The works of Philipp Gasser invoke the dream-state, where the parameters of reality are constantly shifting. Bridging animation, video, performance and installation, his quiet and unusual artworks, distort the viewer’s environment in unexpected ways, creating visual interventions that seem almost natural.
L’annee passée, (2001), 1-channel-video-installation
In works such as L’annee passée, (2001), and Schwingende Wände, (2006), shadows from a window drift across the floor, marking the passage of time. Logic alone dictates that these images are pure artifice, as there is no window present capable of casting such shadows. A quiet suggestion that there might be a parallel universe around the corner, something we’ve missed all along.
Gasser’s method is not quite institutional critique. Rather than criticising the frame of an artwork, it criticises our expectations of the frame. Making it bend and dance, move in ways that turn reality into fantasy, and leave us eager for the next distortion.
Aus dem Schatten treten (2009), commissioned work Sanitas Zurich, Photo: Donata Ettlin
In Aus dem Schatten treten (2009), and Die Zwei, (2002), Animated figures, rendered in the most sparse lines upon the wall, are given adult proportions. They come forward and peer at us, returning the gaze with the same curiosity that we direct towards them.
A recurrent theme is the reflection on the place of subject and object. Gasser makes intriguing works, where we strain to see ourselves, but often fail to do so directly, producing a playful narration of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary. We long for our missing shadows, and want to interact with this parallel universe.
I’m an exhibiton (2002), in Reprocessing Reality PS1 MOMA (2006), Photo: Eric Hattan
In I’m an exhibition, (2002); a plinth appears to cast a shadow on the wall. This shadow then comes to life and starts to dance and spew forth imagery, some of it clichés from the art historical canon. We become fascinated with the familiar, yet distorted reality, and are as captivated by the spectral images thrown forth, as by our missing reflection. Why does the plinth have a shadow, and we, the viewer, do not?
In Gasser’s world of altered shadows, our absence is as equally captivating as our presence, a form of inverse reflection. We search for the reflection of ourselves, and it never appears where we want it, so we must be content with the image in its place. What we are given instead is the understanding that the image, and the imaginary are altered reflections of the psyche, the symbolic rupture in the realm of the imaginary. Rather than producing a sense of trauma, our absence as shadow in this realm, is a technical delight, a point of fascination that keeps us lingering in front of the image, hoping finally to break into the picture frame with some sort of obscuring shadow of our own.
Perhaps this is ‘dimensional critique’? Our dimension is being called into question. Why can’t we walk on walls, what are the possibilities for a shadow and its movements? These works challenge the limits of our imaginations, and gently tease us to examine the mundane, as a space of possibility.
Text by Senam Okudzeto