Diana Artus & Karin Fisslthaler
Gallery Raum mit Licht, Vienna (AT), 12.03.2015 – 08.05.2015

The exhibition presents a dialogue between Diana Artus and Karin Fisslthaler, the result of their engagement with the thematic complex of communication and its sublime revaluation, both in the concrete image — as a carrier of information addressed to the viewer and beyond as a space of reflection for social processes — based on the post-structuralist situation.
Both artists devote the front area of the gallery space to their engagement with forms of the deconstruction of visual language. Diana Artus, for instance, shows works from her series »Urban Characters«, whereby the relationship to photography is only still a given in the medium’s translation of the motif: In the image »Grosser Eddie« (big Eddie) we see the narrow side of a relatively freestanding building hung with a scaffolding net, and the architecture is accordingly rendered visible in its physicality. This spontaneously captured scenery alludes beyond the visual understanding of psychologically low-threshold urban volumes to the imperative of engaging ourselves with the subject, its signs and their interpretation. The dissolution of the relationship between signifier and signified is made, in Derrida’s sense, tangible in the image when the totality of the artwork is not determined by, for instance, a dialectic relationship between the scaffolding net and the building, but in the manifestation of materials as a print on silk: the fabric becomes a membrane between the pictorial world and a real space that dominates the former without actually being a part of it. Accordingly, the photograph »Kleiner Eddie« can be understood as being provided with a meta-commentary that shows the same building from different perspectives on the level of the motif while going without the textile translation on a material level. The partly destroyed surface of the image is, then, the necessary reaction to this gap in material in the real space subjecting itself — as both works hang together — to the gravitational pull of the empty sign.

In the same context Karin Fisslthaler shows works based on similar strategies of dissolution to the extent that she also takes the path from the indexical to the empty sign. In her engagement with notions of the iconic prevalent in popular culture, her work with collages is significant insofar as this method alludes to the relevance of the fragment in postmodernism, so renegotiating the pictorial history of idealised images and realism. Her collage »Closer« shows here, in exemplary fashion, how a photograph of Elvis Presley — an icon in a twofold sense — has another image of his person stuck on top, and so has been overwritten. This upper level of the image, which organises and reinterprets the one underneath in formal terms, ultimately shows the counterpart only as a subjective surface for projection — here as a homogenous surface of skin without any facial features. This surface for projection alludes — with the advent of the new media — not only to aesthetic reception on the part of the viewer but, above all, to the icons’ capacity to absorb, and accordingly ultimately reduces this — under the prerequisite of the empty sign — to absurdity. This approach is shown even more clearly in the collage »The Message«, where the message described in the extraction of the image makes the person holding it unrecognisable and so also interchangeable, on the one hand, on the other hand subsequently opening the message itself, in its fragmentation and with the reorientation in the face area of the figure depicted, to free interpretation and subsequently to a self-referential legibility.
In the central space of the gallery, to which the artists have ascribed the subject of the in-between and compromise, Fisslthaler shows a video installation bearing the title »Hidden Tracks«, consisting of three museum monitors next to one another: the left monitor initially shows a series of film fragments just as they are blending into pure black. The monitor in the middle shows pure black, while the monitor on the right shows the image blending back from black. For Béla Balázs, in its function as a transition not requiring any editing, the blend into black was characterised by its depiction of temporality, whereby the black screen is, at the same time, ascribed the special quality in film theory of alluding on meta-levels to, in Baláz’s words, a piece of eternity. However in the analytical subdivision of these sequences, in the spatial positioning of cuts and the accordingly emphasised squaring of the images on the monitors, these are ultimately anchored in the real space of the viewer, and the black screen must be regarded by us, in parallel, as the context for variable images.
Diana Artus contrasts this work with her series »Circling around objet petit a«, where the artist combines and frames a photograph she has taken of urban architecture with a portrait from a 1970s photo novella. The artist comments again on images of urban volumes, this time however by formally contrasting affectively charged portraits of different people with the image of the urban fabric. It is not the image that compels us — of itself — to react towards this image in a specific way, it is the gestures, glances and postures of the people shown that convey a particular affect. This unifying framing of portraits and buildings not only renders the photograph visible as a prerequisite of affectivity for the viewer, but through the ascription of meaning for the images in relation to one another as well as for the viewer, the semiotic relationship seems to be a constantly changing one. Ultimately annihilating itself in the resulting density — articulating itself once more as self-referential.
In the third space, the artists conclude the documentation of their ongoing preoccupation with complex interrelationships in motifs. Artus shows, for instance, part of her series »Lovers«, for which she covered images from romantic film scenes printed in a book with white paint in such a way that only one of the two lovers is captured at the moment of embrace, while one is redacted out of the image. This method may, however not be confused with that of cropping, as the material quality of the monochrome colour alludes more strongly to the space — and so to gaps than to transcendental processes. In this way the spatial aspect of paint as a gap is charged with the notion of reality, while the framed image — in Walter Benjamin’s sense — the fragmented, or ruined character becomes allegorical. Whereby our attention is drawn through the accentuated subject of the lovers to the problem of postmodern society, which is one of individuals.
In this context Fisslthaler shows collages that tie in, on the one hand, with a discourse about the icons, but that also — for instance, in the work »Lamination« — allude to her Kristall [crystal] images, where she discusses Gilles Deleuze’s terminology and translates it back into the space: just as for Deleuze movement was not measured by time, movement was a feature of time, so this hierarchic relationship — originating in the ephemeral world of cinema — is dissolved in the layering of the transition into the real space of the collage, even though the actual and the virtual image still remain indistinguishable. When the stills from a film reference the process of rejection in the work, then this is not only rescinded by a kind of layering that seems to make it regress chronologically, or to be showing a sequence in reverse order: It is the background structure of the layering itself — those strip-like surfaces constituting the background of the image — that holds the composition together, once again alluding to the subject of the empty sign.
This engagement — implied by the artist on many levels — with communication strategies uses similar methods in the employment of found original source material, more specifically a photograph of a specific situation. While Diana Artus adopts a psycho-geographic approach that alludes to the spatial relationships’ subconscious impact on the individual’s state within social structures. In that she subjectivises buildings or objectifies people, Karin Fisslthaler uses the power of attraction of icons in moving and unmoving images against the same when the latter re-inscribe themselves in their temporal reception, are socially variably read and ultimately also formally inserted into Derrida’s discourse.
Text Andreas Mueller