The works of Berlin artist Michaela Schweiger are characterized by a specific discursive and formal-aesthetic exposure to the conditions of everyday reality of late modern society and its (mass) media-based representations as well as their (re)production and reception in the conflicting areas of diverse cultural and artistic modes of reflection, their conventions of depiction, and systems of reference. The concept of reality to which Schweiger’s works return is not a homogeneous, linear one. Rather, it creates an understanding of parallel realities that has been shaped by theoreticians such as Michel Foucault. These realities are connected to different social groups and the space they require for actions and experience that form the basis for their artistic considerations
Over the years Schweiger’s thematic focus on the reflection of everyday experience has increasingly concentrated on the conditions for architectonic and urban space, on the one hand, and the significance of space for media such as television, cinema, and the Internet, on the other. Just as the media’s occupation of such space is taken as a focal point, Michaela Schweiger’s work utilizes the related strategies of image production and their transgressions.
Drawings tinted with watercolours, for example, are occasionally shown within
installations as “mere” colour copies, slide shows, or plots, or
they appear on monitors as scanned images animated into clips. The images are
thus relieved of the original’s classical significance, as an essential
characteristic of the art world’s economic creation of added value, and
symbolically positioned within an exploitative context of visual material’s
permanent reproducibility and availability. These context references include
urban advertising posters, kinematical space, and architecture as a spatial
Away from the space opened by the depictions’ subject matter, other spatial (image) constructions with different connotations are evoked and positioned in the context of art’s spatial and discursive setting. Alongside the images transformed by the media, which are partly produced and presented in the form of video projections – or immaterial images – the installation-like settings constitute themselves through exemplary, architectonic sculptural elements that not only intrude upon the primary space of exhibition rooms, but also define the space of artistic work and, at the same time, function as projection walls or surfaces for hanging pictures.
These individual components are condensed into installations and based on the conceptually informed interplay of the most diverse image categories, levels of media, and spatial structures through which emerge specific narrative fragments that are anchored within each element. The overall narration, which is inscribed in the spatial arrangement, consists of individual parts that function along a formal-aesthetic structure like textual chapters. These stories reside between reality and fiction. Although they emanate from real at times almost factual situations, a documentary claim is not immanent; rather, they take aim at the imaginary.
The three videos that make up Schon siegt die fiktion über die realität... (Yet fiction prevails over reality...) are shown on monitors in the exhibition and are based on texts that have circulated in the chat rooms of virtual cities. These texts are in deliberate conflict with the video’s animated drawings. While the texts attest to a disparate experience of reality, the seemingly naive drawing style of the videos suggests the existence of a beautiful, ideal world. Although the three comic strips correspond to and resemble each other, they are slightly divergent and appear to repeat themselves in almost imperceptible variations. This impression of repetition is supported and broken in equal measure by the sound that accompanies the animated cartoons in irregular intervals, because the musical noise begins in harmony and ends by a slight shift in tonality in disharmonies. The sound not only functions merely as a foiling moment for the videos but also leads to a temporary reprogramming of the plotted and hung poster-like drawing of a city panorama. The connection between the films and the panorama is not only created by the sound, but also primarily occurs on the compositional-conceptual level, because the filmic episodes are applied as situations that are zoomed out of the cityscape. The view of the city, which uses the idealized form of the panorama characteristic of art history as an opportunity for the simulation and representation of urban space, shows collaged city spaces that are utilized by diverse social and cultural groups. At the work’s core is the questioning of similarities and differences of virtual and analogue spaces, as well as the examination of the power of definition in the sense of the act of speaking as the predominant activity in digital space and of the illustration as an artistic act.
In her installations Michaela Schweiger combines complex variants of image production connoted by the media with diverse historic and modern spatial concepts and theories, all of which refer to the production of artistic images as designs of (spatial) utopia, on the one hand, and, on the other, position the symbolic appropriation as an extension or analysis (of socio-political) utopia through art as a process of social and aesthetic action.
Ulrike Kremeier, art historian and curator, lives in Berlin and Brest. She has been director of the project space plattform berlin since 1995 and the Centre d´Art Passerelle (Brest) since 2006.
Translation: Rebeccah Blum