Artists: Andy Graydon Albert Sackl
The exhibition interfering void presents an encounter between two time-based artistic practices, which confer a state of precariousness on the respective image or object perceived. In the 16 mm film Im Freien (In the Open) by Albert Sackl and the installation The Findings by Andy Graydon the object perceived—or in other words, the object constituted by the filmic or the audiovisual—is per se instable and fleeting. The viewer is confronted with an aesthetic of ongoing transformation as well as an aesthetic of evasion and disappearance. How can one describe the ontological status of the visual object/object of attention, the object as it unfolds in a narrative, and what is its relationship to “reality,” which is, or is initially presumed to be, the starting point of the representation.
The topos of the landscape is an obvious aesthetic component that is common to the works of Sackl and Graydon. Initially the landscape functions as a cipher of the natural, an entity independent of humankind, an opposing and antagonizing power. Whereas Sackl visualizes and stages nature as an emphatically primal agent,as an untamable force, in Graydon’s work the landscape, or specifically the forest, forms a collectively charged realm onto which ideas are projected and which inherently entails an indefinite and uncanny dimension. In both aesthetic practices the landscape serves an exemplary and model-like function. However, Sackl and Graydon forgo concretizing the landscape as a natural situation and external reality that they represent; instead the landscape is constituted, reshaped, and transformed over the course of an aesthetic process. Whereas in Sackl’s work the landscape is distilled from a synthesis of individual filmic images and the gaps between them into a visual dimension full of ruptures and contrasts, in Graydon’s work it unfolds over the course of a narrative as an imaginary entity, an imaginary visual space. In neither work is the landscape, as a background, used as a backdrop that provides contrast or articulation for the objects perceived; instead the landscape substantially shapes or even helps produce such objects.
During his stay at the AIR-Krems residency program in the summer of 2013 Andy Graydon developed an auditory space, and installation-based sound work for the front pavilion-like area of the gallery. Visitors hear a voice speaking, and in the center of the room is an empty platform, which could also be interpreted as a bench to sit on. The protagonist/narrator talks about his search for a specific object in a dark and eerie forest, whereby the real nature of the object remains unnamed and undefined. The narrator speaks slowly, in an insistent tone, to the point that the process of searching itself becomes the focus. The narrator seems to have lost something, but he is unable to accurately describe it, and he is also unable find the place in the forest where he thinks to have last seen it. The more he tries to explain the object to the listener or tries to “find” it with words, the more stilted the description becomes. The object described seems to continuously shift and change. The description and the mental image of the object only temporarily or latently converge, only to then be rescripted in the imaginary visual evocations of the item that accompany the ongoing attempts to describe it.
The Findings addresses the dislocation of an object, the ontological status of which is unclear and in a state of change. The work interrogates efficacy of linguistic signification, but to an even greater degree its inefficacy or imprecision. Instead of referring to one other, the description and the described, the signifier and the signified apparently fail to connect. This discrepancy and divergence not only characterizes the process of description, but the object seems to be dramatized by this semantic shift. The work is honed in a way that not the object but difference and divergence become the subject of the work. The form of what is envisioned and what is perceived paradoxically approximate one another, without assuming a visible or identifiable shape. The mental apparatus of the viewer/hearer becomes a “projector” of image and ideas; the attentive mind attempts to mold an object of imaginary dimensions, which it remains unable to firmly grasp.
Graydon’s installation raises the question as to how the described object is shaped in the “eye” of the viewer out of a synthesis of the narrative, or, more precisely, how it is constituted as a mental image that then impacts a further perception as a precursor to or component of what one “sees.” In this context the platform serves as a projection surface for an imaginary object, which the viewer attempts to devise through the resonance of the indefinite object within the narrative.
The narrative of The Findings is additionally coupled with a mimetic dimension. In an affective manner the narrative tries to evoke potential images rooted in memory while focusing on an object that the viewer has never seen. The dual aspects of the object’s absence and indistinct nature are underscored by the transience and immateriality of auditory space. Sound, tone, and voice, intrinsically fleeting medial phenomena, create the presence of absence. The viewer/listener follows the narrator on his search without knowing whether the signifiers that the narrator attempts to describe and name are clues and hints or whether they refer to the past or the future. Due to this merging of past and future temporalities, all perceptual certainty disappears and the focal elements of being able to recognize and re-identify something are lost. Searching and finding, perception and imagination are melded into an inseparable, multi-valent relationship.
In his work Im Freien Albert Sackl confronts viewers with a stop-motion animation of the most radical, analogue form. Over the course of three months the artist used a 16 mm camera to take individual still images at three-minute intervals, photographing the barren, uninhabited landscape of Iceland. Compiling these images into an accelerated sequence of 24 images per second, the series of photographs is condensed into a 23-minute film. The temporal sequence of the photographs remains unchanged in the film, that is the film is a strictly chronological and unchanged series of images, which have not be added to or exchanged.
The setting of the film Im Freien has an exemplary quality. Initially it seems to be composed of extremely simple elements: the landscape, the body, and the cube are legible as representations and figurations of an idea, as cultural codes. For example, the landscape signifies untouched nature; the body serves as the figuration of a subject; the house is a signifier of urbanity. However, Im Freien is not a staging of pictorial and representative entities, of the landscape or the body, although the film often has an epic sensibility. Instead, it deals with the divergence, breakdown, and decomposition of their manifestations. The image of a “single” person, in actuality the artist himself, seems to be invested with a natural ability to replicate, fragment, or mirror itself. The spatial coordinates of the foreground and background, left and right as well as up and down are negated or even made obsolete. The filmic space that Sackl creates adheres to its own, non-linear and non-causal “laws.” In addition, the oscillation between light and dark evokes a hallucinatory space, in which components of the image appear as disassociated, accidental phenomena that fluctuate between visual latency and absence. Here the “object” is a compounded entity in terms of both the aesthetic of its production and reception. It addresses the viewer’s cognitive ability to synthesize visual information; but by no mean can it be read or objectified as an analogue-indexical marking.
The visual staccato of Im Freien produces a stroboscope-like effect on the viewer. Inherent to the sequence of images is a non-visual film, constituted by the intervals between the still images. These “gaps” in the visually recorded and represented information are inscribed in the pictorial events of the film as abrupt cuts or sudden contrasts. Unremitting attention is required on the part of the viewer, in order to create a coherency out of the endless series of breaks and ruptures. In this context, perception is not a form of identification or recognition but a process of supplementation and of aesthetic or even diegetic synthesis. The filmic image opens up a field of perceptual-projected activity, in which an apparatus-based and a mental system seem to inextricably refer to one another.
Im Freien pushes the boundaries of perception. Sackl confronts viewers with the inertia of retinal perception, the constitutive limits of the optical sensorium and thereby refers to the grammar of filmic perception itself. Within the context of the exhibition, interfering void the artist presents Im Freien as an installation in which objects offer a kind of “feedback.” Elements from the film itself are not only integrated into the exhibition scenario, but also the installation as a dispositive is formed in its entirety out of objects from the film. The objects synthesized through the film refer back to the real space in which the exhibition is staged. From this perspective, Sackl’s film points to the multi-valent relationships between the camera, the image, the gaze, and the subject matter depicted, but the film largely addresses the significance of the dispositive in reference to the given moment of situational and spatial perception.
The aesthetic element of absence is inherent to the works of Albert Sackl and Andy Graydon. Voids, gaps, and omissions determine the aesthetic syntax of the works. However, it would be insufficient to describe these aesthetic gaps merely as referential voids, as ruptures in the relationship between depiction and reality. In the work of both artists the object represented remains aesthetically ambiguous and semantically diffuse and is even intended to be polysemic. The mimetic image thus forms an entertaining and at first visual anchor, which ends up leading nowhere, since it is decontextualized and in part desemanticized in the shifts of aesthetic transfiguration. A moment of recognition/identification thus seems to be postponed to the point of an impending perceptual event (Graydon) or even suspended completely (Sackl).
Initially both artists give the impression of seeing, observing, and perceiving, but instead they alienate viewers through the works Im Freien and The Findings, since the respective objects portrayed appear to be dissociated from reality and are manifested in medially (re-)coded form. Their visibility marks more an interface with reality than a moment of replication/reproduction. As if this aesthetic and media-technological destabilization were not enough, both artists ultimately refer viewers back to their own seeing capacity as constitutive of the image. The image appears as a field of action for the gaze. Viewers find themselves within the non-directional interplay between perception, medial coding, and imaginary signification.