Critics’ Picks

Daniel Egg, Der Buchstabe >e< (The letter >e<), 2010, C-print, 19 x 27”. From the series “Information Stream,” 2010.


Daniel Egg

Projektraum Viktor Bucher
Praterstrasse 13/1/2
March 7–April 6, 2013

Since at least the 1960s, the visual dimension of language and the linguistic dimension of the image have evolved into phenomena on equal footing, exerting a broad influence on art production to this day. Daniel Egg takes this as a point of departure for his latest exhibition, “Words – On Air,” and analyzes the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet. His photographic series “Information Stream,” 2010, consists of supposedly scientific photographs of cigarette smoke, changing from yellow-white to gray. To produce the work, the artist stood in a darkened space and exhaled smoke against a light while pronouncing the alphabet, letter by letter, and fixing this fleeting moment with the technical apparatus of the camera. The density, velocity, and other attributes of the stream of air that leaves the mouth as soon as one begins to speak—the continuous variability of this materiality of the sound—is caught for one brief moment and presented as a motionless state.

Der Buchstabe >a< (The letter >a<) is represented as a slender image rushing in a determinate direction; Der Buchstabe >f< appears as a uniform cloud that corresponds with the softness of this unvoiced sound when it slowly glides out of the mouth over the lips and tongue. Der Buchstabe >k<, in contrast, appears to visualize the short-lived, nearly aggressive interruption in the air stream as an explosion accompanied by a transparent drift of smoke. Egg here counters photography’s claim to reproduce reality and its mimetic potential with the transitoriness of language and the corresponding changeability of our reality. He succeeds in appropriating a scientific method of analysis to produce works that simultaneously reflect a coming-into-being. With “Information Stream,” Egg creates poetic moments in which the boundary between visuality and textuality is suspended.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.