Fotos: Robert Schittko
See if I can see, what others see in my work
In conversation with a friend and artist, she told me about an uncertainty that had been constantly growing in her for some time. This uncertainty was expressed above all in a question that she had begun to ask herself repeatedly: „
Is my art visible (to others)?“
The doubt about her own visibility became her chronic companion and formed her view on herself and others. I would like to counter her feeling of being invisible with the following thoughts.
Views, my own and those of others, are essentially shaped by internal and external mechanisms of social affiliation and personal biography. The habitus of my person is largely determined by social categories such as class, gender, and ethnicity, which in turn form social experiences and fundamentally influence the construction of my reality. Lived and unlived previous experiences and preconceptions additionally condition people’s perception of reality. What I focus on is therefore indispensable in my cultural, geographic and political context.
But what remains as an objective indicator of visibility? And is there any common consensus that could answer my friend’s question and reassure her about her doubt?
The display of art has changed dramatically over the last few decades, and the intermingling of commercial and institutional exhibition spaces as well as curatorial and artistic techniques have produced a new hybrid form of showing. Digital forms of presentation, with their rapid short-livedness, counteract traditional exhibition formats and shape the act of seeing and being seen of our present. Our time has become absolute in its presence – everything floats into each other in a horizontal surface and previously fixed spatial constants lose their stability.
Nevertheless, the most essential task of exhibitions, the visualization of art through a specific content as well as spatial framing seems to persist. A focus set by the selection of certain artists or a specific theme in an exhibition defines a particular focus that finds its negotiation. But why choose one perspective over the other? And do positions that are easier to see have advantages over less obvious ones?
There is no doubt that every form of selection is equally determined by the vision of the seer, and consequently permeated by subjective factors. Although objectivity is partly a declared concern, it is hardly possible to attain and desirable, however. Last but not least, artists‘ views are also highly interwoven in social and (exhibition) political mechanisms that influence their internal selection processes. So what does that mean for the criteria of one’s own artistic work and how are these actually determined?
The seeing and being seen of art is deeply interwoven into the present happening and constantly changes in and through it. Due to the simultaneity of events, the digital age has formed our vision at a rapid pace. For the most part, our everyday look takes place in and through technological media, through and via which we have learned to see and act. Through this enormous overcrowding of the visible, we lose the corporeal relation to the seen, which consequently not only has an effect on our emotional reference systems, but could possibly drown us as a whole in a collective, disoriented referencelessness.
The confrontation and reflection with and about our own visibility is therefore a special agent that can counteract the arbitrary and aimless gaze of today’s digitized (art) world. The process of defining a parenthesis in an exhibition also sets a focus which swims against the tremendous stream of randomness and forms a visual axis in the midst of a constantly fluttering field of vision. Instead of incessantly asking if art is visible, we should reflect upon the question what can be made visible with and through art.