Künstler: Siegrun Appelt, Jan Nálevka
No moment can be a present moment, precisely because every moment and the sum of all moments is a passing-by. As a result, there is no present, nor past, nor future in time. Sören Kierkegaard
The exhibition The Same, The Similar revolves around temporality and the passing of time. In the works of Jan Nálevka and Siegrun Appelt, time does not feature as an external factor, nor as something that is beyond the perception of the individual consciousness. Instead, time happens – with reference to culturally established notions of temporality on the one hand, and according to subjective modalities of its passing on the other. Although both artists emphasise the consciousness that perceives time and the temporal nature of acts of perception, neither seeks to establish a substantial or homogenous notion of time. Nálevka and Appelt create paradoxical time dispositifs, revealing the precariousness of linear temporality and continuity. Appelt confronts the viewer with a field of the smallest possible changes at the limits of perception, while Nálevka’s serially produced, lined sheets of paper constitute an inventory of chronology per se. In both works, an important role is played by sameness – or at least, an appearance of similitude –
and by intervals as references to temporality.
The aesthetic formations of Appelt and Nálevka oscillate between sameness, similarity and difference. The challenge to the viewer is to relate like with like and to perceive difference in the indifferent. Changes in the repeated ‘same’ caused by the process of perception make what first seems like a single event or thing into something else, something new. Repetition becomes the basis of differentiation.
In We can lose everything but not time, Jan Nálevka presents us with six piles of unwritten, lined A4 paper. At first sight, these seem to be technically reproduced, indistinguishable from one another. However, on closer inspection, every single sheet turns out in fact to be a unique ‘manuscript’, produced by hand. According to Walter Benjamin, objects necessarily – and regrettably? – lose their aura in an age of mass technical reproduction; in Nálevka’s work, the relationship between original and copy has been inverted. By contrasting technical duplication with a decidedly manual method, the artist creates reproductions of another order – unique reproductions, which both deconstruct and reconstruct the authority of the original, without however returning to a pre-Benjamin notion of originality.
If interpreted semiotically, We can lose everything but not time can be seen as a challenge to aesthetic norms, to the DIN format and to lineation. The limits of each individual sheet of paper and its lining become discernable as medial determinants. Because the sheets of A4 ostensibly contain nothing other than an imperfect mimesis of paper lining, the work can be understood as a paradoxical temporal medium as far as its production aesthetics are concerned. In this reading, the lining becomes directly symbolic of the passing of time, a notation of perpetuity itself. The repetition of the lines in this serial variant of ‚writing’ is not however indicative of regression; it serves as liminal differentiation in the form of the slightest permutations, the production of difference. It is repetition that is concerned with becoming, with the possibilities for change in recurrence. By arranging his inventory of chronology on six piles of A4 paper on the same number of pedestals, Nálevka stages it in space, creating an impression of storage and presentation that is reminiscent of an archive or museum. While the drawn line still acted as a direct analogy to perpetuity or duration, to the time of writing, the piles of paper and their spatial presentation already figure as a form of accumulated and administered time. Nálevka makes archival time visible. It can be seen as a construction of temporality arising from the organisation of collected objects. Archives as well as museums generate a fantasy of progression that bolsters the subject’s sense of self by enabling it to situate itself on a fictionally linear timeline.
Nálevka’s empty pages oscillate between image and non-image. The emptiness of the sheets of paper, like a tabula rasa, is expressive of potential fullness, of a multiplicity of imaginary texts. In the final instance – beyond the archival logic of progression and linearity, beyond homogeneous models of space and time – We can lose everything but not time also evokes a complex,multi-layered, polychronous space of possibility.Within the ostensibly rigid, serial form of presentation, an imaginary structure of overlapping temporal semantic layers emerges.
In Abstrakte Formulierung #7 (Abstract Formulations #7) Siegrun Appelt creates a basic, abstract perception situation to investigate the way in which aesthetic perception is constituted as a temporal process. The viewer is confronted with a panel-like light tableau of unfocused, abstract-geometrical form constellations. The tableau is structured as an image within an image, whose formal arrangement remains largely unchanged but whose colours undergo barely perceptible alteration. Colours feature here as ephemeral presences, figures of liminal change. To this end, the artist uses LED light, which makes it technically possible to represent all the perceivable colours in the spectrum in seamless transitions. Appelt also challenges light as a medium, using this elaborate technology to generate non-light with light, that is to say, darkness. She changes light intensity, focus, colour in such a way that the viewer is deprived of any certainty of what he or she perceives at any one moment. Due to the extreme slowness of what is happening, the artist forces the viewer to ‘focus’ on their own capability for perceiving difference. It is less the image itself than our perception of it that is at the centre of this work, less what can be seen than sight itself.
Although the constant intensity of LED light is able to create an impression of colour that is almost physically or spatially present, the ontological status of colour in Abstrakte Formulierung #7 remains indeterminate. On the one hand, colour is bound to particular objects here, it takes place at a surface level of the image. On the other hand, however, it is staged as an immaterial, transitory phenomenon that transcends the image bearer. Corresponding to its spatial energy and the luminosity of each section of the image, colour is able to liberate itself entirely from the image’s medium.
In the eye of the beholder, a stratified, imaginary pictorial space is constituted, whose structural depths are continually reconfigured by the image’s programmed changes; foreground becomes background, light becomes dark. Due to the gradual nature of the changes, it is very difficult for the viewer to decide whether the transfigurations really take place in the image itself or whether they are part of the projection that is formed in the beholder’s eye. Perception and projection, memories and imagination are all combined. In this transfigurative panel, the categories of present and past seem to merge into one another. Appelt presents us with a continuum of perception in which comparisons are drawn between what has been seen at different times. What seems at first to be an identical image gradually enables the emergence of another through its alteration over time.
This staging of sameness, of supposed similitude in the works of Appelt and Nálevka determines a liminal process of differentiation that takes place on the outer boundary of perception. Any differences or anomalies are due solely to the duration of the aesthetic experience. Here, the image is no longer a semantic unity, nor can it be determined in temporal-ontological terms. Instead, it is maintained by the passage of time as a continuum of perception. In this chronology of perception, different layers of time overlap, time past and present interlocks in polychrony. With the passage of time and the momentary nature of perception, perpetuity is continual change and becoming the temporal horizon of the moment.
Translation: Deborah Holmes