Taking up the concern with the physical interaction of historical artworks, archival documents and contemporary artworks that constitutes the crux of the exhibition Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, Media and the Arts is Freya Björg Olafson’s video contribution. Threshold was filmed during a single day in the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin; Olafson’s video records the artist responding to the subtle yet repetitive movements of László Moholy-Nagy’s Light Prop for an Electric Stage. Restricted by the spatial parameters of the small and enclosed space of the storage room in which the archive’s curatorial staff had set up theLight Prop, Olafson uses this imposed structure as a framework instead of a limitation. In advance of the visit, Olafson had been contemplating the problem of how to engage with the artwork on a physical level. Electing to wait until she “met the sculpture,” Olafson allowed the movement of the Light Prop to determine her own, improvising and experimenting with movement on site and on camera.
Provided with a floodlight instead of a source of pointed or direct light, the refractive and reflective kinetic properties of the Light Prop also began to shift and change, framed uniquely within her video. Filmed entirely on the artist’s laptop camera, the filmic perspective was fixed, limited by the camera’s housing within the computer and the artist, the camera and the sculpture’s situation within a room. Concerned with working within these frameworks, the artist had planned to return and reshoot portions of footage after several weeks working on other projects across Germany. Instead, Olafson came to accept the state of the work as it lay, coming to feel after a time that the work on its own represented a more than adequate response to Moholy-Nagy’s artworks and theories. Placed in conversation with other works in the space of the gallery, Olafson’s video playfully interacts with Ken Gregory’s installation Prototype Electric Light Machine for a Modern Room beside it. Both works engage with Moholy-Nagy’s theories and the (alternative) physical realities of the Light Prop as a historical object. While the Light Prop itself was unable to be included in the exhibition, Olafson’s video succeeds in bringing us an iteration of its presence, albeit cloaked in digital video and contemporary performance.
Part of a new body of work entitled [LIMINAL], the video presented in this exhibition connects with Olafson’s larger practice in numerous ways. Currents from this work intersect with another larger body of recent work called the HYPER_ series, which explores the use of the word hyper as prefix in the field of mathematics. This multi-faceted group of works extends and explores Moholy-Nagy’s conception of expanded cinema through what he termed the Poly-Cinema; Olafson’s new work includes the use of different technologies and film projection techniques, including 3-D glasses. Part of a larger practice concerned with the inter-relationship of art and technology, both these works and Threshold reframe Moholy-Nagy’s concerns and predilections within the language and hardware of the 21st century.
Written by Emily Doucet
Photos: William Eakin