‘Some Scenic Views’
7 September 2010 6 February 2011
Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum der Gegenwart - Berlin
The Hamburger Bahnhof proudly presents the exhibition SOME SCENIC VIEWS to mark the acquisition this year of Philipp Lachenmann’s video installation Space_Surrogate I (Dubai) 2000 by the gallery’s friends’ association, the Stiftung des Vereins der Freunde der Nationalgalerie für zeitgenössische Kunst.
The show comprises eight works by Philipp Lachenmann. The works, from the areas of video, film, photography, sculpture and sound, perfectly demonstrate Lachenmann’s exploration of the connections between the moving and static image and the role they have on the workings of collective memory, as well as his structural treatment of cinematic and photographic space. The ‘scenic’ in the exhibition’s title also evokes the idea of ‘scenery’ and ‘mise en scene’ in artificially created and staged productions and thus serves as an indication of the terrain on which the works in the exhibition are played out.
In the work acquired by the National Gallery, Space_Surrogate I (Dubai), from 2000, we see an airplane on the runway in the desert. Nothing seems to happen. The only thing denoting the passing of time is the flicker and shimmer of hot air as in a Fata Morgana. The ‘film’ depicts Lufthansa Flight 181 (the Landshut), hijacked by terrorists in 1977 in Dubai, where it stood on the tarmac in the sweltering heat for two days before flying on to Mogadishu, taking its cargo of 86 passengers with it. The hijacking of the Landshut and the successful release of the hostages was a decisive moment in a period called the German Autumn (Deutscher Herbst). It was preceded by the kidnapping of the then president of the confederation of German industry by the Red Army Faction (RAF), who wanted to obtain the release of other terrorists held in prison. The liberation of hostages in Mogadishu subsequently led to the suicides of Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan Carl Raspe in Stuttgart-Stammheim, a maximum-security prison.
The long, apparently real film footage that we see has actually been digitally produced from just a single frame. Over a period of approx. 30 minutes (imperceptibly looped at the end) all the viewer sees is a single still shot, constantly shifting. In this way, Space_Surrogate I (Dubai) hovers between photography and film, uniting both still and moving image in one.
Another film work, Space_Surrogate II (GSG 9) from 2004, deals with the unlocking of structures and intermediate spaces in narratives. What originally was a five-second piece of historic film footage is turned into an eight-minute-long, extremely slowly altering ‘still’ thanks to the digital insertion of artificial images in between.
A group of men, members of the then newly founded rapid reaction task force (GSG 9), traverse the screen from left to right over a period of eight minutes. The movement is slowed down to the extreme, so much so that the surface of the image warps in slow-motion. The figures appear not so much to be propelling themselves forward, rather to be drawn across the picture by the changes to the picture elements and the perspective. While the degree of motion is barely noticeable in the beginning, it gradually increases as the figures get closer, only to end where it starts off.
An empty sculpture base and a three-minute historical film of the Tasmanian tiger form the elements of the film installation, Perfect Sculpture (Tasmanian Tiger) from 2001. A film is projected, from within the sculpture base, in small-format onto the near wall opposite. The film shows a dolly shot through an empty cinema, while on the cinema screen, as a film within the film, we see 16 mm footage of the only Tasmanian tiger ever to be filmed, dating from 1930. Once the camera has passed through the cinema, this film ends and is followed by a three-minute long countdown of announcing the preceding film that underscores the absence of sculpture and narrative.
Perfect Sculpture (Tasmanian Tiger) deals with complex levels of presence and absence in the basic media of film, image and sculpture. The viewpoint, projection space, camera, object and document are each made to interact with each other through materiality and motion; while time ultimately takes the form of a void.
Whereas Space_Surrogates and Perfect Sculpture centre round the relationship between image structure and (German) history, in SHU (Blue Hour Lullaby), the artist’s engagement with the collective imagination leads him to explore the workings of a world of romantic and fictional longing à la Hollywood and Walt Disney. Shot in 2004, SHU depicts an isolated high-security prison in the Californian Mojave Desert at dusk. While the spotlights are gradually turned on in the prison, more and more lights of approaching aircraft begin to appear in the evening sky. The aircraft were filmed at various airports from Los Angeles to Frankfurt and were later digitally incorporated into the film sequence of the prison.
The diptych, Scenic Review I (WTC), formed by two photographs taken in 1997, shows the silver-framed view of the World Trade Center towers, facing south towards Staten Island. The subjective view contrasts with our retrospective knowledge of the towers’ fate, the future catastrophe etched into our (re)view of the image.
Two other works, the lightbox, Film Still I (2001), and Lachenmann’s most recent film installation, Alice.M (2010), provide the formal framework in which cinematic space is broken down, on the one hand being reduced to its original material form (Film Still), while on the other serving as a narrative quarry of future conjecture for ideology and virtuality in relation to architecture (Alice.M). The latter work is accompanied by the sound installation Motion Picture (16 mm), which makes the film’s ‘location’ relative to the viewer’s position within the room through the sound of a running film projector as it wanders around the space.
Philipp Lachenmann, born in 1963, first trained to become an architectural model builder, before studying art history, philosophy and film. Lachenmann primarily works in Cologne, Paris, and Los Angeles.
The exhibition is accompanied by an artist’s book (including text passages by Russell Ferguson), available from Christoph Keller Editions / JRPIRingier Verlag, Zurich, price: €32.
List of works
Scenic Review I (WTC), 1997
Space_Surrogate I (Dubai), 2000
Film Still I, 2001
Perfect Sculpture (Tasmanian Tiger), 2001
Motion Picture (16 mm), 2003/2004
Space_Surrogate II (GSG9), 200
SHU (Blue Hour Lullaby), 2003/2008