At first glance, all of Philipp Timischl’s exhibitions look the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s autumn 2013 at Neue Alte Brücke in Frankfurt, spring 2014 at Galerie Emanuel Layr in Vienna, winter 2013/14 at the 21er Haus in Vienna or summer 2014 at the group exhibition The History of Technology at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco: the same strange hybrid towers appear, half flatscreen, half canvas – sculptures made of two ‘pictures.’
Short videos and sequences are shown on the screen at the bottom of these structures: the intro to the US television series In Treatment (2008–10), YouTube-sourced best-of clips from Lost (2007–12) or homemade footage, panning through an apartment. Many of Timischl’s own clips have the feel of casually taken smartphone videos: hit record as you’re lying in a park in London gazing at the sky (Yet, The Alternatives on Offer, 2014); hit record as you’re walking down the street in conversation with a friend (Patchy at best, 2014) or as someone is lying on a bed with a laptop. The canvases above the screens show printed pictures: the cast members of Lost for example, stills from the videos below or a transcript of the filmed conversation as in Patchy at best. Sometimes the canvas holds one picture, sometimes several. Sometimes Timischl adds a layer of resin for an added tactile dimension. Now and then some of the prints from the canvas spill down to the flatscreen.
In Yet, The Alternatives On Offer, his recent show at Emanuel Layr, Timischl expanded the spill-over and matryoshka doll-effect into the exhibition space itself. The floor and walls show life-sized vinyl prints: cityscapes, photographs – of Layr’s gallery space as well as of Timischl’s past exhibition at Neue Alte Brücke – some of which included the flatscreen-canvas-towers. The wall prints doubled as windows showing imaginary trompe l’oeil views into non-existent yet familiar rooms. The alcove-shaped format of the prints make them anamorphically distorted so that they only create the perfect visual illusion from a certain point in the room – the spot used to later document the exhibition. As with Timischl’s flat, picture-like sculptures, the exhibition space is frozen in a 2D moment (again as it is disseminated via the appropriate online channels) – form, content and documentation collapse, folding one into the next: frame, in frame, in frame.
Within this layered display structure, Timischl develops a steady stream of content with recorded, diaristic moments of every-day life. Just as the format is standardized, the private-seeming footage becomes almost generic and interchangeable. In his first institutional solo exhibition, titled Philipp, I have the feeling I’m incredibly good looking, but have nothing to say at the 21er Haus in 2013, for example, Timischl showed a video shot while on holiday with friends in Corsica. The viewer sees their arrival on the island, the artist meeting a fling from a holiday the previous year and swimming in the sea with friends. In the evenings, the friends cook together. They drive into the city, lounge on a bed, read out loud from a travel guide, stare at a laptop. At the end, Timischl drives home. Every now and then you see the expected reactions to someone filming continuously. Is the camera annoying? Nah, not really. Once the form is established, content develops spontaneously, on the go: small dramas without climax, short stories without resolution, footage from all times of the day produced in small nuggets to tack onto the timeline of someone’s life. What did x or y eat for breakfast? Who’s fallen in (or out of) love with whom? ‘It’s complicated’ in all its simplicity. Naturally we don’t get the whole story.
And this is where a tiny crack appears in Timischl’s work. You wonder if the lulling everyday banter and the unarmed and seemingly private moments presented for public viewing aren’t hiding something. This suspicion grows when you see the generic postcards that Timischl printed on his early canvases at Jessica Silverman Gallery: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, a view of the Rhine in Basel. The screen below shows the intro to the psychologist drama In Treatment (San Francisco, In Treatment; Paris, In Treatment; Basel, In Treatment) (all 2014). But while the therapy sessions in the series aim to unearth repressed issues (therapy, too, is a repetitive and structured means of producing ‘content’), Timischl denies us this same disclosure. Everything we see is a teaser, a postcard, an intro. All in the process of form becoming format.
Translated by Yana Vierboom