Casper Mangold: Windows, Passages

“Modern Islands”, Revolver publishing house, Frankfurt am Main, 2003

In the Prager Strasse in Dresden, the ground floor of a giant apartment block consists of empty shops and passages. Concrete, frosted glass, fluorescent tubes, empty space, naked ground. Without furnishings, color, lettering, all signs of cosiness are missing. In this location, large format color photographs hang behind several of the shop windows. The photographs depict exactly these empty shops and passages on the ground floor of the apartment block of Prager Strasse. For the artwork “Windows, Passages” Esther Hiepler captured the images with an auto focus 35 mm compact camera. No tripod, no additional lighting, no other technical assistance. Nothing had to be constructed, captured, waited for or repeated. No disturbing lines were corrected and exposure bracketing was not undertaken by the artist. The images captured at eye level are sketch-like. Their format stretches exactly from the top to the bottom of the shop windows, so that no further lines, area segmentation or demarcations are formed.

Through the duplication of this location, the photographs lead or view away form ornament, away from sensory appeal, away from what once dominated in the Prager Strasse. Towards reduction, clarity, even calmness. Someone has pressed the pause button. Only on second glance does one even see the images. One might even overlook them altogether – due to the reflections in the glass of the high rise opposite, due to the continuation of structure and perspective or due to this idiosyncratic unclutteredness, inspiring Hiepler-esque restrain. The location, the large format photos and the environment all permeate one another, like a glance through a window, a stroll through passages or the glow of light and color. Esther Hiepler employs reduction here in her usual precise way. Preceding works have already shown us this quality in terms of geometry, color, form and choreo/photography, as well as her choice of motif, the technique used and its realisation. “Kunsthalle Rear Wall”, 1999: Complementary fluorescent colors, the simplest geometry, anything that could disturb removed. The wall becomes a projection area for a film of things that are already there or that happen there. A canvas for the shadows of leaves on the trees. A stage for pedestrians that sit, stand or pass by. “New York Walls”, 2000: frontal planes with specific colors, linear movements of anonymous passersby, pauses. What is already present is used, nothing is added. Every movement passing by is a small performance. Offstage, original sounds from the location support the semi-documentary nature of the piece. “Show for two drums”, 1996 / “Image Stage” 1999 / “Studio 2000”: White rooms, clear colors, right angles. Simple story lines create images. The reduction of the means and the transmission of live sound support action and choreography. The immediate activity becomes a snapshot and thus a finished product. “Tea Garden”, 2001: Sitting, drinking tea, looking about. Unclutteredness, also internally. The installation with round basin, sleek furniture and atmospheric lighting invites the spectator to let time slip by. “Collection”, since 1998: Sketch-like photography, standard optics, instantaneous. an easily comprehensible technique enables a reflexive inventory.

The works of Esther Hiepler are not only simple but reduced in a controlled manner. It is possible to offer either more or less, but less is more. Reduction can only take place if something is there to begin with. Something considered, formulated, something that one is conscious of. Unambiguousness is created, facts are taken apart and displayed separately. Something has been cleaned up, in the best sense of the word. Even the titles serve solely as descriptions of the work. They could just as easily have all been named Untitled. It is more practical that they have titles, however, and they are as explicit as the works are reduced: “Kunsthalle Rear Wall”, or just “Windows, Passages”.

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