Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger


THE SYSTEM CAN BE SOMEWHAT CONFUSING: The new Düsseldorf gallery called Horten has taken to wandering through the city's other galleries, its exhibitions camping out in a stranger's rooms, as it were, for a weekend each. The producer-gallerists Alexandra Hopf and Bernd Ruzicska call this series “Out”—a way of stepping out of their own space and into existing structures. The second “Out” exhibition took place in the gallery institut. The show then in progress there was cleared out and the space given over to three video projectors. Horten presents: Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger.

In their films, these two young Swiss artists—like Sam Taylor-Wood and Shirin Neshat, among others—screen multiple images simultaneously. As a result, each viewer sees a different sequence of shots and viewpoints, and everyone “edits” a different version of the film. The three projections Moser & Schwinger presented at Horten/institut blended together seamlessly by virtue of their identical and rather conspicuous aesthetic. These are very tranquil, slow-moving images featuring two central protagonists, the artists, who appear in front of backdrops recognizable as blue-box montages. Every last shred of filmic illusion is dispelled in the encounters between the protagonists, whose minimal actions barely suggest a plotline, and in the backdrops, which bear no spatial or temporal relation to these actions. No story is told here. Instead, isolated images and moments collide with each other, and so enter very open linkages. Gestures (especially facial expressions) succeed one another without narrative logic. Nor do the subtitles or sound produce any coherent dialogue, though the words and sentence fragments we read and hear will strike any observer as familiar. In Un fond de vérité (An essence of truth), 1998, the two protagonists sit together in a boat. Phrases like “Now what? Are we going to fight or not?” or, “You're not the honest type,” invoke extraneous narratives that insinuate themselves into one's perception of the piece. The nearly random juxtaposition of very different stories characterized the other projections as well. In Champ de Courses (Racecourse), 1999, for example, a gun is cocked over and over again on the left and is fired on the right. One can imagine the bullets hitting the heroes as they go about their various activities in the other works.

Because the montage comes together only in the moment of observation, which alone produces the sequence of action and reaction, the observer becomes a sort of coauthor of the work. Likewise it is up to the viewer to lend meaning to the characters' facial expressions and dialogue, which are always fragments strung together, each possessed of a story that can only be firmly anchored in one's own memories. Using this principle of montage, Moser & Schwinger are able to break up the fixed perspective of the typical narrative film, creating an open work, a term Umberto Eco used in the ‘60s to describe those works of art that are “indeed physically finished but which are nonetheless 'open’ to continually new internal relationships that the receiver should discover and select in the act of perceiving the sensory total.” In contrast to the rigid, linear structure of conventional film, this principle opens the possibility of dialogue, into which the viewer enters unhesitatingly. And precisely this continually renewable communicative situation fills the gaps that exist between the filmic background and the protagonists who stand before it, between the individual projections and their connections to the viewer. Everything exists for itself alone, but from collision comes movement.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Sara Ogger