Torsten Lauschmann at the Grand Union Gallery, review by Adele Mary Reed
Currently showing at Digbeth’s Grand Union gallery is a collection of work by the German-born Torsten Lauschmann, curated by Jenine McGaughran. The exhibition is made up of four contrasting pieces which explore various themes around the two-dimensional moving image, our relationship with technology, ourselves within performance, the characteristics of light, film history and human perceptions. The experience is a sensory delight - displaying a deep conscientious awareness into the placement of objects and how it can build concepts and raise important questions.
A room leading to the left encompasses a large screen projected with the 10-minute long HD Video ‘Skipping Over Damaged Areas’ (2010) and a bench placed directly 5 meters opposite which few viewers decide to use. A patchwork of archival cult film title credits are montaged into a bizarre, brand new constructed narrative - their film names mapping the unfolding of events. Whether or not the dramatically toned tale as told by voice over artist Iain Champion is important in it’s own right or not, the genre-defining boldness of each typeface against the narration’s relentless suspension is exciting enough to reduce the viewer into a passive, hypnotized state of awareness. This makes a comment on the way society relates to 2D screens of moving imagery. We have no choice but to be enveloped by what we’re shown; the larger the screen, louder the volume, darker the room - only the more consuming the experience will become. We can easily derive from each clip’s crackles and spits that these sources originated in analog formats and yet what we’re shown is the latest in High-Definition recording. This concoction, although embodying classic nostalgic movies, is actually a completely intangible ‘thing’ with no real physicality - merely a figment of computerized digital code.
The second room featured three installation pieces. ‘Thaumatrop No 1: Bird in a Cage’ (2009) is a 2 minute looped video projection illuminated up high on the wall. The thaumatrope was a popular victorian toy, it’s name originating from the Ancient Greek word for ‘wonder turner’. It consisted of two images either side of a disc that when spun quickly between two twisted strings form the optical illusion of moving images. At first glance we observe the projection is ‘spinning’ when of course it’s two-dimensional nature dictates it’s fundamental flatness. The roots of film are addressed in this piece as well as our misconceptions of the medium.
The final two pieces to me were intrinsically linked through carefully curated positioning - mixed media light performance Life-like (2008) and monitor video Before the Revolution (2011), although being composed of such conflicting materials, both made potent reference to Eadweard Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope - one of the earliest tools to set stills into motion. The original intention was to examine the horse gait and to pinpoint whether there was a moment during gallop when the horse had all four legs off the ground. ‘Before the Revolution’ achieves this by displaying a painting of horses galloping upon a screen tarnished in digital-glitches with the familiar circular loading symbol used by Apple, traditionally met with distinct frustration. In our computer-conditioned psyche it’s natural to assume the piece itself was experiencing a dysfunction so to return at a later point. It takes a minute or so to realize that how it appears is what it should be. In the same way as the thaumatrop was not a thaumatrope, the painting is far from a painting, and yet we’ve become so used to seeing them outside of their intended context that we barely notice. The digital-image can be rife with imperfections but they are ones we are helpless to effect. The dominance the 2D-screen has over it’s users is particularly strange; it is our master and we it’s agonized slave, impatient to consume.
Installed directly opposite at the other end of the room is ‘Life-like’, built from ten desk lamps, a switching unit, computer soft & hardware and stones sourced from the local Birmingham area. This materialized concept embarks into expanded cinema, using the interaction of the participant to express itself. Ten lamps arranged in a circle facing in on themselves toward a pile of natural earth-found objects, alight one at a time in a high-speed looping motion. This creates simple yet curiously invigorating light and shadow theatrics not only upon the stones but also upon ourselves and the gallery environment. To introduce the interaction of the audience into the authenticity of the moving image, is to build a shared relationship between consumption, light and emotion. The performance becomes a three-dimensional collaboration.