Warsaw

Diana Fiedler

Galeria Foksal

“The PLACE is a sudden gap in the utilitarian approach to the world,” declared the founders of Galeria Foksal in a manifesto in 1967. In her new exhibition, “Double,” Diana Fiedler returned to that utopian statement by covertly acknowledging the gallery’s specific history—an institution devoted to international tendencies in contemporary art such as neo-Constructivism, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. The gallery (not to be confused with its conflicted offspring, the Foksal Foundation) is unique in Eastern Europe for having continued in almost uninterrupted operation for more than forty years as a self-sufficient exhibition space with a distinctive character, having managed to function in successive political climates generally unsympathetic toward experimentation in art. In accord with the conceptual bent of the gallery, Fiedler’s “Double” established a formal continuum with its venue. Yet, in its subject matter, this engaging show focused on the gap between physical and mental spaces—the gap, that is, between a person and a place whose identity and architecture mirror each other.

“Double” included eight large-scale color photographs and a video, all dated 2008, in which the artist focused on one site: an anonymous corridor that she photographed over the course of about a year. The general sterility of the space, further augmented by its green lighting, suggests that the corridor belongs to a hospital. This artificial and carefully crafted universe reveals the artist’s fascination with claustrophobic, labyrinthine reality charged with obsessive psychological intensity. In several photographs, two female figures (one of them the artist herself) appear frozen in space, resembling fashion models or even virtual avatars culled from the Internet, oblivious not only to each other but to the quotidian reality outside. In Untitled (Green Corridor I and II), light slips through a crack under the door located at the very end of a corridor, producing an effect that suggests the existence of a reality beyond the space depicted in the image; in Untitled (Green Corridor III), light also appears above the door, because here the upper half of the image is a mirror reflection of the lower one. In fact, all the pictures in this show have been digitally manipulated so that they are symmetrical either horizontally or vertically. Effacing the “fold” (a possible allusion to the disappearance of the Deleuzean pli) between the two halves of the images, Fiedler has turned the corridor into an eerily self-mirroring nonplace with its own psychological and physical logic.

In her video Untitled (Wall), Fiedler arranged some thirty photographs of a wall in the corridor into a looping sequence, turning the space into an undulating membrane that pulsates as if quietly breathing. Like the photographs, this work exudes a ghostly quality. Evoking alienating aspects of existence subjected to the uncanny manipulations of a system, Fiedler presents memory as a mirror at once empty and full. Defining her own “sudden gap in the utilitarian approach to the world,” she sees memory as having profound significance as a place with its own mental chiaroscuro, casting both light and shadow on our understanding of the outer world, while helping us to recognize the inner strangeness in ourselves.

Marek Bartelik