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Artist Statement
Susanna Fritscher

With a contribution by Philippe Lenepveu
Excerpts from: On the verge of visibility by Philippe-Alain Michaud
and The architectural intrusions of Susanna Fritscher by Hugues Fontenas,
in BLANC DE TITRE BLANK FOR TITLE, SpringerWienNewYork, 2012.

Blank of Title (1) is the – both paradoxical and tautological – title of a book by Susanna Fritscher. The book, acting as introduction and manifesto, begins with 150 pages of the same colour density, but with discreet differences in tonality – here in the mathematical meaning of the term – from neutral grey to a grey tinted by magenta. It is true that the work of Susanna Fritscher focuses on light, on colour, yet equally it takes in the medium, the space and, above all, our own experience and perception of the world.

The white wall, here as a tangible limit to the space, is the support and reference for her first monochrome paintings at the beginning of the 90s. Only the subtle variation in the opacity of the white paint distinguishes the paintings from the wall that supports them. The paint is applied solely for the inherent properties of its pigments; its function consists solely in absorbing and reflecting light. This leads to an impression of vagueness with regard to the painting and the space, and a sensation of uncertainty in the viewers that is evoked by the perception of this phenomenon. And as such, when approaching the work and experiencing this proximity, the viewers become the subject, left to rely on their own perceptions. The work of Susanna Fritscher is thus inseparable from the space or the environment within which it is located, and of which it is an integral part, as are its viewers, positioned as they are at the centre of the arrangement. Susanna Fritscher thus makes a hypothesis of a vision with no object or subject: in order to experience this, the gaze identifies itself with vision, become sight itself, capable of capturing the visible.

The artist has gone to work with a range of technologies, like fluoropolymer film, for example, a semi-crystalline material that is extremely resistant and is employed in construction projects instead of glass. This transparent film, covered in a fine layer of white paint applied by spray gun, is stretched across the space, the boundaries indiscernible. This support is selected for its quality of transparency (and to a lesser degree, its capacity for reflecting like a mirror), and the paint for its capacity for rendering the support either almost opaque or opal-coloured or translucent, depending on the concentration or thickness of the paint layer. Other materials or media are also selected for their intrinsic properties to meet the objectives of a particular project: networks of filaments extended over the space, sheets of ETFE film suspended at a specific distance from the wall, the floor covered in transparent silicone, fluid, flexible or rigid materials, printed colours, projections of light, installations of vision and sound.

In the series of parallel panels installed by the artist for an exhibition in Basel (Art Statement, Art Basel 37) transparency and opacity are reversed. In this ambient light installation, that which is to be seen is not inscribed on the surface of the panel, but is instead located behind it. In the Spektrum series of illuminated projections, that which is presented – here, the light itself – is paradoxically that which is invisible. It is only light that is visible there, imperceptibly modulated by the variations in luminance and focus. In the series Souffles, it is the breath of the glass-blowers in Crystal Saint-Louis that is exhibited, executed by the extremely thin envelope of an utterly transparent crystal, of which only reflections are perceived by the viewers. In works like Lautmalerei, Susanna Fritscher has chosen to employ further resources as support or medium, such as writing and text, the voice, singing and electronic music. In these sound pieces, created in collaboration with Charles Pennequin (writer), Helia Samadzadeh (soprano) and Gaël Navard (composer), the artist applies the same process: that of relocating the object of her universe from the realm of the visible to that of the audible.

This acknowledgement of materials, space, light and colour – and of the subject as actor, viewer or mere user of the space – leads the artist to collaborations on major architectural projects from their initial conception: like, for example, the Cayla school in Geneva, Vienna’s new airport or the French national archives at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. Susanna Fritscher’s position with regard to the participation of an artist in an architectural project is one that is a critique of a certain tendency not only to multiply spectacular artistic symbols, but also to dilute the artistic work by the effects of its accompaniment. Her project has the aim of creating a new dimension through the simultaneous effect of expanding the space and suspending its limits, thus provoking an intriguing radiance, going beyond any usual distinctions between a work of art and an architectural object. The airport in Vienna is a case in point, its glass surfaces are designed to advance the flow of passengers moving through the space.

The work of Susanna Fritscher thus rests upon a vocabulary that draws from the intrinsic and elementary properties of the materials, and upon the resistance of these properties to our senses and perception. The issue here is of transparency and opacity (and their ability to transform themselves into diaphanous, translucent or opalescent bodies), and of the capacity of absorption (or subtraction) when opposed to the capacity of reflection. White is applied as achromatic colour, grey as shadow to compensate for light, colour as temperature. This vocabulary is confronted with that of space and architecture: the surface, the projection, the plane, the band, the beam of light, the network, the curtain, the sheet, the internal wall, the external wall, the floor, the ceiling. The line as intersection of the plane disappears; the halo takes its place. The limits are infinite.

Adapted from BLANK FOR A TITLE, a text by Jean-Luc Nancy published on the occasion of the Susanna Fritscher exhibition at Crédac in 1994 and in BLANC DE TITRE BLANK OF TITLE, The art of Susanna Fritscher, SpringerWienNewYork, 2012.