A Cinema That Was Not by Caspar Stracke is the first module of a two-part project investigating the concept of the cinema space and its social and political potential in the age of networked cultures.
The moving image has been central to Caspar Stracke’s entire artistic career, but this is the first exhibition that addresses the absence of an image. The exhibition focuses on cinema as a platform for shared experiences, cinematic translations of human perception and the footprints this urban phenomenon has left on our social relations and culture.
There are several elements on display in the exhibition that belong to the notion of cinema, though each refuses a recognizable moving image. Instead, the installation looks at the act of projection, evoking an ancient scientific interpretation of light as a material, a luminiferous aether.
In A Cinema That Was Not, Stracke brings the cinematic apparatus into focus and the content of the film itself is either obscured, dramatically reduced or fully removed. The viewer is confronted with the remaining elements that are given a new purpose or function. An animated installation imitates the light travel between the lenses of two cinema projectors and in this ping-ponging loop of light they become both sender and receiver.
A pair of silver screens are turned to face each other, trapping the moving image, and the marquee texts on the walls become cryptic iconography. The texts refusal to communicate their original means is paired here with questions of protest. The marquee text features a seminal Situationist quote which is literally overwritten with a second sentence, a quote on cinema’s role in historiography by a contemporary thinker.
In this group of installations that reverse or re-purpose cinematic technology the general mechanisms of the moving image are laid bare. Cinema has often been thought of as a mechanical attempt to emulate human vision and hearing. The final piece in this show, the video work Proximity, addresses this problem by featuring a collection of 12 narrative film fragments in which the protagonists are talking about individual perception: blind people describe how they imagine vision, patients are shown in the moment of regaining eyesight after an operation, people describe hallucinatory influences on vision or recording their own view for others which certainly points to permanent life documentation through the self-obsessed mobile device culture. Proximity addresses the paradox of cinema’s impossible project — to represent of absence of human vision without figurative imagery.
Caspar Stracke is an interdisciplinary artist and curator. He is currently professor for Contemporary Art and Moving Image at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. Stracke holds an MFA in Experimental Film and Photography from the Academy of Fine Arts, Braunschweig, Germany then moved to New York City and continued studying Film and Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York (on a DAAD fellowship). He continued to live in NYC for 20 years.
Stracke’s films, videos and installations formulate critical responses to cinema, architecture and urbanism and have been shown internationally in places such as MoMA, The Whitney Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, ZKM among many others. He is an active member of The Thing; a center for art and net culture based in NYC.
From 2005 until 2013 Stracke was the co-director of video_dumbo, an international moving image exhibition and festival in New York.
In 2014 he he co-curated the 60th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar together with Gabriela Monroy.
The second part of Caspar Stracke’s project will be on display in the WHS Teatteri Union later this year.