Picture Analysis – Zelt (Tent)

Quite an interesting artist and series of images to examine. The student documentation makes the point of the photography being merely a record of the art works – and I think this is correct. The photographs are interesting, they have a clear point of view and structure, but in essence they are the physical remains of the art work as a whole.

Taking his work as a whole, there is a real sense of time and chance. Works are not fixed, they are manipulated, moving objects, creating a result of cause and effect. When I was an art student I made these pieces based on ownership of art works. The works examined how people wanted to buy and own pieces of work. I tackled this by trying to create pieces of work that were difficult to ‘own’, because they changed all the time. Signer’s work reminded me somewhat of this.

The documentation refers to the ‘ephemera’ of the pieces – which is true to a certain extent (and more so I would argue in the case of Andy Goldsworthy) – but if we define ephemera as ‘things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time’ – then not all Signer works are like this. Fensterläden, 2012, made with wood and fans, is a moving sculpture, rather than something that is there for only a short time. So across his work we have art works being made that use ink being splashed, electric currents, water explosions, rotary blades blowing sand – a cause and effect action which results in another piece of work being made. As if A + B, creates a piece of work thats C. But what that C will be is not totally in his control.

The photograph supports, records this C. It is the photographic record the created work. In his piece Tent (an object he seems to use often), we see a 6 photographic series of a man exiting a tent, running towards us, and the tent exploding in the background. It is interesting that Signer has decided to create this work as a sequence rather than a video piece. To him the gaps must be important.

Would this work have been as effective if the camera’s viewpoint had changed with each shot? I think the direct element of ‘sequence’ would have been lost somewhat. By maintaining the viewpoint, and therefore the scale, frame etc it keeps the clear focus on the action and change between images. To change the viewpoint would add an additional variable element between frames which would alter your perception of the piece.

What encapsulates this sequence, makes it seems like a finished piece? As a sequence, decisions have been made over a starting image and a finishing image. There is a clear, consecutive narrative in the image – if the individual elements were mixed up, and you were asked to reorganise them, then you would not have particular difficulty doing so.

What do you think are the influences that led to this work? I was reminded of Harold E. Edgerton’s work with bullets and apples. Also there is an element of Muybridge in my mind – this experimental, investigative sequence work. But unlike the athlete running, we have a more humorous example of a man running from an explosion. I might be heading in the wrong direction here, but the piece was made in 2002, when the US was still looking at everything through the prism of bombs exploding on September 11th, is the puff of the exploded bomb reminded me of that.

Do you think these influences affect the way we interpret it? I would argue that the influences always affect the interpretation. I might be wrong about his influences, but certainly what it reminds me of affects how I look at the work. There is a clear and conscious decision to make this a sequence – a filmic story – and sequences like this generate thoughts in my mind, so therefore affect my interpretation. Even if the element of chance within the work is simply that – chance.


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