Dr. Renate Wiehager: Minimalism and After

2006 «Minimalism and After», Sammlung Daimler Chrysler, Hatje/Canz

In her Video “Studio 2000” Esther Hiepler seems to be addressing the early convergence point of – European – constructive and – American – minimalist pictorial concepts performatively, and testing whether it will hold for a contemporary relationship between image, space and viewer on the one hand and physical and virtual corporeality on the other. What happens during the 30 minute running time? An almost static video camera focuses on a detail of Esther Hiepler’s studio wall. The video records the emergence of various pictorial compositions, created by hanging the sheets in different places and regrouping the props – a white plinth and a small set of wooden steps – from different camera angles. The plinth is pushed around to the accompaniment of inevitable noise or mounted from the steps, so that sheets that are hanging higher can be moved. If nothing is happening, the pictorial composition is dominant. It can be seen as a surface, as a relief or – withe the plinth and the steps – as a minimalist spatial composition. If the artist comes into the picture space, the viewers’ attention is drawn back to real size ratios and real space. The contemplative image is countered by the trivial action of hanging and the obtrusive noise made by pushing the plinth around.

The video work “Cubes and Couboids” (1997) is a precursor of “Studio 2000”. In “Cubes and Cuboids”, various geometrical forms are held out into the image on four monitors, then moved out again after a pause. This choreography of cubes and cuboids changes its rhythm an has slower and faster sequences, which produces different pictorial compositions that stand still, change and are then rejected again. Esther Hiepler shifted her interlinking of constructive-concrete composition and minimalist spatial configurations into the urban exterior for the 8-part video series “New York Wände” (New York Walls) (2000). People were filmed walking past selected walls in New York. The camera shot of the wall stays the same, showing a monochrome colored or abstractly structured image against which the passers-by make their brief appearance. Passing cars divide the area up differently or ‘accelerate’ the image when a colored truck passes by, for example. The constant movement and the typical New York sounds – voices, traffic, sirens – form a contrast with the static, peaceful images and the monochrome structure of the backgrounds. When the flow of pedestrians of traffic slows down, the walls just reflect lights or distant movements.

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