Distanz und Domizil

Kunsthaus Dresden, Städische Galerie für Gegenwart Kunst, 1997, (Catalogue)

Works included in the exhibition: Private Spaces & Open Closed Doors

“Seeing and desire open up the whole room but that is not enough for him. The visible room attests to my strength to discover and simultaneously my powerlessness to achieve.” Jean Starobinski

“The snapshot sees life outside and reproduces it as something dead. For this reason it appears as something abrupt, aggressive and artificial, even if we are convinced of its realistic exactness,” writes Thierry de Duve. The snapshot so violently rips up time’s continuity. De Duve counters this with time exposure images, whose symbolic compression of contrasts from photographic images like the tenets of perception psychology have long proved that in daily life we never see what the snapshot uncovers in the moment. The snapshot’s punctum temporis is much more a result of the camera’s inherent abstraction processes which tend to the “no longer” and “not yet” and thereafter are accepted as the present in all its absoluteness. In comparison, the time exposure carries with it processes of human perception calculations, where impressions are collected, ordered, and interpreted, the past appears and anticipation resonates. “The eye is no camera, rather a very slow, registering ‘instrument’, whose work is saturated with antecedents and subsequents and itself has its own structure of timing happening over time.”

With her time exposures, Christina Dimitriadis is tracking antecedents and subsequents and confesses to a transitory, fleeting moment, which is always an interstice between two times, a passage which is presence and absence. She has assembled six large-format photographs from 1995 into a group called “Private Spaces”. They are all self-portraits of the artist who was born in Thessaloniki in 1967. They were taken in the familiar environment of her parents’ and grandparents’ houses in Greece, in New York where she studied photography and video art, or in her own home in Berlin where Christina Dimitriadis has lived since 1993. One shows the young woman confidently seated on a bright red couch. In another she makes herself comfortable in a sterile bedroom or poses on an upholstered chaise lounge in a bourgeois living room stuffed full with hunting trophies. Sometimes she wears a colorful summer dress, sometimes a silky negligee or a severe, existential black turtleneck. And as her wardrobe shows quite a bit of variety, so too does her repertory of gestures and body language. The photographs are obviously staged. But one can also imagine that the furniture and objects, the room’s atmosphere, the memories tied to those places, they have all taken over the scene’s choreography. As if the surroundings trap and wrap her in a net, the portrait subject physically adapts to her environment and allows herself to be lead by remembering situations and people tied to these places in memory. That the environment dictates the model’s appearance in such subtle ways, it is no wonder that the furniture, the floor and the walls are reproduced with the utmost precision while the image of the young woman appears only almost ghost-like on the photo paper. The artist obtained this effect by using an extremely long exposure time for each photo – about one minute long – although she had left the setting only after a few seconds. And so she has succeeded in eluding the dilemma of the punctual now of the snapshot and instead introduces the temporality of the subject. Because time is, to quote Kant, “merely a subjective condition of our human intuition, and in itself, apart from the subject, is nothing.”

While Christina Dimitriadis uses her camera in “Private Spaces” as an instrument of identity search and self-discovery, she uses her cycle “Open Closed Doors” from 1996 to develop themes on the complex relation between interior and exterior spaces. The C-prints mounted on thin aluminum plates all present a minimalist interior: a white door, a whitewashed wall and a wooden floor. Again with help of long exposure times, Christina Dimitriadis creates confusing, beautiful images which document two mutually-exclusive situations. The doors are wide open and closed at the same time; they invite one to step into a private room but also unmistakably function as a barrier. Only in the symbolic compression, in the time exposure, is an important function of the door revealed. The door cuts between public space and the private sphere; it protects from unwanted observers or turns the living space into a stage. Its double function is comparable to a theater curtain before the start of the performance – the closed door effectively defends. If the curtain is pulled to the side, the door opened, the audience knows it is time. The play begins.

Annette Tietenberg