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On Beauty

An artwork presented without written elaboration seems strangely inappropriate. The work Concrete News appears inherently beautiful. It is neither inflammatory, revealing nor contrived if simply left to have its own effect – even though it must naturally seem differently because it is contrived to the "nth" degree. Indeed, something beautiful remains nevertheless. It is something (fortunately) that cannot be quickly grasped nor explained. It defies glib apprehension. 

That may be attributable to the contradictory nature of what has been merged – the fleeting nature of a moment captured as an image as opposed to the material's weight and permanence. Yet it is also equally related to its trace-like character – traces in the sense of the shadows of humans burned into the asphalt in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The rubble of Pompeii has similar traits. It refers to something else, another world, of which only vague impressions (including that of beauty) exist, yet which nevertheless stimulate the imagination.  At first, all that remains is a dense incongruity, interplay between concreteness and volatility within the work itself. 

The piece initially makes its impression. No further explanation is necessary for it to have a stimulating effect all its own. In a very unusual way – one could almost say unseemly – this develops because images and material have been compelled to meld, yet the required force did not cause destruction. Instead, this power dissolves into ephemeral novelty. It seems to me that the newness produced by the incongruity of the materials is the prevailing trait, rather than the compulsion required for their merger. The novelty is what catches the eye. The work offers elucidation on its own. 

At the same time, the eloquent contrariness of the work has first and foremost nothing to do with image "content".  Furthermore, it is precisely the work's independence from content that allows it to unfold its iconoclastic power and delicacy. The subject of the piece is suddenly and singly the (re-)presentation alone. Perhaps that is where the feeling of beauty enters. It relates to the age-old quest – the desire for the subject of an image to simultaneously show its essence and beauty, as if access to the nature of what is shown only then becomes possible. 

The work is nevertheless based on a specific image.  It is that of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, making his speech to justify the invasion of Iraq to the United Nations Security Council in New York in February 2003. Powell is lying. The image is the moment of the lie. Yet it seems as if this information could almost detract from the effect that strives to unfold when the work is viewed, meaning that experiencing this artwork is a matter of the relationship between image and material, present and permanent, ephemeral and entitlement. It is not about news and manipulation, which is another way the piece could be perceived.  

The work of Irene Sauter, however, goes beyond this contextual limit. The approaching doubt that becomes perceivable when viewing this work can perhaps be expressed in the following way: The artwork defies explanation. The reference to the concrete image of Powell and the endeavour to make the content of the generally valid system palpable results in a work that has its own, much deeper impact and can do without such (supplementary) information. The "generally valid system" which could not be "revealed" was elsewhere than where the Security Council image hinted it might be. Perhaps the association regarding Pompeii ...((will help)). Reality, it says, congeals in images. These images can outlive their time and actually explain tangibly something that can only be intuited. They show beauty that seems to deny the ravages of time, even when the context of the temporal instant appears to be clear. "The revealing", an unmasking in and of itself, is shown to be a superficial strategy – this work says all that, if one does not throw up defences against its beauty.

A hint can help to see a further, convincing aspect of this work. Simultaneously bound up in this piece are years of experience that Irene Sauter has spent working in the multi-faceted job of picture editor at a television news station. Her art transfixes within incongruous media what confronts her at work daily – the melding of news events with highly analytical views of partially obscured realities.

Andreas Rostek, 2011

Translation: Taryn Toro

copyright 2009-2010 IRENE SAUTER