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En Fr De

The sensory, the visible, the images
Antonia Birnbaum

The sensory, the visible, the images. We are amidst. But the three of them can be expressed in different ways, just as the passage from the sensory to the visible, then from the visible to the image, can be expressed in different ways.

What is the existence of things made of ? Of a visible presence indeed, but one which is never closed on itself. Things exist within the expanse that surrounds them, they fall out of themselves into their visibility. The visible thing is never the propriety of the thing itself ; it unhinges from it. Its resemblance does not proceed from a substantial inside, but from the edge of the other things, detaching itself from its surroundings.

Cutting-off from the background, outlining, edging : the visible runs from edge to edge. Here and there, besides, it lays out overlapping or juxtaposing forms ; their unstable outlines separate and streak, place and shift ; they endow the expanse with all their sensible proprieties, an expanse whose only quality is to be the surface that let them unfold. An amorphous space of inscription separated from all what takes place in it, an uninhabited area which provides the interval where the visible is displayed : the expanse is the tensed void of the interval, the screen where forms spread out and are put together against its background. It neither reduces nor removes : unaffected, the expanse equally receives all the strokes, all the marks which riddle it throughout, delimiting a multiplicity of fields.

That gap which makes visibility is not the sensory presence of an idea, simply because the visibility of the sensory – its own external beating – already fully determines its intelligibility, regardless of any subordination. Likewise, the visualisation brought about by the gaze is already fully an act of thought, regardless of any reference to language.

The intensification and production of what is thus outside of itself is exactly what “image-making” means. To burrow a void, to separate and make an autonomous space cut out from all its actual occupations. The real area is converted into a non area, it clears away everything that retains the visible within itself. In this open site, exclusively devoted to the supplement of unreality, the making of resemblance draws its dynamics straight from its aporetic vertigo : it creates that secondary existence, thought and desired as such, which characterizes the image.

What is it made of ? What does it mean ? Those questions slip over Susanna Fritscher’s works, and give way to a third one : where is the artwork ?

At the cent8 gallery. Walls and doors, windows and lit angle, circulation and viewers’ look : crossing that space, hung plexiglass screens are added to the surroundings. An imperceptible gradation of painting gives rhythm to the supports, passing from opacity to transparency.

Are these images ? The pictorial supports show nothing, nothing but the superficial visibility that makes out the basic size of each of them. In the receding process of what is shown, the provenance of the image goes into reversal : the plexiglass supports are not exhibiting “something more” in a space set up for this purpose, but displaying the visibility of their own surrounding, in such a way as to suspend, intermingle or neutralize all the relations that cross it.

The gaze ventures in a room. On one side, a wall pierced with windows ; opposite, a white wall. In the middle, three screens evenly spaced from each other. Their cutting-out and refractive power interfere with the space arrangement. Markers are lost, everything is merging on the same surface, except for the sudden plunge of the gaze onto a figure in the background. Everything mingles : the wall with the windows, the room contours, the projection into another room, and finally, half of a figure in the background…The plexiglass gathers those fragments into a composite visual sequence within the space.

The gaze paces the surface, up to the ridge of its cutting, falls apart, escapes towards what is behind and comes back on the expanse of screen. What it makes out appears and comes undone at the rhythm of its roaming. On the support, the spatial coordinates stand out like pictorial prints. An image comes momentarily to rest without settling, like a fragment of space that has escaped from its actual location to transit through its own virtuality. Flickering, its configuration depends on its visualisation : it has the consistency of a temporary pause ; dependent on the close or distant position of the viewer, it is as ephemeral as the look that deciphers it.

There is no indelible trace to stop the process of looking, no focus to imprint a total point of view on what is seen. In the precarious instability of a spacing, an eccentric vision both aggregates and disconnects the two moments of the image, the marks and the void ( the absence ) of the marks.

At the Arques, outside. The world of expanse escapes beyond the edges and beyond time. A band of transparent film adds an improbable horizontal line which crosses a lane in the village. Against the background of green trees, it looks like a ribbon pulled down from the sky and restrung at eye level. Against the church background, flooded with light, the film strip seems to absorb the ochre of the stones, then it dilutes its regular line in the imperceptible gradation of a coloured film. On the one hand the transparency affixes an uncoloured field onto a dark relief, on the other it softens the precise stone wall relief in its golden opacity. 

Susanna Fritscher’s work opens onto a paradoxical reversibility of the image. The plexiglass, both a neutral and reproducible support, lends itself to the fleeting shift of unsubstantial visual marks. These fluctuating images only exist in the space-time of visualisation : their contours proceed from both the duration and the distance of the look which make them out. They exist solely in the irreproducibility that characterizes any experience “in act”, including the act of looking, each time a unique one.

Conversely, the repetitive passage of evanescent images on the support makes the latter appear beyond its reproducible materiality, as the logical precedence of a void unaffected by all the marks that inscribe it. That surface of inscription no longer points to the real support as such but as an initial spacing, which forms the matrix condition of any image.

Material reproducibility of the support, irreproducibility of the looking experience. Iterative appearance of the images, precedence of expanse. The reversible quality of the work ruins the symmetrical distinction between reproducible and irreproducible, it experiments their relation, beyond the technical distinction of original and copy.

When the quasi-emptiness of the screens attracts the attention on the surface that is recessed within any image, the materiality of the support brings out an interval : the supports multiplication within a space doesn’t “copy” that interval, it only rhythms a spacing, dividing the void in as much void as necessary, without ever affecting the precedence of the interval. Amorphous (literally what has no form), the expanse doesn’t coincide with any bounded surface, it cuts into them all. Likewise, the irreproducible experience of looking is not due to an origin, but arises out of a temporary configuration of the visible. The desire of seeing never exhausts itself in one single time, it pertains to the eternal “once more” of repetition.

In their multiple variations on the limit, Susanna Fritscher’s installations graze the threshold of the visible : the gaze and the image arise to each other within this gap where nothing is yet certain nor inscribed, in the elementary bareness of their connection. There is much to look at in very little to be seen. Verging on the beginning, such is the punctuation the artist imprints on the spaces she invests.