The Artistic Work Place or The Secret of Artistic Creation

1981
single channel installation
super-8-film on video 
loop, 17 minutes
Performer: Maria Vedder

In former times, quite long ago, the studio was the preferred place in which creative work started out. The studio was both, a place of retreat and concentration—a work space in which the external, the real world, found admittance only as a mediating, artistic form. At the latest since the 1970s, the studio has lost this aura. Artists have left their studios and moved out. The urban space in particular became the arena of artistic staging. Its postulated closeness to the reality of everyday life became program. Amidst the irritation at the interface between art and life, public and private, interior and exterior the art of those years moved these categorical distinctions into the awareness, making it worth questioning.

Maria Vedder’s work, created in 1981, does not just chronologically coincide with this departure. As a field study it stands conceptually in the tradition of the performing arts of the 1970s. The 17-minute video work presented as a loop consists of five parts that take place in five different Cologne locations, standing for artistic intervention in the urban space. Each of the scenes follows a continuous pattern: a performer, the artists herself, marks out a rectangular terrain by means of moveable pegs and a string and places herself into the marked space. The first scene presents the event on the Albert Magnus Place in front of the main building of Cologne University, the second takes place between the main railroad station and Cologne cathedral, the third scene involves a public open air swimming pool, the fourth scene plays in the station and the setting of the last scene is in front of the opera of the metropolis on the Rhine. Each action takes so long as one roll of a Super-8 film, 3 minutes, and is without editing.

The irritation set off by this “event”, which has no rational or intended purpose, can be traced in the reactions of the passers-by, the visitors to the bath and the travelers. The observed doesn’t lack a certain comic, for instance when the artist dressed in a white work overall marks her terrain directly in front of the music band of the salvation army which has positioned itself in the shadow of the cathedral. Apart from the question which public audiences does the public space really address, the artists positions herself in the urban hustle and bustle laying claim to a free space there by posing the question: what/where is art’s place. That this place—despite her offensive markings—remains rather undefined is not only resulting from the use of the blurred and coarse-grained Super-8 film material. The use of conscious blurring here is an essential element signifying an intervention that can be described as the attempt of a (im)possible localization of art.

Anja Osswald