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  1. DISSOLUTION  Monograph, 2011

    DISSOLUTION  Monograph, 2011

    Publisher
    Reinhard Braun, Edition Camera Austria, Graz

    Graphic design
    Nicole Six/Paul Petritsch

    Texts
    Manuela Ammer, Reinhard Braun, Heimrad Bäcker

    Copy editor
    Daniela Billner

    Translation
    Aileen Dering

    Image processing
    C.E.I.S.1 & [RIMAGE GENGI]2

    Format
    28.2 x 22 cm

    Printer
    Überreuther

    Edition
    600

    ISBN 978-3-900508-87-6

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    Manuela Ammer

    Withdrawal Symptoms. On Tatiana Lecomte’s Photographic Investigations

     

    1

    “Yet when a medium that has been regarded since its beginnings as an inscription of the real mixes this real with the visible traces of its own mediality, this touches on the question of the truth of representation in its core,” writes the photo historian Peter Geimer in an article investigating the interplay of image formation and image disruption based on the example of the history of photography. [1]

     

    In conjunction with Tatiana Lecomte’s most recent work, I find this quotation productive in several regards. Indeed, these works demonstrate stagings of exactly this “mixing” of what is represented and the medium of representation, which according to Greimer touches on the core issue of photographic representation: its relationship to the real and thus to truth. For this, Lecomte makes use of existing images, which she either finds at flea markets or takes from books and print publications. In other words, she produces no photographs, but rather reproduces them, using the means intrinsic to photography―enlargement, focus/blurriness, exposure and movement―to essentially challenge photographic representation. This challenge often assumes the character of an image disruption: what is represented appears fragmented, gridded, blurred, too bright or too dark, is driven to its boundaries, so to speak, and even beyond. Lecomte purposely works with an aesthetic of withdrawal or of controlled access, which forces the gaze to grasp the “inevitable incompleteness of the image”.[2]

    The photographs that are put to the test in this way have nothing in common at first look. They come from different contexts of time and geography, are black and white or in colour, show people or not, have a private or official character. Their only connection is that they―presumably or assuredly―more or less obviously, more or less directly have a connection to the historical period that poses probably the greatest problem to representation (and its critique): the period of National-Socialism. No other regime conducted a politics of images more purposely; no other regime pursued more systematically a politics of annihilation. Lecomte’s artistic project undertakes no large-scale attempt to seek to clarify what this interrelationship means for images in general. However, against this backdrop it certainly does make single, specific images speak.

     

    2

    Dissolution (2010) is composed of eight colour prints of 145 by 126 centimetres each, which each present a greatly enlarged section of an existing photograph that Lecomte photographed in segments. The original was not captured completely and in exactly divided segments, but rather with a “free eye”, so to speak, which leads to duplications of the motif as well as to gaps in the overall picture. The photographs of single segments are finally joined together in such a way that representative logic is given its due (the original picture remains readable as such), but because of the shifts and overlaps, however, no coherent whole emerges. Instead, the single picture sections assert their presence with respect to the overall view; “seams” and cracks clearly identify Lecomte’s work as a composite. If one looks closely at the prints, the “breaking up” of the coherence of the image is continued. With the extreme enlargement a print grid becomes visible, which allows the original image to be identified as a reproduction of a photograph. Cyan-coloured, magenta-coloured, yellow and black dots cover the image carrier in different mixtures and densities, manifesting the technical basis of the representation rather than the representation itself.

    What it is exactly that the work and its photographic original show is hard to determine: in front of a reddish, overcast sky, a dark cloud is visible, stretching from the lower left edge across the entire picture. Silhouettes of trees and chimneys, maybe the roofs of houses, suggest a residential area in the middle ground. The whole scene is marked by a dark and ominous atmosphere, which is additionally reinforced by the way it is monumentalised and fragmented. Water spots and blemishes that were already part of the original photograph also further suggest that the cloud has contaminated the image carrier itself. Yet the impression of the immediate threat of danger remains diffuse―there are no indications of the time or the place where the photograph was taken, and one can only speculate about the cause of the darkening. In fact, Lecomte’s work is based on a reproduction of what is probably the only colour picture showing the Warsaw Ghetto at the time of the Jewish revolt in April 1943. [3] The “cloud” filling the picture is no inexplicable celestial phenomenon, but rather the smoke rising from the largest National-Socialist internment camp, after German troops set fire to large sections of it.

    Consequently, the title Dissolution refers not only to the segmentation of the picture and its break-down into countless dots, but also has a horrifying counterpart in its content in the photographically captured liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Lecomte’s work can be understood on the one hand as an attempt to rob the archive image of its relative harmlessness by presenting it as a monumental piecework. On the other hand, it is a matter of penetrating through the cloud of smoke literally enshrouding what is happening, increasing the visibility of what is depicted and thus revealing what is perhaps a crucial detail. Of course this effort is doomed to fail. Instead of revealing what has not previously been seen, the extreme enlargement withdraws from us what is depicted, disintegrates it into its component parts, and makes the picture appear incomplete and without substance. The boundary, where “the optical added value of visualisation” turns into “white noise” has been crossed. [4]

     

    3

    Ohne Titel (2010), a series of nine large format black and white photographs, shows a selection of views of backs with different skin diseases, which Lecomte has taken from a textbook for dermatology that was published in the early 1940s in Vienna. Illustrated with pictures all the way through, the publication is intended for medical students and physicians and provides information about the course, diagnosis and therapy for commonplace skin and genital diseases. The artist photographed the illustrations of psoriasis, measles, acne and skin cancer so that the affected surface of the skin fills the entire picture segment. Only the back of the neck visible at the top edge of the picture and the contours of the shoulder blades indicate the human body as the carrier of these abstract patterns. If one looks closely at the photographs, even these indicators lose their significance: not only can the monumental backs no longer be grasped as such, but the extreme enlargement also reveals the printing grid again, which criss-crosses the “skin markings” like a densely woven net. Once again, the attempt to enhance the visibility of what is depicted turns into its disintegration.

    Here too, viewers know nothing of the source, from which the pictures are taken. It is not possible for them to browse through the pages of the dermatological textbook, which at first glance conveys the impression of scientific objectivity, although the section “Prevention, Treatment and Control of Genital Diseases” states a “certain racial adverse selection” and speaks of the “great danger of a weakening of the moral resistance especially for […] Nordic people”. Lecomte’s way of dealing with the illustrations, their isolation and monumentalisation, pursues the question of whether the ideological context in which they were (re-)produced is inscribed into the pictures themselves. Lecomte undertakes the attempt to query the photographic reproductions with the means of photographic reproduction itself. In the case of the anonymous back views, which are simultaneously individualised through their disease manifestations, this leads to an irritating interplay between the “injured” skin surfaces and the picture surfaces that are interrupted in their transparency and “damaged” in this sense. The material and the mimetic levels of the representation enter into a paradoxical, but visually plausible dialogue with one another.

    Letting the photographs speak for themselves is risky, since it purposely disregards the principles of the “right” way to handle image documents―which are all based on historical classification. At the same time, it is precisely this disregard that leads the viewers immediately to the question of what the images divested of their context are capable of “achieving”. This can be discussed on the basis of the example of the “white noise” of the dots: as an aesthetic phenomenon the “white noise” illustrates that photographs can only fulfil their referential function within a narrowly constrained framework and under certain conditions. As an indicator of print graphic duplication, it is a serious reminder of the responsibility that arises from it for the use of the images. Thus it is solely the position of the viewers in the space that determines whether the beginning of a message (the ominous “cloud” or the shape of a human back) can even be perceived. Metaphorically speaking, from this it follows that the image as a document is only “legible” from a certain vantage point, in other words in the knowledge of its (historical) context. Without knowledge of the production conditions or the circumstances of its duplication, it remains indifferent, undecipherable and ultimately meaningless.

     

    4

    In the series Stills (2010) Tatiana Lecomte deals with found photographs that have a stronger narrative quality and often show people interacting. Within these scenes, her attention is focused especially on how gazes and gestures function as visual ciphers of the relationships existing between the people depicted. The point of departure each time is again a picture that is photographed and treated with the help of an enlarger. This time, however, the result is not an image (composite) enlarged to the point of monumentality, but rather a series of small format prints, which are presented in vertical rows placed next to one another, similar to a film strip. The reference to film is not only conditioned by the form, but also results from the way in which Lecomte multiplies the original image in the darkroom. Using the enlarger, she zooms in on certain details one picture after another, undertakes successive minor variations on the segment and/or gradually manipulates exposure and focus. Mounted next to one another, the slightly varying prints suggest a temporal sequence―as though the moment arrested in the original picture could be translated back into a context of action.

    Leni, for example, is composed of a total of nineteen prints, the first of which shows the detail of a gesture. We see a hand filling a powdery substance into the hand of an African child using a spatula-like spoon. The following pictures reveal an increasingly large segment of the scene―other children sitting on the ground come into view as does the body of the white woman sitting on a red folding chair and distributing the powder from a golden bowl. Roughly half way through the picture sequence, zooming out stops, and the “eye of the camera” wanders upward along the body of the woman, until her smiling face framed by blonde curls fills the upper right corner of the picture. “Leni” is Leni Riefenstahl, and the photo the work is based on documents her visits to the Masakin-Quisar-Nuba in southern Sudan, whose “paradisical” life she began documenting photographically in 1962. [5] Reifenstahl’s Africa picture series were the foundation for her international career as a photographer, but also triggered vehement criticism. When Riefenstahl’s first volume of Nuba photographs was published in the USA, for instance, the American author Susan Sontag was moved to write her article “Fascinating Fascism”, in which she explains why Riefenstahl’s portrayals of the Nuba―her fetishising of the body and glorification of a community, in which might makes right―ties seamlessly into the ideology and aesthetics of her National-Socialist propaganda films. [6] The way in which Lecomte draws attention to Riefenstahl’s gesture on the one hand, which gives and rations at the same time, and on the other hand stages her body, purposely establishes the same ambivalence that Sontag also notes in the Nuba photographs.

    A gesture is also at the centre of the 29-part Kadavergehorsam 1. The figure of a young soldier emerges from the dark, whose uniform identifies him as belonging to the German Wehrmacht. Standing in the snow in front of the barracks, he presents his rifle. As optimum exposure is reached, his image increasingly starts “moving”, becomes blurred, until the vertical blurring imbues the scene with a ghostly presence. At the point of maximum blurriness, a second person joins him, and the image begins to successively “stabilise”. We recognise another man in uniform, who places his right hand on the young soldier’s rifle hand to adjust his subordinate’s stance. Holding this touch, which has a strange gentleness despite the corrective intention, both figures disappear again into the darkness. Kadavergehorsam 1 is the only work from the series Stills, in which Lecomte uses two pictures to construct a context of action. These pictures are two from a sequence of three photographs of the same situation that were found at a flea market, and it is impossible to determine whom they show or where or why they were taken. Lecomte uses the same segment in each of the two pictures, and during the “movement phase”, the effect of which is due to jiggling the photo paper during exposure, she simply exchanged one for the other.

    The third photo is the starting point for the 28-part Kadavergehorsam 4 and makes it obvious that the real reason for the pose and the stance correction is the presence of the photographer. The commander has presumably already corrected the rifle hand. With his own right hand in between the buttons of his jacket, he has taken a position next to his subordinate and looks directly into the camera. Unlike Kadavergehorsam 1, Lecomte undertakes only minimal interventions here. The view of the two men is slightly blurred in the beginning and somewhat unbalanced, but it is focussed and straightened in the course of slowly zooming out. Once the desired segment has been fixed, it is gradually darkened. Again we witness the process of a correction, but this time it is not captured in the picture, but instead demonstrated with the picture. The adjustments that Lecomte makes print by print with the enlarger―focusing, straightening, adapting the segment―and that seem to force the uniformed men to be still, correspond to the procedures of the invisible photographer, who was responsible for the three photographs (and the situation they document).

    What links the motifs of the works from the series Stills―the representation of relationships that are marked by power and control and by obedience and trust in authorities―becomes explicit in the example of Kadavergehorsam 4 as a production aesthetic procedure as well. As Lecomte purposely assumes the perspective of the historical photographer (and thus simulates the creation of the original image), what results is an apparent interlocking of what is represented with its own mediality. What photography always and by definition achieves becomes immediately clear: it selects, it focuses, it constructs. It makes visible and it hides. This is not limited to the wilful intentions of the photographer, which Lecomte makes part of the theme in Stills by obviously controlling what viewers are given to see when and how. As Auflösung and Ohne Titel demonstrate, the simultaneity of image formation and image disruption is already essentially inherent to photographic technique, its material and its apparatuses. To quote Peter Geimer again: “The mediating character is at once the condition and the threat of photographic representation―what enables it and is, at the same time, the source of its possible obfuscation or ambiguity.” [7]

     

    1  Cf. Peter Geimer, Bilder aus Versehen. Eine Geschichte fotografischer Erscheinungen, Hamburg 2010, p. 15.

    2  Cf. Georges Did-Huberman, Bilder trotz allem, Munich 2007, p. 73 [Images In Spite of All, University of Chicago Press 2008].

    3  The slide was made by Karol Grabski, who was in hiding in Warsaw at the time of the revolt of the Jews held captive in the Warsaw Ghetto.

    4  Cf. Geimer (op.cit. Footnote 1), p. 91.

    5  The photographic original for Stills (Leni) is taken from the photo book Paradiese, which was published in Munich in 1978 and includes the photo series commented on by Riefenstahl, “Leni Riefenstahl: Mein Paradies – Afrika” (“Leni Riefenstahl: My Paradise – Africa”) and “Leni Riefenstahl auf den Spuren des Jacques-Yves Cousteau oder Paradies unter Wasser” (“Leni Riefenstahl Following the Tracks of Jacque-Yves Cousteau or Paradise Under Water”). Lecomte discovered the book at a flea market.

    6  Riefenstahl’s first photo book about the Nuba was entitled Die Nuba – Menschen wie von einem anderen Stern and was published in 1973 in Munich. A year later, the English edition The Last of the Nuba was published in the USA. Susan Sontag’s criticism was first published on 6 February 1975 in The New York Review of Books.

    7  Cf. Geimer (op.cit., Footnote 1), p. 351.

     

    Translation: Aileen Dering

     

  3. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     

    Reinhard Braun

    The Place of Thinking Visually

     

    Simple Motives

    “There is no way that we could evade language or depiction and press ahead to the real, to the unformed traces of material that might be found behind the things or our experience of things.” (Joel Snyder) [1]

    Simple Motive is what Tatiana Lecomte calls a series from 2009, which draws from various image sources: from a 1961 publication about mistakes and sources of mistakes in road construction and from images from the artist’s archive, whereby some of them were taken on the sites of former concentration camps. The images are all unspectacular views of streets, roadsides, banal segments of landscape. In the course of enlargement, the same grid was imposed on all the images to give them the appearance of sameness, as though all the images had already been reproduced (in a newspaper, for instance), as though they had all been used already, replicated―to document something, to demonstrate or bear witness to something? Which history, which stories, which arguments, which events justify these images? To which grasp of reality were they subordinated, within which regime of visibility did they circulate and gain their significance?

    But we do not know the original context of the images when they are spread out on a table in the exhibition to be viewed and perused. The text jumps ahead, it already intervenes.

    The title Simple Motive describes what is to be seen, what all of us have already seen (or even photographed) countless times already: undergrowth, roads, lined by trees, perhaps with recognisable potholes, meadows, thickets. The questions that the series raises are, in any case, not to be found in what the photographs show. They cannot be resolved by an insistence on the visible. For that would mean that in the visible itself, traces are to be found of the reality to which it is bound. It is specifically in this connection, in this notion that Lecomte intervenes with the “simple motive”. The questions that the series raises thus lie outside what is visible here, in the in-between spaces of the images. Yet what else is to be found there other than statements, texts, the “articulable” in contrast to the “visible”? “There is a disjunction between speaking and seeing, between the visible and the articulable,” as Gilles Deleuze summarises it in his interpretation of Foucault [2]. There is no predominance of the one over the other, no primacy of the one before the other: statements and pictures that come together in a practice that is called image.

    In Simple Motive Lecomte obfuscates the possibility of being able to differentiate between different regimes of visibility and visualisation; in a sense she blurs the traces of the contexts of the photographs. And the extent of this intervention in the order of the images is not negligible: placing pictures of sites of former concentration camps alongside pictures of road construction mistakes also means intervening in the hierarchy of visual meaning production; means questioning the role of images in the production of knowledge and memory. However, this also means allowing an option for a different disposition of the images and with the images to become imaginable.

     

    Masking

    “Thus it is not to the referents of the image, but rather to the irreversibility of the exposed material that the ‘as-it-was’ of photography adheres, a loss of structure fixed by the ‘development’ of the picture.” (Wolfgang Hagen) [3]

    In Oradour (2007 – 2009) Lecomte also combines found image material with her own photographs and blurs the traces of possible differentiation. Oradour-sur-Glane is the name of a French village that was destroyed by a unit of the Waffen-SS in World War Two under the pretext that the village was harbouring partisan activity; all the people who were in the village at that time were murdered. The village remained conserved in this state of destruction and is a memorial site today. Existing black and white reproductions showing the ruins of the village were successively reproduced as Polaroid multiple times. From this a negative was newly produced, which was finally enlarged. The same procedure was used on the colour photographs that Lecomte took herself on the grounds of the memorial. This results in images, in which the blurriness simultaneously masks and reinforces what is ruined and destroyed (because it shifts them from the view to the imagination). With this procedure Lecomte opens up a space for projections onto her photographs: which role do the interventions play in the print, the negative and paper? What is it about the obfuscation that introduces the blurriness, which obscures our view of a reality? What becomes visible, when there is “less” to see than could have been photographed?

    Fundamentally, if this expression may be permitted, Tatiana Lecomte relentlessly shows what ends up in front of the camera. Yet what this involves is often “only” another picture again. What she ultimately shows us, however, no longer allows this distinction. What is “hidden” behind the blurriness may just as well be reality as another picture. And Lecomte does not disclose, she does not describe the logic of photography as one of disclosure, but rather as one of masking, as something that is superimposed in front of what could be described with the term reality. Just as history masks historical realities, represses them, forgets them to the point of being unrecognisable, these photographs from the series Oradour mask everything that could have been there. No regime of truth, but rather a regime that entangles the entanglement of this truth in manifold other articulations about reality.

    This masking of every notion of reality through the manipulations of the technical procedure thus shifts the photographs into a completely different register of the visual. If the “simple motives” provide nothing to see, because there is nothing to see beyond the knowledge of what there could have been to see, Oradour also provides less to see than there could be to see, because this too could show nothing of what has inscribed this place into history, into memory.

    Finally, at this point it must also be mentioned that photography also always includes a specific form of the materialisation of images, which cannot be overlooked and which is currently perhaps more manifest than it was a few decades ago, since photography circulates in myriad forms and media channels, some extremely fleeting and mobile, barely as temporary stored content. In this context it should also not go unmentioned that Lecomte works exclusively in analogue media. All her procedures involve prints (or Polaroid), which are developed, enlarged, possibly photographed again, newly developed and enlarged. Sometimes various procedures of analogue “manipulation” come into play (such as the grid sheets in the series Simple Motive). Yet this is no fetishism of the analogue or any kind of resistive or even subversive critique of the “digital”. It does, however, involve the question of the extent to which photography is also always a materialisation of discourses or, more specifically, in which form which discourses materialise in the photographic image. And it is also a matter of which practice of production the images remain inserted into (or from which they are released). The print, the grain, the grey-scale values, the opacity of the surface―with Lecomte the image closes itself off to transparency, opening up instead a materiality between seeing and showing. To a certain extent, in this way it also resists being easily translatable, resists mobilisation and transformation. Rather, it contains a certain capacity for persistence, insisting on the place where it addresses us (although Lecomte hardly ever uses frames for her presentations; the prints are usually nailed directly to the wall).

    Lecomte goes a step further in intervening in visibility in the series Zement (2006), created in the Upper Austrian town of Ebensee. A residential complex has been located since the 1960s on the site of the former concentration camp there. She covers photographs of this residential area with a white rectangle, leaving only a narrow edge of the picture, similar to the frame of a photograph.

    What sense would it make to show this residential complex? It is the intervention in the picture that first indicates to the viewer that there is something wrong with this place. The white surfaces dominating the photographs leave space for the pictures that do not exist, which were never made (or never preserved) for many reasons, which were repressed, which could have or must have existed. The artist is not able to subsequently provide these images either, because this “original” visibility can no longer be produced, because a different visibility and reality has long since covered over that visibility and reality. Or because that visibility has been lost in this reality, has disintegrated.

     

    Missing Images

    “There is no visual medium. All media are mixed media, in which the senses and types of signs are involved in a different proportion.” (W.J.T. Mitchell) [4]

    Live and Let Live (2005) was made in the German town of Breitenau, which has a long history of internment and camps, and which still features an open psychiatry today. Idyllic central German landscapes, a village centre as though from a tourism brochure. A breach opens up, a discrepancy between what can be seen and what happened there, of which there is nothing more to be seen. This procedure with the photographic image that directly and immediately provides something to see, but thus at the same time creates an insurmountable distance to that of which a picture should have been taken, recalls the characterisation of the photograph as the “site of a gap, a sublime breach between the sensible and the intelligible, between copy and reality, between memory and hope” [5]. As Lecomte refers again and again in her work to historical events, the significance of which essentially cannot be depicted and which cannot be reduced to depictable elements of reality, she increasingly blurs the distinction between pictures she has taken herself and those she has found. The obviousness of what is respectively shown, which viewers cannot relate to any notion of reality or authenticity (or the viewers would be led astray by this apparent authenticity), perpetually raises the question of what there is to see at all, what it indicates and what it speaks of. This question aims in turn at the core of photographic representation by doubting the appropriateness of visualisation, undermining the codification of meanings through (documentary) images, but thus also bringing into play what representation possibly hides (because it cannot be brought to light), a deficit in the core of representation, but one which could open up a space for debating the role of images in the construction of memory, politics and history in a different way.

    The tracking shot at the beginning of Alain Resnais’ Nuit et Brouillard (1955) wrote film history. The film starts with the “stillness and gloom of empty or, even worse, run-of-the-mill landscapes”, [6]. But we are “in search of what?” [7] Solely the camera itself, the cinema, the tracking shot produces a reality, which must be sought in this place, but can no longer be pictured: “there is only cinema, there is nothing human or living except for the cinema facing a few insignificant, derisory traces” [8]. For this reason, Jean-Luc Godard came to his radical conclusion about film: it failed, because it was not present when “the impossible was forced to enter into the real” [9]: “cinema was not there” [10].

    Yet as this failure is measured against the circumstance of having not been present, it points to the notion that if film (or photography) had been present, then something could be found here, the depiction of which would have written history differently. Something real would have changed our reality. But what would there have been to see? Can this failure not be interpreted differently? Is it not a failure that is based on an untenable attribution to photography (or film)? What if the failure of photography is what first defines it?

    What if the “photographic”―if it even makes sense to insist on such an essentialist form of definition―is not to be determined by the image concept, not by the place where the picture is made, but rather primarily by what is not capable of appearing in the picture itself, not capable of being depicted? Neither there nor elsewhere? In other words, if it could be determined by what happens between the pictures, the relation in which the pictures are placed to one another―and if this were true not only within discourses such as those of art, but rather principally within the framework of an indisputable visualisation of culture as a whole. Yet these in-between spaces are also not limited to those that can be seen literally between the pictures (for instance, in a series like Simple Motive, or literally placed in the picture as in Zement). There are always also in-between spaces between the pictures that are to be seen and those that are to be known, that can be known, without having to be seen. The images that Godard is missing can still be designated, demanded by him. Although they do not exist, they are there, determining the course of many other images. The images that are missing group and organise themselves around the images that are there, like around a symptom. That is why these images are always already there, marking what has always been missing. A gap is inscribed in the images as in the witness, a gap that ultimately constitutes them [11].

    In many of her series from recent years, Tatiana Lecomte queries the defects of the photographic, demonstrating again and again what cannot be depicted (landscape shots on the grounds of former concentration camps, for instance, in which there is nothing to be seen but the present, landscape, sky). In this way she touches a place in the images that they leave open, that they do not fulfil or fill out. This is the place that the images release, that they withhold from image conventions or that they withhold not only from these conventions. There is indeed a breach in and between the visible and the legible in the body of the image itself: on the one hand “the identity object, the representation, the form, the motif, the referentially designated (the recognised same)―and on the other hand precisely its other, its formlessness that engenders a stain or a symptom, its deformed sign that wounds us and leaves us speechless and that proliferates everywhere in the images as soon as you start to look for it” [12].

    These may be reasons for increasingly working with found images and reproductions, with a convergence of pictures that the artist did not make herself. Instead, they always already presuppose a different gaze, to which they are obligated, a different regime of visibility. In this way, Lecomte eludes the attribution of a disclosure―she refuses the role of those who have something to show, or she assumes the role of those who show what has already been shown, which could never show enough and has always already allowed too much to become visible.

     

    After the Images

    “Every act of seeing leads to consideration, consideration to reflection, reflection to combination, and thus it may be said that in every attentive look on nature we already theorize.” (J.W.v. Goethe) [13]

    Tatiana Lecomte’s interest in photography has been described with the term imperfection. She reveals these imperfections at the precarious seam between image (in a double sense: as the visual and as materialisation) and reality. By photographing photographs and reproductions and changing them in the process of enlargement, intervening in this “secondary” pictorialisation, she makes it impossible to ask what there is of reality to be seen in or even behind the images. “The question is no longer what there is to see behind the image, nor how we can see the image itself―it’s how we can find a way into it, how we can slip in, because each image now slips across other images, ‘the background in any image is always another image’.” [14]

    So does Lecomte let us slip into her images?

    Let’s say: by opening up the question of the options of photography into an expanded discourse of representation outside the realm of the recognised same, she opens up her photographic works to other attributions, which turn back to photography itself. Because her images are not populated by identity objects, but are instead full of various traces of the system of photographic representation itself (reproductions, grids, black and white, grain, blurriness, segmentation, lacunae), she does indeed open up a space that is not always already occupied (by the image), but which is instead induced, artificial, produced, construed, also hypothetical and uncertain, over-determined and open at the same time. Lines of flight out of the picture that we can follow into the picture. Not much is to be seen in Tatiana Lecomte’s artworks as a trace of reality, but everything has to do with traces of these realities. Yet these traces are not to be understood solely as image: “Images jostle together making words suddenly appear, words jostle together making images suddenly appear, images and words collide making thought take place visually.” [15] Do the pictorial and the non-pictorial not palpably meet as the access of an image to other images, do not the images at the same time palpably collide with words, with knowledge, with power, with statements? These could be images that do not simply show or depict (or capture or apprehend) a constellation of visibility. These would be images that could be the scene of inscriptions, space for articulations, which are characterised for their part by contradictory, contentious concepts, intersected by various regimes of visibility and power, a “process, in which subject and object are conveyed by a system of representation”. [16]

    Here the text breaks off, it jumps ahead, it has already intervened.

     

    1  Joel Snyder: “Das Bild des Sehens”. In: Wolf, Herta (Ed.), Paradigma Fotografie. Fotokritik am Ende des fotografischen Zeitalters. Suhrkamp 2002, p.59 [“Picturing Vision”. In: Critical Inquiry, 1980].

    2  Gilles Deleuze: Foucault. Continuum, 2006, p. 55.

    3  Wolfgang Hagen: “Die Entropie der Fotografie”. In: Herta Wolf (Ed.), Paradigma Fotografie. Fotokritik am Ende des fotografischen Zeitalters. Suhrkamp 2002, p. 233.

    4  W.J.T. Mitchell: Bildtheorie. Suhrkamp 2008 (2002), p.323 [Picture Theory. Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. University of Chicago Press, 1995].

    5  Giorgio Agamben: Profanations. Zone Books 2007, p. 26.

    6  Georges  Didi-Huberman: Images in Spite of All. Four Photographs from Auschwitz. University of Chicago Press 2008 (2003), p.129.

    7  Ibid

    8  Ibid

    9  Giorgio Agamben: Remnants of Auschwitz. The Witness and the Archive. Zone Books 1999 (1998), p. 129.

    10  Georges  Didi-Huberman, op.cit., p. 140.

    11  Giorgio Agamben: Remnants of Auschwitz, p. 9.

    12  Philippe Dubois: “Plastizität und Film. Die Frage des Figuralen als Störzeichen”. In: Fahle, Oliver (Ed.): Störzeichen. Das Bild angesichts des Realen. Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften 2003, p. 128.

    13  J.W.v. Goethe: Theory of Colours, trans. Charles Lock Eastlake. MIT Press 1970 (1840), “Preface to the First Edition”, p. xl.

    14  Gilles Deleuze: Negotiations. Columbia University Press, 1997 (1990), p. 71.

    15  Georges  Didi-Huberman, op.cit., p. 139.

    16  Timothy Druckrey: “Fatale Aussicht”. In: Hubertus von Amelunxen, (Ed.): Fotografie nach der Fotografie. Verlag der Kunst, p. 81.

     

    Translation: Aileen Dering