Kunstforum International

Magazine

German

Nicolas Siepen, “Abstraktes Leben auf virtuellen Baustellen, Die Interieurs von Maja Weyermann
[Abstract Life on Virtual Construction Sites, Maja Weyermann’s Interiors], pp. 104–109
Thomas Wulffen, Dieter Bechtloff (eds.)
Kunstforum International, vol. 202, Ruppichteroth 2010

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    Kunstforum International, vol. 202, cover
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Abstraktes Leben auf virtuellen Baustellen

[Abstract Life on Virtual Construction Sites]

Text: Nicolas Siepen, 2003; 2010

As far as producing art is concerned, although creating pictures is closely connected to the history of media they do not actually merge. Because each and every artificial picture is already itself a medium, rather than being simply used or absorbed by a new technique in order to generate an image, it coalesces with itself and thus with its surroundings. So pictures are not only genuinely social because they are created in a certain social context, but also because this context itself could not be constituted without the production of pictures. The production, image/media and reception are so intertwined that any attempt to separate them at a theoretical level or even establish a valid hierarchy among the components runs the danger of falling victim to an idealisation that conceals the impurities and commingling.
Maja Weyermann’s art takes a special approach to confronting this complexity, because her computer-generated “interiors” assume that spaces are socially contrived due to categories of perception. She plays with a multiple perspectivalism that relates the potential and limitations of digital media to a traditional subject, a kind of cyber-constructivism that allows its sedimentary reality to erode in a precisely calculated manoeuvre. In the process the artist rejects the processes – so popular in today’s art world – of reworking and distorting found visual material, and although her pictures evince an external approximation to photography, film, architectural models and collage, they are also very clearly differentiated from these processes. The similar is true of her choice of subject matter. Maja Weyermann makes use of the highly-charged pictorial codes of modernity, for example in the architecture of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, or in a structural design by philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein: as a reservoir of forms, whose myths such as transparency, clarity and functionality are absorbed while simultaneously being deconstructed and dissected to the point of the “fine distinctions” that once produced them.
In a virtual building site, all these fleeting and constantly transforming underlying factors become material: the factors that define a space and allow it to be created as such, yet at the same time can only be secondary components of real planning and production. They form a foreground that determines the entire visual space, thereby creating an extremely airy atmosphere. This inversion in visual space adds something unsettling to the mixture of delicate colour compositions. The building, the interior design, and the external world come together as a complex where no people are found, but something like abstract life remains. The title of the work Absence (Farnsworth House) refers to this void that lends the construction its consistency. The coordinates, lines and structures that pre-empt, organise and potentially limit the social utility in this building, formulating a latently elite character specifically as transparent, seem to be askew to their own reality and subject to an intense spectral perception that has penetrated into the pores of the space, where it remains lurking. That gives the scenery a filmic quality, a temporality that is impounded in the “dead” picture, superimposed and nesting one within the other at various moments of an absent action. The viewer has the vague feeling of being “at the scene”, but rather than making reference to a crime it is a scene that places the spatial factors under suspicion. This dimension is heightened and more explicitly embellished in the 2002 series of works Luxus. Luxus, a small bar in Berlin’s alternative scene, serves as the real matrix here. Here too, the space is devoid of people. Moreover, it is here that the various aggregate conditions become current or virtual that make up the temporal nature of reality, bound to the spatial dimension in the virtual picture.
Bar stools are positioned and immediately shifted, or about to be shifted, or they have a place and give it up, while populating the tiled room that is itself in a discordant position.
One might agree with Henri Bergson in saying that the virtual does not oppose what is real, but rather what is current, and thus, as in its virtual state, it is already completely real but simply has not yet been updated. Although Maja Weyermann works in virtual space and this seems to be diametrically opposed to the real world, or even replaces it, this medium is particularly well suited for visually organising synchronicity. It is as if the objects that cumulatively form the space had one of their parts in the virtual domain, and had been admitted as if in an objective dimension. Marcel Proust, whose literary quest for “ lost time” explicitly referred to Bergson, described such resonances as “real without being present, ideal without being abstract [...] and symbolic without being fictitious.” Under completely different (technological) conditions, Maja Weyermann takes up a similar problem and reworks it at the visual level, whereby she locates and investigates the ideal – which Proust deems antithetical to abstraction – within the actual spatial abstractions. The cybersnake which lies in the corner of one of the pictures in the Luxus series seems to be a spatial detail symbolising the “scene” I mentioned above as a concrete danger and giving a face to the abstract nature of the room.
Her most recent work concerning a strange staircase from Orson Welles’ film of Kafka’s The Trial triggers a real “quest for lost space”, shifting the focus from the question: “What happened here?” to the bureaucratic / spatial / judicial settings that form the topology of Kafka’s novel, which Orson Welles conveyed in an unsettling spatial adaptation. Here too, instead of the action focusing on people who would be expected to reply, it is a spatial detail of this bureaucratic labyrinth that Joseph K. finds himself caught in, but one that he has also created, because in looking for the reason for his supposed guilt he can never be certain if it has all been staged just for him, specifically because he is looking for it, and thus the law can only take effect through him. And vice versa, his desire to find an explanation is structured by the social and architectural form of the law. The fact that the artist concentrates on a spatial detail of this complex labyrinth and turns away from the protagonist allows her to shift the perspective to the matter of the conditions of a picture, which she stages as a cyberdrama that ultimately leaves the question unanswered about what has “really” happened, because the category of reality no longer functions here any more.

Translation: Nicola Morris

Pictured Artworks (5)
<em>Absence (Farnsworth House)</em>
<em>Luxus II #5</em>
<em>Nach dem Prozess I</em>
<em>Entwurf (Palais d’Orsay)</em>
<em>Nuit Américaine</em>
Entry created September 5, 2020, last modified January 18, 2022