BY Catrin Backhaus in Reviews | 07 JUN 02
Featured in
Issue 68

Morgan Fisher

Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne, Germany

BY Catrin Backhaus in Reviews | 07 JUN 02

Morgan Fisher has done it again: reversed the action of a vacuum cleaner, placed a ping-pong ball on the stream of expelled air and filmed the ensuing balancing act. Over 20 years have passed since Colour Balance (1980). Back then Fisher projected the 8 mm film in red, green and blue very close to the wall. The balls performed a roughly synchronized floating up and down. Where the film images overlapped, the colours blended: green and blue became cyan, green and red became yellow and when all the colour circles merged they created an elemental white.

In a large airbrush drawing dating from the same period (Presentation Description for Colour Balance, 1982-3) a rich black indicates a room, in which projectors and plinths melt together into one smooth-edged whole: the dark cube with three added boxes on top is like a perfect model poured from plastic. Three bright spotlights aim at the even, dark surface of the wall, and coalesce with minute precision into a white circle of light. The whole thing looks like the cover of a physics textbook on the colour spectrum. Fisher's reconstruction this year of Colour Balance functions like a modified and improved attempt at this proto-scientific ideal. Although the artist has not used different materials, the technical aspects have been improved. The projection of the 16 mm film covered almost a quarter of the far wall of the gallery. The colour circles now looked less like oscillating ping-pong balls and more like theatre spotlights. Colour Balance is bigger and more fluid, more imposing and serious. And yet the loudly purring projectors mounted high up on plinths were not concealed, and the loop technique - by which the film winds itself horizontally around small wooden boards - was exposed. The re-animation of the piece is neither an improvised smartening-up of a jumble nor a newfangled, computer-simulated ex-experiment.

Fisher's new 'Photogenic Drawings' (2002), on semi-transparent architect's paper, are about both nostalgia and preservation. In tracings of advertisements from the US Camera Annual from the early 1950s the brand names Rollei, Agfa and Gevaert are rendered with self-confident glamour. The pictures depict elegant couples at photo shoots, children laughing and glistening seascapes. Fisher condensed the descriptive text into illegible grey lines, while emphasizing the grandeur of the product names and the visual elements such as shimmering camera lenses or vastly enlarged slide frames, accompanied by slogans such as: 'Kodachrome Transparency - A Frame for Memory'.

The pencil line roughly sketches the fine edges of the cameras and the women's profiles, as if the drawing is a gesture of neglectful possession. The act of tracing itself points to the second historical reference in these 18 images: the camera lucida, which used a lens to direct a section of a landscape view on to paper, thus allowing it to be traced. One traveller who employed the device, W. H. Fox Talbot, was so unhappy with his own attempts with it that he invented photography. Fisher lays 50 years of advertisements over 150 years of photographic history and the resulting drawings seem translucent and, lined up along the wall in little glass cases and black frames, somewhat distant.

Translated by Helen Slater