BY Jan Verwoert in Reviews | 09 SEP 99
Featured in
Issue 48

Pia Greschner

BY Jan Verwoert in Reviews | 09 SEP 99

The central piece in Pia Greschner's first major solo exhibition was a video projection of a grove of palm trees, Magic Forest (1999). Apart from the branches moving slightly in the breeze, the image is motionless. After a minute, the colours fade to green and then shift to yellow, red, purple and blue as filters are exchanged at regular intervals. Every new colour alters the emotional quality of the image: yellow lightens up your mood, blue emphasises melancholy, etc. The video functions, on the one hand, like a demonstration of filter-technology and on the other generates the emotionally tinged fictional scenario of a 'Magic Forest'.

An earlier video piece by Pia Greschner (not on show in Berlin) works along similar lines: Blue Hour 1-3 (1997) is a trilogy of three independent film-sequences. Each lasts one minute and looks like a single take from a movie: the first, for example, shows a man and a woman dressed in blue sitting on the bonnet of a blue car in front of a filling station. They gaze into the distance while another man in a bright blue jacket passes by in slow motion, eyeing them jealously. Again, the video works like a short formal exercise in cinematic mise-en-scène, while effectively employing the principle of narrative closure.

Pia Greschner's works always have this double edge: she uses film conventions and effects to exemplify their function. But she also creates an emotive atmosphere or short narration. Consequently her videos provoke what media theory calls 'double viewing': the viewer is, at once, fully aware of the construction of the cinematic illusion while still suspending disbelief. Greschner's videos make one thing clear: cinematic effects create emotions. It's a cheap trick and we know how it works - but it still works and we like it.

In a recent series of works on show in Berlin, Greschner explored the aesthetics of digitally reworked video images. Again, these videos tell a short story and are self-consciously artificial. One of the videos, Paradise Island (1998) is set in Kew Gardens. In the centre of the image a green house floats on the horizon like a spaceship. Above its roof, speeding clouds drift by. On the luminous green lawn, two Japanese girls converse and then stroll slowly from right to left, while a third girl in a white Parka becomes visible as she walks in slow motion from the greenhouse in the distance to the foreground. Once she arrives the sequence ends; it's just one strange moment in time. Strange, especially since time runs at two different paces: the clouds in the sky move much more quickly than the figures on the ground. Watching it is a surreal experience, like a mix between a computer game and an esoteric vision. It's impossible to say whether these girls are moved by higher beings - or mouse-clicks.

Jan Verwoert is a writer and contributing editor of frieze. He is based in Oslo, Norway. Cookie! (2014), a selection of his writings, is published by Sternberg Press.