TO MAKE A BED FLOAT IN MID-AIR
by Michaela Nolte
In her installations, Wiebke Maria Wachmann makes a bed float in mid-air, reconstructs an entire birch forest, turns a room into a bottomless pit, builds rooms with artificial waterfront views, and puts a second moon in the sky, slightly closer than usual. In this way, she combines the fascinating with the uncanny, reality with fiction, concrete three-dimensionality with two-dimensional visual effects, generating both an aesthetic response and emotional ambivalence.
The main focus of her work is the illusionist image, in which she discovers fresh potential, redefining the borders between painting, installation and photography. But these installations and photographs – with their extreme reduction and their shimmering, absolute white – are not limited to a purely formal approach: A darker side is also implied, since the atmospheric charge, the pull of a light whose particles seem almost tangible, always constitutes hazardous (human) territory.
In a calculated gesture, the first glance is overpowering: A radiant white that couldn’t be more pure permeates the space and drapes itself mistily over a floating bed, a forever falling table, or 50 birch trunks. But almost immediately, a mesmeric lucidity robs these objects of their familiarity, evoking the abstract content of the real objects. Is this bed a bed? Is the „Reconstruction of a Birch Forest“ a forest of trees? Is the space into which we’re looking a room at all? Or is it just a picture of a bed, an imagined forest, something claiming to be a room? All these questions float in the space, just as the bed in „Whole Days in Between“ seems to drift on the light waves.
Lying flat on one’s back changes from a safe option to a touch-and-go situation. The proverbial ground beneath ones feet becomes a slippery trap. These places offer no handholds, no security. In Wachmann’s pieces, gravitation and weightlessness, materiality and immateriality, compression and limitlessness resonate together confusingly, sprouting forth like a rhizome. The fictional roots of the real birch trees or the progression of a „moon“ over the roofs of Auguststrasse constitute their own system of signs that deterritorialises natural and artistic space to equal degrees, culminating in a fascinatingly poetic supra-reality that reflects reality as a sequence of brain images.
Marcel Proust equated the surfacing of a memory with the development of a photographic plate, a negative which has already been exposed but which, until the moment of development, contains no more than a latent image. Wiebke Maria Wachmann’s spaces seem to be filled with these latent images, evoking vague recollections, states of remembering. The sense of doubt which surrounds these spaces like a thin blanket of ice becomes the only certainty.
With her rooms within rooms, Wiebke Maria Wachmann creates a highly individual reality that defies categorisation on account of its architecture and theatricality. Hermetically sealed and endlessly expansive at once, these pieces deprive viewers of the usual points of reference, causing a slight dizziness by blurring the relationship between time and space.