Johannes Stahl
Translation: Rosanne Altstatt

Some catchwords about
the art of Dagmar Schmidt



A photographic re-creation of the walls of a worn apartment is executed in a large format and as a woven work, then erected at another site. A gaze, long minutes into the murky, lethargically flowing waters of the river Saale which are not entirely uninteresting, as a longer look reveals, but hardly provide a very positive response to the task ahead of introducing the School of Art and Design, Halle. A telescope for tourists that has been outfitted with kaleidoscopes serves as the point of departure for a large-scale and medium-term artistic development of areas which are especially attractive for tourism. A ritual blaze in the inner courtyard of the above mentioned school of art as M.F.A. presentation. Dagmar Schmidt's works can be recognized neither by their materials nor by a specific signature, but rather by a the sense of reflection and an ambitious artistic strategy, by the employment of each appropriate but always varying means of expression with a touch of a subtle and reserved sense of humor. It then makes no sense to intensely ruminate upon the "style" or to try and extend the favored lines of historical development. Instead, it much more rewarding to ask a few basic questions and, above all, to take a deeper look at Dagmar Schmidt's not so numerous works, studies, concepts and projects. Perhaps it will not hurt to put them in the spotlight.

In her prize-winning design for the Georg Friedrich Händel Hall in Halle on the Saale, Dagmar Schmidt has five luminous Plexiglas tubes running diagonally along the side of a building that is shaped like a piece of pie. Beginning at the floor of the ground level, the tubes continue in a straight line toward the top of the building and seem to exit the foyer through the roof, with the result of acting as the concert hall's signifier. "Saitenlicht" (String/Side Light) is shaped like the giant lines of a stave which change their colors at regular intervals. The light-sculpture, with its almost immaterial materials, strings of light, and Plexiglas intervenes in the materiality of the building's wood, stone and angular steel construction, giving it a certain dynamism. The title of the work plays on this interaction: Dagmar Schmidt turns the technical name of the material for the luminous fibers (Saite-string) which also shine off the side of the building (Seite-side) into an architecturally highly effective artistic principle.

"1000 kleine Dinge" (1000 Little Things): the programmatic description of a world of carefully designed everyday objects in the GDR is taken for the title of a larger group of works by Dagmar Schmidt. Iron objects wrapped in paper develop traces of rust over time. Through the processual pressure of the sediment, each of the untreated papers develops very different images; even there where the same original form can be recognized. Though the artistic double strategy in the title ties the recent history of design with formal-material processes, the charming effect of the material and process always prevails over the double meaning of the title and the purely serial modus of production. The School of Art and Design Burg Giebichenstein in Halle on the Saale is still well-acquainted with its motifs from the beginning of the century. Where the relationship between the holistic craftmanship and the material plays a decisive role, it is obvious to Dagmar Schmidt to call the fundaments of this relationship into question. At the latest, this takes place at the end of her studies. The placement of a bonfire in the courtyard of the Unterburg Giebichenstein directs its ritual character against this site a place characterized by the discarded artworks of an academic origin against the "museification" of a breeding ground for future art. The transformation of an object into a process, the relationship of teachable faithfulness to the work and a ritual event: here, not only what has been learned can be shown, but also and most importantly its limitations.

Dagmar Schmidt took photographs from a bus in motion at regular intervals on a trip between Madrid and Granada. In the photo-series the immediate impression of passing images or of changing surroundings is fixed to one's own static point of view. The works develop questions relating to theories of perception and materials: what does the traveler really see, what does the camera see, what does the film see?

In her project, "Zimmer in der Königstraße" (Room on Königstrasse), Dagmar Schmidt systematically documents all the walls of a room with photography. These are the basis of a series of "Translocations". Dagmar Schmidt will reproduce these photographic re-creation on two different sites: as photographs on the walls of an exhibition space and as tapestries on the walls of the executive floor of a bank in a small town in Thuringen. Both projects are connected with different thoughts. In the age of nature photos which can be reproduced as photographic murals, a reproduction filling an entire wall has not been anything special for quite some time and definitely not an exclusive privilege. Technically feasible for a long time, the unique aura of worn walls brings a new and unique impulse to the exhibition space. Wherever they are placed the traces of individual history from a certain environment develop a tension of their own when presented in a different space that usually tends to be optically neutral.

With her large-scale project "Kunst-Blick" (Art View) and its thoughtful perspective on a developing future, Dagmar Schmidt has risked much. Her occupation of urban space and touristy sites not only clashes with the public authorities, but also with a notion of art that is understood as a comfortable service for common traditions. The design of the "communicative site" is a facility with various things for life's needs: a manipulated telescope, a bench, public lavatory, barbecue, camping site... With this, a public process is created, upon which, in the end, the future of the site's successful tourism depends. She can assume the existence of a work of art in the traditional sense. Her notion of art is able to integrate this tradition in a manner similar to her own existence as an artist with ambitious projects that can very well go beyond this framework.

 

This text was published on occasion of an artist-edited CD-ROM (Halle /Saale, 1999) with booklet and edition (500).