Barbara Breitenfellner’s installations and collages are based on the premise that reality or life can never be faithfully reproduced. But while collage appeals to our imagination by drawing on our memory and underhandedly creating an often dreamlike and unreal atmosphere, installation – as a process of retrieving and recovering – is searching for dreams. Breitenfellner, who keeps a diary of her dreams on art, explains that the images from her dreams mostly vanish and that only the texts remain. In other words, the lost image, which is re-created from the recorded text, can only be a new creation made under the influence of the moment. This process evidences the permeable boundaries between reality and staging while highlighting the impossibility of transposing images from one tonality into another.
This question was also at the heart of the exhibition Imagine Reality shown at the Museum for Applied Art (MAK) in Frankfurt as part of the photography triennial RAY 2015. For this show, Breitenfellner created an installation of several slanted platforms that concentrated on a white Meissen porcelain dog in an acrylic glass cube. A kaleidoscopically enlarged photograph of the dog behind a pink carpet formed the backdrop of the exhibition. The installation shown at Jordan/Seydoux, whose long and complicated title uses a text fragment from the artist’s dream diary, is an adaptation of this work. Conveying the whole setting a more ironic tone, the dog in this version – here also present as a garish photograph – is a Doberman made from cheap chinaware. Like other installations by the artist, this work revolves around a central concern, namely, to illustrate that it is not only impossible but also undesirable to create cohesive, homogeneous work. Breitenfellner speaks of an ‘eventually unfinished, fragmented, merely suggested situation consisting of overlappings and shifts that refer to decaying, relativising or even hidden traces of dream contents.’
The collages refute the assumption of a direct, rational connection between reality and art, or between life and narrative. As the artist explains in one of her interviews, she does not intend to recreate the world, and thus contribute to an art that imitates reality. Rather, she wants to question the flow of images disseminated by newspapers, magazines and audiovisual media, which has become a characteristic component of daily life. To this effect, she ‘reuses existing images’, retraces their influence on our unconscious and shows how they ultimately constitute a different – unstable and porous – reality. In this questioning of reality and life, the techniques of collage and installation, by enabling surprising associations of ideas, help her create an uncanny, dreamlike atmosphere and allow us to imagine a reality that is anything but innocent.
Breitenfellner’s collages critique the ubiquity of photographic images and the certainties attached to our perception of, for instance, women and animals, as well as our relationship to them and to art. Her collages are the result of a long-term experimentation process: delicately held together by paper clips, they hang on the wall of her studio for several days, as she changes or adapts their various constituents until the work has found its inner logic. Breitenfellner’s interest focuses on the momentum developed by a collage in the making and the relationship between the different parts of the image. Other techniques used by the artist include cutting out circles and holes as well as overlaying silkscreen-printed grids or scientific curves onto the collage. These are designed to unite the different parts of the work while preventing the immediate perception of the image as a whole by producing distance and depth. They undermine the affirmative character of the images and replace them with a short-lived, fleeting reality that embraces contradiction and incoherence.
Translation Boris Kremer