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    • Ausstellungsansicht. Foto: Daniela Friebel

    • Ausstellungsansicht. Foto: Daniela Friebel

    • Ausstellungsansicht. Foto: Daniela Friebel

    • Ausstellungsansicht. Foto: Daniela Friebel

    • Ausstellungsansicht. Foto: Daniela Friebel

    • Einladungskarte

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    11.04. – 07.05.2010

    Hanging on by a thousand threads
    by Holger Otten

    There were probably quite a few visitors attending the exhibition opening entitled “Projection” by Daniela Friebel who got one quick glimpse inside of the Simultanhalle and thought that the artist was playing a trick on them. There was, after all, nothing to see – at least not anything special – apart from a staircase and a stage, both of which belong to the exhibition hall. The viewers’ amazement did not come until after a second, third or even fourth take when they discovered that more than a thousand extremely fine nylon threads running wall-to-wall filled the hall and fanned out in the form of a tilted pyramid – threads that could only be surmised at best. It was a question of what angle they were viewed from. And this meant that most of the visitors were in constant motion, moving from left to right, back and forth, upstairs and downstairs. Some even tried to crawl underneath the installation, while others felt their way cautiously along the transparent filaments. For the distant observer, it looked like something from a pantomime.

    Depending on where the viewers stood and what positions they took, they were able to catch glimpses of pieces of the threads as they refracted the light only to vanish again. We looked straight through them, our eyes slid along them or right off. On one side of the room – on the wall facing north – where the tangled web simply had to end, we saw nothing but a white wall. The nylon strings seemed to vanish into thin air just before reaching the wall. Only the screws that formed a fine grid over the entire wall indicated where the strings most likely ended – where they indeed had to end. On the other side of the room – on the wall facing south – the threads of the tangled web gathered together. Whereas the northern side was marked by lightness and space, this side clearly made visible the concentration of the threads in a small area. The countless threads made us feel the power with which they pulled at the few hooks in the wall. But how easily might this construction collapse?

    The idea behind this beautiful illusion was to work with the original model character of the Simultanhalle. In 1979, the architects Busmann and Haberer constructed on the site of a former schoolyard in Cologne-Volkhoven a test building for a new museum on the Rhine. More than anything else, their aim was to test what the lighting of the space would be like through a characteristic shed roof. The northern exposure windows of the shed roofs of both buildings proved to provide the rooms with very even light – no direct sunlight – and bring to mind the so called “North light studios” used by photographers in the 19th century.

    Daniela Friebel took the ground plan of the museum and compared it to that of the test building’s. In contrast to Museum Ludwig, which has northern exposure, the Simultanhalle deviates by approximately 3.3 degrees – this was marked with colour on the nylon strings. The artist also moved the museum wall into the hall by 1.2 metres, making the vanishing point 1.2 metres behind this wall – and concealed from sight. In the hall itself, the threads ran like rays from a small rectangle in the wall that faced south, projecting the virtual museum wall into the exhibition room. (The visual rays ended in a small rectangle on the southern wall – a projection of the museum wall in the scale 1:10.)

    Already in past installations, Daniela Friebel has dealt with questions of visual perception, particularly through room installations that subvert our conventional habits of seeing. One peculiarity of the virtual wall was that it dissolved with every step one took. There were only a few places in the hall from which the projected wall could be experienced as such. Those, however, ran transversely to the axis of the ‘visual rays’ and not in viewing direction – as in a true projection. The entire exhibition was an optical experiment, a thought experiment even, as if we were standing in a huge model of the camera obscura. What happens in the camera lucida?

    Daniela Friebel turned the projection into an objet ambigu – an object that we could view from all sides and yet not grasp. A truly amazing and memorable experience, it brought to mind that extraordinary day during the Quattrocentro when Brunelleschi discovered the vanishing point –perhaps the most far-reaching revolution for occidental pictorial understanding, an event which E.H. Gombrich in his Story of Art gave the title “Conquest of reality”, and which has elicited controversy ever since – not least since Erwin Panofsky described “perspective as a symbolic form”.

    In principal, perspective space is unlimited, as Alberti outlined in his treatise “Della Pittura”. It always finds its natural end at the pictorial horizon. Alberti considered an image an “aperta finestra”, behind which the mathematically ordered world continued. Opposite of it, beyond the image, is the imaginary perspective point – the geometric origin of all things in an image, a point that puts man in the centre of the world, but has also been understood as an allusion to the Divine.

    In the Simultanhalle, too, the disembodied perspective point was not visible, and could only be defined mathematically. While the perspective model used during the Renaissance required man to be motionless, Friebel’s construction permitted the observer to step outside of the system and to take a look behind the walls. It allowed us to see how her scintillating imagery assembled and then disintegrated. Her “Projection” asked us to leave the traditional system behind – so that we would be able to see the projected museum wall, which according to the logic of the central perspective was in a strange way “iconically remote” – to use the words of Axel Müller. Even if we let our eyes be seduced by the “visual rays” and aligned our vision along them, we did not end up looking at an “open window”, but rather at a white wall – with its simple geometric pattern consisting of white screws. Maybe this was a programmatic note to modernism.

    The artist created a very moving installation, which not only drew on the (historical) conditions of seeing. Just as Maurice Merleau-Ponty asserted, the combination of seeing and motion lets the observer vitally experience the room in all its differences – a shift takes place from moment to moment. There were manifold perspectives, with no identical points of view – in the same way that no pantomime is ever exactly like another one. This new point of view – which Gilles Deleuze called “point de vue”- is one that approves of all differences and that apportions itself in multiple ways to be in this world, since it is difference in itself.

    It is also important to consider both the effort and the days and nights that the artist spent installing the countless nylon strings from one wall to the other. There might have been more or less of them. But just how many there were is not important. In the words of Paul Valéry, this optical pyramid is only one state among others. As with the act of seeing, it is the process that counts – it can go on indefinitely, at least in thought, in the mind’s eye. As a consequence, this sensory spectacle shown in the Simultanhalle only lasted for a short time. And the only things that now remain are the stage, the staircase and the hidden vanishing point beyond the walls.

    Daniela Friebel

    Daniela Friebel (*1975) studied Mathematics, Americanistics and Spanish in Berlin, Photography and Fine Arts in New York City and Leipzig. She is based in Berlin.