Stefanie Schneider Color Photograph - Palm Trees on Wilcox / Contemporary, Polaroid, Photograph, Analog
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Stefanie Schneider
Palm Trees on Wilcox / Contemporary, Polaroid, Photograph, Analog

1999

About

"Palm Trees on Wilcox" (Stranger than Paradise) 1999, 78x76cm, Edition 2/100 digital C-Print based on a Polaroid photograph, mounted on Aluminum with matte UV-Protection Certificate and signature label, artist inventory number: 398.33, signed on verso Note: This particular edition has a thin white border Stefanie Schneider interviewed by Dutch Filmmaker Willem Baptist for Instant Dreams Documentary coming out at the end of the year 2017. published in the the catalog 'Instantdreams' When did you first decide to work with Polaroids? Why do Polaroids seem to be so well tuned to our (artistic) senses, perception and minds? I started using expired Polaroid film in 1996. It has the most beautiful quality and encapsulates my vision perfectly. The colors on one hand, but then the magic moment of witnessing the image appear. Time seems to stand still, and the act of watching the image develop can be shared with the people around you. It captures a moment, which becomes the past so instantly that the decay of time is even more apparent; – it gives the image a certain sentimentality. The Polaroid moment is an original every time. Why use a medium from the past? For me, analog has always been there in the present. For the new generation, analog is interesting because it's new to them. I understand that people growing up in a digital age will wonder about its usefulness, but it's theirs to recover if they want to. When I first started working with Polaroid, it wasn't the past. It was a partially forgotten medium, but it existed nonetheless. It is mine by choice. There is no substitute for tangible beauty. Is it imperfect? The imperfect perfection in a “wabi-sabi” kind of way. Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".[1] 'If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi' [2] 'Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.'[3] Is the Polaroid photograph recognizable or even sometimes cliché? Absolutely! There's something cliché about the way I'm showing the American Dream. I live it myself, trying to find perfection in an imperfect world. Reaching for the horizon. The dream is broken; the cliché tumbles. There are different ways to involve an audience. You could make movies like Harmony Korine's "Gummo", a masterpiece in my view, which would estrange a large part of the audience. A certain film education is a prerequisite. Or you can start with clichés, the audience then feels safe, which lures them into the depth of your world without them even knowing it or understanding where exactly they are being led to. Appealing to emotions and the sub-conscious. Normal, Change, New Normal. You continually revisit the landscape of the American West in your work. What draws you back to this scene? Southern California represents a dream to me. The contrast of Northern Germany, where I grew up, to the endless sunshine of Los Angeles was what first attracted me. The American West is my dream of choice. Wide, open spaces give perspectives that articulate emotions and desires. Isolation feeds feelings of freedom or sometimes the pondering of your past. The High Desert of 29 Palms has very clear and vivid light, which is vital. Expired Polaroid film produces 'imperfections' that I would argue mirrors the decline of the American dream. These so called 'imperfections' illustrate the reality of that dream turning into a nightmare. The disintegration of Western society. Are you playing with the temporality of the material and the value of the moment itself? The value of the moment is paramount, for it is that moment that you're trying to transform. All material is temporary, it's relative, and time is forever. Why does analog film feel more pure and intuitive? It's tangible and bright and represents a single moment. The digital moment may stay in the box (the hard drive / camera / computer etc.) forever, never to be touched, put into a photo album, sent in a letter, or hung on a wall. Printing makes it an accomplishment. The analog world is more selective, creating images of our collective memory. The digital worldwide clicking destroys this moment. The generation without memories due to information overload and hard drive failures. Photo albums are a thing of the past. Why does it feel this way? That's how the human instinct works. When I was a child, every picture been taken was a special moment. Analog photographic film as well as Super-8 material were expensive treasures. My family's memories were created by choosing certain moments in time. There was an effort behind the picture. The roll of film might wait months inside the camera before it was all used. From there, the film required developing, which took more time, and finally, when the photos were picked up from the shop, the memories were visited again together as a family. Who knew then, how fleeting these times were. Shared memories was a ritual. What's your philosophy behind the art of Polaroid pictures? The 'obsolete' is anything but obsolete. Things are not always as they appear, and there are hidden messages. Our memories and our dreams are under-valued. It is there that real learning and understanding begins by opening yourself to different perspectives. What inspired you to use stop motion cinematography? My work has always resembled movie stills. I remember the first time I brought a box of Polaroids and slid them onto Susanne Vielmetter's desk (my first gallery). Instantly, it became apparent that there was a story to tell. The stories grew. It was undeniable to me, that the emerging story was where I was destined to go. I've made four short films before my latest feature film, "The Girl behind the White Picket Fence". This film is 60 minutes long with over 4000 edited Polaroids. It's important to remember that our sub-conscious fills in the blanks, the parts missing from the story allow a deeper and more personal experience for the viewer. That is, if you surrender yourself and trust me as the director to lead you somewhere you might not have been before. Why do you think it is important to own art? 'We have art in order not to die of the truth' Nietzsche 1 Koren, Leonard (1994). Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-12-4. 2 Juniper, Andrew (2003). Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3482-2. 3 Powell, Richard R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media. ISBN 1-59337-178-0. Stefanie Schneider's work was used for Marc Forster's movie 'Stay'. Featuring Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling. Naomi and Ryan were both portraying artists and Stefanie's art was the art both created during the movie. Stefanie's images were also used for Ryan Gosling's memory sequence, for the end titles, for edits in between and as art paintings hanging in several scenes within the movie. This particular piece was the beginning of a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge by the Naomi Watt's character, hanging in her studio till she 'finished' the 'painting' and it was replaced with Stefanie's Brooklyn Bridge piece representing the 'finished' bridge 'painting'. (see one of our other lots). Brooklyn Bridge (Stay), This piece was used in the film 'Stay' as Naom's art, Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in front of the piece, 2006, 100x135cm installed, each piece is 30x29cm, Edition 1/5, analog C-Print, printed by the artist on Fuji Archive Crystal Paper, matte surface, based on a Polaroid. Certificate and Signature label, artist Inventory No. 2325.01, mounted on Aluminum with matte UV-Protection, signed on verso. This piece hung in the Stefanie's kitchen for a time. It's not in perfect condition, but it's beautiful with wear and tear. Torsten Scheid, “Fotografie, Kunst, Kino. Revisited.”, FilmDienst 3/2006, page 11-13

 Photography Art Cinema. Revisited Stay expands a traditional connection through new facets Interwoven between the media of photography and film is a veritable mesh-work of technical, motific, metaphorical and personal interrelationships. Extending from photo-film which, as in La Jetée by Chris Marker (France, 1962) is a montage of single, unmoving photographs all the way to the portrayal of photographic motifs in Hollywood cinema―most recently in Memento (USA, 2000) and One hour photo (USA, 2002)―is the range of filmic-photographic interactions on the one hand, and from the adaption of modes of cinematic production to the imitation of film stills on the other. For instance, with the legendary Untitled Film Stills (1978) of the American artist Cindy Sherman, who later made her debut as a film director with Office Killer (USA, 1997) and thereby, like many others, changed sides: Wim Wenders, Robert Frank and Larry Clark are doubtlessly the most successful of these photographic-filmic border crossers. This brief survey provides only a vague indication of the dimensions of this intermedial field, which in fact extends much further and is constantly being cultivated. Also as a motif in film, photography has experienced a historical transformation: Photographers were once considered to be technicians who mastered a craft but never achieved the status of artists. Photographer-figures were caught in the allure of beautiful appearance, incapable of penetrating to the actual essence of things. Such depth was reserved for literature or painting. When photography in film touched upon the sphere of art, then most often as its contrasting model, as the metaphor for a superficial access to the world. Coming to mind are Fred Astaire as a singing fashion photographer in Stanley Donen’s musical film Funny Face (USA, 1957), or the restless lifestyle-photographer in Michelangelo Antonioni’s genre-classic Blow up (GB, 1966). For the doubting Thomas, only that exists which can be photographed. He ultimately enters the world of fantasy and thereby the field of art only unwillingly, when he becomes entangled in the world of his images. The last of his detail-enlargements shows only the photographic grain and has lost all connection to reality. The photograph looks as if it had been painted by Bill, the painter who is both friend and antagonist to the protagonist.

 Photography as Art It was first around the end of the last century that numerous filmmakers discovered photography as a genuine art form. In The Bridges of Madison County (USA, 1995) a sensitive Clint Eastwood stands, camera in hand, on the threshold of artistic status, and in Smoke (USA, 1994) a tobacco merchant ripens into a philosopher through his involvement in photography. Finally, in John Water’s parody of the art market, Pecker (USA, 1998), a provincial tom-fool is hyped into celebrated stardom amid the New York art scene because of his blurred snapshots. This film about a postmodern Kaspar Hauser in photographic art (with clear parallels to Richard Billingham, the British shooting star of the nineteen-nineties), not only takes into account the exponentially expanded significance of photography in the art market, but also attributes to photography an extreme degree of conformity to the “operating system” of the visual arts. This admittedly ironic equation of photography and the visual arts is new. It is repeated with much more earnestness in Lisa Chollondencko’s High Art (USA) from the same year. Artistic photography has finally become established in a cinematic context.

 
Stay Stay (USA, 2005) could have fitted in seamlessly here. Considering that the films High Art and Pecker establish photography as an ideal art form at the end of the millennium, director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) takes a step backward; he revives an anti-technical, intuitive concept of art, including the customary clichés about madness and genius. This choice documents less an anachronistic notion of art (especially considering that painting is currently experiencing a Renaissance) than instead the appraisal that paintings are more suitable for representing the free objectification of the mind. Stay is not an artist-film but rather a psycho-thriller in which the borders between dream and reality become blurred.
 The psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) has saved his girlfriend, the artist Lila (played by Naomi Watts) from committing suicide. Now he is attempting to keep another patient, the art student Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling) from killing himself, but succumbs in that endeavor more and more to a whirlpool of inexplicable events. Any further words would already be interpretation and would reduce the significatory potential of the film. The film is loaded with meaning down to the tiniest details―including the notoriously short pants of the protagonist―or it willingly offers itself as a projection screen for speculations. Line-crossings, subjective camera-views of utterly strange figures, and pan-shots in which space and time shift abruptly all serve to confuse the viewer. One scene switches with no transition into paper photography; other scenes hesitate, repeat themselves. The temporal continuum of the film is caught in loops. Figures merge into each other. Miracles occur: blind people regain their sight, the dead are reawakened to life. If it is the continuity of events which distinguishes dream from reality, then everything which the psychiatrist Sam experiences is a dream.
 It is precisely here, in this intermediate world of imagination and reality, that the film brings paintings into play, and with them the Polaroid photographs of Stefanie Schneider. For even if the paintress Lila drips paint all over herself in the film, in fact her paintings are without exception based on photographic models which―thanks to modern technology―have been printed onto canvas.
 
Bizarre Dream-Worlds Stefanie Schneider’s vague and evanescent Polaroids work towards a painterly impact. The artist, who resides alternately in Berlin and Los Angeles, exclusively uses out-of-date film material. She takes into account chance occurrence, the scarcely predictable waywardness of damaged emulsions. Her associative Polaroids portray a bizarre, film-like world which further enhances the irrealism of Stay. Independently of each other, but not without reason, both Marc Forster and Stefanie Schneider are repeatedly compared with David Lynch. Stranger than Paradise is the title of Schneider’s new photographic volume which, punctually with the start of the film, has been published by Hatje Cantz. The title borrowed from Jim Jarmusch is no accident: Cinema, not artistic photography, is the world from which the former cutter draws her visual models. And whoever has carefully studied the jazzy photographer of her series 29 Palms, CA can recognize beneath the orange-red wigs the cinematic actress Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland, High Art).
 A few motifs from this series, which was presented in an extensive edition by the Lumas gallery, are already sold out. The popularity of the artist is rising. But even if Schneider’s gallery makes this claim, her photography does not in fact play a major role in the film Stay. Instead the presence of the Polaroid photographs onscreen is limited to short photographic sequences, to the―admittedly magical―end credits, and to a few paintings on the set. It is precisely here at the periphery, on the symbolical level, however, that the film unfolds its central meaning―for example, when in Lila’s studio photographs of walruses may be seen, a motif which is familiar to the viewer from a previous scene with the art student Henry. In this new context, the images acquire an impact like the visualization of a strange memory. The pictures do not seem to belong to Lila and already anticipate in an allusive manner the peculiar transformation which her paintings undergo at the end of the film.
 The overlapping of the protagonists has a correspondence in the interpenetration of inner and outer worlds: In another scene, in which Henry visits a table-dance bar, there is a photographic sequence. The flood of sharply highlighted, ever-changing images cannot be unambiguously situated, however. On the one hand, it can be read as a projection in the depicted space; and on the other hand, it presents itself as the stream of consciousness of the protagonist, whose blurred scraps of memory it portrays. 

Art as Key The photographs do not function in Stay as props for the plot, but instead they are metaphors for the interpenetration of dream and reality. They are not so much motifs as rather means of representation. On the one hand, they are almost seamlessly integrated into the portrayal, but on the other hand―as works of art―they play a key role in the reception of the film. Whoever considers the cinema to be simply an escapist pleasure must have the impression, with regard to Stay, of being in the wrong film. Stay repudiates all expectations regarding genre and demands a fundamental shift of attitude. One can argue about whether this claim is justified, but the film demands to be viewed as a work of art. Not in the sense of contemplative immersion, but in terms of an active reception. Meaning cannot be derived directly from the film. Meaning is an addition made by the viewer. If Stay has a special message, then it is this: Everyone constructs his or her own film. In fact, in Stay there is a short scene which takes place in the art academy and may be understood as an interpretative instruction. On the basis of a painting, the professor offers a lesson which can be expressed in two simple formulas. First, everything is significant. And second, everything is somehow connected with everything else. The individual elements of the film must be decoded and set into relationship with each other.

 After the Film is Before the Film With director Marc Forster and photographic artist Stefanie Schneider, two coequal partners are at work. The photographer brings her style-generating aesthetic into the cinematic representation. She appears as the author of her images, not as the executor of instructions from the director. This status is also evident in the participation of the artist in the press conference and in the fact that the premiere party took place in Stefanie Schneider’s gallery Lumas. Whoever came early or stayed late could here take an unobstructed look at the pictures and review the film at leisure. With regard to the photographs, one is inclined to see the film a second time. But also in the retrospective photographs after the film, the puzzle-game continues. “This is the way it was,” each photograph seems to say. But were things really that way? In fact, the poetically blurred Polaroid photographs do not provide a documentation, but rather an interpretation of the film from an artistic perspective which is lost in reverie. On the one hand, they make selections from the cinematic plot, and on the other hand, they transcend these happenings. 
 The film photos become autonomous and make reference, not to filmic “facts,” but to other possibilities―to that which might have been, to the inherent fictionality of the film.

Details

  • Movement & Style
  • Condition
    New
  • Condition Details
    this piece will be shipped in a crate
  • Dimensions
    H 31.11 in. x W 30.32 in. x D 0.12 in.H 79 cm x W 77 cm x D 3 mm
  • Gallery Location
    Berlin, DE
  • Reference Number
    LU65234667982
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