Matthias Bullinger

Speech at the opening
of the exhibition
Gallery Bildkultur
November 11, 2017

“The apparatus he had invented performed “a little magic, natural magic. This was written by William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the pioneers of photography, in a newspaper article published in 1839. (in: Literary Gazette quoted from Frizot, New History, p. 27). As a scientist and mathematician, he was well aware that ‘light drawing’, as he called it, (photogenic drawing, photogenic drawing,) was not based on magic, but on comprehensible effects of physics and chemistry. Talbot’s principle, which ultimately made it possible to reproduce photographic images by making prints from the negative, became the basis of all major photographic processes until digital photography gradually took hold one hundred and fifty years later. But whether photographs are created by the interaction of chemicals or whether light waves are converted into digital signals by sensitive sensors: as it once was for Talbot, this image-making process still seems a bit magical to many of us.

You look through somewhere, press somewhere, and with a small delay or even immediately what you have just seen, or what you think you have seen, appears on a paper or a screen.

It is at this interface between the technically explicable and the nonetheless miraculous that Laurenz Theinert sets out with his work. He is concerned, as he says, with photography as a medium. Here we can understand medium on the one hand as ‘material’ or ‘substance’, but also as a synonym for a ‘technical apparatus’ that produces images. Laurenz Theinert does not tell stories with his works. Nor does he document historical events. Rather, in ever new experimental arrangements, he devotes himself to one of the fundamental questions of this technique, which has always preoccupied photographers, art and image theorists: How does the image relate to time and time to the image? “A photograph is static, but time flows,” is how American photographer Stephen Shore pointed out this dilemma. Are photographs therefore to be regarded, as is often said, as frozen time in which particles of the past are preserved? Can photographs even transform temporality into “material permanence” (Ernst Rebel)? Or is this not downright a fallacy? Don’t the supposedly permanent things – be they prints that come out of the darkroom, papers that we pull out of the printer, or those programmed impulses that make an image appear again and again on our monitors – just show how time passes ceaselessly and inexorably? These are just some of the questions that Laurenz Theinert’s projects raise.

For his research, Laurenz Theinert has chosen a very special day in the course of the year: the ‘spring equinox’, i.e. that day in March when daylight and night last the same length of time.

Thus, on March 20 and 21 of this year, he observed and recorded the light and darkness in these gallery spaces for over twenty-four hours. During this period of time, video sequences and photographs were created, which he edited especially for this exhibition. The light of the equinox thus comes back transformed into this space, which Laurenz Theinert stages in a completely new way with his works.

With heartfelt thanks for these efforts, I therefore pass the floor to Laurenz Theinert, who will tell you more about his experiences in search of the image of time.

Excerpts from the speech at the opening of the exhibition “Naturstücke”, Galerie Bildkultur as guest of Industria Oberländer on July 7, 2011.

“… I once described Laurenz Theinert as a ‘researcher of visual reduction’. As someone who investigates and depicts the basic patterns and mechanisms of our perception with the means of photography. This also applies to the three-part work ‘Grass’, which you can see here. It belongs to the group of works that bears the eloquent title ‘Time Window’. Pictures with which Laurenz Theinert undertakes to make time visible. Its theorists have long spoken of the ‘frozen time’ inherent in photography. But it is not the standstill, the ‘past particle’ that interests Laurenz Theinert, but the passage of time itself, so imperceptible in miniature and yet adding up to our lives.

In his experimental arrangement, Laurenz Theinert chooses as a pictorial motif in this case a piece of meadow with grass swaying in the wind. He takes a picture of it, followed half a second later by a second. He then superimposes the negatives of the photographs on the computer. Parts of the image that have not changed during this half second cancel each other out. Those parts that have changed, however, remain visible: here the grass moving in the wind. Two points in time that overlap make a period of time visible: that half second that otherwise passes by unnoticed. …”

Excerpts of the speech at the opening of the exhibition “Raumordnungen”, Galerie Bildkultur on July 1, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, we can perhaps describe Laurenz Theinert as a ‘researcher of visual reduction’, as someone who investigates and depicts the fundamental patterns and mechanisms of our perception with the means of photography.

In his series ‘Gegenwelt’ – in the room next door – you will see two related images each, standing in irritating contrast to each other. The method by which the works shown here were created is that of a ‘flâneur’, a man who roams the urban space at leisure, letting himself drift – and yet at the same time attentively selects and reflects on his subject.

On the one hand, we see pictures in which black stripes divide the white background. Each of these is accompanied by a second colorful, narrative image, for example a situation that is quite ordinary for us: a car, a snack stand, or a bed of flowers. Spontaneously we look for the connection between the two photographs, try to identify the ‘visual distillate’.

We try to find one in the other, to see both parts as a coherent whole – but the analogy comes to nothing. One picture does not originate from the other, it is only taken at the same place – but after the photographer has turned 180 degrees in space. A ‘counter-shot’, so to speak: at the accidental opposite of the previously chosen point of view.

With a twinkle in his eye, Laurenz Theinert demonstrates with this maneuver what ‘concrete photography’, to which he considers himself to belong, is all about: achieving ‘pure’ images in which the photographic process and the photograph as object itself come to the fore and no longer depict objects or people – turning away from documentation or pictorial narrative.

In the same room you can see works that Laurenz Theinert calls ‘Raumverdichtungen’ (condensations of space) and with which he has once again sharpened his idea by means of a very deliberate artifice: he photographs an object (in this case scaffolding elements or the overhead line of the streetcar) from different positions and superimposes several variants in a block of (acrylic) glass in individual layers. In this way, the space that is traversed while photographing is condensed to a single point, and we simultaneously see different views of the same object without there being a single “correct” perception.

In the cabinet we see the latest work from the series ‘Viewpoints’, titled ‘Sydney, King Street corner Pitt Street 6.6.2009 14:25’. Here Laurenz Theinert is no longer concerned with a counterpart or a condensation, here he is concerned with the atmosphere that was determining for him at the place where the picture was taken. He selects an element which he photographs in all six directions of the spatial axes. The installation is to reflect the atmosphere of this situation to the viewer (artistically abstracted) in monochrome color areas. The monochrome image – however pure it may be – we perceive in this way as a part of our lived reality.