BY Catrin Lorch in Reviews | 01 OCT 08
Featured in
Issue 118

Eske Schlüters

Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany

BY Catrin Lorch in Reviews | 01 OCT 08

Eske Schlüters, Vanished into Thin Air (2006)

A golden curtain remains closed, its shimmering folds falling in soft waves. On a screen across the room, a blonde woman with blood-red lips gazes into the camera. Another image, of a housewife making up a bed in a narrow bedroom, appears in black and white. A few seconds later, new scenes appear and coincide: a female vampire with a darkly made-up mouth, a portion of wallpaper, a section of sky. In Eske Schlüters’ second solo exhibition, snippets of film mix, meet, counteract and – since the brain likes to make things fit – present new narrative possibilities. ‘Similar and Possible Things – Levels of Enactment’ comprises three installations in the main gallery of the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen. The two-channel projection Like a Shadow – No Reflection (2007) unfolds in a corner of the room like a Japanese screen. Across from it, After the Rehearsal (2008) and Vanished into Thin Air (2006) run simultaneously – not on loops, but each shown full length, the wall remaining black for a few seconds before the next screening appears. One comes to cherish the individual constellations that result from these happy visual accidents after watching each film run through one or two cycles.

At the same time, each work insists upon its own choreography. After the Rehearsal, for instance, relies on scenes from Autour de Jeanne Dielman (1974) by Sami Frey, a documentary about the filming of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). Schlüters also intercuts scenes from another Akerman film and material from a documentary about the actress Delphine Seyrig, who constantly reappears in Schlüters’ work. In Like a Shadow – No Reflection the artist edits together snippets of film and video footage to create a themed collage that combines classic vampire movies from the early days of cinema with colourful, glittering images of films from later periods. Sequences from various films are assembled like the pieces of a puzzle: Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1915) appear in close-ups; alongside visions of Dracula from F.W. Murnau and Werner Herzog’s versions of Nosferatu (1922 and 1979 respectively), The Vampire (1932) by Carl Theodor Dreyer and Daughters of Darkness (1971) by Harry Kümel.

Schlüters equalizes this material by uniformly converting it into black and white or levelling out the colour values – an analytical approach that aims at the deconstruction of the material of film just as much as it undermines the semiotics of narrative cinema. With her sensitive collages, Schlüters not only employs the splicing technique of classical film editing – releasing individual sequences or images from the entire film and piecing them together anew – she also digitally manipulates single images, enlarging, altering and zooming in on single details. Rather than deconstructing the medium of film by sampling or appropriating particular scenes, she deconstructs the individual images themselves, treating each as a single photograph. By ‘double-dissecting’ the body of the film, she produces a collage that amounts to more than an edited archive. Schlüters’ collages follow in the classic tradition that first rose to prominence in the early 20th century with Kurt Schwitters and John Heartfield, and has not yet ended.

A number of low pedestals were grouped in the middle of the gallery space to create a structure resembling a temporary stage. By almost entirely filling this central area, the construction forced visitors to find a space in front of the flow of images where they sit and contemplate. This combination of installation and image presentation was echoed in the first gallery space in Mismatch (2007), a metal construction holding stacks of digital images mounted on aluminium, from which one could freely collage together one’s own filmic scenarios. While Schlüters’ film works release old movies from the dark corners of abandoned storerooms, Mismatch takes a similar approach to the framed image. Running parallel to Schlüters’ solo exhibition was a small film festival, conceived by Kunstverein director Vanessa Joan Müller, showing a programme of films by Rikke Benborg, Luke Fowler, Jesper Just, Mathilde Rosier and Margaret Salmon. Co-curated by the artist, it presented an opportunity to observe Schlüters’ sensibility in relation to the aesthetic power of film within the framework of current production.

Translated by Rosanne Altstatt