‘Please remove your glasses.’ This polite directive suddenly appeared in the guise of a subtitle in Trisha Baga’s video installation Flatlands 3D (2010). Viewers – sporting 3D glasses issued in the gallery’s foyer – had just been drawn into the depths of the film to navigate rain-wet streets and meadows. Now, freed from the spectacles, their eyes were drawn to a disco ball placed to beside the screen and catching some of the projector’s light. From the ball’s mirrored surface, the light was scattered into the room, the minute reflections surrounding the viewer in the same way as the 3D raindrops seen on the camera lens in the film. The simulated depth of the filmed image became the real depthof the room. Here, visual perception – rather than being subjected to a linear sequence of frames – was about embedding the gazein a physical space.
In this way, Baga’s work reflects a key aim of the group show Paraphantoms: to sketch out a pictorial space that has already integrated its own breaks, whether in terms of content, materiality or structure. A pictorial space, then, that might be said to be troubled by itself. Curator Regina Barunke – who chose works by Ed Atkins, Amy Granat, Corin Sworn and Charlotte Prodger, Joseph Zehrer and Baga – created an exhibition that attempted to pin down this phantom quality in both the photographic and moving image and found this quality above all in the syntheses of media-generated images and in the spectator’s experience of the space directly surrounding their bodies.
The central point of reference was supplied by Ed Atkins’s films Death Mask II: The Scent (2010) and Death Mask III: The Scent (2011). Related to the film essay form, their footage oscillates between the qualities of moving images and photographic stills. Shots of the sea, people from behind or a mountain (a recurring motif in Death Mask III) appear in various nuances of lighting. The colour scale of the images varies between garish contrasts and black and white while showing the full range of what can be done with image processing software, through to the almost total disappearance of the picture. The eye is repeatedly torn from contemplating any particular scene, as screens of colour briefly flash up on the screen.
In Joseph Zehrer’s photographic installation TV-Ecken in Junggesellenwohnungen (TV corners in bachelor pads, 1997), the image sequencing is analogue. Presented in a corner of the gallery’s foyer, the work consists of wall-mounted photographs of television sets in apartments. In the foyer in front of each photograph, Zehrer placed a free-standing cardboard display which each bore a coloured rectangle corresponding to the screen ofthe TV set in question. Within the show as a whole, Zehrer’s work provided a sense ofrespite by contrasting the flickering ecstatic images seen in the other video works witha moment of reflection. It even seemed as if fragments of images in other worlds were appearing as phantoms projected onto Zehrer’s ‘colour TVs’.
On various levels, Paraphantoms aimed to encourage people to remove their (imaginary) glasses, as in Baga’s Flatlands. To achieve this, the show deployed the circular movement of visual repetitions and loops,the discovery of a crack in the image on second or third viewing. Although the exhibition sometimes lost itself in identifying formal analogies, as a whole it proposed a convincing model for the analysis and treatment of today’s visual worlds which are increasingly characterized by a permanent immersion in (hyper)real images.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell