artist: Lina Selander
curator: Basak Senova
venue: Kunst Haus Wien
coordinates: Vienna, 2019

The Garage at Kunst Haus Wien, renowned for its express interest in and critical approach to pressing ecological issues, presents Lina Selander’s Shadow Optics. The title of the exhibition references an extreme light, as if inverted, exposing darkness as well as light; a no less a photographic event than the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, inscribing shadows on the surface of the city. Curated by Basak Senova, the exhibition assembles a group of works and documents describing a migration between utopia and collapse, where technological and/or ideological development as generators of energy and destruction are inescapably linked.

Selander’s films and installations can be read as compositions or thought models where ideas and conditions are explored and weighed. She examines relationships between memory and perception, photography and film, language and image. The precise, rhythmic editing and the use of sound in her films create their own characteristic tension and temporality. Shadow Optics explores the different possibilities of the material; re-searching, re-visiting, and re-editing intersected aspects and resources of film, photography, objects, motives and ideas by tracking and deploying a distinctive visual language in the paradoxical light that bridges the dichotomy between the visible and the invisible.

The exhibition is comprised of Lenins Lamp Glows in the Peasant’s Hut (2011), with a vitrine consisting of radiographs and a stainless-steel text plaque; Model of Continuation (2013); and Överföringsdiagram nr 2 [Diagram of Transfer No. 2] (2018- 2019).

Lenins Lamp Glows in the Peasants Hut (2011) is made partly in dialogue with DzigaVertov’s film The Eleventh Year from 1928, about the construction of a hydroelectric plant on the Dnieper, juxtaposing it with contemporary footage from nearby Pripyat, a ghost town since the Chernobyl disaster. Images from the Swedish Museum of Natural History and the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev, among other places, are also included, with samples of fossils — the earliest imprints documenting prehistory.

Radiographs displayed in a vitrine mark the striking similarity between fossils, early photography and the discovery of radioactivity, which, in turn, seems to herald the invisibility inherent in the code of digital photography.

The steel plaque that reflects the moving images as well as the surrounding space also constitutes a map or diagram of the work. Deriving from the makeup of a documentary — a “ground level” index of sources and narrative, intersecting mine shafts open and form a network of intersecting tunnels, linking disparate phenomena and images, archaeologically piecing together fragments into a narrative. Model of Continuation re-visits Selander’s earlier work To the Vision Machine (2013) and brings together the material filmed in Hiroshima, images from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki intersected with the images of machineries and artifacts from a museum of natural history. The work screens a film within a film by shifting the perspective and the cognizance of the audience with the play between the presence and the absence of the camera. Selander follows the idea of where the illusion begins in the simple fact of images, much like the illusion created by radioactivity or leakage between layers and the different layers of time that can be perceived in the images of vegetation and the sporadic work outside the window, the room, the studio environment, the lonely plants.

The new film, Överföringsdiagram nr 2 [Diagram of Transfer No. 2], (2018-2019), which also features original footage from Austria, is a commentary as well as a continuation of some of the crucial aspects of the other works in the exhibition, and more importantly, an attempt to reach a decisive, radical materialization. In a modest but straightforward manner, the film presents the bad taste of most, if not all, forms of human exceptionalism, seemingly innocent anthropomorphism, and the related ideas about nature, art and the sublime.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a book edited by Basak Senova that discusses the ideological, political, ecological, aesthetic and methodological aspects of the project will be launched at the opening of the exhibition. The book includes essays by Elke Krasny, Björn Norberg, Basak Senova, Betina Leidl, and Verena Kaspar. It will also feature an extensive interview with Lina Salender. Both the exhibition and the book are generously supported by Iaspis.

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