a matter of perspective


"Dizzy. I'm so dizzy my head is spinning, like a whirlpool it never ends..."
(lyrics by Roe and Weller)


The art of the Renaissance was based on and delighted in the use of perspective - a device that created the illusion of depth through setting the eye solidly into one point of view. This mono-vision dictated the position of the viewer and limited their movement - if they wanted to see the right and true picture they must stay in the proper viewing position. The metanarrative of this is frighteningly clear and was reflective of the political, theological, philosophical and social orthodoxy of Europe art that time - a singularity that persits in fundamental religious thought to this day across the globe and with violent results.


With modernity came the embrace of multiplicity, engendering the search for new forms to express simultaneous points of view, and, perhaps most importantly, to allow for movement. Writers Joyce, Wolfe and Stein as well as surrealists such as Breton (and many more) employed devices such as streaming, "automatic writing" and repetition to open expression to a freer journey into the mind and experience of being human.


Cubism broke apart the planes that were so carefully arranged in perspective to allow representation to be viewed from every point of view while the Surrealists explored the radical nature of inner subconscious space. Pollock's paintings denied a fixed point of view almost completely, creating an immersion into a net of events and interactions.


To break from perspective is to subvert the fixed and isolated nature of representation achieved by peeing through a window. By shifting attention to perspectival manipulations and the problematic nature of referentiality, by moving from a window to a mirrors view, we are positioned to experience our subjectivity in all of its multi-faceted forms.


Friedhard Kiekeben's prints, installations and sculptures (or simulations of prints, installations and sculptures) create a matrix for such an experience - offering us the sensation of oscillations and vibrations as we are surronded by this undulating images.


When I look at his artwokrs I feel dizzy - virtual and real space collide, the ground drops away and they, in the words of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "make a hole in the plenum of the world. Like mountains or the forests, they become the place where spirits appear. They are no longer there except as the minimum of matter that is needed for meaning to manifest itself." (Maurice Merleau Ponty, The Prose of the World, Chapter 3, page 47)


The result of both traditional and experimental printmaking processes, Kiekeben's artworks are resolutely material, but because of the deliberate dismantling of both the rules of perspective and conditions of printmaking, they feel strangely light and immaterial. There are many inversions and subversions here - for instance a printing plate becomes a painting (or is it a sculpture?) and doesn't generate any print at all, while an image of a grid, the foundation of all order, is digitally manipulated int o a flowing, resplendent curtain of what seems like uncontrollable water. And like a decorative fountain, Cascade, a premier work in this exhibition, engages us in the purely pleasurable phenomena of movement. But we come to the pleasure only after a struggle - only after a moment or two of trying to find fixed points of reference do we succumb to the rhythm of the piece. It pulls us along, and like a Lorelei sings to us, seduces us, unnerves us and creates the frictional movement between the boday and mind that coulb be called joy.


"What makes the corporeal self an unusable concept for fascist purposes, or any politics that relies on stable meanings and transparent essences, is precisely that it cannot be reduced to a single, determinable moment of signification, not even negation. A negation too, as a gesture of nihilism, could be co-opted by a politics of single stable meanings. It is only in the moment of the undecidable, when negations and affirmations perpetually trade places and when we are confronted with an object or text that we we do not know how to read and arrest for good, that the ethic-political significance of what refuses to be a stable concept may emerge for us." (Gerhard Richter "Walter Benjamin and the Corpux of Autobiography" pages 172-173)


We must experience Friedhard Kiekeben's things (as they are certainly "things" - neither purely paintings nor prints nor sculptures nor wallpaper nor curtains nor ...) through our bodies in motion. Through the unfixed and immaterial nature of his work we experience our own present-ness, our own subjectivity and our own corporeality and our own humanity.


"Oh, how nice it would be if we could only get through to the Looking-glass House!" ("Alice Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass", Lewis Carroll)


Sabina Ott, July 2006
in catalogue "cascade"