Brigitte Kowanz


Seldom is an artist successful in using the historical ideas of a particular architecture in a contemporary manner. Brigitte Kowanz has been using light as her medium since the mid ’80s. For her, light is the ideal material for investigating the transitions among various media and hence to work “intermedially” creating new images, spaces, and processes. She didn’t use the large space of the Secession to display a light installation; rather she worked with the space, changing it, and making it part of the work.

If one considers the geometrical system that is the basis of the Secession’s architecture, one can observe that it is constructed from cubes lined up one against the other. Their simple forcefulness is broken by the decorative gesture of the facade and above the main entrance there is a golden cupola. Entering the building, one is in an anteroom that traditionally serves to prepare the viewer for the experience to come. The main room, in which one can see the rational, strict architectural system, is very sober. Kowanz had 12 glass plates removed from the ceiling so that the shadow of the steel structure—intensified by neon tubes—was revealed. Somewhat toward the left there was a thin column with a very large, variable number—the time required for light to move from the ceiling to the floor of the room. On the left there were two small sources of light: halogen lamps with reflectors that transform them into immaterial space. Kowanz also plays on the relativity of time, space, and perception with slide projections, using the difference between being and appearances, between what we perceive and what we know, as a theme. Art—today, just as before—attempts to mediate between both extremes and creates “culture,” but it is horrifying to watch the reports on television and see that humanity’s rational development has not kept up with its emotional side.

Peter Nesweda

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.