The same goes for the pink embryo in uterus; meaning was also displaced and shifted to something else. Your staging of light converted a medical object into the auratic presence of a fresco. Would you please explain your working process for this shift? SA: Transformation of any kind is a subtle, fragile process. It is ethereal, ephe- meral, and unpredictable.
It requires novel ways of looking, circumventing ex- pectation, and going beyond the obvious. It also entails grace, which cannot be predetermined. The word transformation has myriad usages: from mathematics to genetics to linguistics. What I am concerned with in this work is how medical specimens can in fact be pictured as being qualifiedly changed. Such modifica- tion is obviously indebted to photography and the manners in which an image is perceived. However, another aspect of this process is imbued with intentionality, agency and conversion.
The Glass Veil SF: Have you any specific interest in cognitive and neurosciences and if so, which ones? Do these works play a role for your art? Assuming yes, which one? I am working with images extracted from neuroanatomical brain scans. I have also created an animation of flapping butterfly wings superimposed onto MRI scans which create perceptual illusions.
II SF: Would you describe the role the viewer plays in your artworks? Would you say that he has a constituent role already in your plan? Assuming yes, what kind of part? SA: Yes, a viewer is made aware of the fact that his gaze may not have recog- nized all there was to observe in his initial scanning of the object. His subjectivi- ty of seeing is enhanced by the conditions created by the lighting, reflections, scale shifts and the like.
I embrace the temporal attributes of seeing as a way to reveal vision as a process. Observation, although rooted in empiricism, also carries with it degrees of subjectivity, and it is this subjective means of seeing, a somatic gaze, which pivots a medical specimen into an ambiguous, and sometimes fleet- ing, image. SF: Does the number of spectators visiting your installation affect the manner of experiencing of the piece?
SA: In the case of the installation at La Charite, the setting is so immense. The number of people seeing the installation is dwarfed by comparison. The kines- thetic experience of the place itself diminishes the viewer in all cases. SF: Would you say that planning your installation would evoke in the viewer the feelings of being part of a social or cultural group? How is space, that is, envi- ronment in a larger sense considered a subjective experience? SA: The architectural space and the subject matter of the photographs alternate between inclinations of loneliness and melancholy, as they address loss.
From the harvesting of body parts to the stationary ruin as a center for discourse, the viewer is suspended between wonder and the politics of the real. SF: What differences between the social and subjective do you interweave in your installation? SA: Of course, the social is omnipresent in this installation, seizing an historical narrative of time and place. The fact that the Ruine was employed by scientists and physicians as a lecture hall for examining pathological case studies is quite ironic when we convert individual pathology to political pathology.
The meta- phor drives itself. When I think about the subjective, symbolist nature of this work, I come to realize correspondences between language and materials. The amniotic sac visible in the Hand-Mirror is paralleled to the parachute material. When I consider translucence I think of an ether world, neither light nor dark, but a combination of both, a transcendent sense of light with positive associations. SF: The parachutes are constantly moving. What relevance does movement have in The Glass Veil? Is there a link between the movement of the parachutes, a moving spectator, and an inner movement of recognition?
The link between the movement of the parachutes, a moving spectator and an inner movement of recognition comes down to a philosophical argument in which the spectator is presented with several options simultaneously. Holding inconsistent meanings concurrently is also an attribute of a work of art. SF: How would you describe these different interacting kinds of movement?
SA: The parachutes sway in slight alternating directions, while a viewer com- pletes a path, by going up and down stairways or gazing straight ahead to fully realize the installation. Looking up, looking down, looking straight ahead, the physical repose of the viewer is spatially and kinesthetically directed towards shifting perspectives.
Visual Artist, New York
There are no fixed directives, no correct angles of viewing. Through discovery, the viewer is escorted through various fields of perception. SF: What role do such movements play in your piece? SA: I refer to zones of ambiguity as images that recall an unimaginable presence.
What does it feel like for a viewer to be confronted by a brain or a fetus floating in fluids on display? How does one address issues of personhood with regard to these images? Dead, but yet still animated by the reflected light. Akin to looking into an aquarium, viewers are confronted with the anthropomorphic nature of these fragments cum beings.
SA: Yes, emotions of course are slippery states of being with shifting personas, intensities and durations. Closely aligned to the concept of time, deep time, emo- tions are conjured up within the domain of art as one of its telltale signs. III SF: Would you agree that your installation creates an environment in which bodies are reframed by their habitat?
And if so — how? What is your intention? SA: As the glass vitrines frame the specimens, so too we are circumscribed by our container. As space is displaced by a body in its environment, a mutable boundary is marked and can be traced through locomotion and gesture. Our path outlines an alternative architecture, a neuroarchitecture created by movement. Dance means having the greatest freedom in the arts, because dance really works directly with the body. It only works with what you carry with you at all times.
The instrument is the body and the rest is completely open. The rest, what you do with it, in which forms, in which spaces, in which encounters, which presentation and portrayal or embodiment or event, is liberty. Into which form you go is entirely free and entirely open. This is the reason why I am still interested in working with dance or why I still label myself as a choreographer.
The transition to choreography was the moment when you decided: I want to discover form from within this rich body of experience? Dance itself never really interested my as such. Still, the thing I was interested in, I wanted to find in dance. Another point is that I was never really interested in being on stage myself. I only studied dance so that I could understand the tools of the trade.
I never enjoyed this feeling of going on stage. I always found the view from the outside to be much more interesting. To be able to experience all of it, to be able to produce it yourself. A piece that I consider to be THE great masterpiece of her oeuvre, especially regarding the choreography.
But the very moment I danced in it, it was destroyed for me for many years, disenchanted, because everything is enumerated. I was constantly busy counting the beats. It was only about the line-up, the formations, the rows and about where my spot was, where I should stand. I saw everything from the back and looked down the rows and all the power that this piece has when you see it from the audience perspective was lost. And for many years after, when I saw the play, I felt the same way about it.
Only years later, I was able to see the play from a neutral position again. I could observe for hours. I love it. So you combined two perspectives: the outside perspective as a choreographer, and at the same time the perspective of the dancer who knows what they do with the body. Exactly, but I completely chose this one perspective, almost immediately after my dance training.
How long is it? Is it connected? Do you go through it, do you sit and watch or participate? All of this is choreography to me. But, broken down to the smallest common denominator, it is actually always a structure of space and time. The body is the theme, content, medium, venue, witness, creator. The body is the central subject. As of today: what defines you as a choreographer?
What defines your work now and today? Which elements are central to your engagement?
What is particularly special about my work is the transcending of genres, or, in other words, the floating relation between the many different elements I work with, like image, text, movement, light, music, atmospheres, space, body. Every element gets to take the lead at times. So it is not always the body, the theme or the content that leads the way, it can be a completely different element like the light. This is very important to me. A further important element is the imagery, the very visual aspect of my work, the aesthetics.
It has always been there, even in my first work. Aesthetics is the most radical language I have for communication. What I am interested in is understanding the aesthetic material so that I can then apply it contentually.
Apart from the visual aspect, music plays an important role. The auditive aspect is something much more delicate, much more restrained. Even though it is profound and it comes from behind, it is very strong. I am becoming more and more interested in working with the auditive aspect, also because it has become compulsory for me. I cannot stand music as a backdrop and I always must listen to it.
So it influences me fundamentally! But the visual element is incredibly strong and incredibly dominant as well. A fourth element that constitutes a central element in my work is the human and the body itself. Choreography or dance often only concerns the body.
Darwin and Theories of Aesthetics and Cultural History
So I am not only interested in the body as a material and form, as an object, but also as a subject. By that, I mean the human being within a society, their development and the development of the senses, how the understanding develops, how we see the world. This also includes culture, the cultural imprint and also the utopias, the wishes, the changes, the possibilities of transition and action. So this entire aspect, what the human being actually really means or what it means to live and to act. What is image or imagery to you, in the context of the present day, where everything is hyper-medial and hyper- visual?
What is the significance of the image or imagery in your art? What definitely exists for me is the constant question: what is the meaning of the image? Essentially, the image is very much in opposition to dance, because dance is movement and flow. The image, on the other hand, is always a static thing, a snapshot, something that has nothing to do with dance at all. This is also what makes my work so alien and at the same time so interesting in dance, in a way.
We live in an era of images and in an age of aesthetics, in which everything is aestheticized. We live in an age of Photoshop, where everything is about the stylization of images. Everything, the internet and social media, works via images and at the same time, everything reduces more and more to the image. The image drops out of time and space. To work within this stress ratio is interesting to me, and simultaneously means that I am in constant confrontation with myself.
I ask myself: what does it actually mean to choreograph pictorially, elaborately, visually or aesthetically? Ideally, the aesthetics become a weapon or an instrument. Before I come back to the image and to what remains of that image you generate with your work, I would like to discuss another instrument: the body. Simultaniously though, the body is a body-subject. How do you deal with this as a choreographer? This dualism is immediately present in the theater situation for me, because what I am watching are human beings. On the other hand, I am looking at bodies, who move in a certain way, or who are trying to embody something for me.
This is actually always the theme. Even this artificial act of sitting down and not talking to someone, but looking at the body and having that distance is a strange invention on its own. That dualism is always present and creates tension. Here is where it starts to get interesting for me, because it constantly goes back and forth. These bodies that I am seeing, these human beings, become projection surfaces. It creates a generalization and on the other hand, an identification.
To refine that thought is something I find very interesting. This is also why I often work with masks, with disguises and exposition, with showing and not showing the body. Especially the face is of interest to me. When you see a face, you also see the person. When the face is covered, the personality, the identity vanishes. You no longer see who this person is. What remains is only the body.
To see this process and to further examine this dualism of the body fascinates me.
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When this is the case, the boundaries between performer and audience, between object and subject, between movement and emotion can blur. When you talk about quest: you, as an artist, are an observer, a seeker, a re-actor. What do you observe, what do you seek or what do you react to? I try to let different levels react with each other within me. But this engagement is actually already based on something that I have automatically reacted to. A reflection often comes in retrospect.
Then I think to myself: why do I find this interesting? Her current work focuses on knowledge of the arts, embodiment and image act, emotion and motion, other sides of cognition, aesthesis and mediality, mental images and Einbildungskraft , image and body, body and gestures. She has also developed the project Emotion and Motion at the Zentrum f r Literatur- und Kulturforschung. His current work focuses on embodiment, mimesis and metaphors as related to emotions in literature. Sabine Flach and Jan Soffner.
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