The exhibition Body Light positions itself within a series of exhibitions, seeking a curatorial soluti- on for the legitimate display of video art. Through an inventive staging of what would often, feebly be described as Aura, the exhibition emancipates the viewer from the traditional con nes of the lmic medium and offers an essential contribution to this ongoing project. Videos are still often shown in booths where the viewer is completely subjected to the temporality and perspective of the lm. Instead of negotiating an interaction between two independent subjects - the viewer and the work, the video booth simply forces a viewer to relinquish his autonomy. He is all but imprisoned. He cannot relate to the lm in any way other than the duration of his stay. This understan- dably evokes mixed feelings for the viewer: an obligation to to the artist to appreciate the work in it’s entirety, impatience, a sense of repression, an uncanny or disoriented feeling. And as such, emancipation remains of fundamental interest to contemporary exhibition practice. I applied to her face, which was blurred in the twilight, the mask of my most impassioned dreams, but read in her eyes as they turned towards me the horror of my own nonentity - Proust. The duration of the lm is diametrically opposed to the duration of the viewer’s stay. Since the architecture of the video booth only allows the viewer to leave or stay, this opposition cannot be resolved. The cultu- ral solution of this affect laden relationship, easily reduced to ght or ight, must allow the viewer to relate to lm from multiple perspectives.
In large scale video exhibitions like The Big Picture, this issue is often ignored. Rather the viewer simply nds in the architecture, yet another oversized, encapsulated video booth and the prob- lem becomes all the more evident. In the extravagantly designed basement vaults of Düsseldorf’s K21, the lms are projected into individually designed rooms and the viewer always has the option to leave the room early and enter the next, where another video runs. But here as well, the viewer can only relate to the video through the duration of his stay. In these cavernous, ahistorical and implausibly shaped rooms, the absence of light deprives us any sense of perspective and thus any sense of subjecthood. Worse yet, should the viewer decide to leave, he has no other option than crossing abruptly into the adjacent booth where he is apprehended again by another lm and the process of desubjecti cation proceeds exponentially. One can only break the cycle by leaving the exhibition altogether.
While, the exhibition Body Light also expands the projection screen to encompass the entire sur- face of the exhibition, it also takes place in a large, former hair salon whose rooms are still out- tted or at least carry traces of their original use. Here, the viewer experiences the complete and necessary inversion of proust’s trenchantly detailed scenario: our age is infected with a mania for showing things only in the environment that properly belongs to them, thereby suppressing the essential thing, the act of the mind which isolated them from that environment. A picture is no- wadays ’presented’ in the midst of furniture, ornaments, hangings of the same period, a second- hand scheme of decoration in the composition of which in the houses of to-day excels that same hostess who but yesterday was so crassly ignorant, but now spends her time poring over records and in libraries; and among these the masterpiece at which we glance up from the table while we dine does not give us that exhilarating delight which we can expect from it only in a public gallery, which symbolises far better by its bareness, by the absence of all irritating detail, those innermost spaces into which the artist withdrew to create it. In contrast to the video booth, the individual rooms at Body Light offer their own temporality, namely their history. Whereas lm in the video booth, monopolizes time (it’s no mer coincidence that it’s the only light source) and reduces the room to a passive receptacle in which the dissipated temporality of the viewer - pure duration - is forced into a dualistic relationship with the temporality of the lm, we nd in Body light a twofold dialectic between the visitor, the room and the lmic medium.
This dialectic is rstly the relationship between lm and room. Here, the inherent time of the lm confronts the historical time of the room. This becomes especially apparent given that a multiplicity of rooms encounter a multiplicity of videos. It is this multipolar encounter which provides a sense of perspective and its significance. This opposition between film and space resolve into a clear synthesis. The structural similarity between lm and installation is often discussed and it’s hardly surprising that films shown as installations can grasp the temporality of a given space. The historically delineated architecture of the hair salon confronts the hermetic temporality of the lm and simultaneously transforms it. Here the viewer experiences two modes of temporality: one generated through action in space and the other inherent in the abstract temporality of film. Here, the second dialectic between viewer and lm emerges. Though the respective projections remain the only source of light, in contrast to the video booth, the rooms in Body Light allow individual perspective. The visitor, by way of his viewing position in such historically laden space, can be- come aware of his perspective as fundamentally subjectivising. Here, he need not merely relate to the film through the duration of his stay but must actually relate in a real space altogether. He can not merely act between the surrounding objects but must also relate to them. For the last time, Proust sublating his previous observations: Our attention lls a room with objects but our habit lets them dissolve and creates room for ourselves. Observing the room is as much a com- ponent of our aesthetic experience as observing the lm since it is hardly possible to observe the lm without observing the room. The lm essentially determines the atmosphere of the room and the room determines through it’s atmosphere - that is the consummate relationship of all present objects with each other - the perception of the lm. The lack of distance between lm and room that Benjamin sees as laking in aura, is inverted here through the atmosphere of the objects in the room and a new distance created. The viewer can no longer be taken in by the lm without the possibility of associative re ection (which is ultimately dialectical) since, in a room of real tangi- ble objects, the attention of the viewer always jumps back and forth between object and lm. In a video booth, the viewers attention can at best oscillate between the lm and the viewers own consciousness. However, individual consciousness is not simply an instantaneous component of the aesthetic experience but rather the synthesis of aesthetic experience. When the initially cont- radicting lm and space resolve into a synthesis the viewing experience becomes instantaneously unique and plural.