Josef Strau, Time Structure and Passer's By
The traditional re-invocation of all dialectics to separate art of form and art of content - instead of for instance conceiving differences of forms of language - is for sure unhelpful for questions dealing with the production of expression. This dialectic is unlikely to produce any interesting theoretical result, but is practical for an observer to start the description of a project, describing the field, or better the spiritual neighbourhood, where it takes place, like here the project of Susanne Winterling at the pavilion on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, which I would like to put within the neighbourhood of the art of content. Only that it seems better in her case to describe it in simple and old-fashioned language as the field of the art of poetry. Observing the more interesting production within this field one recognizes a tendency to translate the narrative not directly into an image, but to deal with the main formal obstacle for its translation, manifesting in the interest in time structures. Susanne Winterling seems to be very obsessed with time structures.
Film time as structural analogy dominates her whole project. The narrative background could be the auto-biographical time travel. But no representations of her individual memory literally appear as its theme. Within her method of analogy to film, her own life could be said to be left in a fictional darkness, while instead one moment is strongly exposed - as this exhibition exposes the moment of pre-pubescence. Susanne Winterling wanted that the pavilion be the spacious container of the film paused somewhere in the middle, allowing for the audience to walk through its contents in the pavilion as if it were identical with the frozen film-image. We are allowed to come in and experience the projection in 3D or otherwise look as passer-bys do during the cold Berlin winter-time through the big glass windows of the film's setting.
Like other artists her obvious target was to transform the pavilion's architectural qualities, for example the neglected modernism of this freestanding vitrine. In some ways Winterling represents in her work the conceptual attitudes, like extended interest in video and film, photography, or literary reference, or the above mentioned obsession with time structures. But instead her transformational impulse is not of a protective purism towards such an architectural frame. On one hand she radically does her transformation by changing the meaning of the "container" just by the immaterial gesture of analogy, but much more her project was one of illusionism, even with a tendency to romanticism. The"cold" building had to become warm. It had to be heated up, had to become the authentic space for the narrative of the young girls fantasies. Romantic illusionism is an uncanny field of fear for purist conceptualism, a purism which she peels like a boiled egg, and leads to the spatial transgression of the sometimes fetishized references of the pavilion's archtitectural code. The key to the illusionistic reference was idea of the hothouse. If an artist expresses a demand to tell some narratives within an artwork, a gesture often described as too literary, part of the audience usually reacts with unfavourable remarks. It is a kind of invincible dispute if literature in art is a plus or a minus to the form of the art. The surprising appearance of sexual imagery in the pavilion project is exaggerated maybe, but exaggeration was its quality. The imagery of the hothouse is based on her memories of an early twentieth century novel, describing the sexually ambiguous relations between young girls. Her project was a film mirroring those memories.
The film started at the night of the opening, beginning with a projection of three girls dancing, then three actual girls moving through the visitors, and remaining in strange positions. These positions were representative of feelings of insult, loneliness or the desire to hide - in an environment without hiding places. The too meaningful representations, sometimes too art-deja-vu, were to an extent embarrassing for the audience, but this was the quality.
Upon the opening's end the film was stopped. The children and the audience disappeared and for four weeks the space stood still. Photographic images of dancing young girls reminded us of the plot. The photographic myth - invocation of the real event, often remaining opaque in its meaning, whether a fiction or not - or the psychologization of the image especially by the parallelism and synchronicity with the performance, dominated the exhibition space. At the end of the exhibition time for the last evening the film was moving again and finished the project.