Eigenheim (A House of One’s Own)
Behind a well-kept lawn is a villa with a prefixed portico, a flight of stairs and a representative triangular pediment. The architecturally stringent symmetry appears to be disturbed solely through the placement of two recently planted trees. Another house, with an unadorned wooden gable and an entrance railing with inserted car wheels, catches the eye with a painted on picture of the homeland, a furrowing farmer with harnished horse. Even though the owners of the house are nowhere to be seen, their presence behind these external facades are felt.
In her photographic work, Gisela Erlacher deals with rooms whose architecture speaks of the people who use them. Her most recent photo series with the laconic title “Eigenheim (A House of One’s Own)” illustrates, in multiformed examples, the exterior – the frontal perspective, taken from the gable-sided facade of the house – of typical one-family houses in Lower Austria and Vienna. What at first sight appears to be anonymous, exchangeable and faceless, holds traces of individuality upon closer inspection.The viewer is tempted to create correlations and references between the appearance of the fa?ade and the personal characteristics of the home’s inhabitants: the choice of color for the facade, the arrangement of the front lawns, details such as loving flower arrangements, applied pictures on the facades, all kinds of small sculptures (garden dwarfs, lions, birdhouses) vividly illustrate this relationship.
Despite a neutral architecture of collective designs, the photographs illustrate a revealing picture of the buildings’ owners – (“my home is my castle”) – from the simple shapes of homes built after the war period, to the standardization of the 60s to the eclectic 90s.The artist is more concerned with the general topography of the modern home with its mask of architectural purpose and efforts than with a distanced documentative inventory.
In the photographic tradition of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who consistently summarize their series of timber-framed houses in documentative typologies and have them appear as “anonymous sculptures”, Erlacher subtly directs the view of the beholder to the specific and the characteristic. With the Bechers, photography becomes an instrument of a systematic rendition of a specific type of construction; Gisela Erlachers subjective choice, however, tells hidden tales, that let the day-to-day and the ordinary be experienced anew.
Symptomatic phantom rooms
Doris Krüger’s multipart work “under construction” consists of white metal plates with black raster drawings, on which colorful geometric picture fragments are able to be placed, shuffled or recombined through magnetism; they correspond similar in structure to a board game (Tangram). The title refers to Krüger’s material, the picture’s source – the Internet –, for the term is customarily used for websites that are in the process of being constructed or reconstructed; in the English figure of speech it also sounds as if something is ‘being subjected’ to construction. Operational requirements and processes of illustrating specific picture media, that are part of the construction and representation of rooms, are demonstrated. The specifically applied media, architectural photography and the computer program “Photoshop,” are publicized on the internet. The rooms that are thereby worked on and passed through, are the central perspective illusionary rooms of photographic footage on the one hand and spatial aspects of schematic fields on the other – metaphoric rooms, like the internet or the “Graphic User Interface” on the computer. Traces of these picture rooms and room pictures are eventually directed (back) to the room of reality.
But let’s follow the step by step process of transformation based on Krüger’s choice of pictures: predominantly (unfurnished, void of human presence) emptiness, communal interior rooms, such as gyms, school rooms, factory or exhibition halls, that were all similarly photographed from a frontal perspective and are found on va rious homepages on the internet. These rooms had therefore already been subjected to mediatization before the artist got involved; the pictures of these rooms serve specific purposes – the presentation of a locality for the identificative detection of an institution or the presentation of a just finished building on an architecture office’s homepage. The documentative quality, that these correlations apparently require, is realized in formal, rigid, usually wide-angled takes, that each include all five elemental space-limitative surfaces – floor, back wall, ceiling and two side walls. This “view box”-structure of the takes suggests totalism, as well as comprehensive spaciousness and complete oversight, and can thereby pass as an emblem for the central perspective: the construction of a coherent, homogenous illusionary room, that refers on natural powers (light-ray laws) and is organized towards an imaginary bodiless viewer. As a power-strategical combination of discourses and practices, the central perspective is thus, as ‘dispositive’, of extraordinary dominance and permanence.
Apart from culture-theoretical aspects of mediatization, with the publication of the selected pictured rooms on the internet a substantial step was made on a technical level as well: the index-like photographic analog footage underwent a medial transformation, namely a digitalization. This enabled further work on the photographs in the “digital darkroom”. Here, therefore, is where the stringent structure of the central perspective is, so to speak, driven to the edge of its cogent logic: the pictures of the respective rooms are molded to an “ideal room measure”; all rooms become the same height, are given the same width and the same depth, for which the five elemental surfaces of a specific room-view box have to be additionally adapted in the photoshop computer program. The interferences of the artist in the perspective room pictures therefore begin by taking apart. The singular pieces are then each distorted on different “levels”, as geometric two-dimensional figures. Hence, in this distortion the rooms are not proportionally changed in their entirety, but instead the side lengths of each surface are stretched and jolted so that they fit into the given raster. The resulting pictures of the rooms still display all symptoms of the original photographs, inasfar as no pixels were lost, but are “disturbed” in their spatial correlation – like a phantom picture, in which all individual characteristics were recorded but that still remains disparate. This lack of homogeneity is eventually balanced out through a re-individualization, in which each room receives its own color tones.
And now one can play: the movability of the parts of the pictured room allows the construction of new hybrid phantoms of rooms; what is extensively stored in distinct surface pattern effects in these synthetic pictures is the room-illusionary effect of the central perspective. Krüger’s deconstruction process may not be called such solely based on its technical requirements, for she lays the design of room displays through perspectives bare (which incidentally also remains present in the time period of digital picture media, for in the meantime the algorithmic character of the construction of perspective enables perfect 3-D models to be created on the computer). Of importance in the process is also the transferral of the construction work from the (metaphoric) thematic room of the Graphic User Interface of the Photoshop programme to the reality room of photography, where instead of the symbol of a hand on the computer screen one can really lay a hand on it. For in that way Krüger refers to a discussion in the stress field of illusionary and virtual space – meaning the switch from the external, bodiless to the involved viewer of electronic interactiveness. The fact that digital room construction can be adjusted here, which can be traced back to distorted room projections, is very much to be read as an ironic refraction from models of spatial fiction or simulation, that critically undermines all too euphoric utopias of new virtual theme rooms.
Doris Maximiliane Würgert
On the Breath of Things
Two vases on a shelf. A chair at a wall. Or a bed. A desk. Objects, left alone in a completely abstract room almost without location. In her photographs, Doris Maximiliane Würgert tells of the still-life of shapes. Her photography generalizes spatial states. She leaves all social coding out and relies back to an almost lapidary representation of objects. Everything that does not serve this project is forced out. It is an interest in the limiting states of photography and painting, that is connected to the cultural transformation of the themes of modernism of the 60s and 70s, that a point is found in this work from which the affirmation of this modernism as ambiente-folie of contemporary frigid life-style constructions is driven against. In contrast, what D. M. Würgert’s photography presents is an analytical model of room images of this modernism.
They almost seem to be breathing, the objects on which the photographic eye is concentrating, as if they were portraits. The contextual reduction of the figures in the room, which Würgert’s object portraits surround, make the physical and spiritual conditioning of the subjects in the public rooms and in the working world of corporate offices of that time almost physically felt. Würgert answers the thoughts of standardization of modern design utopias as though with the aura of things that were created out of her. That changes the ruling culturally pessimistic picture of the individuation of the subjects in the mass society of those years to the better. These portraits have an effect like the picture of a small revolt in contrast to the deadly passivity of this society. Würgert’s placement of this emptiness in the picture does not lose itself in a hedonistic game with historical differences. The nostalgic view in this world of forms is criticized for its negation of the social and of the economic and in its affirmation of shape and abstraction. The “location” of the viewers becomes a specific criterion, against which single horizons, perspectives and depth dimensions of this historical detection can unfold. In an interrelation of centering and de-centering, of homogenizing and de-homogenizing of the room, perhaps then may become visible what illusions of the social, economic or even artistic surroundings the project of modernism followed: as symbolic means and political tool. Thus Doris Maximiliane Würgert’s work builds a fragile bridge between observer and observed, oscillating between objective and subjective themes as well as the physical description of what is real.