A book 14 has two spines. Small bits of note paper mark the pages. But the urge to pick up the book, open, and read it remains unsatisfied. The denial of its content makes its existence subject to question while simultaneously making it desirable.
Poetic metaphors such as these have almost always been used by Irene Sauter. Her objects always have the power to puzzle, because they are kept visually simple, yet are complicated in terms of their logic.
"What interests me is how consciously or unconsciously we access information, how we receive it, assess it, or are even taken in by it," says the artist in a conversation with cultural scholar Alice Grünfelder. "While doing this work, it was important to me that the recognition of a hindrance is immediately linked to a physical experience. The hand, that would like to reach for the book, and that is drawn back again in disappointment."
Abstracts of A Biography shows a situation in which it is no longer possible to take in information and process it.
The basis for this work is a monotonously repetitive dialogue about daily events between the artist and her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
The text is gradually, but inexorably distorted in both form and content, in that step-by-step, letters are removed to convey in a supposedly trivial manner the loss of memory and the course of the disease. The resulting sentence fragments suddenly have another meaning – the dialogue appears to derail until it emerges in a new form.
Abstracts Of A Biography
It shows that communication does not vanish, it changes only to the degree that the individual alters it. The work also underscores the value a single word can have and how this word can become the bit of mental glue that is applied in such a way that it offers the individual coherence and enables the formation of memory at all. And it is information, in the broadest sense of the word, that gives our existence an anchor, whether it is in active imparting of information or in receiving it.
For the work Pull, the artist collected 1000 TV stills, most of the news images of two wars that were widely covered in our media – the Kosovo war and the current war in Iraq. Irene Sauter carried out various steps with each and every motif, including putting them through a hand press to print them on simple paper towels. The time consuming process of bringing the work into existence was consciously chosen in order to counter the usual speedy-put through used for images of events in the media which are ceaselessly spit out by our televisions.
A physical experience is, in this case as well, not lacking. If a person is holding a print on rough yet fragile paper in their hands, the haptic moment interrupts the medial distance offered by the smooth screen. The single, film still becomes a touching tableau.
In this way, the artist wants to return to the event its original value. She cites Susan Sontag, "Moving pictures such as television, video and cinema imprint our environment, but when it comes to remembrance, still images have a more pervasive effect. Our memory works with still images and the basic unit is the individual image."
The tension between inside and out, between sensitive sober works and coarse materials is symptomatic of all of Irene Sauter's works. What they have in common is that they trace what has already vanished and deny the apparent.
"The greatest of sobriety with economy of expression," Peter Herbstreuth
Translation: Taryn Toro