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9 Screws

Neue Heimat

Neue Heimat, Berlinische Galerie
sep. 12th, 2007 - Jan. 7th, 2008
Ikea Be
, blanket, 2 lamps, gawn
TV, Video "Nine Screws"

Manfred Wilhelms


Birgit Ramsauer’s Video Poems and Environments:
The Performance of Absence

Robert C. Morgan

I am very fond of Birgit’s Ramsauers’s films. She works in DVD, as do most film artists today, with a coherent sensibility that is intuitively calculated – very much like the best experimental films during the early years of cinema. She is not at all oblivious to her sources, which include May Ray, Hans Richter, Viktor Eggling, Fernand Leger, and Maya Deren. In contrast to these seminal film artists, Ramsauer has pushed into the twenty-first century, using complex forms of digital editing, mixing black and white with color, dramatically articulating positive and negative lighting with subtle juxtapositions of narrative form interspliced with rapid flashbacks. Ramsauer’s “visual poems” – as she calls them – are as poetic and incisive as any of the Dada, Surrealist, and Constructivist film artists of the 1920s. As an adjunct to this cinematic poetry, Ramsauer occasionally adds the readymade architectural dimensions of the environment, both inside and outside, which multiples the inherent possibilities for interpreting the subject matter of her films in terms of real time and space.

For her video environment at the Berlinische Galerie, she has chosen one of her more subtle and beautiful films to date, entitled “The 9 Screws.” The concept is very simple, but also very profound. The film is concerned with the overlay between art and crime. How does art constitute a crime? And where do we find it? The performance within the film is absent of human characters. Instead of actors, Ramsauer traces the haunted places of the crime, in which the “characters” are represented by furniture or pieces of furniture, stuck upright into the turf or tables set out-of-doors near a warehouse loading dock or cabinets turned on end or diagonally positioned in shallow creek in a bucolic setting. The narrative is entirely subjective, that is, within the eye of the camera as it moves through the landscape during the day and the night, flashing back and forth. Her semiotic construction appears to reconstruct the unknown crime that is more eerie than anything explicitly shown.

These hidden narrative qualities are also present in Ramsauer’s other short videos, including Skyline (2001) and Synagogue Sound (2007), both shown at the Millennium in New York’s Lower East Side last March. While they each give us a tour, respectively, of an airport parking space and a synagogue in Goerlitz (accompanied by the sound of a metronome and the recitation of Paul Celan’s Todesfuge), they possess a similar kind of mystery that we find in “The 9 Screws.” The poetry evolves from the expectation of what we are going to see next as if on the edge of a series of sublime cadences that keep cycling back to where we began.

The installation, entitled “Neue Heimat,” (curated by Dr. Ursula Prinz) involves an IKEA bed, assembled on site, with two small tables and two lamps on either side. One of the square columns, intrinsic to the architecture of the Berlinische Galerie, is built into the installation of the bed, echoing the presence of the tree penetrating through the bed in “The 9 Screws.” For the performance, Ms. Ramsauer is attempting to sleep on the bed while being interrupted by the discomforting presence of the column, suggesting a kind of erotic frustration or nuisance. During this real time episode, the video of “The 9 Screws” can be viewed on multiple videos within the installation, thus enhancing the interior/exterior dynamic in real time and mythical space. What Ramsauer offers is a glimpse into the psyche power of the imagination as a force that both opens and closes our vision of the past, present, and future. At times, we are in the presence of all three, which transforms our presence into an absence where we are searching for the missing links, the screws that will fasten us together again.

Robert C. Morgan, Ph.D. is an artist, international critic, poet, and curator who is based in New York. He is a Professor of Fine Art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and a contributing writer to The Brooklyn Rail, Tema Celeste, and Sculpture. He is the author of several books, including The End of the Art World (1998), Bruce Nauman (2002), and The Artist and Globalization (forthcoming Fall 2007).