Screens and Architecture

by Lilian Haberer

The open semantics of the term screen, which describe not only the surface, but also the interface, shelter or shield, and the various functions of display, from its use as filter or protection, to the transmission or translation of analogue and digital video-information [1] is conducive to the multiple projection of images in the exhibition space.

In Tacita Dean’s work, the changing play of shadows on a façade in its shimmering presence takes on the various functions of the screen aesthetically and in the film itself. In the video and film installations this is handled by the framing architecture which is simultaneously carrier itself but also projection surface for the moving image. It gives rise to a cross-fade and is quasi a transition between film image and the real space.

The argument in favour of dealing with filmic structures in a way suited to architectural spaces, which also applies to the architecture shown in the film itself, can be widened to apply to the exhibition space, as well.[2] Accordingly, the filmic setting, by means of camera technique and cutting, measures and appropriates the space in an architectural depiction, already creates the identification of the viewer. Image projectors, screens and architectural components, which the visitor can both experience and move through in the exhibition, lead to a heightening of perception. The transition between the depiction of architecture in films, architectures of the film[3] – i.e. the architectural structure of the film itself – and the model-like arrangement in the exhibition space creates a new tangible spatial structure which blends picture and architecture into one another. The use of temporary walls or screens to create enclosures for projecting videos or films, visible as partitions or in the depth of the room, exponentiate the transition phenomena between “spatial image” and “pictorial space”.[4] Projecting pictures on sculptural, architectural or stage-like carriers lends the space a structure which transcends the orientation on wall surfaces and invites a new orientation towards mobile, changeable elements. This impression becomes even greater when, for example, large projection screens themselves evolve into an architecture. One such variant is when three screens are arranged like a stage which, analogously to the theatre, turns the viewer into the fourth wall in order to complete the illusion of space and plot. When screen architectures free themselves from the surface of a room and spread out through the space as free floating or installed elements, they reproduce architecture and, to some extent, make it possible to access an architectural structure made of fragmentary displays of moving images.

Things are different in the case of exhibitions which, independently of the artistic works, are designed as unifying displays with the intention of integrating the works aesthetically, as seen in the single Videonale festivals, each with a different team of architects, or recently in the multipart exhibition The Big Picture I–III (2011/12) in the K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf. These preserve their autonomy towards the works shown there, frequently provide an orientation or a unifying framework for the recipients and can be regarded both as a phenomenon in themselves and as an aesthetically structured space. Whereby there are numerous examples of intermediate forms somewhere between spaces determined by the art itself and exhibition concepts determined by their architecture. This historical line of exhibition displays reaches back to the time when museums were being founded and can be found in many forms. Developments in the 20th century are particularly significant for the Videonale and current exhibitions, examples being the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme in Paris (1938) and Peggy Guggenheims The Art of This Century (1942‒47).[5]

[1] Doris Bravo, Lemma screen (1), in: Theories of Media Keywords Glossary, [06.12.2012]. See also Ursula Frohne’s article on ‘Screen’ in the Festschrift for Gregor Stemmrich (appears 2013). I am grateful to Ursula Frohne for the advice and for the stimulating exchange.
[2] Tamara Trodd, Inside the Film-Machine. Architecture and Apparatus in British Women’s Film since the 1990s, in: Idem. (Ed.), Screen/Space. The Projected Image in Contemporary Art, Manchester 2011, p. 162‒183, esp. p. 162, 171.
[3] Vgl. Martin Seel, Architekturen des Films, in: Gertrud Koch, Christiane Voss (Hrsg.), „Es ist so als ob“. Fiktionalität in Philosophie, Film- und Medienwissenschaft, München 2009, S. 151‒161.
[4] Gerald Raunig has formulated the term ‘Raumbild’ [‘spatial image’] with regard to the political appropriation of space and pictorial spaces related to film; production was quoted as a unifying element. In this connection, the overlapping of filmic and installative spatial construction is of special interest. Cf. ibid. (Ed.), Bildräume und Raumbilder. Repräsentationskritik in Film und Aktivismus [Pictorial Space and Spatial Images. Representational Critique in Film and Activism], Berlin 2004, p. 7‒20.
[5] The extensive literature about exhibition practice and display, and the history of exhibiting cannot adequately be referred to here. As an example see Bernd Klüser, Katharina Hegewisch (Ed.), Die Kunst der Ausstellung. Eine Dokumentation dreißig exemplarischer Kunstausstellungen dieses Jahrhunderts [The Art of the Exhibition. A Documentation of Thirty Exemplary Art Exhibitions of this Century], Frankfurt a. M./Leipzig 1991.
Image: Saara Ekström, Amplifier, 2017 © Saara Ekström

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