Artists: Andreas Heller, Katarina Matiasek
The exhibition subsequent formation focuses on forms of the panoramic gaze. By deconstructing the suggestion of sovereignty that the panoramic gaze implies, Andreas Heller and Katarina Matiasek render its ordering of the visible apparent. In the history of perspective, wide angles reflect the craving for an overview that manifested itself at the same time as the middle classes began to rise to prominence: one concrete example would be the patent Robert Barker was granted for the panorama in 1787. Before the advent of cinematography, the panorama emerged as a mass medium of political dimensions, operating in the transitional area between art, spectacle and propaganda.
In the comparative combination of works by Heller and Matiasek, landscape constitutes the common iconic element. In their reflections on the panoramic staging of viewpoint, the naturalness of landscape reveals itself to be a culturally conditioned conception of nature. The image of the landscape can be read as a visual formula for describing nature. Formally, both artists work with means that can be described as compositional; with framing, with techniques that even seem to approach cinematic cadrage. The visual field seems fragmented, divided, the continuity of the ‘representation of reality’ disrupted. Perception itself becomes unstable and fragmentary. Both Heller and Matiasek stage visual omissions with projective content. For both artists, the status of these pictorial gaps is ambivalent. While they effectively activate the cultural repertoire of nature imagery, at the same time a moment of disillusionment is always inherent in this process of pictorial evocation.
The object of observation is not so much what is depicted or recognisable, in this instance some sort of actual landscape; instead, it is the mode of observation itself, the observational focus which determines how the image of nature is produced. Instead of the depiction of the external, the given, recursions to hegemonialised forms of landscape depiction move to the centre of aesthetic investigation. Subsequent formation – the reproduction, in the sense of a landscape image imbedded in cultural memory, becomes the frame of reference for contemporary perception: the image of a landscape is revealed as a tableau of medial feedback, an interference pattern of visual encryptions.
In her photography and video work, Katarina Matiasek questions the relationship between image and reality, she investigates the structural connections between media and perception-based images and the cognitive operations that lead to the construction of our reality. In the two-part photographic panorama Split Horizon I, Matiasek deliberately stages the blind spot in panoramic composition. Believing themselves secure in the panoramic convention of the sovereign vantagepoint, observers, in their attempt to “over-see” the landscape with a superior gaze, are consistently confronted with a zone of invisibility, an empty white space. The panorama consists of a high-definition landscape photograph, transformed into an ambigram using lenticular print technique. The angles of the image segments of this ambigram are not arranged in the manner of conventional visual puzzles: one image does not transform into another as the viewing perspective changes. Instead, a substantial portion of the picture appears as white, erased. As a result, every observation is concomitant with a breakdown in visibility. In this changing image, Matiasek allows empty space to become a constant, perpetually forcing the observer to change his/her viewpoint in order to complete the picture. In a manner similar to Heller’s cadrage techniques, Matiasek’s image unfolds as a composite, first through the division of the picture into two parts, and then through the dissection of the image into the picture strips of an ambigram. The image is segmented like a film so that it can be synthesised anew by the observer. The continuity of the image can only be revealed through this synthesising process, and in the interplay of actual and projected representativeness.
With this conceptually simple but technically demanding procedure, Matiasek reverses the logic of panoramic composition. By continually displacing the sovereign, auctorial vantage point, the artist not only achieves the dissipation of any consumerist pleasure in the images into emptiness, she also establishes its hitherto concealed blind-spot at the centre of her work, revealing the panorama as an ideologically encoded ordering of the visible.
By analysing the representation of reality, of nature – largely through linear, graphically abstracted encoding – Andreas Heller raises doubts as to the image itself and its mimetic capacity. As in earlier works, Heller here once again refers back to the ways in which the Romantics perceived landscape, with their masterful ability to conceal their own observational formula. In the installation Ohne Titel (Paravent) [No Title (screen)] an extensive ‘walk-in picture’, Heller presents landscape in a radically reduced form – reduced to its silhouette, its horizon. The question arises whether this simple line reproduces or traces something, or whether it dictates something, since it is not static, but coupled to a temporal dimension: as the observer inspects the installation, the spatial design conditions a process of projective perception. In this way, Heller’s empty picture, to be experienced by walking through or past it, becomes a surface upon which kinaesthetic observation can act.
In its evocation of imaginary landscapes, Heller’s representation of landscape reveals itself to be more than a potential palimpsest for culturally stored images. Heller’s approach is however not just semiotic; he also shows ciphers of the natural to be symbolic systems that are constituted collectively. By taking the image onto a spatial plane, he combines this analytical moment with a decidedly kinaesthetic form of reception that addresses the processes of sensual perception of each individual recipient. He invites observers to move through space, to enter the installation and, through the potential modifications and alterations of view, deconstructs the notion of one ideal vantagepoint.
Heller and Matiasek work with visual compositions that are inseparable from the historical notion of the sovereign observational viewpoint. However, using different methods, both make the sovereign viewpoint impossible. Each artist dismantles the panorama and transforms it into a perceptual continuum. Their works are united not by the realisation or recognition of a landscape but by the processive nature of image reception. The landscape representations of Matiasek and Heller can be described as genuinely fragmented. Both artists stress the inherently semioticised, pictorially constitutive process of landscape perception – Matiasek by dissecting the landscape into picture panels to form an ambigram, and Heller by dividing up the silhouette of a panorama into screen-like segments. In this way, landscape becomes a text for Matiasek and Heller, and seeing becomes reading. And yet, aesthetic perception is not reduced to semiotic processes – both artists combine semiotic analysis with a phenomenological dimension in their works. Through the addition of a temporal aspect, the modification of angles of view or of standpoints, the subject unexpectedly becomes the centrepoint of observation. Landscape painting since the Romantic Era can be said to represent the longing for immediacy and authenticity in a way that is virtually exemplary of the subjectivisation of perception. Ohne Titel (Paravent) and Split Horizon I turn this longing back on the observer.
(Translation Deborah Holmes)