Friday, November 30, 2007

REVIEW: RothStauffenberg at Esther Schipper

RothStauffenberg
Schipper & Krome
Berlin

Flipping through fashion magazines, one finds that timepiece advertisements regularly beg for more than just a moment’s thought, with taglines such as “Elegance is an attitude,” “I am yesterday, today, tomorrow,” and “Time is forever.” Regardless of the philosophical prattle of the text, the watches themselves are invariably set at the pleasurable constant of ten after ten o’clock. Seemingly senseless, 10:10 appears to represent an aesthetic bliss.

The same unnamable mechanism is at work in RothStauffenberg’s most recent installation Schall und Rauch (Noise and Smoke), which in fact incorporates images of watches at this bewitching time. The title is derived from a line in Goethe’s Faust, “Names are but noise and smoke / obscuring heavenly light,” and such is the artists’ take on text itself; instead of issuing a press release, the artists submitted a series of images, forcing the viewer to rely on their eyes (and mind) alone.

With interludes of Mozart and Beethoven, what we see plucks the strings of our emotions without unnecessary schmaltz. In the films Bliss (2002) and Bliss II (2004) emotional swells are created through a sequence of blurred images that wondrously flow together in a three-sectioned split screen. Like a theatrical production, the lights go down after the film to spotlight the world clock Paris/ London/ Turin/ Miami (2003), whose hands are fixed at ten after ten as the second hand ticks away persistently. Fade to black again to spotlight a film still, whose time-code (and title, 01:24:18:11) acts like a call number in a card catalog accessing an archive of images too numerous to be fathomable.* The photograph 00:56:44:04 (2004) depicts several hands grasping onto a man who has fallen down the stairs. It is a moment (a “time-coded emotion,” if you will) evocative of the emotional intensity of a GĂ©ricault or Delacroix painting.

Titillating and sensually intellectual, the images that RothStauffenberg use are of yesterday, today, and tomorrow without becoming hackneyed. But in Schall und Rauch, the marvel is at how the artists have created a conflict between the Scylla and Charybdis of image and exegetic text.
– April Elizabeth Lamm

*Capturing a moment in film-time, each “time-code” represents 1/24th of a second of some 300,000 images in any given 120-minute film.

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