|My Own Private Eye
You can always tell where you are by the way the road looks. I know I been here before. I just know that I been stuck here. There is no other road that looks like this road. I mean exactly like this road. It’s one kind of place, one of a kind. Like someone’s face.
Mike, the main character in the film My own private Idaho (1) folds his hands before his face, creating a small frame through which he looks at the landscape: an endless road disappears on the horizon where the infinite vastness of waving fields of wheat meets the cloudy sky that surrounds him. Two bushes are the eyes, the road is like a nose, the mouth is probably only visible in his imagination. Mike is suffering narcolepsy, an illness marked by short fits of sleep. Whenever he gets into a sleeping fit, the clouds start moving fervently, projected in accelerated speed. The unnatural movement which results makes them look like spinning bits of fog, rotating in a fluent watery movement that seems to expose the origin of the clouds’ material.
Like Mike in Idaho, on his way to Portland, Siegrun Appelt observed the landscape in Vorarlberg on her way from Vienna, across Austria, to Bregenz and back. Mainly it was the clouds, this undetermined moving substance, that held her attention. They bore a strong relation to the photographs she made during that period: white folded cloth, depicted in close-up and blown up into photographs. In certain parts these have the same visual quality as the clouds. For two years she have been photographing the clouds in Vorarlberg as well as those in Vienna and New York. She combined the endless number of slides she made into the slide installation Clouds. Four slide projectors are installed in the space. On two opposite walls the different foggy formations merge together in a movement she has imposed on them. Every formation is static for an instant, then it shifts into the next formation by the superimposition of the slides. The rhytm of the changing is audible, but it is not synchronic with the shifting images. The clouds move in a different rhytm, constructed according to the artist’s will. Baroque clouds gradually change into threatening thunder clouds, into almost abstract skies. Brigth blue and white become grey steel colour, brimming with poisonous yellow. The history of painting, of the representation of clouds in different centuries, blows past in the beholder’s eyes.
Being in the installation is being surrounded by clouds. On two sides the sky is bent down to the ground, a celestial ceiling is missing. Trying to frame these clouds in your hands is comparable to the way Siegrun Appelt made her earlier photographic works. With this simple game one can step into her shoes, one can try to catch the blurred and vague spots she once depicted, one can let the mind wander and imagine what qualities the framed material has assumed in this new perspective.
Mike discovers a face in the vastness of the landscape a trick he plays on his eyes by focusing through his fantasy. Siegrun Appelt also cheats the eye with the movement she manages to introduce into the eye of the viewer with the clouds on the slides. It’s a visual trick which is the general basis for film. Twenty-four framed images make a movement in our perception when projected at the right speed on a flat screen. At least this is what we have taught ourselves. In another work Siegrun Appelt plays with this trick.
While sitting in the train one watches the world through the black or metal frame of the window. Looking out the window, you can decide to focus on that part of the landscape that you want to adapt your eye to.The passing environment appears to be divided into three layers, all with their own movement. The mountains in the background seems to stand still in theirs stony, age-old presence. The houses standing nearer by move at a faster speed but are still recognizable as human constructions. The bushes that are close to the window only flash by, becoming abstract images sometimes, sometimes impressionistic paintings. This at least is what Siegrun Appelt visualizes in the video Napoli Roma, 24.9.96 which she made during a train journey between both cities. Only by concentrating hard enough can one perceive the bushes in their actual presence as we taught our eyes to watch the fast moving images on MTV, which succeed each other at considerably higher speed than images did about ten years ago. By framing the moving landscape, Siegrun Appelt forces the eye of the viewer to see the three movements all together, to recognise the depth and its different speeds.
A framed world, passing by at high speed and looked at from a short distance, becomes a painting and turns into a static image which offers a new realm to the imagination of the viewer.
(1) My own private Idaho, Gus van Sant, 1991