The Ora – Light, Time, and Wind

The essence of light is unfathomable. Its ambivalent duality between wave and particle is both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Its speed, by contrast, is a constant in the universe and a useful rangefinder—light years illuminate dimensions beyond our power of imagination. Mostly emitted by suns (in the universe at any rate) and other energy sources, it lights up the surroundings, but only when its rays fall on an object, from a speck of dust to a planet.

Since Heinrich Hertz discovered in 1889 “that electric waves reproduce exactly like optical waves” (Max Planck, 1894) and have the same speed, i.e., that there is a real and symbolic relationship between light and electricity, all our lives have been shaped by the new universe of artificial light. Artists have been involved for a century with this immaterial medium in the form of light bulbs, fluorescent and neon tubes, glowing LEDs, lasers, and brightly gleaming floodlights. Art has increasingly turned from the illusionary representation of natural light to the real application of artificial light.

Line lasers are employed in Annika Hippler’s current luminograms; their focused light is projected past moving surfaces of water onto black-and-white photographic paper. Similar to her 2012 light installation “Schwingungen” [Oscillations], in which a falling drop animates the horizontal projection, a reflection comes about that causes a relationship to appear between light ray and water surface: all turbulences are also carried over to the reflection on the wall.

Avant-garde filmmakers and light art pioneers such as Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, Walter Ruttmann, and Oskar Fischinger were already fascinated by the kinetic aspects of such “plays of light.” In the early nineteen twenties they continued developing the idea of cinematic abstraction with animated films showing rhythmised forms and colors.

Annika Hippler makes use of laser in a purely analogue process. Nothing is digitalized or computerized. She very consciously employs the most up-to-date light modules that the digital age has to offer in an outdated darkroom featuring photographic developer, stop bath, and fixative. The reflection greatly enlarges the fine undulations in the water basin, completely filling the in part large-format photographic paper. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy already made use of this phenomenon to the extent that his relatively handy “Light-Space Modulator” was able to fill whole rooms with his spectacular shadow formations.

Through the comparable effect created by exposing photosensitive materials to light, the luminogram is related to the photogram that was likewise invented in the nineteen twenties by Moholy-Nagy or Man Ray. The luminogram is an autonomous original light image than can be configured by changing the intensity of the light. The image is created by the form variations and intensity fluctuations of the light rays. It is the most original type of camera-less photography, requiring, as opposed to the photogram, no object at all. Even though photography is associated with concrete objects more than any other medium, Hippler’s works clearly concern pure abstract photographs, created from elements that are essentially invisible, like light, wind and water.

 It was especially Lotte Jacobi who conveyed the impression of abstract compositions since the late nineteen forties, attaining an aesthetic that is regarded as tremendously avant-garde. Her “photogenics” have achieved a new awareness since 2012 thanks to Thomas Ruff’s virtual photograms. The aesthetics of the captivating magical moment and its traces in an often diffuse glimmer of light generated then as now seemingly three-dimensional moments of overlapping wave formations. The unimaginable richness in Annika Hippler’s dimensions of light and shadow is fascinating. Microscopic sequences of movements in water are enlarged in a highly complex manner and delineate themselves as dynamic light formation on the photosensitive paper with an immense depth of focus. Or as haze like from cigarette smoke, or finally from sensitive entities of an essential form of existence that has remained unknown to us, inspired by the magical duality of light—wave or particle?

The turbulences or bows and loops of light (and shadow) also recall wind-tunnel simulations; textiles and fabrics in the wind or in the interplay with human body forms, sculptural objects between torso and design—Haute Couture. Their immediate effect resembles physical investigations of thermodynamics or from the field of biology in which the invisible enters into the realm of the perceptible. The analytical proves and undermines the normative force of the factual. Sometimes on matt paper, sometimes on high gloss paper, in varying degrees of hardness. Annika Hippler’s works are rhythmic, hypnotic compositions of space and image, embedded in a gentle trance whose spatial boundaries are first precisely defined, then completely dissolved chemically and, proportioned for the human eye, visually expanded into infinity.

But what about beauty, the fascinating irrational materiality of the light forms, their limitlessly experienceable inner life? How can something be as concrete as it is abstract, a hoaxing black- and-white luminogram without any reference to the material comprehensibility and representability of things? Despite all epistemological fiction, the images emerging in this way are not devoid of scientificity; on the contrary. Their aesthetic impetus gives ground for optimism that a new future can be extracted from present day digitality thanks to a knowledge of history. This social component is ultimately the message of the medium in the best sense of Marshall McLuhan. The light of a laser becomes a self-sufficient autonomous image with the pretense of real truth.

All that remains to be said at this point is that the titles of the works are defined by a not insignificant association. They concern the names of winds, for example Joran, Calima, Sno, Levante, Meltem, and Zephyr. Wind is invisible; as is the case with light, we only become aware of it when it takes hold of objects, plays with them, indicates their presence, strokes them or causes them to move vigorously, even knocking them down. Annika Hippler is the wind that causes light to dance and an autonomous light image appear; in a reality whose zeitgeist wants to dedicate itself pseudo-real to a New Realism, in which the world is a cultural construction. A new vision emerges, analogue to Moholy-Nagy’s idea of a “New Vision of Photography,” appearing as an abstract-concrete, new realism.

Gregor Jansen
(Kunsthalle Düsseldorf)

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