Of time and space in the work of Bettina Geisselmann
Juan Antonio Molina
In Bettina Geisselmann’s work, the photograph does not convey, nor even reproduce, the place photographed; it simply replaces it – supplants it – with another place, until a new time. And this doesn’t only work with the photographs of landscapes or sites. When we look at some of her portraits or photographs of objects, manipulated in diverse ways, we also partake in a displacement of what is photographed – from its place of origin to the new site established by the photograph. The placement goes through a displacement, an unavoidable effect in a work focused on the consequences of traffic and on the simultaneity of places and moments.
One of the most obvious results is the interference of a temporary reality in spatial ideality. Because at the end, this causes the installations, videos and photographs of Bettina Geisselmann to contain, in lesser or greater degree, the germ of duplicity, fleetingness or fading. And all of these possibilities transform the perception of the work into a disturbing experience. Even her games of “freezing” (real and metaphoric) certain moments contain an element of tension, furnished by the continually underlying possibility of dissolution. The dissolution can then be experienced as a process and paradoxical form of existence of the work, and as a break of the visual illusion in which the work seemed to be detained. Dissolution and disillusion are here a part of the aesthetic experience; hence the importance – in Bettina’s work – of the constant exchange between flatness and depth, the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, surface and space.
When I mentioned the “transversality” of the aesthetic experience, I was thinking of works such as these. On one hand, generally outlined as installations, these works oblige spectators to virtually “cross” a space. On the other hand, the topics that these pieces propose imaginarily place us in a situation of uprooting, of space dislocation that may be equivalent to the situation of the work of art itself. And finally, I believe that this transversality is also given in the reading of each work, constituted by shots of meaning that arise and are sometimes juxtaposed. Perhaps for this reason, I tend to associate the idea of transversality with the concept of transtextuality. Because this entire network of transitions shapes the structure of the artistic work as text (and as texture, I would like to suggest). Speaking of transtextuality instead of intertextuality allows me to invoke in a more dramatic way the tension that arises between texts of different origins and corresponding to different contexts. It reminds us of the hypothesis that the textuality of the work is created in the reading process; therefore, the spectator’s critical participation introduces other dynamics to the diverse transitions between the connected texts. In the case of Bettina Geisselmann, the spectator’s need – as co-producer of the senses of each work – is more than manifest, so the interactions in the artistic space go beyond the elementary level of manipulation (playful, in the best case) of the audience.
If there is something that I appreciate in Bettina Geisselmann’s art, it is her skill with illusion and error, with time and space, with conscience and fantasy. But mainly, her capacity to reveal the ambiguities of our position in the face of reality, before history and before ourselves. Summer Journey, a work produced between 2005 and 2007, consists of a video filmed from a moving vehicle. The camera remains steady, so the film shows the landscape sequence in front of the camera. Depending on the speed, the material filmed may be perceived as a line. In any event, the major concern is that it is perceived as lineal in space, as well as lineal in time. In that effect we can summarize the concept of “sequence”. In other words, the first effect is that of continuity, and from this continuity we extract the finite / infinite relationship. Because the sequence always suggests the possibility of endlessness, also reinforced by the circular property of the loop. However, the representation always reduces the sequence to a moment or a series of measurable moments, contained in a more or less precise space-time framework.