Scene Missing

March 22 until April 26, 2008

Artists: Manon de Boer, Cerith Wyn Evans, Andreas Fogarasi, Björn Kämmerer, Theo Ligthart, Ján Mančuška, Christian Mayer, Wolfgang Plöger, Nadim Vardag, Marijke van Warmerdam, Christoph Weber

 

The exhibition [scene missing] presents eleven recent positions that engage with cinema and film. Without showing film in the usual sense or simulating cinematic situations, the works on view all interrogate methods of narrative construction and point out the fragmentary character of reality and its filmic representation. The absence of cinema and film in the exhibition [scene missing] is a product of our collective memory of film. The visitor to the exhibition completes the “scene missing” by recalling his or her own memories of cinema and film history. In the area of tension between black box and white cube, cinema becomes the material for the works exhibited at Galerie Thomas Schulte.

In contrast to avant-garde film and expanded cinema, the motivation is not breaking with standard conventions for the purpose of artistic practice, but rather the appropriation of such conventions. The conventions of filmic representation provide a starting point. Narrative structures, an interest in the mechanics of the projection apparatus, cinematographic traditions, and film reception are all subjected to deconstruction and recoding. Film history becomes a raw material.
The exhibition [scene missing] was curated by Fiona Liewehr and is presented in collaboration with Georg Kargl Fine Arts in Vienna.

Björn Kämmerer, Marijke van Warmerdam, Manon de Boer, Christoph Weber, and Wolfgang Plöger all share a common interest. They make use of antiquated technology, forcing onto film projectors or old tape players functions for which they were not intended. The mechanical apparatus is staged as fetish. In his 16mm film loop Dawn (2007), the German artist Björn Kämmerer shows a close up of a woman constantly moving her head before a glowing light source that remains concealed. The linear narrative structure and spatial orientation are suspended by the sequence of cuts, the editing, and the dense presentation of the found footage. The terrified facial expression of the woman shown in a dramatic shot from below, apparently caught in a hopeless situation, generates in the viewer an oppressive feeling of infinity, evoking reminiscences of the aesthetics of Hitchcock films in which the theme of the innocent victim is presented in many variations.

The 16mm film loop Passage (1992) by the Dutch artist Marijke van Warmerdam shows a small black square that slowly emerges from the middle of a white backdrop to fill the entire projection surface; after the process has completed, it then starts over again. This perpetual motion engenders associations in the spectator that can allow stories to develop. As the artist puts it, “Passage is a work which troubles my eye and my thoughts. I have the feeling that the phenomenon film has been stripped to the bone, but still someone is pulling my leg. In the meantime, my eye is very much attracted by its movements in black and white. It could be a tunnel, it could be an elevator, it could be the beginning of a story. In fact, it is no more than what it is. Or isn’t it?” (Marijke van Warmerdam)

Nadim Vardag explores the construction of mediated images and questions the mechanisms of cinema and film production using quite diverse media: sculpture, drawing, and film. In the The Night (2005) Vardag uses the subtitles from the Antonioni film of the same name. The absence of image and sound places the focus on the written dialogue. The screenplay seems to return as the starting point for making a film, serving as material for the viewer to imagine a film of his or her own: beholder becomes director. Similarly, Black Screen (2007) challenges us to fill the void black screen with our own individual projections. This sculptural work represents the mimetic depiction of a surface of projection: dysfunctional because it is black, it remains empty and imageless. At the same time, the work also recalls minimalist sculpture and functions as a projection surface for our own cinema memories.

In this work Avant-garde (Rainer, Kubelka, Ligthart) (2002) Theo Ligthart analyzes an icon of avant-garde film: Peter Kubelka’s film Arnulf Rainer (1960). Rainer had commissioned Kubelka to produce a documentary on his artistic work; to Rainer’s great surprise, Kubelka then presented him with a film consisting exclusively of white and black squares in a rhythmic sequence that follows a strict score. Ligthart translates this score in his work Avant-Garde (Rainer, Kubelka, Ligthart) to a rhythm of light and dark, the on and off of a light source controlled by a box with a processor as its core. This box can be attached to any random light source, allowing any living room to be transformed into an avant-garde cinema.

His work Spielfilm (Director’s Cut) (2002-2004) is also formally based on the visual language of avant-garde film. The break with filmic narration in experimental cinema is here taken to its absurd limit; plots from mainstream cinema are all combined into a single sentence and presented in a formal reproduction of a cinema advertising case, thus referring to the aesthetic of film stills as shown in such displays in Central Europe. The result is a sequence of text images that displays the redundancy of the standard narrative cinema in an ironic way and directly inspires the individual film memory of the receiver.

Andreas Fogarasi presents in his monumental silkscreen 1974, 1975, 1976... (2007) an intertitle from his video installation Kultur und Freizeit (2006), a work that was on view at the last Venice Biennale. The size of this work corresponds to the projection surface of his video. The film deals with cultural and educational institutions in Budapest, their architecture and the change in programming and questions about the aesthetic and structural notions of their builders and users. The intertitles, which originally point to the former and current realities of architectures presented, are extracted from the videos. Now robbed of their context, they become projection surfaces for individual memories.

In his installation Untitled (Barcelona) (2001), the German artist Wolfgang Plöger shows two projections opposite one another. An 8mm film strip is shown at three frames per second by a film projector and simultaneously projected onto the opposite wall with a slide projector. While on the one wall the cinematographic apparatus shows a film in slow motion, on the opposite wall in the static light cone of the slide projector the individual film frames go by: it this way, it becomes clear that film consists of a sequence of still images. The linear narrative and temporal structure is displaced by showing the film scenes in the different technological apparatuses in apparently different speeds and sequences of movement. Film’s illusion machine is deconstructed by raising questions of the representation of reality and the changing modes of reception in various cinematographic apparatuses.

The installation of the Czech artist Ján Mančuška "I asked my wife to blacken all parts of my body which I cannot see" (2007) consists of an oversized light box from which film strips hanging from the ceiling are presented. They show the photographic documentation of a performance in which a woman paints all the body parts of a man that cannot be seen by the man himself without the help of a mirror. By marking the places on the body that ourselves and for others are key to contributing to identification and identity formation, he refers to intersections between private and public space and the construction of identity as a process of subjective perception and external attributions. The process of change of the male performer who in the course of the action increasingly becomes a masked being, can be equated with identity formation. Identity ia not a clear essence, and is always multilayered and transformable, itself a phenomenon and product of a social and cultural process of construction.

In Christoph Weber’s work Telefunken und Tesla (2007) two tape recorders from the late 1950s (a West German Telefunken and a Czechoslovakian Tesla) enter into an apparent dialogue with one another. The machines play back fragments of a text compiled of fragments from German versions of various science fiction films from the 1950s to today. They enter into a fictive dialogue that represents in an emotionally dramatic fashion the scientifically charged propaganda battles of the Cold War in a television spaceship. By contrasting two devices from the early days of home recording, the artist refers to a time when the propaganda battle between east and west was at its climax and found its way into private households through such media.

Since the early 1990s, Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans has been combining multilayered references from literature, poetry, philosophy, film theory, and the modern natural sciences with formal allusions to the conceptual models of the art work from the 1960s and 1970s in his work. In expansive installations—light writing on walls, film projections, and sculptural objects—Wyn Evans thus evokes an aesthetic cosmos in which the unending process of subjective and associative perception takes the place of clarity and transparency in conveying information. The work exhibited here slow fade to black… (reversed) (2004) comes from the artist’s Subtitle Series. The spatial placement of the neon light close to the floor transforms the gallery’s white wall into a film-like image. But the content of the sentence contrasts with the garish neon light and bright walls; slow fade to black suggests the slow disappearance of the image, but the expectation remains unfulfilled.

For Manon de Boer, history is not a linear series of events but the experience of a constant process in which selective memories are set in relation to one another in a very particular way. Using the personal story as a narrative method, Boer explores the relationship between language, time, and the claim to truth in her work. The “narrative history” of various key personalities from various contexts, like Sylvia Kristel, who achieved some fame as the actress Emanuelle, allows the artist to explore concepts of memory and conviction and the coincidence of lived and written history in general. Sylvia, March 1&2, 2001 Hollywood Hills (2001) shows a close up of Sylvia Kristel looking into the camera and smoking. The rattling sound of the 16mm projector becomes the sound track of a silent dialogue between the figure represented and the artist. The tradition of portraiture is thus linked to individual filmic memory.

Christian Mayer’s film Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924), which does entirely without images, will not be shown directly in the framework of the exhibition [scene missing], but separately. In this film, a scene from the Buster Keaton film Sherlock Jr. is described in the fashion of the running commentary often provided for the blind or vision-impaired. While the film projector only projects white light onto the screen, a voice describes how Keaton springs through a cinema screen into a film, where he gets caught up in a whole series of calamities, for he refuses to understand the discontinuity of time and space in film. By replacing the original filmic image with an oral narrative, this sound film expands the complex architecture of Keaton’s film into the viewing space. The narrative places the story directly in our imagination and allows us to imagine a space where fiction and reality can no longer be distinguished from one another. The site and time of the showing of Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924) will be announced at short notice.

 

(Text: Fiona Liewehr; Translation: Brian Currid)