Overexposure / Ludwig Seyfarth


DD Handon's pictorial interviews

DD Handon herself calls her art a "pictorial interview". She thus uses a term we have been finding each month for decades in the magazine ART, as the title of a column in which an important work of art is also presented in a comprehensible fashion to laypeople. In contrast to an educational endeavour of this kind, DD Handon's pictorial interviews are not based on verbal explanation, but instead take place in the medium of the image itself, which is enlarged, placed in a grid, painted over, printed out or processed and changed in some other way. DD Handon's interview doesn't take place in front of the image, but instead nests in the image itself, as it were. The unclear and detail-like motifs of her series "Flashbulb Memories" are a reminiscent of images passing us by during a fast journey. The photographs that provided the starting point have in fact in some cases been taken contre-jour from a moving car or from a tower in Tokyo with a view of the city. But what do the images represent? Does the artist want to present us with impressions of the outside world, or instead convey internal images that appear, so to speak, before the mind's eye? The title of the series in German, "Blitzlichterinnerungen", is the term with which a special form of storage in the memory is described. Emotionally moving events, especially those that are also strongly anchored in collective memory, for example, the attacks of 11 September 2001, are also remembered with particular intensity. The photographic metaphor of the flashbulb thereby refers to the rapidity with which many parallel impressions are stored and retained permanently in memory. However, time, place, situations and persons are not remembered as precisely as the term "photographic" memory might suggest. It is particularly the strong emotions connected to the event that remain in memory. However, scientific research also presumes that the flashbulb memories are at least in part retroactive reconstructions and are not based on that actually experienced at the time. The photographs upon which the series of "Flashbulb Memories" is based are overexposed and gridded. With the further processing of the images, in which, in some cases also randomly, dislocations, slurring, fractures and abstractions of the motif occur, the artist attempts to reconstruct the process with which the flashbulb memories are maintained through constant repetition, are overwritten, and in some cases even created anew. The processing at the media level thus creates an analogy to that which occurs with images in memory. This thus ultimately involves images of the memory of images; the "how" and not the "what" of remembering. The motifs, such as hazy city views, do not themselves refer to concretely moving events. DD Handon is not sharing "her" flashbulb memories with us, but instead suggests that we transform the empty spaces and blemishes of the images she has created and processed into projection surfaces for our own Flashbulb Memories.

Is there also such a thing as "genetic" pictorial memories? This is the question upon which the "Achenbach Appropriation Project" is based. Can DD Handon's love of nature and landscape motifs be partially explained by the fact that one of her great-grandfathers was a successful landscape painter? Andreas Achenbach, together with his brother Oswald Achenbach, was one of the most prominent members of the Düsseldorf school of painting in the 19th century. DD Handon closely scrutinises selected examples of his paintings by directing attention to select details and greatly magnifying these. The pixels are clearly recognisable and the motifs for the most part hardly identifiable. This is also due in part to the fact that the details were not only photographed from the original paintings, but also in part from the illustrations available on the Internet, the resolution of which is not very high. The motif and the physical substance of oil paint and canvas appear to dissolve as it were, which is also supported by the selection of the motifs, because these involve sections of the images in which water is represented. A landscape painting from the 19th century is thus transformed into an abstract structure; an Achenbach into a Handon. However, does the Achenbach perhaps continue to "have an effect" subliminally; does it still define our perception? Ultimately, when we look at real landscapes, we often think about the landscape paintings we have in our heads, whether those of the Düsseldorf school of painting, of the old Dutch masters of the 17th century or of the Impressionists, although the latter already strived for the dissolution and "pixeling" of the motif long before digitalisation. Finally, DD Handon's Achenbach project also deals with the fundamental question of the extent to which digitalisation has altered, not only art-historical, pictorial memory. In the case of the "Snow Viewing Series", too, images ascend from the art-historical memory to appear before the inner eye. However, in this case these images are not classical landscape paintings, but instead works of informal abstraction or Chinese ink drawings. However, they are based on direct impressions from nature in the truest sense of the word. The lines dividing up into diverse variations are grass and twigs, which lie on a dense carpet of snow or project from it. The artist photographically recorded the constellations, which seem as if they are drawn from nature, while hiking. As almost always, that which DD Handon shows us is the result of several steps of processing the initial images. However, the arrays found on the snow covering remain unchanged, with all their irregularities and interruptions. However, the photos have been gridded, contrasts and colours changed, contours smoothed and the contrast between the bright snow and the dark branches enhanced, so that anything physically tangible appears to dissolve. However, the artist counteracts this dematerialisation by printing out and compiling the greatly enlarged images on individual sheets of pattern paper. This paper, which is not designed for use in printers, is to a certain extent thus bent and wrinkled, which is also clearly visible when the paper is glued or pasted to a background. The paper itself, as the bearer of the image, thus remains constantly visible and tangible, so that the "Snow Viewings" are more reminiscent of ink drawings than of their photographic origin. As with the other series, each result exists in this form only once. The reproducible photo becomes an unicum. Thus it is not only the motif that is slurred, but also the medial "identity" of the image, when it has been "hounded through several medial instances", as DD Handon herself describes it: through camera, computer, printer, paper, wallpaper paste...

This procedure physically comprehends, so to speak, how the countless images reproduced in the media and sent around the world are constantly superimposed on one another. In the case of the "Flashbulb Memories" or the "Snow Viewings", this superimposition involves strong brightness, as also diagnosed by Paul Virilio as being a result of the media flood of images, as an "overexposure of the visible in the age of the moving image, which, it seems, is displacing the underexposure of the age of writing." In the "New World Series", on the other hand, a darkening takes place, as it were. Large parts of newspaper images compiled by DD Handon to form tableaus have been painted over with black paint and thus made invisible. The gaze is thus directed to individual motifs that enter into formal correspondence and also suggest that they are fragments of a common narrative. One might describe them as collages, but the images themselves are not cut. Instead, the collage-like and fragmentary nature is exclusively the result of having been painted over. Emphasised are architectural, but especially nature and landscape elements. Unlike in the other series, the contours here are not made unclear and slurred, however, due to their isolation from the context, the motifs appear just as ambivalent and puzzling.

Even though she works with visual materials, DD Handon raises a sustained objection to the "fetishism of the visual or, more precisely, of the electro-visual", as observed by Virilio: "Must we turn our gaze away, observe shyly out of the corner of the eye, in that we avoid the offered excessive focussing? So many questions that not only concern aesthetics, but also equally the ethics of contemporary perception." Perhaps one must, like DD Handon, intentionally create defocussing, ambiguities and obscurities in order to be able to recognise anything at all. The precision traditionally linked with the clear definition and contouring of that represented has moved to a different terrain, namely to the exactitude of the reproduction of physical (aggregate) phases: "Aggregate phases are defined as qualitatively different, temperature and pressure-dependent physical phases of substances" (Wikipedia). In the process, the basic properties of solid, liquid and gaseous are differentiated, whereby the first two phases are also differentiated as "crystalline" and "amorphous". Alterations of the aggregate phase result from, among other things, melting, congelation, freezing, vaporisation or condensation. When DD Handon hounds the images through the medial instances, she also continually manufactures new aggregate phases, so to speak. This also applies to the temporality of the pictorial experience: rapid, flashbulb-like impressions are "slowed down", as it were, in that they always appear from other perspectives, which also repeatedly allow other images to come to the forefront. These are latently contained in each image and wait to be discovered "behind" the surface. This process, which is also oriented to the differentiation of material qualities and suggestions, also focusses on the carrier materials, which are increasingly fading from view in an ever more digitalised pictorial world. However, a pictorial interview would be incomplete if it did not also pay attention to the physical substance of the images.

Ludwig Seyfarth