Lothar Baumgarten

Kunstmuseen Krefeld | Haus Lange

Nineteen slide projectors set on windowsills and narrow wall ledges project photographs of Venetian chimneys onto the walls of this Mies van der Rohe villa; two project blank images. Lothar Baumgarten began this study in the winter of 1983/84, when a post-Modernist pleasure in viewing everything as sculpture, together with a growing recourse to appropriation was emerging in the art world. This current show, however, is far removed from these early beginnings. This installation, entitled wie venedig sehen (how to see Venice), directs our attention to various architectural structures, cultures, perspectives, and situations. Rather than being intrinsically referential to art, the Venetian roofscape is projected onto Mies’ building and presented as a kind of doubled architecture. Every attempt to approach these photos frontally, in the traditional mode of viewing art, causes the images to disappear. Either one starts to locate the places in the gallery, from which none of the projections is obscured, or one’s own shadow begins to wander about the roofs of Venice and thus obscures the views selected by Baumgarten. If one follows the projected architectural directives, i.e., house corners and perspective lines, one lands in the next actual gallery space. This coincidence of two levels of space is also supported by the external reality of the installation: the changing daylight determines the visibility or overexposure of the photos, while the views of and through the park landscape are augmented by the projected scenes of Venice’s roofscape, rather than being interrupted or reinterpreted by the installation.

Although Baumgarten has left the rooms of the villa completely empty, and the installation is placed exclusively on the walls (projections) and ledges (projectors), one immediately begins exploring invisible nets running through space. The structure of the museum’s architecture is complemented by that of the projections. The narrow spaces between the projections begin to become resting places, and the viewer’s pace responds to such zones from which—despite the emptiness of the room—the body rotates around its own axis rather than being moved along from image to image. Not only are the proportions of the actual and photographed architecture redefined, so too are those of the viewer, who suddenly disappears into a narrow slot between light beams or who casts an oversized shadow onto the work.

The floor plan of the actual site is also redefined by the slides. In the catalogue, the photos and blank images are superimposed on the museum’s floor plan. In the room itself, a few chimneys are outlined in soot on the wall between the projections. The material and immaterial fuse in wie venedig sehen, in such a way that light and soot become tangible experience while Mies’ building and the Venetian architecture become mere coordinates. Within these coordinates are the chimneys, whose rough and varied forms stimulate art-intrinsic reflections again.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.