Nothing Is Written | Work Series

i.a.t.s.e, iatse, Susanne Koheil
Foto: Koheil

As a child I flew home, regardless of where I was playing, or with whom. Saturday and Sunday afternoons I had unbreakable appointments. A fascinating parallel world awaited me, in black-and-white, and then, much later, in color: movies. I watched everything, from first to third-class productions. I absolutely had to immerse myself in this mysterious world, whose way of endlessly shading light in between tones of black and white captivated me. Tarzan, King Kong,Bringing up Baby, adventure movies, gangster movies, film noir, musicals. Fred Astaire floating across the screen, and John Wayne shooting his way out. Then the pre-prime-time shows: Daktari, Flipper, Mission Impossible, and, of course, Star Trek – »Space … where no man has gone before.« It never let me go, this fascination for following the trail of the mystery, although I had no compulsive need to really rob the films of their secrets. It was and still is more important to me to imagine what the mystery might be, and to dive into it. Thus, my work could be understood as the process of »writing down« an autobiographical aspect.


This mystery – and enchantment – are, for me, grounded in the special context needed to create a film: imagination and illusion are the result of an intriguing interplay among an army of people, technological and physical processes, diverse materials and transformations from the initial idea to post-production. The individual factors involved in the production of films are, in and of themselves, naturally perceivable and explicable. As they converge they are compressed into something completely new every time, which cannot be dissolved or replaced by any other medium.


One aspect of the search for the mystery of film that captures my interest is the written word, in the form of opening and closing credits, subtitles, or intertitles. In contrast to the often powerful and lasting effect of an image, words in film seem to be a highly ephemeral affair. They are not tangible; in the cinema you cannot leaf backward as you can with a book; writing »melts away« at the moment it appears, as soon as the viewer perceives it. Moreover, the text not only conveys pure information, but also creates an image and thus its own form of aesthetics.


Of primary interest to me, though, is that the written parts of a film »tell« the entire film on different levels. While a plot can be reconstructed with a subtitle or an intertitle, the closing credits contain, in »epic« length, the whole film and all of its various aspects. The counterpart to this almost meditative, flowing expansion is the key section at the end of the closing credits, namely, the union logo with the production number of the film in American movies. Here, you can find the entire film in a highly concentrated form again, like a kernel of corn.


The paper works from the series NOTHING IS WRITTEN have a more or less wave-like surface that is either strongly reflective or has a matte shimmer, depending upon the fall of light and the viewer’s standpoint. Dependent upon one’s perspective, the waves simultaneously reveal and conceal writing that is notched (with a pencil) into a surface composed of many layers of black shellac, but is actually drawn with a pencil. In order to extrapolate meaning from the words of the closing credits, for example, the viewer must keep moving, changing his standpoint again and again. From a more distant position, he at first perceives a black, variously shimmering surface at play in three dimensions. It is not until he gets closer that he recognizes parts of a text in the surface, and it is not until he is very close to the piece that he can decode the text. Still, the viewer can never actually fully decode it, in the sense of having any sort of overview of it.


In this way the works instigate an intellectual process – the image created outside of the object under observation develops in the mind. The works in the series NOTHING IS WRITTEN avoid solving the mystery; they are the expression of it.


Text: Susanne Koheil | Allison Moseley