Carl Aigner: In the Realm of the Image

In the Realm of the Image - Architecture, space and time as photographic constructs in the new works of Claudia Pilsl

A space, properly understood, comprises a broad scope of apertures, circulations, interactions and permeations...
André Masson

Space and time are not substances, but ‘real relations’; they have their real objectivity in the ‘truth of relationships’ and not in an absolute reality.
Ernst Cassierer

Architecture generates space and movement. Museum architecture constructs the experience of art as an object-subject experience. Addressing art as a contextual phenomenon -- as “context art”, to use the words of Peter Weibel -- is a question of perceptual relations within which the constellations and significance of art develop. It is an accepted given that art is constituted as much by the way in which it is presented as it is by the place in which it is presented.

Whereas the museums of modernism were once the secularised cathedrals of the respective present, in today’s information-and-knowledge society they have become aesthetic wellness and fitness centres – venues of a multifunctional leisure industry where art is figured in suspense, according to the title of a photographic light-box work by Claudia Pilsl about the Tate Modern. In the past, photography reflected on the art works and their immediate surroundings; now, as in the case of the Tate Modern, it reflects on the entire infrastructural ensemble of the museum.

The new Tate Modern is studied and portrayed in minute detail, in all its complexity as a multiple site for art. In the new works and installations, colour photographs, digital image generation and moving pictures become conceptual instruments of study and vehicles of presentation at one and the same time. The polyperspectivity of the creative approach guides the gaze towards unintentional givens that reveal the seemingly arbitrary course of art. The focus and pictorialisation of such functional necessities as the entrance, the escalators and the exhibition spaces no longer addresses the expansion of the concept of art, but the underlying factors that constitute the relationship between art and observation.

Wolfgang Kemp, in the title of a publication on the reception of art, claims that

Der Betrachter ist im Bild (The Viewer is Inside the Picture). In Claudia Pilsl’s recent works, the viewer is not only inside the picture as a picture, but is also present in the architectonic choreographies as a functional input of these same choreographies. This means that visitors to an exhibition find themselves caught in a kind of double bind, for they are not only the “users” of the architecture and the art works, but are at the same time an integral part of the way it is staged. The inclusion of dynamic images and serial processes creates an analogy to the current museum space, which increasingly characterises itself through the aspect of dynamics. Götz Großklaus, describing the relationship between space and time in the media age of the present day, maintains: “I believe that, in the tendency of the entire modernisation process to destroy temporal and spatial distance, we find an expansion and intensification of the field of the here and now. Everything tends to be the here and now, with past and future updated by processes of speed-of-light media transportation into states of new simultaneity.”

What is referred to here in terms of time diagnostics is not only a comment on everyday experience, but a key focus of art as a whole: its secularised spirituality is a crucial occidental fantasy of time sublated, a marriage of time and space as a utopian vision of eternity, which, as a dynamic phenomenon, evokes not only vitality, but also the disappearance of time.

It is no coincidence that Claudia Pilsl works with contemporary technical visual media that evoke reversibility (looping) as well as acceleration (compression) and deceleration (slow motion). In the ambivalence of the recording equipment and construction media, they constantly create interfaces between architecture and space, image and perception, motion and standstill. Part of the intelligence of these new works lies in their sensibility towards time. It is no longer the time of the art work that is relevant, but the relationship between time, observation and access (passages in presentation). The transfer of secularisation from religion to art, already mentioned above, corresponds to the architectural and choreographic rituals of the experience of time, insofar as rituals of access to both spheres permit scansion and rhythm.

It is, once again, the mechanisms of visualising art that interest and even fascinate this artist. By extending the issue to those factors indirectly concerning the condition of art and the way it is constituted, the appearance and disappearance of art becomes an essential aspect of the work: the presence and absence of art culminate in a metareflexive fundamental understanding of the creative act as such. As Nietzsche said, “We need art in order to be able to bear the truth”. With this statement, art itself became a place of truth, while the museum as a place of art became the place of truth – the secularised cathedral of the aesthetic absolute. Claudia Pilsl reveals the deconstructivist processes as gestures of power that ultimately refer only to themselves in complex retroactive loops.

Published in the catalogue Space Encounters by Landesgalerie am Oberoesterreichischen Landesmuseum, November 2003.