Uta Neumann


    Stranded Places

    & Other Landscapes, Uta Neumann, 2016

    Stranded Places & Other Landscapes

    The meaning of a landscape is multi-layered and not predominantly a (natural) phenomenon with a determined dimension and circumference. A landscape can also occur completely concealed in the crevice of a rock or in a tranquil corner of a room, and can expand beyond the visual, to become, perhaps, an audible landscape. I conceive landscapes as spaces, objects and bodies, as sounds and smells, thoughts and (sensory) perceptions. I attempt to translate my experiences of landscapes into my artistic work, which, ideally, cater for a renewed participation in the experiences, both my own and those of others.

    I find my motifs all over the world in places that are divested of their original functions, and whose future purpose is unclear. These are mostly sites devoid of people, vacant places which are caught in an intermediary stage, in the transition from civilisation to nature: run-down streets and suburbs, the skeletons of houses, gaps between buildings and fallow, industrial stretches of land. They are also places which are marked by the character of temporary passage, where we would not necessarily linger; like stairwells, parking lots, rest stops and tourist attractions. All these places have one thing in common that interests me: their characteristic state of transition concedes to me an unoccupied area of freedom. These places require no action from me. I can be inventive and playful here; they leave me space to improvise. I am interested in this potential of the transitory moment, in which an abundance of possibilities coexist.

    In my works, I am continually orbiting around the question of identity and belonging, of relation and connection. Perhaps it is also a search for and questioning of the meaning of (my) place in the world, and the need for a ‘homeland’, for ‘arrival’; for a feeling of security. Faced with a landscape, I am granted this place: through communication on equal footing, in an equitable interdependency, and with an unspoken certainty of finding common ground. In an encounter with landscape, it is as if a primordial experience could be heard, one which takes place on a pre-verbal, energetic plane of experience, and which perhaps is not (just) related to my individual experience, but rather originates from a collective or universal experience of ‘being-in-the-world’. In landscape, I experience both vitality and reassurance through that pulsating opening and closing, that giving and taking of an energetic connectivity.

    While travelling, I have found many similarities between different countries and landscapes. These similarities were very helpful when it came to familiarising myself with what felt foreign. I was drawn there by my burgeoning love for that which at first appears banal: stones of all sizes and positions, small houses and huts of indeterminate use, windows, doors and passageways – these landscapes, things and places marked by traces of human activity are for me connective elements between my own reality and the realities of others. It is through these that I am able to enter into a relationship with a place, its landscape and the objects within it.

    In looking out of the corner of my eye, I have noticed that great potential lies at the edge of our perception. In the practice of taking photographs, then, it is as if the images emerge from an indeterminacy, and only begin to gradually unfold in the process of slowly approaching them, of ‘beholding’ them. Perhaps it can be compared with a state of hazy half-sleep, when suddenly, unthinkable threads of thought blossom which in the conscious state of waking would be inconceivable. This conscious/unconscious glance from the corner of the eye opens up a gap for me, an in-between, a liberating distance, which gives me the space to be able to see more.

    Although the genre of photography still seems to be connected to that thing we call “reality” or “truth”, the context of my photographs, their ability to be assigned or anchored to a specific location, is not important to me. I offer no points of orientation which would embed the images culturally, temporally or historically, but rather pry the images out of their context. In this way, they retain a sense of vagueness. It is precisely the indeterminacy of the subject matter which affords a perspective, both for me and the viewer, on the interdependency of things. It is as if they are extracted or displaced from the temporal flow of a narrative. I don’t want to say that what I photograph is not “real”. But for me, it does not have the status of providing evidence of “where I have been” or “this is how it was”. Through the indeterminacy of the subject, I attempt to facilitate gaps which maintain a continual state of vitality. For that which I see and then re-present is no more than an offering. In this intimation I sense the potential for an event. An action which is either still to occur or has already taken place. If I am successful, this potential remains visible and is continually revitalised. Then, it is as if the images were to become autonomous and lead an existence that is independent from me, detached from any authorship.

    The gap, this distance, is for me a connective element. Through the gap, a vivid distance in memory and experience opens up, as if the relationship were only possible in reminiscence, in the latency of perception which opens up into a possibility in the translation of photography. I see photography as a sign of the practice of the continual communication between things. For me, it is synonymous with the practice of empathy, like tending to a garden: taking care, being diligent, paying attention, tidying up and clearing out. Reproduction and repetition is in our nature. Reproducing the ‘large scale’ of natural landscapes in the ‘small scale’ of a landscape photograph, in order to be able to conceive it from another viewpoint, in order to perhaps only then be able to perceive it – this is why repetition is important. If my translation has been successful, perhaps the viewer will have the feeling of being caressed by the photograph of a landscape.

    Translation: Joel Scott