Daniel von Sturmer
These Con­structs

13th November – 20th December 2014
Anna Schwartz Gallery

Sus­pend­ed in dark­ness, These Con­structs’ is a body of work whose osten­si­ble sub­ject is light. Five video pro­jec­tions, mount­ed on a pre­cise­ly con­fig­ured rig, punc­tu­ate the dim ambi­ence of the gallery with images of illu­mi­nat­ed objects. A red/​green/​blue cube rotat­ing in space; a white con­struc­tion that appears to delin­eate both inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or space; a hole cut into an inky black field; a pair of red lasers scan­ning an oth­er­wise unil­lu­mi­nat­ed com­po­si­tion of forms; and a torch shone from dark­ness direct­ly into the cam­era, onto the screen. Each video shows a sin­gle, sim­ple action, looped indef­i­nite­ly. Most­ly, these ges­tures occur as if by action at a dis­tance’, pro­pelled into motion by invis­i­ble or non-local forces.

Spin­ning, slic­ing, rak­ing; tense, focused and ener­getic motions that remind the view­er that light itself is ener­gy: a form of elec­tro­mag­net­ic radi­a­tion that is vis­i­ble to human sight, a fre­quen­cy whose wave­lengths our eyes are tuned to. Each video demon­strates a dif­fer­ent kind of light inter­act­ing with space, over time, record­ed and writ­ten back into the gallery by the light of the pro­jec­tor. Von Sturmer has often inter­ro­gat­ed these essen­tial aspects of video – light, space, dura­tion – and in this exhi­bi­tion, the study is as reduced and con­trolled as ever.

These short loops are propo­si­tions about the nature of the video image and the space it presents. Too eas­i­ly, one might accept them as vir­tu­al, com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed images; it is hard­er to believe that these are indeed stu­dio-based, IRL (in real life) exper­i­ments, per­fect­ed. Unedit­ed but for sim­ple cuts and using lit­tle more than a light source (the pho­to’ in pho­tog­ra­phy) and pro­sa­ic stu­dio mate­ri­als, von Sturmer points direct­ly at a very con­tem­po­rary symp­tom, the dis­crep­an­cy in per­cep­tion between vir­tu­al and real.

Walk­ing around the cus­tomised light­ing rig of These Con­structs’, the view­er encoun­ters each video through a num­ber of pos­si­ble frames, through aper­tures in the geo­met­ric con­struc­tion, and through the larg­er con­struc­tion itself. The gallery may be tak­en to serve as an even larg­er frame again, and indeed the world beyond that. Or, most rad­i­cal­ly, through the mind, via the eye: light, as an idea, is the pri­ma­ry construct.

These Con­structs’ reads as a series of short puz­zles, games of lay­ered per­cep­tion. The images move slow­ly, just enough to be under­stood as a pro­gres­sion of still images, allow­ing moments of leg­i­bil­i­ty to be grasped and released. These works stand for per­cep­tion, embod­ied appre­hen­sion of the world. The way we see, lit­er­al­ly and oth­er­wise. Con­sid­er the eye, par­tic­u­lar­ly the pupil: a cir­cu­lar aper­ture that is con­stant­ly looked through, but nev­er seen from the inside out. Von Sturmer sets up ric­o­chet­ing echoes of this ana­logue, from eye to cam­era lens, cam­era lens to torch bulb, torch bulb to pro­jec­tor, to cut-paper screen, back to eye. There is always a lens, the medi­um through which light pass­es before it can be seen, and by repeat­ing this motif in the field of vision, von Sturmer sends a dia­gram of the process tele­scop­ing back from world, through sight, to con­scious thought.

A con­struct may be under­stood as men­tal short­hand. A reduc­tive, sim­pli­fied code for a set of com­plex facts and expe­ri­ences. As such, con­structs — be they cul­tur­al, philo­soph­i­cal, social, or oth­er­wise — are use­ful for order­ing and under­stand­ing the world, but These Con­structs’ sug­gests that such use­ful things may also be over-deter­min­ing. Once a name is giv­en to a set of ideas, that name can become a lim­it, pre­clud­ing alter­na­tive mod­els of under­stand­ing. By reduc­ing the mov­ing image to ele­gant­ly min­i­mal, stage-man­aged screen tests, von Sturmer encour­ages a recal­i­bra­tion of our expec­ta­tions of cer­tain cin­e­mat­ic con­structs, as ana­logues for how the wider world might be engaged.

It is notable that the voice has con­sis­tent­ly been absent in von Sturmer’s works, which is not to say that it is miss­ing. Where there is a sound­track in his pre­vi­ous works, it is only the noise of objects them­selves, as though any spo­ken or writ­ten text would too eas­i­ly deter­mine how the images are to be interpreted.

Lan­guage tends to take the lead in any study of per­cep­tion. It shapes, as much as it is shaped by, the way think­ing pro­ceeds. Lin­guis­tic con­structs (gram­mar, vocab­u­lary) are part of the sym­bol­ic order through which the world is accessed, and by each of us, made. And while they do not include the voice, the works are not word­less – the titles of exhi­bi­tion and indi­vid­ual works set off chains of asso­ci­a­tion that sit­u­ate the ges­tures and mate­ri­als that do, between the lin­guis­tic and the visu­al, begin to make sense.

Visu­al­ly echo­ing per­cep­tion tests used by psy­chol­o­gists, each video in These Con­structs’ emits a dead­pan clean­li­ness, invok­ing sci­en­tif­ic objec­tiv­i­ty, pos­ing opaque ques­tions whose answers say more about the respon­dent than the respon­dent realis­es. To con­sid­er the odd­i­ty of per­cep­tion is to remem­ber that the self is a sub­jec­tive being, whose expe­ri­ence is fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent to oth­ers’. And that while the observed world may be vis­i­ble and shared, the real object of obser­va­tion – the mind, and how it works — is always at a remove, abstract, intan­gi­ble, invis­i­ble and rad­i­cal­ly individual.

Images

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs, 2014
installation

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs, 2014
installation

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs (emp­ty white space), 2014
sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour
1 minute 8 seconds
Edi­tion of 3

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs (laser scans), 2014
sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour
3 min­utes 45 seconds
Edi­tion of 3

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs (cut­away black), 2014
sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour
1 min­utes 38 seconds
Edi­tion of 3

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs (RGB cube), 2014
sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour
1 min­utes 46 seconds
Edi­tion of 3

Daniel von Sturmer

These Con­structs (flash­light), 2014
sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour
1 minute 25 seconds
Edi­tion of 3