Series of Works

Giostra

Rendering (CGI)

2013

<em>Giostra #9</em>
Giostra #9 (51.13), 2013

Modo geometrico – or Awakening from Modernism into a Dream

Text: Hans Rudolf Reust, 2015

These spaces in spaces with views through windows and reflections back into empty yet sun-filled interiors start rotating into each other on numerous axes, like interlocked fragments of hard-to-unravel rooms that – even in this illusionistic pictorial space – keep my gaze permanently in motion by dint of a game of transparency and mirrored images. Gradually a triptych may loom into view in the vertical divisions, giving the horizontal format a more rigorous structure. I could also deliberately focus on the semi-circle or on a path crossing diagonally that, coming from the left, vanishes into the depth of the picture more or less on the golden section. But Giostra #9 (Ill. p. 5) is still a carousel of astonishment. I have a sense that this pictorial realm of empty spaces may be an indication of an exhibition space, if not a White Cube – although here my own personal memories of private galleries are coming into play more than any certainties regarding the events in this particular work. In direct proportion to the way that this rendering exposes its own position, I lose any sense of orientation in that space.
These pictures by Maja Weyermann exude a quiet magic, which comes as something of a surprise given the coolly reflective glass surfaces of modernist, Bauhaus structures in smooth prints. It is as though one had succumbed to seduction in a factual setting where one would normally be quite rationally kept at a distance. These computed realities release a burlesque poetry and, by means of multifarious folds, come up with their own construct of the real.
At first it seems we are gazing at a clearly defined picture format that seems to tap into the traditions of photography. It takes a while before it turns out that we are not dealing here with the continuum of a single shot, but rather with a multiplicity of freely combined elements, which only form an overarching, variously refracted projection on the picture surface. This precarious pictorial structure is reminiscent of early modernist paintings: by Cézanne, by Manet, by Turner.
“Cézanne attempt to convey the characteristics of what he paints: the sheen of the leaves in the sun, the atmosphere of the ‘grey weather’ he loved so much, the way tiles shine on the roof of a house. What he represents is not the illusion of things, but something resembling them. This metaphorical reality is manifested in an evocative cloud grey, in sky blue, roof red, tree green and so on. His patches of colour attract the viewer’s entire attention and the world of objects looks as if its skin has been removed, as if it has been stripped of its secondary sensuous qualities. These are replaced by the texture of the paint. One of the elementary methods by which the autonomous patches succeed in reconstructing a visible reality is through precise sequences of tones. Cézanne did not as a rule mix these tones on his palette, but instead worked with a predetermined range of colours, a standard repertoire that he painstakingly harmonized and combined with one another only on the canvas.”1
This detailed description of Cézanne’s artistic methods has a certain affinity with the processes, lasting for many months, aimed at pictorial equilibrium, that are constantly questioned in these computer-generated pictures. The division between possible objects of representation and the codes used to construct a laser exposure is fundamental and unbridgeable. Maja Weyermann treats the building blocks of her software like “colour forms” in a predetermined spectrum and uses them to create unique spatial models that are poised between possibility and reality, between presence and memory. This opening up of a rigorous construct could not be more precise.
In Manet’s painting, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882, oil on canvas, 96 x 160 cm), where the background takes the form of a reflection of the area in front of the counter, which is also the virtual point from which we are viewing the scene, there is a sense that in this “still”, with its protofilmic sweep of the gaze to the left, the picture is moving sideways out of itself. There is an enduring fascination in the planarity of the painting, in the two spherical lamps on the columns that fit rhythmically into the row of heads. In Manet’s work, “conceive” determines “perceive” in his vision of a constellation of largely autonomous elements. In fact – long before all paintings were broken down into pictorial elements – every single painted mark enjoys the greatest possible freedom as the signifier of an object. In Manet’s case the connection of heterogeneous pictorial marks and modes of painting in a single format was still enough for him to be excluded from the Salons. In the first half of the 19th century, Turner had already started to free up the internal structures in his paintings. The loss of a single light source and clear distinction between the sphere of the object and the sphere of contemplation creates the impression that his paintings are floating in a boundless, unlocatable zone of perception.
However, the decisive departure from any form of mimesis or unequivocal location of paintings may be linked to stereoscopy. Jonathan Crary has described it as the most virtual of all techniques of observation, because the image – which appears to be three-dimensional – is only formed cerebrally, through the brain’s conscious interpretation of what the eye sees:
“[…] What appears is the technical reconstitution of an already reproduced world fragmented into two nonidentical models, models that precede any experience of their subsequent perception as unified or tangible. It is a radical repositioning of the observer’s relation to visual representation.[…] The relation of observer to image is no longer to an object quantified in relation to a position in space, but rather to two dissimilar images whose position simulates the anatomical structure of the observer’s body.”2
Maja Weyermann’s computer-generated spaces take up where these paradigms of early modernism left off, even if her motifs frequently recall icons of the 20th century. The discontinuity of painted or stereoscopic space reappears in the digital synthesis. At same time, in her compositions she perfects all the various details until, of its own accord, a memory of a naturally homogenous zone of the visible suddenly returns. This poetry in modo geometrico is even taken to the point where the most extreme forms of illusionism trigger a new break with illusionism.
We are visually seduced – fully aware that the computer, as a tool executing complex artistic processes has done what its name suggests: it has computed. Weyermann exploits its computational efficiency, above all the possibility of encoding every point millions of times, in order to connect different forms of seeing that much more closely with each other.
In Maja Weyermann’s renderings we encounter not only an awakening of calculation and control, but also the repeated enchantment of seeing – because her aesthetic decisions extend far beyond the prestructured logic of the technological device and draw on a body of artistic experience and intelligence that includes not only various software codes but also hand-done sketches and painting. The difference between haptic and optical processes in art thus ceases to be an issue in the sense that there is a comprehensive fusion here of the potentialities of painting, with its haptic immediacy, and the optically driven, cognitive synthesis of images through stereoscopy.
In the present observations there is intentionally no mention of the many cultural references in Weyermann’s paintings, or of the introduction of various objects, paintings and film stills, which throw a brighter light on the complexities in the deep structure of seeing. Yet, the constitution of space is never neutral or free of cultural cathexis. In the reconfigurations of pure orders from modernist architecture – human beings only ever appear through the inclusion of film scenes – a seemingly familiar continuum of space is evoked, which nevertheless transitions via interconnections, fade-ins and mirror images into an amorphous notion of space, of the kind described by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in the context of Riemannean multiplicity: “Each vicinity is therefore like a shred of Euclidean space, but the linkage between one vicinity and the next is not defined and can be effected in an infinite number of ways. Riemann space at its most general thus presents itself as an amorphous collection of pieces that are juxtaposed but not attached to each other.”3
The internal heterogeneity of spaces, ultimately the alienness of space towards itself casts fundamental doubt on our relationship to modes of seeing the world. A category of space is not given. If anything, at the sight of these images we find ourselves in a position to constantly reconfirm their permanence, as though we were always re-awakening in the next dream.

Reust, Hans Rudolf: “Modo Geometrico – or Awakening from Modernism into a Dream”, trans. Fiona Elliott, in: Maya Weyermann, W81, F9, Fig. 51, exh. cat. Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld and Berlin, 2015, pp. 29–31.

1 Boehm, Gottfried: Precarious Balance – Cézanne and the Unfinished, in: Cézanne, Finished – Unfinished, trans. Isabel Feder, exh. cat. Kunstforum Wien and Kunsthaus Zürich, Ostfildern, 2000, pp. 29–39, here p. 32.
2 Crary, Jonathan: Techniques of the Observer, on Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, Massachusetts, 1990, p. 128.
3 Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix: A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, London and New York,1988, p. 535.

Artworks (15) in the Series

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Updated May 29, 2022