Stefanie Schneider's cinematic photos play with the hidden depths
of Hollywood clichs - a show in Mannheim
Markus Clauer, Die Rheinpfalz, March 3, 2006
is most certainly that German artist who currently sells the most works - for
example, in the photo-edition gallery "lumas." Now the Mannheim space
"Zephr" is presenting Stefanie Schneider's typically cinematic photo
series entitled Wasteland.
The desert, vast
Californian expanses, shimmering light, a mythically charged somewhere only a
few hours distant from Los Angeles by car. David Lynch territory, with which
one is familiar without ever having been there. Gas stations, motels, highways,
tracks of dust, trademarks like signs of an attitude towards life which can be
summoned up at any time. Wasteland, crossed by a solitary railroad track;
tilted telegraph poles silhouetted lopsidedly against the horizon. A scene
befitting men with bare chests and revolvers, cowboy figures. And designed for
women with glittering hot pants, gaudy wigs, call-girl accessories, and a
lackluster melancholy: entangled in stories loaded with sex, violence and
tenderness. Stefanie Schneider's blown-up Polaroids―shot as with
half-closed eyes, risqu, jazzy, spooky and dreamlike, even nightmarish―resemble
faded and second-hand memories, Hollywood film-clichs whose superficiality has
become porous. Dj-vus with patina. Stefanie Schneider's photos almost always
seem like cinematic stills. The images of the photographic artist, who was born
in 1968 in Cuxhaven and studied at the Folkwang School in Essen, quite
frequently refer to film titles. Sometimes they show persons who subsequently
embarked on successful careers, such as Rada Mitchell, who filmed Melinda
and Melinda with Woody Allen, but
who earlier played improvised roles in Stefanie Schneider's photos.
29 Palms CA is doubtlessly the most famous photo series of
the artist. It appeared in 1999, with a same-named film in 2002. it is as if
she borrows images and thereby gains access to American culture, such as it is
perceived in the current framework of the media. A playing with appearance and
reality, an image of how images arise.
What is astounding is
that there has been a return to film by these painterly images oscillating
between cinema, photography and British Pop-Art. In Stay, the latest work by Marc Forster (Monster's
Ball), an expressionistic
psychodrama in which the Hollywood stars Ian McGregor and Naomi Watts play the
main roles, Stefanie Schneider's Polaroids flash forth hundreds of times in the
dream sequences and memories.
Director Marc Forster has been a friend of Stefanie Schneider for many years. In her case her own life, love and sex are combined through chance occurrence into art. Coincidence is the principle embraced by the artist, who lives in Los Angeles and Berlin. Her own career as well is based on a simple random event. In 1996 she discovered in a store on Sunset Boulevard three boxes, each containing sixty Polaroid films whose expiration date had passed. At the time, she was working as a cutter in L.A. She had more or less forgotten the photography which she had studied. She didn't even own a Polaroid camera.
The next day, however,
she bought one and went with her sister to the beach. Venice Beach saw the
creation of twenty photos with a wondrous originality and mysticism, clouded
over by overexposures and peppered with photo-technical mishaps―the
images are generated by the chance occurrence to which the scroungy material
gives rise. The colors are undefined, the blondness is fuzzily outlined, and
aspects of depth are uncovered, as if something were surfacing out of the
unconscious. At a film reception she meets a woman gallerist who discovers for
the art market her randomly-created Venice Beach Polaroids. The rest unfolds automatically.
Polaroids are today an
anachronism and can no longer be purchased, but in art they have a tradition
going back to Andy Warhol. He often photographed himself or had himself
photographed. Stefanie Schneider as well is repeatedly part of her vague
stagings and minimalistically narrated episodes. She often hands the camera
over to others. If her photos have a theme, then it is being underway as in the
case of Kerouac. Her art is also her life, and apparently she thereby hits upon
a particular mood.
She once had a
lonely-hearts ad appear in the New Yorker. She originally intends to travel with seven male strangers into the
desert, and to photograph what happens there. She takes up contact per e-mail
with three unknown persons. She observes one of them around the clock with a
web cam, into the most remote corners of intimacy. One of them travels with her
in a Cadillac. The former preacher J.D. Rudometkin is an actor, makes films,
writes stories. The two of them move into a trailer, have sex; during the
night, he writes a short story which they stage photographically the next day, Sidewinder. This gives rise to a book and a short film,
with his music and her pictures.
Also the series Wasteland, which may be seen in Mannheim, has to do with
a sexually charged and precarious situation between man and
woman―Stefanie Schneider herself, in a Wim Wenders landscape. Short
sentences relate that, in "her" valley, she encounters Randy, who had
wanted to film a Western. And everything changed. She was happy at first. Randy
flew away in his helicopter. She herself left. So much happens in the pictures.
No more. Each viewer becomes a screenplay-writer. The catalogue book and the
exhibition, by the way, are dedicated to "Lance." The man in the photos
is not Lance, but the one whom Stefanie Schneider left for Lance after fifteen
years of love. She met the new lover by chance at an open-air cinema in Berlin.
The exhibition continues until April 30, Tuesdays through Sundays 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Address: C4.9 in Mannheim. The film "Stay" is running at the Odeon in Mannheim.