By Heidi Trautmann
Two events in one: “Photography and Text” and “There is always a way around a wall”. The exhibition was opened on November 30 at TheArtSpace in Old Nicosia and will run until December 14. (See venue and viewing times at the bottom of the text.) The events are supported by the German Embassy and the Goethe-Zentrum, Nicosia.
These are two most interesting art projects to which Horst Weierstall (see separate text), the artist and curator of this exhibition, invited artists from around the world to participate, although when I first received the ‘call for artists’ some weeks ago, I did not fully grasp the artistic implication of the first project.
Now I know. Let me first put it into my own words: Basically I see it as an artistic research project on how the reader or viewer can be manipulated. It is a psychological approach. There is a photograph of a kitchen with a washing machine and a fridge in the foreground. So what? An advertising image. But it has a caption: ‘The room was warm’. Immediately, my vision changes and I see a family enjoying Sunday breakfast in a pool of sunlight in the middle of a cosy kitchen.
But there is more to it. Horst Weierstall explains: “…Combining photography and text in the same work is not easy. According to Rod Slemmons, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago: ‘The artist has to keep track of four phenomena, not just the apparent two. Firstly, the words have accepted, coded meanings and contexts that affect what we see in the related images. Secondly, the words invoke mental images that might also conflict with what we see. Thirdly, images have meanings and contexts that may alter our engagement with the related words. Fourthly, images can summon words in the mind of the viewer. The coordination of image/word/word/image is not easy, but the more difficult it is, the more possibilities present themselves for qualifying or clarifying the larger world.’
The exhibition “Photography and Text” includes nine artists who have taken on the challenge to incorporate texts in their work and deal with these aforementioned phenomena. Text incorporation takes various forms and text is borrowed from different sources. Some sources are more introverted and biographical in nature such as personal diaries, handwritten texts on the photographs or poems. For example, Horst Weierstall’s portraits of eight women from an old people’s home are accompanied by the artist’s diary pages of the same time. Interesting mise-en-scène. Hourig Torossian presents handwritten text on photographic portraits (Hourig will soon have her next solo exhibition, I first met her on the occasion of the bi-communal Art Aware Talks in 2006 at the Goethe-Zentrum, where we were both participating, along with Horst Weierstall, amongst others). Demosthenes Agrafiotis accompanies his photographs from a journey to Japan with his poem “Monegatari”. On the other hand, Laura Padgett overlaps her photographs of domestic and urban images with printed text, which imposes a certain way of seeing while suggesting narratives (one of them being the kitchen scene I described above).
Others borrow words from their subjects: Nicos Phillippou includes images of suburban bonfire constructions which are accompanied by comments by the kids and people who are building them. Miriam Butler includes pictures of her grandmother, revealing both the woman and her relationship with the photographer.
In other cases, the text is randomly chosen: Stefanie Ritter uses photos from old passports juxtaposed by various text references concerning identity issues (see separate text). Haris Pellapaisiotis installs his photographs next to a poetic text mixing his own words with lines from the book “The Story of the Eye” by George Bataille and the fairytale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Theopisti Stylianou-Lambert puts together indiscriminately randomly taken photographs with texts picked at random from some of the most important art philosophy book. The last one is an example where I switched from one judgment to another by first “reading” the photo itself, then reassessing it after I had read the text. Fascinating. Text, blocks of text, can be used as graphic elements, which in most of the works displayed was not the important factor.
The second event “There is always a way around a wall” is an artists’ book presentation commemorating the fall of the Berlin wall with the contributions of many artists from many countries, writes Horst Weierstall in his invitation, and he has chosen – as a sort of leitmotiv – words by Franz Kafka from “The Great Wall of China” : “…it is even said that there are gaps which have never been filled and according to some people they are far larger than the completed sections…”
It is a large “book”, a foldable endless book, and if you had a table long enough, you could lay it all out and have one single long sheet of pages. Participating artists are from many parts of the world, even from Korea, and, as Horst Weierstall said, it is still not finished; there are still works coming in either by mail or by internet. The participating artists were asked to deliver two A4 pages, one with text and one with an artistic image. The few texts I read said that walls are established in our brain, and many images were abstract presentations. What diverse interpretations are invoked by the concept of walls, I thought!
I can show only a few samples to explain the configuration of the artists’ book. The best is to go there yourself and take the time to read the texts; they are quite inspiring.
The benefit of this art book for the curator himself is that he can close his “artbook exhibition”, put it under his arm and comfortably go somewhere else and show it to another audience.
31, Pigmalionos Street1010 Nicosia
Viewing times: Mon-Fri 18:00 – 20:00, Sat. 11.00 – 13.00
Separate from the review of the exhibition I would like to make some amendments:
Short text on
1.Horst Weierstall as the artist and curator;
2.Stefanie Ritter, as a German artist with a global view;
3.Ismet Tatar, as the only participating artist from the North of the island besides myself.
Horst Weierstall, (excerpt from my book “Art and Creativity in North Cyprus” under bi-communal art events)
….He focuses on body, time, space and movement as interrelated phenomena. Since 1984, he has held a series of events based on his concept called Momentum which began in Wuppertal, Germany, culminating in the 1989 Nicosia Green Line peace-action, Momentum VI. The aim of these activities was to encourage direct and indirect participation in the process of experience and action between artist and the audience. In addition to numerous small- and large-scale works on paper, he has created artists’ books with reference to the writings of: Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gertrude Stein, Susan Sontag, Goethe, Dante, Jacques Derrida and others. These one-of-a-kind works range from small pocket-sized books to very much larger books. “In my artists’ books, based on texts, I am interested in the deconstruction and reconstruction of meaning,” he said. “The reader or viewer is invited to take part in a reorientation where the disjointed narrative becomes reintegrated in the visual process.” The books carry the words and images within their tactile layers. In some cases the projects extend into sound and video installations.
Horst Weierstall was born in Wuppertal,Germany in 1944, and studied Fine Arts at Dartington College of Art and Falmouth School of Arts. Since 1991 he has been a lecturer at the Frederick Institute of Technology, Nicosia. His work has been shown in many exhibitions in Europe, India and Egypt.
I met her at the exhibition. She had come from Hamburg to be present at the exhibition and invited by the German Embassy, one of the sponsors of TheArtSpace events. Working as a freelance artist, photographer and visual communication lecturer, she undertakes to bring objects of everyday life into the focus of public interest. Thus, the phenomena we are so accustomed to seeing, appear in a new and unusual context. The observing eye behind the camera discovers their individual personalities or characteristics.
Her presentation was under the title “Cleaning Personalities”. Old passport photos were cleaned, washed, and we see what is left over; the texts she added were randomly chosen but circled around questions of identity.
Stefanie was born in Hamburg where she still lives. She has studied at the School of Design and Illustration and at the University of Art and Visual Communication in Hamburg. She started early to travel in the Far East, namely Japan and China, and has worked on documentations of various kinds (photography, video art, paintings and camera obscura, installations). If you want to learn more about her interesting work, visit her website www.atelier-stefanie-ritter.
Ismet Tatar lives in Kyrenia. She studied art at the University in Ankara and taught art for 20 years. Her art is focused on themes such as women, nature, especially olive trees which she saw burnt down in the big fire of 1995, and for the last few years, her themes have been soil, property and homeland. Her deeply felt interest circles around these still existing problems of her people and in her work she tries to convey information and messages by incorporating paper, waste paper, tea bags and handmade paper. She is a member of IAPMA (International Association of Paper Making Artists) which has an enormous membership drawn from all around the world. There is a group of four “paper artists” in the North, who regularly join conferences and workshops worldwide, the next one being in China, I heard.
Ismet sent such a “paper art work” to participate in Horst Weierstall’s project “There is always a way around a wall”. Her work has met with much interest.
Visit her website: www.oranjartgallery.com
Finally, I would like to speak about my own work, since I am most concerned with themes around walls. I was born in Eastern Prussia which today is Russian territory. I cannot bring myself to mourn this fact, since the Germans under Hitler started WW II and lost it. From this experience, my attitude in life has been “to feel at home wherever I live”. Am I a refugee? No. I am a traveller! I don’t want to belong, I want to be as free as a bird and want to be sure that I can go wherever my wings carry me. I am a world citizen and all its peoples are my brothers and sisters. The whole word is my home.