Hungry Eye (1949-1979) engl.
Ralph Findeisen on the exhibition Hungry Eye (1949-1979), 2008, Spesshardt & Klein, Berlin
“Something is given to us as a first, a memory for example.” Jean-Luc Godard said that in an interview with Cahiers du Cinema in 2000, thereby delivering a mini-introduction to the following proverbial saying: “The said comes from the seen”. At the end of a century that soared to immeasurable heights in matters of visualization techniques, text development, theory production and “salvation politics”, extrinsically, this sentence was an almost meek rebuke. Intrinsically, it was an indication that a statement has to be made as words, as pictures, and that the statement will have an origin, a back-story, that has become a material monstrosity for all the “post-postmodernists”, one that does not so easily let itself be tamed.
For a subject that doesn’t only want to define itself, but has to, this statement will be made time and again. Hunger is present as the thematic element for utopia. And this bridging together is as follows: The fulfilment of utopia is the complete (self-) identification of the subject within a complete depiction (of the conditions) of the real. The collective trauma of the “post-postmodernists”, however, lies within the prior knowledge that this completeness will never be reached. “Lacan’s objet petit a, … the object-cause of desire” nevertheless makes an unrelenting impact.i Desire doesn’t let itself be suppressed, be silenced. “What is to someone else just an ordinary object is for me the focus of my libidinal investment, and this shift is caused by some unfathomable something, a je ne sais quoi in the object…”ii This not-knowing is the cause of the production of pain, equi-primordial with the production of an antidote, the attempt to find a language that kills this pain. However, if the said comes from the seen, where does the seen come from? Does it discover its origin through that je ne sais quoi in the object? Through the constitution of the subject? Or through the diverse material of history?
After a few sentences of conversation with Alexandra Hopf it already becomes clear that there isn’t a simple seen. Correspondingly there’s also no simple conclusion, no simple telling image. She digs into different places of the matrix made of object, subject and history, in order to resurface here and there, aware that forgetting has always played along in the production, just as history doesn’t know continuity, perhaps even in the sense of Rancières, that history doesn’t obey any necessity.iii History is a construction. It’s not without reason that the title of the exhibition, next to the desire of cogito, delineates a period of time (1949-1979) that, according to the calendar, actually existed, but that is also just as much a simulated period of time. Moreover, the freedom to variably shape formal language results from this historical concept. Drawing, painting, photography, installation, everything is used, as long as it helps to bring out an inner map of the imagined. Formal creative temptations thereby intersect with the political. And (self) interpretation also broadly draws on the wide spectrum of painting, psychoanalysis, political and philosophical strategies.
“We have more subconsciousness than consciousness.” Here re-enactment mingles with - in the positive sense – the burdensomeness of quotation, always taking into account, that the opponent/partner, the recently passed century, is overpowering and incomplete. This melancholic bludgeon only lets itself encounter utopian anticipation at any one time, which in turn knows that it will be granted little chance of success. Through this game, Alexandra Hopf has, as she says, melancholy/utopia appear at the intersection. In this context melancholy doesn’t mean mawkish, weak and romantic. She doesn’t even let anything go unexamined. When works like the “Partisanenbaum” or “Les Mal-A-Dis” use a political quotationiv from the time of the ’68 revolt or terms from the “culture of desire” such as Valium, Viagra, Prozac, among others, then it can be assumed that the search for references as well as contributors preceded an arduous stretch between the varying sources.
Bringing out of balance, organic reassembly, cell tissue, clone-like countryside populace (like in “Critical Myth”), anonymous authorship, confrontation of fear, if not abatement of fear, working distance (photography), inversion of black and white, the general reversed order of the method of glass painting: the priming comes last, permeance, flash/after-image (W. Benjamin), collage, remembrance, forgetting, quotation, wish, desire, interpretation of dreams, the unconscious – all of these are concepts that play a significant role in Alexandra Hopf’s way of working. In doing so, she makes herself suspicious of compulsively producing beautyv. The black lustre/mirror in the glass painting shown here is virtually actuated as a fetish. And that doubles as an object of pleasure for both the producing as well as the viewing subject. And as a playing field that can accept or reject each symbol interpretation as needed. White feignedly becomes black. More or less, it’s also a (self-) provocation – shiny and smooth.
Merely the title list of the works quasi-exemplarily shows that the whole field of concepts that had been important in the past century, between philosophy and psychoanalysis, the real and the myth, politics and nature, is being dug up. Even the threadbare concept of discourse would have genuine authority here. Shine, yes, but no glamour. Always a continuous risk of toddling into the autarkic trap. Alexandra Hopf is undoubtedly a sincere fighter, always moved by the desire for a prevailing forbiddance of melancholy in utopian space.
i cf. Slavoj Žižek, Parallaxe, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2006
iii c.f. Jacques Rancière, Das Unbehagen in der Ästhetik, Vienna: Passagen, 2007
iv quote in English translation: „Comrades, humanity will first be happy on the day when the last capitalist is clinging to the balls of the last bureaucrat.”
vAn ample explanation of the term “beauty” is owed here. A reference may cater to the ideal that has been asymmetrically broken and recoded many times. Most useful is perhaps the Kantian concept of “transcendent appearance”: The sign/symbol is available neither for cognitive faculty nor for the will, and it, at least for the moment, enjoys its autonomy.