Julia Scher

Galerie Zwirner

This exhibition of Julia Scher’s works seemed to say that art has to be a partner with life. Does this mean more realism, more real-life references, more social relevance? Art’s content, if it could be exactly defined, would thus be a more-or-less direct expression of life and the creation of images that would reproduce life. For this reason Scher’s work has a dramatic effect as its goal. That this effect works on a social and linguistic level, as well as on a moral and psychological one seems not to matter. For this work’s primary area was the gallery, as the title of the installation, Zwirners Verlies (Zwirner’s dungeon, 1992), demonstrated.

As a complicated video installation with 12 monitors and 15 cameras, the installation took place on all three levels of the gallery; but the true dungeon with bars and chains was located in the basement level. The images on the monitors played with the idea of serial images, with the rhythmical change of images, and with concentration and lack of concentration. Images from all corners of the gallery as well as from the street in front of the gallery were shown. Control, supervision, security, and fear of the inside and the outside, of everything and nothing, immediately entered the viewer’s mind as being the central ideas of this installation. The main control room was uncanny: separated by bars, it seemed to be for an imaginary person. His/her three monitors seemed only to be concerned with producing the rhythm of the images on the screens.

It seems that, although control was one of this work’s central themes, it withdrew completely from the control of a single ego. There was subjective silence, but objective representation through the monitors. Objects from the gallery—like the exhibited works by Pruitt•Early and Titus—functioned as direct realizations from life; unbroken quotations from reality. By means of the camera Scher disavowed the combination of esthetic and spatial truth through the construction of the gallery and the viewer’s perception. Only the gallery space itself gained an objective aura: a spontaneous and simultaneous unfolding of artistic representational forms such as video, image, drawing, object; the liberation of language from message, and the synchronization of perception as fake. But unfortunately Scher did not offer us another language, and here a diagnosis was simply not enough.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.