Artists: Gerold Tagwerker (A), Amy Yoes (USA)
As we used to experience and understand space from the ground, geometrically, definition and boundaries were seen as characteristic of the spatial dimension. Now that we are beginning to experience and understand space from the inside, topologically, the characteristics of the spatial dimension will become those of overlapping, covering, converging. Vilém Flusser
The exhibition space of impermanent geometry is divided up into two different zones – or so it seems at first sight. Two zones that are neither spatially connected nor aesthetically synchronised, in analogy to the two artistic stances taken up by Gerold Tagwerker and Amy Yoes. The element which links the two verges on the immaterial: light is an essential, spatially constitutive medium in both Tagwerker and Yoes’s works, as the evocation of an indeterminate, diffuse, atmospheric light space in the former, and in the latter as the carrier medium of a projection that synthesises the halted individual images of a stop motion animation into an image-space continuum. The common denominator of both cases is that light evokes a dimension of image space which is verging on the transitory. Neither orthogonal order nor spatial definition are of interest here, but rather the indeterminacy of time/space interrelationships and processes as well as the contingency of our experience of space from an aesthetic point of view.
Both Tagwerker and Yoes use construction against construction in their works. They stage visual systems and examine the possibilities for recursivity and self-reference within each of these seemingly autopoietic aesthetic circuits. In this way, both artists engage in debate with the schematised, geometricised concept of space. The convention of the triaxial, Euclidean n-dimensional space is challenged by a dynamised, relational concept of space, both phenomenologically (Tagwerker) and semiologically (Yoes). Vague geometry forms the basis of their generative image spaces, they stage inconstant geometries, confronting the spectator with a situation of indeterminacy and contingency.
Gerold Tagwerker is trying to render transparent the collective subconscious of basic urban forms. On the one hand, he focuses on the utopian charge of these forms, and on the other, he considers the effects they have on perception. In the light work blur.grid, Tagwerker combines object-like concreteness with episodes of aesthetic openness and indeterminacy: he “stages” a moveable wall, a room divider, made up of six quadratic modules of neon light. The arrangement of grid-like reflecting modules condenses into a wall of light, becomes an image, a grid-light-painting. When interpreted as a picture, the grid evokes a notion of velum, of a lattice of fibres that serves to structure, measure and construct an image space organised according to centralised perspective. Grids have always promised orientation, guaranteed the measurability of the space “behind” them and at the same time, always made reference to the point of view of a sovereign observer. The see-through nature of the grid also meant that it became an icon and fundamental leitmotif of Modernism, as linked to the dissolution of boundaries, the merging of inner and outer space, and the ideal of absolute transparency.
However, the aesthetic status of the grid in the context of this light installation is ambivalent: the geometrical clarity that it conveys is counteracted by an inconsistency, the variations in the light intensity of the neon tubes. The light, sometimes brighter, sometimes dimmer, conceals the grid, pushes it into the background, dissolves it, only to then retreat behind it once more. The work is characterised by an aesthetic of periodicity, ebb and flow. The precise form of the grid becomes unclear in the light crescendo, it becomes a blurred grid. In this way, the light itself becomes “visible” in its mediality, or rather, in its immateriality. It is no longer the surface of the work that functions as room for aesthetic manoeuvre, but rather all of the space around it as well. “Affected” by the light, this surrounding space seems to oscillate between proximity and distance.
Initially, this light sculpture seemed to be characterised by a certain functionalist optimism, but this is counteracted by a phenomenological component. Two complementary pictorial spaces cross in Tagwerker’s work, one atmospheric/phenomenological, the other geometric/abstract. At first, the work addresses the eye, only to subsequently affect the entire kinaesthetic complex of the body. The spectators become part of a space defined by light, a transitory area made up of vectors and layers of light, they walk through it and inscribe themselves on it by cutting off the light projection. Tagwerker succeeds in making perception contingent. The spectators find themselves part of a continuum of possible ways of looking, a continuum of phenomenological time as an “intertwining of retention and protention” (Husserl).
This focus on the temporal nature of perception as well as the relativisation of triaxial spatial structures form the fundamental common ground between Tagwerker and the works of Amy Yoes. A “rear-view mirror” enables us to look back while moving forward. In Amy Yoes’s eponymous video, a stop motion animation, a similar double movement is evoked both at the level of pictorial semantics and temporal ontology. Yoes seems to dynamise historical images, for example, of Kurt Schwitters’s “Merzbau”; she rouses archive material to new life. The pictures make distant reference to well-known photographic originals, but nevertheless retain a measure of indeterminacy for the spectator. The animation seems like a vague memory, maybe a memory of a memory, entirely in back and white, and not unlike an old photograph; an indeterminacy which has something uncanny about it. The light projections create objects and episodes with a ghostly, obscure presence, which threaten to disappear at every moment, in every image.
In an almost theatrical arrangement, which is performed in a single “act”, Yoes stages the successive dynamisation and condensation of forms which are partly three-dimensional and abstract, partly two-dimensional and ornamental. Lines, curves and amorphous forms, made out of paper, wire and plasticine, appear with and after each other, and act out their capacity for aesthetic influence. The formal and active elements function here as aesthetic entities without clearly defined references or purposes, they are single component parts, whose aesthetic content only becomes evident in constellation, in their interaction with other elements. And although cause and effect also remain unclear in these directed/undirected episodes, continual connection is nevertheless discernible as a principle. The forms make up groups and subscenes, which then intersect with other groups of forms, condense, dissolve, or leave the stage. The logic these visual events seem to obey is an internal one, almost compositional, if somewhat mechanical. They generate their own imaginary space of heterogeneity and simultaneity.
Yoes, like Tagwerker, makes reference to the pictorial compositions of early Modernism, although she chooses to concentrate in particular on their experimental variability. Abstract, two-dimensional and (partly) figurative elements do not constitute opposites in her animations, her only interest is in the performance and contingency of aesthetic chains of events. The Surrealists tried to counter the rationalism of a technological and functionalist Modernism with the dimension of the subconscious. The active elements in Yoes’s works combine both of these impulses in a transitional space between the abstract and the amorphous, the dreamlike and the real, the physical and the psychic.
The spatiality delineated in the works of Yoes and Tagwerker always has an inherent chronological dimension. This kind of space is not simply there, it has no metaphysical reality which can be translated into a system of coordinates – instead, its ontological status, its being, cannot be separated from its becoming: impermanent geometry. Through thedissolution of spatial conventions, the triaxial system of coordinates as the frame of reference for ideas and representations of space, the works of Yoes and Tagwerker challenge the spectator in the final instance to reassess their own “point of view”, confronting it (semiologically) with pictorial interpretation or (phenomenologically) with their own experience. This reassessment is as applicable to the internal imagery of Yoes’s work as it is to the phenomenological, real elements in Tagwerker.
Text: David Komary
Translation: Deborah Holmes