CHANGING SHAPE (WANDEL DER GESTALT)
photoscala – 15.8.2014
Wiesbadener Kurier – 22.8.2014 (excerpt)
Wiesbadener Tagblatt – 22.8.2014 (excerpt)
AN ENTIRE SHORT FILM IN A SINGLE IMAGE
(translated from: EIN GANZER KURZFILM AUF EINEM EINZIGEN BILD)
The photographic time-space variations of KOSCHIES
The Secret, 2011
100 X 50 cm; pigment print on canvas.
KOSCHIES is an artist duo living in Potsdam and Berlin who work between photography and film. Using an old, modified, special camera – which exposes through a permanently open slit onto a continuously moving roll of film – they have been creating their own confusing reality since 1990. Time-space variations in which everything static is deformed, represented as stripes or lines, while everything that moves is figurative. In the picture, a temporal succession becomes a spatial juxtaposition. Now works by KOSCHIES are on show at the Kunsthalle im Kunsthaus Wiesbaden. We spoke with them:
Photo: Uwe Arens
“Space is a temporal concept”. Paul Klee said that. What does that mean for your work?
If you are intensively engaged with the phenomenon of “time”, as we have been for almost a quarter of a century now, you can hardly overestimate its supremacy. By the way, if you quote Paul Klee’s statement in full, it is preceded by “All becoming is based on movement” – and movement always takes place in space and is thus inconceivable without the dimension of time …
…which would more or less bring us back to Albert Einstein.
Exactly. But even independently of pure physics, the supremacy of time applies to the life of us humans. If we have anything of value at our disposal at all, it is our lifetime. In secret, all of us probably consider ourselves a tad immortal – if only because we cannot stand the certainty of finitude. When we go to work, we basically do nothing but sell our lifetime by the hour. Doctors do not cure patients for all eternity but consider which therapy promises them a longer lifespan. In the end, just about everything is defined by time.
With our photographs, we make entire time sequences spatially visible and, in a quite literal sense, discover new periods of time that we normally can only incompletely grasp via our perception – if at all. And that is what consistently drives us. Curiosity and the feeling of being pioneers on this journey. A few years ago, the writer Hubert Selby Jr. put it in a nutshell: “One thing an artist does is make visible what is invisible for everybody else.” And that is what we are trying to do.
Could you briefly outline the technical aspect of your work?
The analogue time-slit camera with which we began our joint artistic work with time photography in 1990 is more than fifty years old by now. It has no shutter, but there is a very narrow slit behind the lens through which a black and white film is exposed. Without stopping, the film passes behind the slot at a constant speed. What sounds relatively simple here leads to surprising results – two-dimensional images whose spatial dimension of width is replaced by the axis of time.
As a result, one could say that our images are the exact opposite of conventional long-time exposures in which the unmoving remains visible while the moving is blurred beyond recognition.
The Medium is the Passage, 1990
150 X 50 cm; pigment print on canvas
Many might first mistake your pictures, these deformations and doublings for digital manipulations. But it is obviously not the digital brush at work here.
That’s right – our art is not based on digital image manipulation; instead we instrumentalise the creative influence of time itself. This results in a particular challenge when viewing our works. The human eye is not used to taking the perspective of time. As a result, many of our photographs appear quite “normal” at first glance, which is how we want them to seem. Only when you take a closer look at the motifs does the purely spatial view of the world begin to crumble; one notices that shadows fall in different directions simultaneously or do not behave in the same way as the associated persons, that people permanently hover, show strange deformations and even appear several times in a single motif. In time, fundamentally different rules prevail.
With your works, you clearly position yourselves in the art history of the 20th century. The dynamics of Futurism, the deformations of Surrealist art. What is your most important influence?
You have named two of the most important references for us. In Surrealism, as here too, people and objects where placed in novel contexts. It was also concerned with the dimension of time beyond the melting clocks of Salvador Dalí. And especially the Futurists, who devoted themselves to dynamics and the simultaneous representation of different phases of movement and were strongly influenced by photography, especially by the chrono-photographic studies of Muybridge and Marey. Their work influenced many artists; for example, in one of Francis Bacon’s paintings, he refers directly to the movement study of a paralysed child that Muybridge had made years earlier. The influence of experimental photography on the visual arts has a long and interesting history.
The feeling your images convey is often emptiness, but also haste, the fear of wasting time. You have called one cycle “The Human Race”. Do we live in a time of permanent race, of fighting with time? Is only the one who runs, who moves fast, perceived?
That was precisely our original approach. However, when we started experimenting with a time-slit camera in 1990, we suddenly realised that it was an almost perfect analogy to our modern society: only those moving fast enough are perceived in any recognisable way. Everything that cannot maintain the given speed disappears or mutates into an unidentifiable ornament.
Taken by Storm No. 1, 2013
150 X 50 cm; pigment print on canvas
Your pictures go in search of the fourth dimension, yet you print your works on canvas, presenting them classically on the wall. Isn’t that a contradiction?
How do you define “classical”? Eventually, again, through time. And measured against the fact that the universe has supposedly existed for billions of years, man-made images on the wall are almost revolutionarily new.
Our artistic position is at the interface of photography and film. Because the cameras we use don’t stop to take single frames but rather capture an entire movement sequence on a single frame, our works are ultimately even more cinematic than conventional film. Each of our subjects is an entire short film on a single frame. And we put this film back where it belongs – on the screen.
150 X 50 cm; pigment print on canvas
While we’re on the subject of film – in the colourful series of works “Running Direction” you portrayed 14 well-known German film directors. Which encounter was the most exciting for you?
The whole project was enormously exciting for us from the beginning because we couldn’t yet assess whether the directors would want to participate at all. We were surprised how great their willingness to cooperate turned out to be. We deliberately asked a wide range of directors, including documentary film legend Jürgen Böttcher alias Strawalde, who is over eighty years old, Pola Beck and Andreas Kannengießer, who had just graduated from film school, Oscar winner Volker Schlöndorff and the young Turkish director Yasemin Şamdereli. And of course, names like Andreas Dresen, Christian Petzold, Dennis Gansel, Dani Levy and many more. Some of them we photographed during the shooting of their new films.
Were the film directors involved already familiar with the special shooting technique of the slit camera beforehand?
None of them had worked with it before, so part of their motivation was probably also due to their interest in the unusual technique. Not least, perhaps, because Stanley Kubrick had already realised the psychedelic flight sequence at the end of his film “2001: A Space Odyssey” with time-slit cameras.
We doubt whether the directors really knew what they were in for when they agreed to the project. Since most of our shoots take place outdoors in bright sunshine, those involved had to repeatedly pass through the camera’s shooting slot in full gear and at full speed in intense heat. The rate of rejected attempts in our work is very high – for every successful picture, there are, on average, at least fifty failed attempts. This, by the way, also explains our very concentrated output of images. But once you realise that our shots are actually films, we can still look back on a relatively large number.
We are very grateful to all the directors for not only taking on the physical strain but also for offering their own creative input. In this case, we were undoubtedly dealing with professionals, with people who are used to thinking in time sequences. So the whole thing was an immensely fruitful and rich experience for us.
You shot the film directors with a digital camera that produces colour images. How does this work?
In principle, it’s exactly the same as our old analogue time-slit camera – except that behind the time-slit, which is always open, the shot is now continuously recorded digitally instead of on film material. By the way, with both analogue and digital time-slit cameras, their recording speed must be set precisely to the speed of the person or object to be recorded. This, too, requires a lot of time – which brings us back to our main topic.
Box Office, 2012
150 X 50 cm; pigment print on canvas
Part of your work consists of a high incalculability. How can you still control the results?
Over the many years of our work with this particular shooting technique, a cinematic way of working has increasingly emerged for us. Since we don’t have a viewfinder that shows us the next few seconds of the shot and we can’t check it during the recording, we are mainly dependent on our experience. As I said, we are aware of the special rules of time photography and first prepare scripts with the actual course of action, according to which we then proceed. However, even the best planning and the most precise timing do not protect us from surprises – there is always a residue of the unpredictable. But it is precisely this unpredictability that makes it so appealing and continually expands our horizons.
Only when we have a finished picture in front of us after the shooting phase can we really be sure whether time has had a creative effect on our productions in exactly the form we intended.
In Wiesbaden, your works will now be on show at the Kunsthalle. What are you planning to present there?
The exhibition “Wandel der Gestalt” came about on the initiative of the BBK Wiesbaden, and especially at the suggestion of the curator Frank Deubel. For the first time, a cross-section of our works from the last almost two and a half decades will be on display at the Kunsthalle. They will range from our first black-and-white photographs from 1990 to the pictures of the directors and surreal movement studies to examples from our current cycle, “TIME LINES”, which touches more intensely on the realm of the abstract than our previous series of works. And some of our new works will be on public view in Wiesbaden for the first time.
In the neighbouring auditorium of the Kunsthaus, a group exhibition by the Wiesbaden artists Sandra Heinz, Mireille Jautz, Horst Reichard, Ulla Reiss and Ute Wurtinger is taking place at the same time, which thematically relates to our works. A most interesting dialogue over time between different artistic disciplines.
This interview was conducted by Marc Peschke.
Kunsthalle Wiesbaden, 23 August to 21 September.
Opening: 22.08.2014; 7 pm