Repetition is the Power of Language
The fascination with the archive — Hal Foster calls it “an archival impulse” — has a central place in contemporary artistic thought and practices. Even so, the archive is a polymorphic entity that worms its way into different forms and formats according to varied contexts, tensions and intensions. Foucault, for example, approaches the archive as a superstructure that establishes and modifies enunciative events that form discourse(s) in their own social, cultural, economic and political contexts. In other words, the archive defines (and reveals) the conditions for the sensitive inscription of discursive practices: their sayability, visibility, their remembrance and disremembrance. Sven Spieker states that archives function as a kind of technological correlate of memory. Jacques Derrida, for his part, diagnoses a pathology of the archive in his work Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression (Mal d’Archive: une impression freudienne, in the original), published in 1995. For Derrida, the archive is already suffering from an illness, captive to an ambivalence that transforms it into a territory of violence and crystallization, of the destruction and eradication of the past.
According to these authors, the archive’s external dimension and intrinsic visibility reinforce its potential for violence, since they mask the control and censorship processes that govern its inclusive and exclusive constitution, and manage its accessibility. Even though it is based on an archive, Klaus Mosettig’s art challenges these notions of archive because his choices are subjective and personal, engaged with a social reality but also owing to an emotional visuality. In the interstices between the visible and the invisible, Mosettig’s archive is subversive because it is neither stable nor retroactive, it does not organize history (of art and images) in a chronology of documents, but rather produces new meanings and other visual knowledge that connect several temporalities. The artist’s works are always the outcome of a similar process: he chooses images from his personal archive to deconstruct and reconstruct by drawing their projections, with (seemingly) abstract results.
In this context, Mosettig’s works — images / artistic objects that originate from an acknowledged visual precedence — define a privileged field where one can observe the value of vision as a critical and empathic ability. On the one hand, they are platforms that transform one’s gaze and, in this sense, they can expand the possibilities of inscribing visual, mnemonic and affective material into a particular set of artistic imagery. On the other hand, by allowing the observer to recognise the original images — for example in the series based on the works by Jackson Pollock, Josef Albers or on the Apollo 11 mission — he proposes a reflection on the ambiguous distance between the abstract and the concrete.
At UMA LULIK, Klaus Mosettig presents a set of drawings from his series Informel, from which the exhibition borrows its title. The series is based on 34 drawings that the artist’s daughter made between the ages of 10 and 24 months and was produced by the artist between 2014 and 2017. Changing the scale of the drawings proportionally, Mosettig realized how Lilith’s informal outlines were easily transformed into Informalist works, and effortlessly adapted to the visual regime of contemporary art. The artist’s process allows him to create images after an (original) image, without them losing their aura or acquiring the status of copy or simulacrum; on the contrary, in each of his works there is an accumulation of original gestures that expand the epistemic competence of the visual in the artistic field. In this series, in the points that suggest (or even seem to be) lines or patches of paint, different temporal layers and multiple temporalities are revealed. If the slowness and dedication required by the process are visible in the proficiency of his gestures, the narrative of the lines simultaneously evokes past, present and future. In this case, invoking the father-daughter relationship in an environment of conviviality and daily care that lasted for months — the duration of the parental leave enjoyed by the artist — time, in its various physiognomies and circumstances of experience, becomes even more relevant. This accumulation of temporalities allows one to state, quite comfortably, that Mosettig’s drawings can be understood as after-images.
After-images are artistic-cultural expressions whose name owes to an optical-physiological phenomenon. The existence of after-images — images that persist on the retina after exposure to an object — was discussed for a long time by physiology and neurology but is consensual today. Klaus Mosettig’s after-images are presented in the form of “remediations”, using Bolter and Grusin’s terminology — intra and intermedial transpositions —, of his daughter’s drawings: imagic entities (re)made in and by his artistic practice, holding out to their previous iconic status. For Klaus, the iconic status of the images that make up his personal archive does not obey to a hierarchy that distinguishes the artistic from the vernacular, the recognizable from the familiar: any image at hand can be part of it.
In contemporary art, after-images allow us to understand the (latent and subversive) power of the original images that is transferred into artistic objects, but also that any image can become its own (counter)discourse through a critical or artistic approach. In Mosettig’s work, Representation must therefore be seen as an action that condenses itself in its linguistic composition: that of re-presenting something.
The work of Klaus Mosettig unlocks a reflection on the aesthetic and ethical genealogy of images and on their sensitive inscription in the current scopic regimes, on how the visual builds the social in different economies of visibility. In his work, the recurrence of the past and the reutilization of prior mental or material images does not amount to a gratuitously repeated reproduction of statements or as a form of discursive surveillance. Here, we can stand with Deleuze and affirm that repetition is the power of language.
Ana Cristina Cachola