Reading in, out and in between the work of MB
by Tan Lin
Reading is an act of calculus, hence inherently abstract, whose function is the generation of meaning, but reading is also a materialized abstraction composed or performed in space by specific actors with specific material objects whose densities are subject to the physical laws of the universe: rolling, falling, draping, unfurling, pivoting, hanging. Performance like reading is a mode of composition with the laws of gravity, or, in other words, a medium.
In the video work Shlafen.Stehen (2003), a body that happens to be Monika performs two actions (movements are compositions) directed by abstract gravitational laws: standing and sleeping, but the world in which those two incessant daily actions that divide our day into two halves, like a kind of music, are rotated from a horizontal to a vertical axis (by turning the video camera sideways). The two halves of our lives thus employ the silent medium of video to displace everyday actions into another framework altogether: that of reading one’s place in the world. As Niklas Luhmann, working from the work of the Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela understood, one perceives the world but one also constructs the world that one perceives. And so the world of photography or video is read “out” of a world that is being built before our eyes. And conversely, the world of a sculptural object is read “out” of a world that exists as a conceptual frame in our head. A medium is just a medium in another medium. And herein lies the astonishing freshness of a world that is formally delivered in B’s work like a thought, where objects and abstractions comprise a series of intersecting perceptual chambers that are as surprising as they are logical.
Monika Brandmeier is thus an architect who has built her own house out of the various objects of her trade: she directs the viewer’s movement, what some might call attention, inwards and outwards. Attention is a medium of attachment. Or, to be more precise, she introjects our sequential reading practices, from the inside out, into more materialized planes even as she extrojects the materiality of simultaneous reading practices, from the outside in, into abstract planes of understanding. And the result is intimacy, for the world we inhabit is the world we made for ourselves, the horizontal planes we slept on and the vertical planes we later stood up in.
Reading on and reading in. Of course both forms of reading, like reading in between, or falling, constitute a philosophical photography of the spaces, doorways, rooms and windows our perceptions just passed through, so it is natural, given the formal, sequential, and engineered logic of B’s work, that reading is an act of tangential construction no different from building a house, piece by piece, hinge by hinge, and of course, also, plane by unsolid plane and line by unsolid line.
In her various photographic works, which stand in relation to the sculptures as more abstract framing and framed components of the material world, Brandmeier employs objects common to the construction and building trades as if they were born with allegorical functions: pallets, door hinges, screws, steel tubes, MDF, cardboard boxes, paper, tape, brass pipes, crocodile clips, conduit, and the also the more domestic items of a household: towel racks, fabrics, tables, chairs, beds, blankets, coat hangers. These items are marked by a similar divide between the intimate and the austere, the things that are held up and the things that are allowed to fall, the everyday and the transcendental by not being irregular or biomorphic, which allows them to function as planes, or even lines in spite of their volumetric occupation of space. They are objects and abstractions, and like intimacy or even love, they are used to fasten and connect the physical world together into a place we know.