Sabine Hornig, Three-Piece Easiness, 2009
Ainsi il va, il court, il cherche. Que cherche-t-il ? A coup sûr, cet homme,
tel que je l'ai dépeint, ce solitaire doué d'une imagination active, toujours
voyageant à travers le grand désert d'hommes, a un but plus élevé que celui
d'un pur flâneur, un but plus général, autre que le plaisir fugitif de la circonstance.
Il cherche ce quelque chose qu'on nous permettra d'appeler la modernité;
car il ne se présente pas de meilleur mot pour exprimer l'idée en question.
Il s'agit, pour lui, de dégager de la mode ce qu'elle peut contenir
de poétique dans l'historique, de tirer l'éternel du transitoire.
Charles Baudelaire, Le Peintre de La Vie Moderne
The Flâneur and the Illusionist
The XIX century was prodigious in drawing up some of the figures and subjects that will influence the attitude that is characteristic to the contemporary condition. The flâneur, a character described by Baudelaire, is an example of this. This is a figure of the ephemeral and of mobility, concepts explored by contemporary art, and which are not lost on Sabine Hornig. The flâneur is a Self-desirous of Non-Selfs, a manifestation of the emptiness of the urban, industrial man who takes his pleasure from the crowd, which he anxiously seeks as a "reservoir of electricity". In his strolls, the forerunners of the act of drifting (later set forward by the Dadaist movement and by the situationists), this character finds delight in the city, choosing as his favourite spots the arcades connecting one place to another, and which can be defined as non-places in Marc Augés opinion. This character is a collector of experiences and topographies who counts on the aid of the memory that fictionally recreates those captured fragments.
Other favourite places of his are the shop windows in the city. That fascination for the shop front is a symptom of a growing economy and of a concern for visibility (as if it were a theatre performance, or a mise-enscène), that comes with modernity. In her series of windows Hornig tells us of this sort of voyeurism avid for novelty that finds something in the transition process but not a finished product, placing the viewer in a state of reflection. In a certain manner this is an emptying of modernity, a criticism of its initial utopias in both political systems east and west simultaneously.
The fact that these images are presented as still lifes proves this. Any still life is a symbol of a meaningless vanitas, of a sin of lust, and is expressed in elements such as the skull and the mirror, both symbolizing death and vanity, but especially impermanence. An example of this question is the allusion to Berlin, a symbol of the whole process of destruction and later reconstruction, a dystopia that emerges from a political and economic utopia the disappearance of which may even so seem promising. In a time of economic recession, these empty spaces may be the beginning of something and not the end.
The illusionist, another of the type characters of the late nineteenth century fascination for the strange, is someone who transforms things into other things in an alchemic process. But he is also someone who presents something as if it were something else, tricking us.
In Hornigs work there is a fascination by this power of illusion, which has been present in the plastic arts since the beginning. Due to this capacity to replace the world of essences by appearance, Plato condemned all forms of plastic and visual arts, relegating them all to the world of the simulacrum. The copy, as Benjamin states, makes the work of art lose its aura.
In Hornig, through the use of trompe l´oeil and through the game of perception played with the spectator, we see that the capacity for illusion, unlike the difficult past that condemned it, is indeed a profound essence of all art, and that the copy is a form of granting new life to the existing world. Indeed, Art does not come from something that has no origin; rather it reinvents the world that surrounds us.
Like an illusionist, Hornig is also a player who weaves ironic comments on the scales, on daily life, on the dysfunctional functionality of its spaces and, above all, plays with the spectator's perception. She plays with the illusion of the interior/exterior, solid/ephemeral, transparent/opaque dichotomies, among others. The opaque andthe mystery contained in the figure of the illusionist are also an important metaphor for her, in the sense that here the illusion of transparency is an analogy for the fact that despite our living in a world of the everything seen (as exemplified by Foucault in the panoptic system or Lipovetsky in his study on the culture of the screen), we can never really know the totality of the world, just like in Borges' story of the Library of Babel that tells the adventure of the search for the "book of books" without ever finding it. However, instead of that vain promise that cannot be fulfilled, we may get to know an infinite world of possibilities. Inspired by the pictorial tradition of the XVII century, Hornig's attempt to counter the single perspective inherited from the Renaissance, of which the window is a metaphor, has to do with this fact.
In her works there are multiple perspectives of the gaze, infinite possibilities of reconstruction. This is the origin of the meaning of her abstraction, the offer of a multiple terrain of interpretations that enrich and complexify her work. In order to understand it there is a whole process of mobility of the gaze that demands a suspension of disbelief, as Coleridge states. The magic of the virtual plane that she presents us with is that the image and time are in a single moment, here and now, explaining the inspiration for the title of the exhibition.
Just then, the figures of the flâneur and of the illusionist are fused in an eternal jouissance, collapsing time and space in an art that is simultaneously current and anachronistic.
Carla de Utra Mendes
1 In http://baudelaire.litteratura.com/peintre_vie_moderne.php
2 Painting is a window to the world, Alberti stated