günther selichar

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photograms

Günther + Loredana Selichar

3 x 500 Photograms, 2003/09

Each Gelatine Silver Print, Size: 133 cm x 123,3 cm (framed: 165,8 cm x 155,7 cm), Weight: 500 g

Installation Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg 2009

Photo: Rainer Iglar, Wien 

 

Ruth Horak

<844 Photograms> (in German <844 Fotogramm>) was the title of the exhibition, in which the photograms by Loredana and Günther Selichar (2003/2007) were first shown. As I write the title in German, the computer suggests a grammatical correction: the computer thinks it should say 844 <Fotogramme> (photograms) or 844 <Gramm> (grams). What the computer cannot know is that this grammatical bridge between the terms photogram and gram describes a causality that rarely occurs with such clarity in an image (1). “These are photograms of one-gram weights that are exposed vertically from above, which leads to a circular, even white depiction.” (Günther Selichar) The small cylindrical copper weights that were on the paper and covered it from the light, which have left their footprints in the form of small white dots behind, are in other words the material and formal foundation and literally make up the measure of the image: a photogram, on which four one-gram weights can be seen, weighs four grams, and <844 Fotogramm> make up a total of 844 grams of photo, loosely placed in their frames to indicate their weight even in the phase of presentation.
Photography is normally weightless, regardless of whether it depicts a steamroller or a cabbage leaf: as a paper image, everything is equally heavy. Or in more general terms, the similarity to reality is “without substance. A photograph can depict what is dangerous without endangering, what is damaging without causing damage, what is desired without satisfying.” (2) In the photograms here, reality has substance in an additional dimension: what is depicted and the actual weight are one.

This linking of image and paper, or more precisely, of the visible surface and the object “photo” is calculated and executed according to plan. With every further title – <2 Fotogramm>, <9 Fotogramm>, <25 Fotogramm> – with every further page, on which the black square grows and more and more dots proliferate on it, our experience is expanded by a new value. The use of a number confirms that an indication of weight is involved. And so eventually we trust that <10 Fotogramm> are really 10 grams of photo.
What leads beyond the execution according to plan is the arrangement of the weights. Someone has to decide how they are placed. That means there is a kind of “handwriting”, because there is a human way of placing things without wanting to place them, even before any intention, suggested by casting (this is where chance comes into play). So the dots are not symmetrical, not regular, in no special relation to the paper – they stand there just the way things are placed before you start arranging them.
If you have a whole series before you, in which a new dot is added page by page, then you have the feeling that the movement is also worthy of attention. The white dots move easily over the surfaces, jumping in free formations and multiplying – the greater the scope, the more figures there are. They recall actors on a stage, who are still standing together and talking before they are called to take their places. The even hanging of this kind of series is only one possibility that accommodates the even development of the square or the planned execution of the photograms. One could just as well take up the motion of the dots and find an adequate (dis-) order for it.

Günther and Loredana Selichar have staged a small, clear form, “the briefest version of meaning” (3), a relationship between showing and what is shown.
If we have grasped what initially aroused our anticipation and was resolved in the grammatical contradiction in the point, then the form is shifted again into the foreground. The grams become dots again, photograms, compositions of round and rectangular forms, of density and void, black and white. In the third phase of reading we return to what it was in the beginning, before we grasped the co-presence of different concepts: white dots on black surfaces. As such they are again autonomous images, which open up a further, art-specific field of associations, namely that of Modernism and its media-reflexive discourse, because that addresses the emergence of an image from the medium and thus its recursiveness to this medium. The initially irritating grammar of the title is thus ultimately also to be understood in the sense of grammar, because the photograms are a staging of the principle rules of photography: a staging of the light-sensitive layer, which is presented here in its extremes of no light at all (white) and all light (black), the need for a form, even if a minimal one (square and circle), the staging of variation (through the systematic increase of the grammage), a staging of the contact between the motif and the light-sensitive layer, and so forth. The latter demonstrates to us the special features of the photogram as well: in the photogram it is not possible to reconstruct the original appearance of the weights – the object copper weight, which is ultimately only a means to an end to make the weight usable and “handy”, its appearance and its materiality are taken back again to the actual property, to its weight. In addition, the photogram remains authentic to the extent that there is no transfer of a location (there is no location outside the paper) and no change of the measurements.
The <844 Photograms> are thus also notes on the relationship between process and product (the made-ness of the darkroom is inherent to them) and, not least of all, notes on working in a team: on the invitation card there are two dots for two artists, who have developed an impressive symbolism in this terse form.

1.Comparable approaches can be found in conceptual art, for instance when an image contains only a list of the conditions responsible for the creation of the image.

2.Hans Jonas, Homo Pictor.: Von der Freiheit des Bildens. In: Gottfried Boehm (Ed.), Was ist ein Bild? Fink Verlag (1994), 4th edition, 2006, p.111.

3.Definition of an epigram, an equally terse literary form.