CRITIQUE - Taavi Talve. Solitude of Space. KUNST.EE 2013, 1, 54-56
Taavi Talve explores Krista Mölder and Neeme Külm's joint exhibition "Kohalolu" (Being Present), which plays with the perception of space.
There has been quite a bit of talk about the activities of Krista Mölder and Neeme Külm – both together as well as separately – in writings, interviews and conversations1. There is the impression that the vocabulary has been pretty much fixed both in terms of questions as well as answers, meaning that the artists have now found their public face. Külm's activities are characterised by labour-intensive installations investing in empiricism, and in formal terms the focus of Mölder's recent photographic works has been Japan.
I would not like to say outright that the artists have "arrived", it is rather a question of the complementarity of their creative work, its hidden essence which could be emphasized in the context of a joint show. In the case of Neeme Külm, an art- ist who works intuitively, leaving things unsaid perhaps comes to the fore more deliberately, effectively blocking the "wrong" questions and bouncing the viewer back to the work, back to the task of viewing. In Krista Mölder's Japanese pictures it would be suspiciously easy to become ensnared in their culturally exotic Zen. The joint exhibition, pursuing a conceptual wholeness while both parties remain very clearly in their own territory, immediately poses an interesting question of how to view them as a unified whole.
The preface to the exhibition reads, "A pause, shadows in the space, light seeping in from somewhere, a sound to be anticipated, a corridor, air standing still in photographs reflec- ting a room within another, right here, just like anywhere else. Almost Nothing." On entering the Tallinn Art Hall Gallery, visitors are greeted by an empty space and a faint light glowing through screens, borrowing theatricality from the long shadows cast by the blades of fans, and a sound in the background. True, if we regarded it that way, we would not get anything from this except a new kind of experience in a wittily transformed gallery space. Using careful interference, Külm has, as it were, repaired the space, realised its potential. He has generated a transfer zone dividing the gallery symmetrically into two – the non-space, an installation ticking in its quiet presence. Perhaps here and also in the future there will not be an exhaus- tive answer to the question of whether or not – from the point of view of the perceiver or of the work itself – it is important to be familiar with the "original" state of the gallery transformed in such a manner. Paradoxically, the delivery of this "almost noth- ing" demands a considerable amount of physical work on that very same space as well as the institutional walls to ensure the laboratory conditions for the experiment. It demands all that is agreed upon as "invisible" for the observer, forming a cultur- ally conventional dark spot in order to transfer the experience of "almost nothing" with the least possible losses.
The other symmetrical half of the empty space that opens up the exhibition is the gallery space with Krista Mölder's photographs. Fifteen images, partly framed, partly unframed loose pages attached to the wall. The geographic distances between the interiors photographed in different corners of the world have been reduced to the point of sameness within the actual space. The Japanese exotica dominating the show seem to be the continuation of Mölder's earlier work at Temnikova & Kasela Gallery; or is it simply that the local viewers' fixed image of the Orient is deceiving? Stillness oozing from images, screens, cov- ers, interiors reaching out into exteriors and vice versa – this is the polished to perfection familiar image of Japanese mini- malism, a representation of their mentality based on the living environment. Now it is as if the artist has let the space within the image leak out into the gallery space, making the reciprocal re-switching of the regimes between those spaces possible. The shifting realms of interior and exterior, their limitlessness has been transferred into the gallery space and even further. The photograph as a medium and the photograph as an object have started to mediate each other.
Despite the manner of installation utilized here, Mölder, to my mind, continues the line started in her earlier works, but in a slightly different format. It is something similar to what Anneli Porri has referred to: "... now Mölder's task is not to use the camera to capture what the eye fails to see, but vice versa, to raise the viewfinder quietly-quietly to the eye and set the depth of field as close to that of a casual glimpse as possi- ble, to turn the camera into a recorder that alters as little as possible."2
Here I will take the liberty to interpret the title "Being Present" not in terms of the presence of the viewer but of the space, which could be the basis for viewing the different parts of the exhibition in a unified manner. It is because the viewer has nothing to do here, s/he must in some sense become lost in order to enter at the "wrong" moment in order to be able to see the space, to "deceive" him or herself and the space, to per- ceive the space without his or her own presence. It is as if no one were looking at the space or its bustle or directing his or her interpretative intentions upon it or waiting for an experience. It is the moment when the space pretends that the viewer is not there, that it has not been infected by anyone – the space in its own solitude.
Hiroshi Sugimoto created his famous photographs where water fields reaching the horizon split the picture area horizontally, which at least in our fantasy may be totally realistic images of a time before humankind, the Primeval Sea of millions of years ago. It is the only view that can be captured today, letting itself be seen as it was in those times, a testimony without a witness from the time of the landscape, the prehis- toric sea without a viewer. Today, at the right moment and the right time, big cities or very lonely locations are able to dis- play a similar generous indifference, their being unconscious of the viewer.
In some sense I have nothing else to do here either. Shadow writer and space poet who could just as well be the author of the preface to this exhibition, has already vanished somewhere – left via an interior captured in one of the photographs, in which the map of Istanbul has been hung on the wall. I exit through the back door of the Art Hall Gallery. Everything in Freedom Square is in its usual place, wet snow is falling, making one of the last days of 2012 somehow self-reflective. Everything is so simple that meaning is lost.
Taavi Talve is a freelance artist, member of the duo Johnson and Johnson. He works as an associate professor in the Department of Installation and Sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts.
1See for example: Kadri Karro, Öelda võimalikult vähesega midagi [interview with Krista Mölder and Neeme Külm]. – Eesti Ekspress 15. XII 2012.
2Anneli Porri, Up Close and Personal. Ohutult lähedale. – Sirp 12. IX 2008.