology of Privacy
Robert F. Hammerstiel’s work deals with rarely observed territories of privacy that have not yet been integrated into the public picture, reservations of the civil world in which the ability of self expression – although rapidly diminishing – has not yet extinguished.(1)
Prior to the execution of his individual work groups Hammerstiel conducts a thorough research that one could describe as a kind of “archaeology of the intimate“; in order to be able to find pictures in which objects are no longer subjected to quick usage and consumption, but prove to be resistant, concrete things. Through magnification to human scale and their isolation in the photography studio copied from advertising photography, the objects that have crept into our everyday lives acquire an aura, a certain waywardness that invert the perspective.
Thus, according to Walter Benjamin, what one can call a “dialectic picture” is created, a constellation between estranged things and the meaning of these things through perception.(2) The everyday objects and situations that Robert F. Hammerstiel photographs, are in a way stripped of their utility value through the process of aestheticisation. The process is comparable to the dying off of the utility value, which in the course of their history gives the objects a new power of expression. Their codes and symbol characters are more prominent than would be the case when viewed in a normal context or in a simple isolation as ready-made.
Take, for example, the cat scratching trees. They are firstly practical objects that fulfil a certain function for animal lovers. They serve to protect the upholstery and are meant to accommodate a cat’s need to climb and play. Isolated, as fully lit photographic image and magnified to a scale of 1:1, its peculiar form and the material that reminds of upholstery stands out. The object is clearly identifiable as part of the interior. Even when today’s apartment has very little of the cushioned “sheath of the human”(3), these things somehow still remind of the “Poufs“ and “Confortables“, the furniture of the 19th century with its upholstered material, its cords and cushions.(4) It seems as if the living quarters staged as place of refuge survived in the scratching tree as a sort of fallen national treasure. Perhaps it is also “food” for the childhood fantasy of hiding from the world in a tree-house. One can assume that the objects (which by no means are cheap) did not come to being by mere coincidence or the passing whim of an employee of the manufacturing company. More plausible would be the assumption that a certain professional will to form was at work.
It seems as if Hammerstiel has extended his antennae to catch the background vibrations of the Big Bang of our culture that took place in the 19th century. At the same time he is searching for the remains of archaic pictures, plants and animals as expression of the organic life – an expression of desire, to undo the estrangement from nature, the sea as image of eternity, the ruins as symbol of utopia and of melancholy.
1 see Richard Sennett: The Fall of Public Man, New York 1974
2 Walter Benjamin: Das Passegen-Werk, Bd.1, Frankfurt 1982
3 ibid., a. a. O.
4 Sigfried Giedion: Die Herrschaft der Mechanisierung, Hamburg 1994
Sinje Dillenkofer‘s SUBSTITUTES I, A-F from 1990 are six triptych photographs that not only lay claim on the status of the images, but also ? enveloped in cubic bearers ? are materially raised to objects. The staging of the motifs suggest an allegedly neutral product placement, that blends out contexts and at the same time emphasizes the symbolic value of the respective object. In the case of SUBSTITUTES I, A-F the “product“ is a dog’s urn, a dog beauty competition trophy as well as ? in the centre ? a posing dog.
Each of these photographic objects taken by itself forms a stage in a life cycle ? the blossom of life itself, presumable success and lamented death. Stefan Berg describes Dillenkofer’s SUBSTITUTES in this context very accurately as “a bitter parable of the human existence and their desire for fame and honour and the banal finality of death, that bears the same form as triumph.” The trophy stands forth as a symbol of life, of success and of death, it documents the life of a dog as an equally longing and unavailing pursuit of a fulfilled existence. That this reversal of the existance as creature arises alone from the will and the imagination of a human owner, does not change anything of the logic. On the contrary: when the human creates his substitutes, he is only looking to satisfy the projection of an alter-ego.
Sinje Dillenkofer’s photographic SUBSTITUTES demonstrate this logic “splendidly“. Cold and cynical, the artist confronts us with these projections through which the inhuman dimension of such questionable anthropomorphisations becomes even more apparent. Last but not least the symbolism of SUBSTITUTES II, tiles 1-15 refers unmistakably to the coding of an ideology, which refers to the pure breed just as to the discrimination of the allegedly different. Latest at this stage do Sinje Dillenkofer’s photographic objects reveal a dangerous social relevance. Namely when one traces back the “substitute“ of such a dog’s life to the human image underlying it.
If this human image remains anonymous on the surface of the photographic, the specific character of the substitute is revealed in deeper layers, namely where the projection between real and false, the authentic and the artificial begin to differentiate, to finally come together in a feeling of affection or alienation. The suggestion of stylised beauty repeatedly leads you onto the wrong track, the more so when one reduces the “products“ to what they appear to be: trophy, urn, dog. The actual reference moments of Sinje Dillenkofer’s works disclose themselves only on the level of the variant which also underlies the later RESERVATEN 1-21, the UMKEHRUNG (Reversal) or the cutlery box series. All of these photographic works embody substitute realities in picture form, that never only refer to themselves but always to something else: to collective conditioned valences of status and hierarchy as well as the therein operative processes and projections. SUBSTITUTES display themselves before this background as a type of game of those pyschosocial structures, which representatively substantiate human existence in our western culture.
The works shown are pictures that have all been taken from travel agency catalogues that were used there as examples of happy families on their holidays. Based on these pictures, which are presented to us as small 4-color print photographs from all kinds of travel catalogues, a minimal alteration of the original clearly positive, seemingly desirable and enviable situation of happy communication or devoted play inverts the situation into an ambiguous, open-ended one. This is achieved through the removal of various original reference objects such as drinks, toys, magazines, etc., through digital adaptation on the computer. Scopes of association of different forms are thereby opened for the viewer– scopes of association that infiltrate the original intention of the picture. The attention of the viewer is directed towards the relationship between people, whom no longer relate to one another, however, due to the missing original reference object, but are now relating past one another. In reference to their source, the works are entitled “examples of communication” and are numbered consecutively.
Statement on „Myth of the Everyday“
Exploring the myth of relationships, my photographs are x-rays into an emotionally fractured world. Combining [Mixed between] metaphor and stark realism, the series [describes] draws inspiration from film, literature, folk tales and painting. They are mysterious and enigmatic moments of daily life, suffused with a drama of the everyday. The images explore sexually charged, psychologically intense intimate relations between couples in which there is a nagging unease and directness that describe a haunting sense of loss. Ultimately, love is derailed and people are disconnected.
Acting as both a guide and participant, I am intimately involved in the image-making process. Starting from charged, real world relationships, the self-portraits are both candidly spontaneous and intuitively staged. They are reenactments of deliberately uncomfortable events unfolding before the camera. By photographing the familiar as if it were strange, I blend the previously discrete notions of staged and candid photography: the images are part artifice and part spontaneity. By harnessing this paradox of photography I describe an intuitive yet descriptive sense of how we live today.
The works originated during the production of an English cooking programme.
“Surprise Chefs” is a TV-programme in England that is popular among housewives and elderly people. The star of the programme, Kevin, is a TV cook. The "Surprise Chefs” team addresses shopping customers in supermarkets. With the contents of their shopping carts, Kevin then cooks before the camera in the private homes and kitchens of the candidates.
During the shoot, small features arise on the peculiarities of the people. They become actors of their own selves in the setting of their own home.
Austauschprojekt Teil 1: Künstler/innen aus Hongkong
Essay by Norman Jackson Ford
Border crossings, inter-culturalism, trans-culturalism, travel theory, transnationalism, globalization, de-territorialization, creolization and especially the oft used hybridity; all these terms have been, at one time or another, evoked as a premise for visual art exhibitions and, on a broader scale, have become the dominant mode for the distribution of art, especially that from outside Europe and North America. It therefore, becomes clear that in an arts and cultural exchange project such as Re-Considered Crossings, one follows a well traveled path, with countless ‘international’ exhibitions, biennials and festivals dominating the global art scene. But, beyond the introduction of ‘outsider’ art, moving past the conceptual foundations of ‘border crossings’, what concrete meanings are being promoted here - what premises are being questioned, and being reinforced? This essay will address these questions, with only provisional solutions. It considers the ways in which these projects differs from others with similar premises and relate its themes to the concepts of communities in city space and inter-cultural exchanges, as well as artistic production in Hong Kong and Vienna. In effect, it is an attempt to critique the very terms with which it defines itself. The exhibitions, seminars and lectures presented in this project are, in many ways, yet another series of „cross-cultural“ events - but they will also engage in a critical discourse on the values, meanings and representations tacitly and explicitly created in just these sorts of projects.
Herein lies a paradox, since although we have conceived a project that supports the importance of sharing imagery, as well as promotes the people who produce this imagery from a wide variety of cultures, nations or cities, we are also aware that this is a premise rarely critiqued and considered in and of itself as part of the exhibition process. In short, we intend to destabilize the very foundation that makes this, and other projects possible, not by denying their importance, but by incorporating within our series of events, a critical re-consideration of just what makes „crossing borders“ in the form of inter-cultural exchanges such a dominant mode in the distribution of art today.
Following this, our aim is not to focus on the direct exchange of art between nations or cities, though the project certainly involves a physical exchange of cultural products, but to emphasize the reciprocity of dialogical exchange that is being developed between artists, curators, gallery administrators/owners and other cultural workers from both cities. The logistics of such a series of events, even on a scale as small as this project, requires relationships to be developed, ideas to be discussed and compromises to be made...all of which contribute to the events presented and, in turn, become the objects of our critique.
In order to enable such a re-consideration we had, first of all, to initiate the project as an exchange between cities. Our project follows in the footsteps of many, much larger projects in the last few years, engaging with similar conceptual and logistical issues that were investigated in exhibitions such as Cities on The Move (a large scale exhibition of Asian artists, shown in Vienna and Bordeaux), Inside Out: New Chinese Art (a travelling exhibition of contemporary Chinese/Hong Kong art presented around the US, Mexico, and lastly in various Asian cities) or Polypolis: Art From Asian Pacific Megacities (shown in Hamburg, Germany).
Yet, there is one significant difference between Re-Considered Crossings and those mentioned above - our project involves a reciprocal relationship between Hong Kong and Vienna, not just a presentation of a particular region’s art strategically inserted into another country. Our project is also artist initiated, produced and presented in small, artist run gallery spaces and funded on a shoestring budget. It is precisely these differentiating aspects of our project that tend to encourage opportunities for closer ties, both with the artists/curators and writers involved and with the corporate and private sponsors who have supported these events. While the exhibitions above do implicitly deal with the implications of cultural exchanges, they did so only tacitly and often uni-directionally, leaving the region who produced the artists out of the discourse, or to be involved from a distance and on another nation’s grounds. By contrast, Re-Considered Crossings attempts, through a series of essays, panel discussions, artistic collaborations and lectures, to carefully re-consider what is accomplished, if anything, by such events. Our project will examine three primary concepts; the inter-cultural problematic discussed above, the efficacy and need for fixed (or flexible) labels like, diaspora, exile, hybridity, migrancy and, lastly, the relationships between these issues and the specific communities involved as sites of cultural production. All these terms can apply, to one degree or another, to both Vienna and Hong Kong, and to most large cities in the world today, yet they tend to be employed to describe particular Asian cities most often, especially hybridity and its application to Hong Kong (I will return to this below). However, to begin, a consideration of the specific cities included in this project is in order, to both support the basic motivation for an exchange between these two diverse cities and to, more generally, set a foundation for the critique which, we feel, is implicitly embedded in such a project. Cities can sometimes be seen as separate and outside their nation’s boundaries, for example, New York/USA and Tokyo/Japan. Both these cities are predominantly American and Japanese respectively, yet they have certain qualities that set them apart from their physical locations - nodes of transportation; international cultural events; large, influential and segmented immigrant populations; distinctive urban/architectural spaces; etc. Similarly, Hong Kong and Vienna have ambivalent relationships to their home nations - an ambiguous relationship between geography and cultural separateness. By both fracturing nationalist tendencies with internationalism (economically and politically as well as culturally) and in the deep connections to their countries, Hong Kong and Vienna tend to break down, redefine and reconstruct notions of home, nation and city.
In this respect the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region, the label given to the city after the handover) stands out as blatantly ambiguous. It retains colonial qualities in the midst of post-colonialism, as it moved out of the shadow of the UK only to ‘regain’ its place as part of the Chinese ‘motherland’. In some respects there was no „Hong Kong“ prior to its colonization, its pre-colonial past, buried under trade, colonial domination and today, under a complex labyrinth of trans-national economics and politics, is rarely acknowledged. In a sense, Hong Kong tries to retain a fractured and imaginary pre-colonial identity sourced from the mainland, which is supported by the unconventional, but very real, ‘border’ between the two. Hong Kong is, undeniably, part of China, but it functions in the ambivalent space of the label „one country, two systems“, a space that is continuously negotiated and redefined.
In this negotiated space we can see the work of Leung Chi-wo as exemplary in the way he uses photography and installation to problematically map various urban spaces. His pinhole photographs are presented as negative shapes mapped onto various objects; tabletops, chandeliers, and even cookies. His work, though full of almost manic attempts at placing oneself in a particular time and space, interrupts efforts at this placement, as the architectural clues needed to find ones’ way have been eliminated, leaving only the abstracted shape of the sky to use as a signpost. Leung’s work only allows an unstable sense of place, disrupting what would normally be the photograph’s ability to support memory. We may also consider Dominique Harris’ large scale, color photographs in a similar vein, as they collect moments from vague holidays, yet only partially revealing their locales and the personages involved. It is as if the act of documenting her travels have failed, and in that failure, tend to reveal a complex sense of mobile place and unraveled travel.
As Hong Kong has a surface image that is variously culled and eclectically constructed from its transient mentality and cultural short term memory, Vienna presents itself as a city of tradition and history, appearing, in many ways, as a living museum. However, both cities emphasize a kind of building; in Hong Kong it is generally preceded by destruction, the tearing down in order to build something newer, due to limited land resources and speculative profit seeking. It has only recently made valid attempts at heritage conservation and restoration. Vienna, in a contrary way, tends to focus more on heritage building and restoration, endeavoring to retain its image as a site produced for the tourist gaze, conservatively keeping the city’s image in stasis. Yet, when one moves out of the city center, Vienna has many sites with contemporary structures; the UN center (UNO City), Hunterwasser’s work, modern apartment blocks and the series of bars and restaurants around the Danube canal. For Hong Kong the need to keep all possibilities open, and which avoids any conventional sense of architectural history, leads to a kind of urban „chip planning“, as it is called by Guiterrez and Portefaix, two writer/architects working here. The way the city represents itself is in mutation, in a state of flux, where physical landmarks change and the fa?ades of buildings become, not familiar signposts, but generic markings against a shifting ground. This contrast between the apparent stasis in Vienna, and the visual fluidity of Hong Kong, epitomizes the paradoxical spaces in which the participants in this project are building their ideas, whether images or texts, and moving them from one site to the next.
Of the terms used above to describe these cities and as underlying critical issues for this project, hybridity is the most commonly used to characterize Hong Kong’s origination and present state - East meets West, the perimeter between China and the world or, the global clashing with the local. However, conventional notions of hybridity do not quite hold up here...the concept has within it the idea of two or more stable entities coming together to form an entirely new thing, like the bauhinia, Hong Kong’s flower emblem. These hybrids come clichés are depictions difficult to avoid, requiring alternate strategies of representation and resistance
Hong Kong is neither an entirely new space nor is it composed of particularly stable parts. For Holly Lee, a destabilizing of hybrids is of paramount interest as she depicts complex, apparently hybrid people, digitally constructed using both European and Chinese clichés, symbols and icons, textured as if they are paintings and maneuvered over conventionally photographed portraits. These images are unsettling precisely because of their use of the hybrid construct to critique itself.
These cities have also presented themselves as gateways, as economic and physical transition points between themselves and particular regions, Hong Kong to China and Vienna to Eastern Europe, due primarily to their geographic and topographic qualities. But this role as entrep?t has changed significantly - Vienna’s position as the gateway to Eastern Europe has been reduced due to the massive political upheavals of the past 15 years, while Hong Kong is constantly challenged by other Asian cities like Singapore and Shanghai, as the doorway to mainland China.
These cities also become sites for an alternately constructed performance of travel, temporary migrancy and voluntary exile. The artists chosen for this exhibition have all traveled significantly and for a wide variety of reasons, urging one to consider how this nomadic attitude affects their work. Perhaps one way to approach the relationship between art, „inter-cultural“ mobility and community is by looking at the artists’ work from the geographical ‘outside’ - from a space that appears to be its cultural opposite. In this way the importance and complexity of cross-cultural influences, moving both in and out of a city’s space, and how these are as crucial in the production of these city’s visuality as the ‘local’, ‘native’ culture, may begin to be understood. We then come to be concerned with the city’s impact on the producers of culture more than the cities themselves. Therefore, as Ackbar Abbas has said, the representations in these exhibitions are not so much images of the city as they are „city images“.
If these „city images“ do not so much depict the city directly as they interact with, and re-enact, the city’s affects, then Sarah Mack’s and Lee Ka-sing’s work do so in unusual ways. Mack’s color photographs are meta-narrative, visual texts, re-appropriating various Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which themselves refer to classic European texts like Shakespeare or Faust, and re-photographing them, in order to re-tell the tales in a fragmented fashion. Her images do not so much tell us the whole story as they rely on a piecemeal sort of knowledge - a knowledge that is garnered by an indirect relationship to the texts and which Mack, taught these narratives in a colonial university system, experienced in a way that is fragmented and culturally out of sync. These images travel, psychically, as she turns the subjects on themselves, examining, through the many layers of interpretation and time, the palimpsest of culturally biased readings.
Lee Ka-sing’s Forty Poems series also relates to texts but by producing a series of small C-prints that, when taken in sequence, start to build a lyrical, but again, fragmented whole. Perhaps the word fragment is not as useful, referring as it does to an a priori whole, as ‘bits’, which seems more appropriate, in that Lee’s images scarcely add up, undermining a rhythmic, linear reading, and instead, creating a kind of slippage between an unavailable, originary whole and unstable readings.
This slippage can then lead us back to the individuals who inhabit these communities, who look at and ‘read’ these visual texts and who took part in and organized this project. Re-Considered Crossings is an exchange of imagery between two cities, a building of relationships between cultural workers of all kinds in these urban communities and a critical re-consideration of the terms which define such inter-cultural exchanges. For this to be effective the images presented, while of paramount importance, are not the only objects of study for the critical writings and discourse surrounding the project. The lectures, essays and seminars produced must critique this process in relation to the sources of knowledge, which supports and makes possible the project itself.
If Re-Considered Crossings is at once about a sharing of imagery between cities and, more importantly, about a fluid sense of travel, migration and a move beyond hybrids, then it is the people who transition between these diverse, but now, through this project, tenuously connected, spaces. When thinking and re-considering the motives for such a project, one should be brought back to the people who produce, discuss and present that imagery, which, in a diverse series of flows, re-contains and re-confirms the premise that these images are not about hybrid identities or cultures, nor necessarily about a mixing of sources and inspirations, but about strategies of representation and resistance to stable or fluid constructs that limit their production and meaning.
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.
The term 'salon', which has been used in the french language usage since the 18/19th century to include the exhibition room as well as the exhibition itself, dates back to art exhibitions that were regularly organized for the members of the royal art academies since Louis XIV’s reign.
Since 1667 they took place every two years, later annually in spring as “Salon de Mai” in the Salon Carrédes Louvre and served to propagate the official court’s taste in art.
In 1884 they were moved to the Grand Palais, but kept the name Salon. Since the French revolution, other artists were to be admitted in addition to the academy’s members. But since the jury was occasionally identical to that of the Akademie des Beaux-Art, its judgements often were a reason for controversy – that which was conventional was preferred, the new was rejected and thereby suppressed. Although the jury was temporarily dismantled in the year of the revolution, the academic principles of criteria were soon reinstated.
Thus, in the struggle against conservatism at end of the 19th century, “Gegensalons” (“Anti-salons”) were formed: the “Salon des Refusés” (Salon of the Refused) was established in 1863/64 and1873, and in 1884 the “Salon des Indépendants” (Salon of the Independents) was founded, which was exemplary as a counterweight to “Salon de Mai” for all other later secessions. >br>
FOTOGALERIE WIEN, as a part of the years main–theme “ANIMAL”, presents the SALON DE L’ANIMAL, showing more than about 100 photographic works by 58 artists from Austria and abroad:
ROLF AIGNER / IRIS ANDRASCHEK / FELIX GRANDE BAGAZGOITIA / ELFRIEDE BAUMGARTNER / EVA BERTRAM / URSULA BÖHMER: / EVA BRUNNER-SZABO / JOERG BURGER / HEINZ CIBULKA / COR DERA / ANDREAS DWORAK / CHRISTINE ELSINGER / RITA FABSITS / INGRID FANKHAUSER / GIULIANO FERRARI / JIM FORSTER / VERENA FRANKE / THOMAS FREILER / MAGDALENA FREY / ERIKA HALWAX / RALF HOEDT / CAROL HUDSON / RAINER IGLAR / LEO KANDL / JOSIF KIR?LY / ROBO KOCAN / ALEXANDER KOLLER / KAI KUSS / MARKUS LANG / ERICH L?Z?R / PAUL ALBERT LEITNER / HUBERT LOBNIG / ELFRIEDE MEJCHAR / MICHAEL MICHLMAYR / MINYÓ SZERT K?ROLY / WALTER MIRTL / GERTRUDE MOSER–WAGNER / ISABELLE MÜHLBACHER / RUTH NEUBAUER / LYDIA NEUDECK / HANNS OTTE / WALTRAUD PALME / MARTIN PARDATSCHER / ANDREW PHELPS / PIWI / LUCIA RADOCHONSKA / MANFRED SCHNEIDER / HERMAN SEIDL / FRITZ SIMAK / MARGHERITA SPILUTTINI / EVELIN TAMBOUR / ANDREA VAN DER STRAETEN / ZOLT?N VANSCO / MARGHERITA VERDI / ALFRED WETZELSDORFER / MANFRED WILLMANN / ROBERT ZAHORNICKY / CHRISTINA ZÜCK
Helmut Vakily: The Production
For Michael Janiszewski
What a corpse is the past in comparison
when your memory lies under the rubble?
What suffering befalls the dead
when they come back to life in front of you in pictures?
And what meaning does the future have for you?
„hinterrücks / from behind“
Photographic work 1990–2000
“Since the early 1990s Michael Janiszewski has been dealing with the theme of staged sexuality in his photographic work, within which two clearly defined phases can be differentiated. Phase 1 begins with the photographs taken in the year 1990 and ends in August 1994. After the photo session of 3.9.1994, Janiszewski almost entirely stopped creative work. For him, abandoning further photographic productions meant the adequate commemoration of the suicide of a close friend. Only after an almost two-year long interruption did he continue his work in 1997. Whereas in Phase 1 he worked together with a model, who acted under his direction, he completely replaced the human actor with a simulacra in Phase 2. Phase 2 can be viewed as a continuation and radicalisation of Phase 1.”
Phase 1 of the work already indicates what is radicalised in Phase 2: The gender-specifically-coded attributes begin to grow independent. The drawing material grows exuberant and lifts itself above its bearer…
The exuberance of the costume and the disguise, already notable earlier, is radically forced in Phase 2. Whereas in Phase 1 the actor is still present and represents a however natured rudimentary reality under the covers of the costume, the actor as costume-bearer disappears in Phase 2. What remains is just the costume, the cover without the content and if the actor reappears, then as stuffed doll. Phase 2 consists exclusively of costume and exuberance, of excerpts and fragmentation. What is real is absorbed by the Simulacrum ....
The forcedness of the simulation does not just take place as an unchaining of the material, but also as an excerpt from the scenes and props from Phase 1. Pictures of the disguised actor from behind in Phase 1 return as photographs of the stuffed costume. The props that are used earlier are rearranged and fragmented anew. In “Figure with black contour mask (lamentation)” the mitre is put together in a phallic manner on a packaging roll together with the high heeled-vase from earlier pictures. Fragments of the wig hang on a clothes hanger like a cut-up costume. In the foreground, the actor is on his knees as a doll. His face is covered with a black cloth. The cloth reaches to the floor and appears as if it were an outflow of the face…
Phase 2 resembles a ruin of Phase 1. The keynote of the staging is now more violent and more painful: the actor returns as stuffed doll. On one picture he lies as if dead on the floor, next to him the glasses, and on another picture two paving stones lie next to him. In ironic inversion of the parody on German unity, “now grows together what belongs together,” Janiszewski titles a younger photograph: “now breaks down what belongs together.” The title can be understood as a leading motif of his photographic productions of the last recent years.
Heinz Schütz, in: Michael Janiszewski, Photographic work: 1990–1999, Camera Austria Publishing Company, Graz, 2000 (Text excerpt)
“Looking Back 2 Move Forward”
Death opened a window of opportunity and through it we jumped into Photography. There we met Chaos, Memory, Lies, Art and the People. The purpose of the following is to present in short this journey.
When the old Romanian political system died brutally in December 1999, we were working for an art magazine that capitalized for almost 50 years on its uniqueness in the local culture. We managed shortly to divert "Arta" from its conservative program, until another death occurred - of the magazine itself. So, in 1993 we were sitting on some 600 kg of material accumulated in those decades of publishing. It was pre-packaged Chaos: an undetermined number of b/w photographs and negatives reflecting upon the Romanian and international art histories, from antiquity to post-modernism; and no inventory, no system of retrieval, no criteria for collecting or dumping. In order to approach this stuff we applied the old tools of our trade: installation, performance, sculpture, writing, composing. The "Art History Archive" came to life as a discontinuous theater play delivered in Berlin (mainly) but also elsewhere, for almost 3 years. Chaos became friendly, and then Memory stepped in: what those photo reproductions were speaking about was not art history - but its disappearance into a maze of cross references. Remembering art through amounts of pictures was like mourning for something that never existed; monochrome paintings, flat sculptures, shallow architecture made fame impossible and quality unrecognizable. A strong sense of delusion was developing through our journey, but it was still unclear who was the main Liar: Art, its system of promotion, the political class supervising the process - or Photography itself.
Then we encountered the People. They came out of the about two thousand 6 x 6 cm negatives, floating in an aura of recognizable events and places. They were the servants of art, and through their presence, photography could be saved as a powerful instrument of re-presentation. It was all possible because the negatives, meant to provide reproductive material for printing, were produced relaying on the final cropping in order to adjust the frame and concentrate on the art element. What saved the images from being just technical reproductions was the fact that - due to camera format limitations - art became a central detail, dominated by an aura of history. Before we started to look at them as autonomous images, those photographs didn't exist, not even for the photographer or his accomplice the artist, let alone the public. "Objet trouvés" born from the magic convergence between the innocent camera and the unaware subjects, they were like documentary film footage shot at random - ready for endless editing solutions, and able to tell various stories. "Serving Art" was born under the sign of clarity, and suddenly the Chaos could be controlled and classified through re-contextualization.
"Interviewing the Cities" came as a logical step further: if photography is a survival tool and if analog data still has witnessing relevance - this happens only due to the aural quality of photography. Aura is a spontaneous feature but also a designed one. We exported the knowledge acquired while deconstructing the Archive into a process meant to build awareness about the enduring qualities of photography and also about the possibilities this medium still offers for capturing the richness of life. "Interviewing..." is an archive under construction. It uses older strategies of representation, but aims differently. It is a "bildungs(photo)roman", documenting an intricate web of human relations circumvoluting the art world. A broader type of contextualization operates here as an ideological coagulant: everything in the fixed scheme of the photos calls the metaphor of the city - that container of cultural institutions, natural filters and artificial landscapes. Cities are the ultimate expression of whatever defines self-consciousness in this historical moment. But this time around, the design of the source projects is turned inside out: Art was displaced by the People; Chaos was avoided by planning; and Lies became an assumed rhetoric. In the end Memory is the winner; and Photography, of course - this very friendly enemy of Death.
subREAL, 25.02.01, Amsterdam/Bucuresti
Eigenheim (A House of One’s Own)
Behind a well-kept lawn is a villa with a prefixed portico, a flight of stairs and a representative triangular pediment. The architecturally stringent symmetry appears to be disturbed solely through the placement of two recently planted trees. Another house, with an unadorned wooden gable and an entrance railing with inserted car wheels, catches the eye with a painted on picture of the homeland, a furrowing farmer with harnished horse. Even though the owners of the house are nowhere to be seen, their presence behind these external facades are felt.
In her photographic work, Gisela Erlacher deals with rooms whose architecture speaks of the people who use them. Her most recent photo series with the laconic title “Eigenheim (A House of One’s Own)” illustrates, in multiformed examples, the exterior – the frontal perspective, taken from the gable-sided facade of the house - of typical one-family houses in Lower Austria and Vienna. What at first sight appears to be anonymous, exchangeable and faceless, holds traces of individuality upon closer inspection.The viewer is tempted to create correlations and references between the appearance of the fa?ade and the personal characteristics of the home’s inhabitants: the choice of color for the facade, the arrangement of the front lawns, details such as loving flower arrangements, applied pictures on the facades, all kinds of small sculptures (garden dwarfs, lions, birdhouses) vividly illustrate this relationship.
Despite a neutral architecture of collective designs, the photographs illustrate a revealing picture of the buildings’ owners - (“my home is my castle”) – from the simple shapes of homes built after the war period, to the standardization of the 60s to the eclectic 90s.The artist is more concerned with the general topography of the modern home with its mask of architectural purpose and efforts than with a distanced documentative inventory.
In the photographic tradition of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who consistently summarize their series of timber-framed houses in documentative typologies and have them appear as “anonymous sculptures”, Erlacher subtly directs the view of the beholder to the specific and the characteristic. With the Bechers, photography becomes an instrument of a systematic rendition of a specific type of construction; Gisela Erlachers subjective choice, however, tells hidden tales, that let the day-to-day and the ordinary be experienced anew.
Symptomatic phantom rooms
Doris Krüger’s multipart work “under construction” consists of white metal plates with black raster drawings, on which colorful geometric picture fragments are able to be placed, shuffled or recombined through magnetism; they correspond similar in structure to a board game (Tangram). The title refers to Krüger’s material, the picture’s source – the Internet –, for the term is customarily used for websites that are in the process of being constructed or reconstructed; in the English figure of speech it also sounds as if something is ‘being subjected’ to construction. Operational requirements and processes of illustrating specific picture media, that are part of the construction and representation of rooms, are demonstrated. The specifically applied media, architectural photography and the computer program “Photoshop,” are publicized on the internet. The rooms that are thereby worked on and passed through, are the central perspective illusionary rooms of photographic footage on the one hand and spatial aspects of schematic fields on the other – metaphoric rooms, like the internet or the “Graphic User Interface” on the computer. Traces of these picture rooms and room pictures are eventually directed (back) to the room of reality.
But let’s follow the step by step process of transformation based on Krüger’s choice of pictures: predominantly (unfurnished, void of human presence) emptiness, communal interior rooms, such as gyms, school rooms, factory or exhibition halls, that were all similarly photographed from a frontal perspective and are found on va rious homepages on the internet. These rooms had therefore already been subjected to mediatization before the artist got involved; the pictures of these rooms serve specific purposes – the presentation of a locality for the identificative detection of an institution or the presentation of a just finished building on an architecture office’s homepage. The documentative quality, that these correlations apparently require, is realized in formal, rigid, usually wide-angled takes, that each include all five elemental space-limitative surfaces – floor, back wall, ceiling and two side walls. This “view box”-structure of the takes suggests totalism, as well as comprehensive spaciousness and complete oversight, and can thereby pass as an emblem for the central perspective: the construction of a coherent, homogenous illusionary room, that refers on natural powers (light-ray laws) and is organized towards an imaginary bodiless viewer. As a power-strategical combination of discourses and practices, the central perspective is thus, as ‘dispositive’, of extraordinary dominance and permanence.
Apart from culture-theoretical aspects of mediatization, with the publication of the selected pictured rooms on the internet a substantial step was made on a technical level as well: the index-like photographic analog footage underwent a medial transformation, namely a digitalization. This enabled further work on the photographs in the “digital darkroom”. Here, therefore, is where the stringent structure of the central perspective is, so to speak, driven to the edge of its cogent logic: the pictures of the respective rooms are molded to an “ideal room measure”; all rooms become the same height, are given the same width and the same depth, for which the five elemental surfaces of a specific room-view box have to be additionally adapted in the photoshop computer program. The interferences of the artist in the perspective room pictures therefore begin by taking apart. The singular pieces are then each distorted on different “levels”, as geometric two-dimensional figures. Hence, in this distortion the rooms are not proportionally changed in their entirety, but instead the side lengths of each surface are stretched and jolted so that they fit into the given raster. The resulting pictures of the rooms still display all symptoms of the original photographs, inasfar as no pixels were lost, but are “disturbed” in their spatial correlation – like a phantom picture, in which all individual characteristics were recorded but that still remains disparate. This lack of homogeneity is eventually balanced out through a re-individualization, in which each room receives its own color tones.
And now one can play: the movability of the parts of the pictured room allows the construction of new hybrid phantoms of rooms; what is extensively stored in distinct surface pattern effects in these synthetic pictures is the room-illusionary effect of the central perspective. Krüger’s deconstruction process may not be called such solely based on its technical requirements, for she lays the design of room displays through perspectives bare (which incidentally also remains present in the time period of digital picture media, for in the meantime the algorithmic character of the construction of perspective enables perfect 3-D models to be created on the computer). Of importance in the process is also the transferral of the construction work from the (metaphoric) thematic room of the Graphic User Interface of the Photoshop programme to the reality room of photography, where instead of the symbol of a hand on the computer screen one can really lay a hand on it. For in that way Krüger refers to a discussion in the stress field of illusionary and virtual space – meaning the switch from the external, bodiless to the involved viewer of electronic interactiveness. The fact that digital room construction can be adjusted here, which can be traced back to distorted room projections, is very much to be read as an ironic refraction from models of spatial fiction or simulation, that critically undermines all too euphoric utopias of new virtual theme rooms.
Doris Maximiliane Würgert
On the Breath of Things
Two vases on a shelf. A chair at a wall. Or a bed. A desk. Objects, left alone in a completely abstract room almost without location. In her photographs, Doris Maximiliane Würgert tells of the still-life of shapes. Her photography generalizes spatial states. She leaves all social coding out and relies back to an almost lapidary representation of objects. Everything that does not serve this project is forced out. It is an interest in the limiting states of photography and painting, that is connected to the cultural transformation of the themes of modernism of the 60s and 70s, that a point is found in this work from which the affirmation of this modernism as ambiente-folie of contemporary frigid life-style constructions is driven against. In contrast, what D. M. Würgert’s photography presents is an analytical model of room images of this modernism.
They almost seem to be breathing, the objects on which the photographic eye is concentrating, as if they were portraits. The contextual reduction of the figures in the room, which Würgert’s object portraits surround, make the physical and spiritual conditioning of the subjects in the public rooms and in the working world of corporate offices of that time almost physically felt. Würgert answers the thoughts of standardization of modern design utopias as though with the aura of things that were created out of her. That changes the ruling culturally pessimistic picture of the individuation of the subjects in the mass society of those years to the better. These portraits have an effect like the picture of a small revolt in contrast to the deadly passivity of this society. Würgert’s placement of this emptiness in the picture does not lose itself in a hedonistic game with historical differences. The nostalgic view in this world of forms is criticized for its negation of the social and of the economic and in its affirmation of shape and abstraction. The “location” of the viewers becomes a specific criterion, against which single horizons, perspectives and depth dimensions of this historical detection can unfold. In an interrelation of centering and de-centering, of homogenizing and de-homogenizing of the room, perhaps then may become visible what illusions of the social, economic or even artistic surroundings the project of modernism followed: as symbolic means and political tool. Thus Doris Maximiliane Würgert’s work builds a fragile bridge between observer and observed, oscillating between objective and subjective themes as well as the physical description of what is real.
This does not go on any cowhide
Thoughts on Installation, 2000
Empty walls – instead the reference to a cosy atmosphere with upholstered furniture and sofa table. Moreover, the seating furniture is draped with lush cushions that are covered with colourful and cheerful patterns of animal themes. At the centre of the Installation a stack of 16-paged brochures lies on the table – free samples.
The cover page entices with a picture of a bare-chested woman in fur; taking the brochure is easy and pleasant. The content of the brochure is, however, an entirely different story. The usual and appalling way in which man treats animals is depicted in extreme forms: on the one hand the minimization of - and on the other hand the exploitation of domestic animals for economic purposes and as objects of profit maximization. The actual nature of the animal is ignored. Man’s treatment of animals very rarely includes showing respect for the other, upholding its independence and showing consideration –affectionate and disdainful cruelty is customary.
Photo Mummies– Hulls – Flies, Moths
This photographic work’s theme deals with dead animals. Three fundamentally different aspects of ‘death’ are shown. One depicts animals that have not died by fault of man, in the process of decomposition - pictures of moments of organic change. Another displays animals that have been purposefully killed – in this case, that were hunted in order to continue existing as collected and exhibited objects. The third group of pictures is of dead insects, the sight of which is only rarely associated with animal murder. Photo Mummies Photography presents the possibility of stopping the progression of decomposition, of freezing the cadaver, of conserving - and through which the dead animal can be shown respect. Hulls The pictures show artificially made durable skin (hides) kept in the storage of the Natural Historical Museum in Vienna – preserved for the eventual subsequent treatment (processing) into stuffed specimen. The pictures display the different animal species laid densely side by side – systematized and reduced to their matter. Flies, Moths Insect traps, sticky stripes as killing machinery – the necessity or the joy of killing. A documentation of the victims, of the frozen, desiccated bodies, slowly decomposing to dust. A battlefield of the war between man and animal. Through this view, through this form of documentation, the animals are given back the aura of the living – an essential motivation and fascination for the photographer.
On Heinz Cibulka's Photo-Artistic Work from 1972 to 2000. By Kurt Kaindl
From: Fotogalerie Wien (Pub.), Werkschau VI : Heinz Cibulka, Wien, Triton Verlag 2001
Translation: Susanne Steinacher
"Right from the beginning, since I had been a student at the Training College for Photography and Graphic Design, I have been dreaming of shaping my life by artistic activities – and that's what I have been striving for later in life." (H.C. "Material Bild", Vienna 1993, p. 20). With these words Heinz Cibulka introduces a detailed account of his life and work as an artist in the catalogue "Bild Material", published in 1993 by the State Museum of Lower Austria. This catalogue and the related exhibition provide deep insights in Cibulka's artistic work. His quest for form, for meaningful ways of structuring his works (something which in the past might have been referred to as harmony or correspondence) took ten years' time in which he experimented with numerous artistic approaches, dealing inter alia with actionism and Peter Kubelka's cinematic work. As is often the case, his personal acquaintance and, finally, cooperation with these artists was of decisive importance for his own development. The performance of "Stammersdorf" at forum stadtpark in Graz in 1972 was his first opportunity to formulate the basic elements of his artistic work: his contribution consisted of a photo frieze of individual black and white photographs along the walls of the gallery, constructing a scene from a wine inn in the exhibition space and featuring typical meals offered at such an inn. Transcripts of typical conversations were laid out on the tables. Integrated features of this spatial design were, to some extent, the preparing of meals as well as and deliberate celebration with the effect that each visitor became a part of the celebration and thus of the artistic work itself.
In order to understand Heinz Cibulka's photographic work, it is essential to be aware of this comprehensive artistic claim, since the integration of the "dream of a synthesis of the arts" is a repeated feature in his works, as Edith Almhofer has quite rightly observed (H.C. "aus nachbars garten", year of publication unknown). Actions, performances, objects and object images, lyrical and conceptual texts, films and photographic shows with soundtracks, collections of materials and texts and, of course, photo cycles are the essential forms of presentation Heinz Cibulka chooses for his work. For a long time, he considered photography itself to be lacking sensuousness, since the technical, haptic relation to the world is of substantial importance to him. Again and again he engages in a "struggle against mental picture-taking, against insubstantial expression" (H.C. "Material Bild", Vienna 1993, p. 43). Heinz Cibulka shares this aim with the actionists who, like him, endeavour to overcome the panel in favour of a process-like way of exercising art vis-?-vis life. In his Viennese diaries, Günter Brus says about the claims on artistic form that "[...it should] virtually resolve the image and elevate it to the level of being a clip of the world – but this world should, how can I say, it should contain set signals, rhythmics, screaming, sleep, bean soup, the dachshund, the typhoon, the endless melody, etc. etc." (quoted from Dieter Schwarz "Aktionsmalerei – Aktionismus. Wien 1960-1965", Zurich 1988, p. 22).
It is not difficult to see that Heinz Cibulka's conception of his now famous blocks of four colour photographs are the ideal fulfilment of Günter Brus's claim. In his photo poems, Cibulka combines completely contrasting pictorial elements on one sheet with no trouble at all. And in fact it is characteristic of his most formulated photographic works, such as the "Gemischter Satz" edition (1982 and 1987), that extremely contrasting clips of reality are forced into one and the same formal unit – clips of reality which can no longer be delimited in terms of subject matter and which, in the end, celebrate life itself.
About 10 years before these highly developed photo poems were published, Heinz Cibulka discovered the combination of groups of four colour photographs, based on the "Stammersdorf" design (Graz 1972), as the adequate form of his artistic work. For a re-staging of this project in Vienna, he strove to increase the density for his photo friezes, compiling the first "Stammersdorf" edition of blocks of four colour photographs. Apart from the influence of actionism on his perception of art, the form of his photo poems has several other sources, too, which also help explain the great success of this piece of work. These photo poems constituted a clear break with the dominant mainstream of artistic photography at the time, since Cibulka gave up the complex and designed individual photograph and, instead, turned to producing deliberately simply viewed colour images he then had developed automatically without any special precautions. Following Peter Kubelka's suggestions for film, Heinz Cibulka aimed at articulation in-between cadres, in other words: in-between individual photographs. The participation of the observer, who had to read and combine the images like the words of a poem, now became decisive for the creation of meaning. The title "Land – Alphabete" (Vienna 1983) is programmatic for this approach. This book is a first retrospective of Heinz Cibulka's photographic work. Observers would always discover new concrete forms in these photo poems, which the author had charged with a certain basic message. This basic meaning was supported by the leitmotif-like repetition of objects and situations from the fields of religion, food, metabolism, sexuality and on one specific topic per edition. In the beginning, these topics stemmed, above all, from his immediate rural surroundings and experience (e.g. in the editions "Brdo – Berda" 1976, "Most – Fühlt" 1982, "Hochgebirgsquartette" 1984 and 1986); later, urban surroundings became more important (e.g. in the editions " Wien" 1984, 1986 and 1987, "Berlin – Empfindungskomplexe" 1985 and "Antwerpen" 1991-92).
An analysis of Cibulka's works would not be complete without mentioning his way of dealing with texts. There is an inseparable connection between image and text based on the fact that historically, writing developed from images. This is even more true for works such as Heinz Cibulka's photo poems, which operate with the props of human experience and are, in the end, inserted into the "grammar" of a certain pictorial grid.
Of course the book is the ideal medium to combine image and writing. In the volumes "Bauernlieder" (Linz 1981) and "Land – Alphabete" (Vienna 1983), the dominance of writing becomes particularly clear. Next to detailed collections of words, we find poems that take up the modes of procedure of concrete poetry and of image poems in the baroque sense. There is a perfect correspondence between photo poems and text poems, not only in conceptual terms. It is characteristic of all these texts that they are no narratives, but collections of material that evoke certain associations by the way they are arranged and by the reappearing of certain leitmotif-like topics. This is in correspondence to Cibulka's photo sheets, which must not be misunderstood as "photo stories." Since the publication of "aus nachbars Garten", documenting a walking tour from his home town to Prague in the summer of 1994, his way of dealing with texts has changed radically. In this context, editor Edith Almhofer remarks, "The position of the author is no longer anonymous. In fact, the dangers of this journey and the fates of the travellers themselves seep into this work as subject and motif." (H.C. "aus nachbars garten", Gumpoldskirchen/Vienna, year of publication unknown). Detailed diary entries accompany the photographs in the book. In line with the concept of diary entries, the focus is thus on the author as the story's subject and on the photographer as the producer of the images. The story's epic construction is thus realised at all levels. Like in a collection of materials, texts are now pasted into the book like found objects and thus cease to be poetically set parts of the work as a whole. Underlying the narrative text, leaflets, sketches and pages from telephone books can be found as direct quotes from reality. They become transparent, revealing the author's experience and perception. This move indicated a mode of procedure that was to become a basic element in Cibulka's new photo works, which involve digital manipulation. In his latest publication, "Chinoiserie" (Gumpoldskirchen/Vienna 2000), he also uses the form of the diary to textually supplement his photographic work.
Even if photo poems like "Gemischter Satz" (1982 and 1987), where the individual photographs were not taken with a certain subject in mind but rather combined from Heinz Cibulka's archive, are indeed convincing from a formal point of view, they are exceptional in terms of his artistic mode of procedure. As he pointed out himself, a photo archive cannot be used like a photo quarry ("Foto – Steinbruch") to constantly produce new contents and messages. Taking photographs always also involves a certain topic and a certain basic attitude of the author to his subject that prevents him from using the same photograph again and again. Doing this would imply that his work was arbitrary. This experience also shows that the popular analogy of word and photograph on the one hand, and message and photo poem on the other is not entirely balanced. A word can in fact be used in many different abstract contexts. The photos Heinz Cibulka produces in the course of his projects, however, carry too much meaning to be freely rearranged like words that form a new sentence. Understanding photographs or works based on imagery requires a certain context the photographer produces during his research on the subject and which he delivers along with the photographs. This discovery becomes particularly clear now as Heinz Cibulka presents his first collage-like works. Released on the computer, these overlapping collage images appear to be transparent on several levels. They will be examined more closely in the following.
Hanno Millesi pointed out that Heinz Cibulka uses his photo poems to formulate new statements, that he approaches a subject by way of his series of photo sheets, even though every single photograph, "each clip ?can be?, at any time, retranslated by the recipient and/or identified as a distinct, clearly distinguishable point of vision." (H.C. "Chinoiserie", Gumpoldskirchen/Vienna 2000, p. 8). In his publication "mex 01-12" (Vienna 1999) Heinz Cibulka presented digital photo collages that deviate from this principle of composition. The individual photo elements are now isolated from their surroundings, clipped and edited with the help of a wide range of computer programmes such as "PhotoShop." Thus, the individual photograph and its reference to reality have ceased to exist in Cibulka’s works. In a very radical form he is now able to assemble, compress and overlap photo elements. Articulation no longer happens between the individual photographs but once again takes place on the level of the panel, which is enriched with visual stimuli.
Cibulka continues this art form in his later work "Chinoiserie" (2000), focusing on the subject of a journey to China. This work is completed by a diary-like text. In the preface, Hanno Millesi writes that "the photographic result reminds us of a dream picture or at least the idea of a dream picture that gathers and combines all the details stored in our memory" (H.C. "Chinoiserie", Gumpoldskirchen/Vienna 2000, p. 8). Metaphoric photography "refers the viewer back to the genesis of the photograph, rendering transparent the process of perception" (Kurt Kaindl in: H.C. "Weinviertler Bildersetzkasten", Mistelbach 1990, p.15) ? in Cibulka's digital photo collages, however, it is no longer useful to examine individual photo elements as to their reference to reality. An entirely different concept of perception must be applied to these collages, which can be traced back in history to the "technical images" produced by 19th century "machines of perception" such as the kaleidoscope, stroboscope or Zootrope.
The renowned media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said about the relation between technology and mankind, "First we shape our tools and then they shape us" (free rendering). The history of the above-mentioned machines of perception can be viewed from this perspective. At the beginning of the 19th century, when – in parallel to the invention of photography – the theory of persistence of vision was developed (in 1824 by Peter Mark Roget), people's interest turned to so-called "philosophical toys" that exploit this effect. In the case of the stroboscope, for instance, drawings of movements painted on a disc were viewed through the slots of a second, rotating disc so that the images' persistence on the retina generated the illusion of a moving image. Quite rightly, this stroboscopic effect is regarded as one of the fundamental principles of film which was, in fact, not to be invented before the end of the century. In the meantime, however, these perceptive-psychological phenomena were being enthusiastically investigated and soon became very popular as toys for adults, influencing human perception of reality in a decisive way. As simple as these image machines may have been, they outlined – for the first time – a specific order of the imaginary, sketching previously unseen spaces and movements. Their constitutive elements were simple drawings and moving parts, yet they produced a new world of images, spaces and perspectives extending beyond the individual components. In a certain way, the image now originated inside the observer (whose senses were fooled by the after-image effect), thus establishing the beholder, not the image, as the focus of interest. This process may be described as the disempowerment of the human eye and the fragmentation of a fixed focus. This new focus (besides other elements) became manifest both in the end of the central perspective, which had long been dominant in painting, and in the invention of film with its alternating perspectives. It also had an influence on the change in literary narrative. This brief outline of an event of such enormous historico-cultural importance should suffice to establish a connection to the computer and to computer-based image processing programmes. It is not difficult to realise that the computer belongs to the current generation of "machines of the imaginary."
Heinz Cibulka’s digital collages (as well as, of course, comparable works by his fellow artists) clearly demonstrate this disempowerment of the human eye. Depending on the choice of the dominating background image, both wide spaces in skyscraper-lined streets and macro views of a flower's blossom can serve as the "stage" for a collage that is dominated by highly differentiated objects, out of context and without any formal restrictions. Not only photographs, but also characters, reproductions of other media events or any other visual sources are merged into these collages. Context and meaning now once again depend much more on the author, whose choice of image objects defines the atmosphere and reading direction. It is interesting to note that in his work "Chinoiserie" Heinz Cibulka attempts to deliver statements that contradict customers' intention to portray a land of "representative highlights." The digital collage provides Cibulka with the means to do so.
In his work "Geschichtes Gedicht", produced in 2000 for the exhibition "Milch vom ultrablauen Strom. Strategien österreichischer Künstler 1960-2000" (Kunsthalle Krems, curator: Wolfgang Denk), the digital collage is developed further. The collages are large-size friezes that employ all kinds of image sources without any restrictions. Paintings and writings dominate over photographs, with each of the collages addressing one specific subject which is also identified by their basic aesthetic structure. Here, the fragmentation of the fixed perspective is carried to extremes: the individual photo elements become part of a general conception which can no longer be undone in a meaningful manner. Thus, a new web of images emerges on the computer which can only be deciphered with reference to Heinz Cibulka's detailed photo titles. The tools we have been using have changed the way we perceive such collages today.
Looking at the way Heinz Cibulka's conception of art developed, it becomes clear that his artistic work has been entering the observer’s awareness in ever-changing ways. Symbolically, we could say that the place where his pictures became concrete has repeatedly been shifted. In earlier actions and performances the observers themselves, guided by the artist’s instruction, had to create the image in their own minds. Quite frequently, the viewer was part of the work of art. Through the use of photography, Cibulka's imagery-based works reached a higher degree of abstraction. His photo compositions were, in fact, instructions for perception given by the artist. In numerous publications (such as "Nationalpark Hohe Tauern" or "Weinviertler Bilder ? Setzkasten") Cibulka repeatedly referred to this grammar of images and to the art of reading them. In his digital collages, the photographer uses the computer to generate the individual elements, presenting them to the audience as a dense fabric of images. These works clearly show the hand-writing of Heinz Cibulka who thus, once again, presents a panel based on an extremely consistent and comprehensive artistic design.
The development of Heinz Cibulka’s work could also be described as an attempt to integrate larger and larger, and ever more disparate, parts of reality into his work. In his digital collages he is now able to seamlessly incorporate any possible visual event and yet attain the most coherent way of representation his work has ever encountered.