scenes, 2011

In the last few years, Dorothee von Rechenberg has focused primarily on black and white photography. She is composing her photographs within series (e.g. recut, 2009, insomnia, 2008, songline, 2007). This working method obviously has a strong relationship to the aesthetic and narrative principles of film; by grouping situations in a line, she evokes the narration of a story or the spatial relation of objects and characters. However, the way of ‘story-telling’ in the images of Dorothee von Rechenberg is very different from that of traditional films.

Since 2010, Rechenberg has been working on her series scenes based on the technique of digital montage. As source material she is using old movies which she photographs during a DVD projection.

She explains:“I take the photos while watching a projected film. This is an essential part of my photographs: to capture specific moments while the film is running (absolutely not a screenshot!). I want to fix a moment of movement (in a physical and also psychological sense) and to show the movement even in this frozen moment. Afterwards I create absolutely new settings with my footage on my computer. Therefore I use a lot of different photographs (sometimes only a single detail of them) to compose my scenes. The photographs I use for the compositions need not only come from one specific film but from various other films. What is important is the interaction between the different parts which thus become a new whole.

Rechenberg is putting these photos into new arrangements and combinations, rarely also employing elements from her own photographs. She is alluding to the atmosphere of old films both in her motives and in the black and white visual style (even though some of the source films are colour films).

The captured old-fashioned objects, furniture and persons evoke a sense of nostalgia. Most of the persons are depicted from behind. In this way, the figures in scenes are becoming something like a representative for the spectator, seducing him to enter the visual world of the images and to follow a hallway, a staircase or their view out of a window. In doing so, the spectator is arriving in a ‘nowhere land’, highlighted by zones of bright light, or is glittering onto a darkened ground and shadowed areas. The spectator is unable to find any visual sign to fix his viewpoint, like he can do in classically constructed perspectives. The window the woman in scene 8 or the man in scene 7 is looking through is in a way re-inversing the view on its starting point: the viewer.

The windows in Dorothee von Rechenberg’s images are not the frame for a view into the picture any more; here they are becoming blind mirrors, refusing any mirrored image on their surface but throwing it back. While ‘reflecting’ the view, they are blinding the spectator with their brilliance and confusing his gaze and mind.

With her method of several photographic layers, the artist is constructing a crystalline space remote from traditionally depicted rooms. Only in some of its parts can we recognize everyday situations and characters; however, the field for their actions is rather small and limited. They do not come into contact with each other or with the outside world. Turned away from the spectator, they stare at non-existent sights, being rather shadows with their blurred faces or figures, moving in suites that lead nowhere. They seem to be captured in the layered montages.

The photographic layers are constantly referring to their artistic construction, to their being-an-image. Nevertheless, the spectators feel compelled to try to put themselves mentally into the large-sized pictures and get involved in their spatial construction. However, unlike the depicted characters, the spectator is not becoming a prisoner captured in the image. His process of viewing is an on-going process, evoking the history of black and white film, stars of the cinema or moments of a special scene, as well as personal memory of social constellations or rooms experienced in childhood.

However, all of these fragments of memories are not constructing any linear story. As the labyrinth of spaces appearing in the process of perceiving and leading nowhere, the idea of following a story ends up in the same way. Layer upon layer of semi-transparent surfaces form a dense weave that both hints and hides. The oscillating, dreamlike interiors suggest
a threshold between various temporal, spatial and mental levels. Like traditional film, the series scenes has the quality of a dramatic narrative. However, at its end, there is neither any cadaver nor any loving couple. Dorothee von Rechenberg is much more familiar with the aesthetics of deconstructivism, transferring its philosophical and literal principles into the imaginative and magical power of images, initiating an on-going circulation of perception and interpretation, in which symbols and meanings are shifting their position and changing their content continually. The only sure point of reference is the spectator in front of the image in his or her here and now.
Andrea Domesle ‘fotograf’ / #19 / 2012/ /film/