I went to Nettie Horn this week to see Sinter Werner’s latest show, Along the Sight Lines. I’ve been following Werner’s practice for a while now; she makes site-specific installations, collages, large-format slides and photo prints that explore the unstable, illusory experience of perception. Standing in front of her pieces feels a bit like looking through one eye and then the other and seeing the scene in front of you jump. My favourite piece in this show was a photo-collage, Milos IV (2010): Two black and white photographs showing a gnarly island rock are layered one on top of the other and box-framed. Following the lines of the rock’s nooks and crannies, Werner has carefully cut small shapes from the top layer to reveal the second image underneath, which is slightly out of focus. It is a subtle intervention, but enough to recall something of a 3D experience – that of peering through the holes and cavities in an actual rock face to the mysterious (fuzzy) darkness within. It’s interesting that, while the differently focused layers do create a kind of illusion of depth, the collage calls more attention to the very flatness of the photographs, and the dimensionality/physicality that they lack.
Talking to Paul Carey-Kent, Werner says of her practice: “It points up how you can’t really trust anything you perceive … there is not one truth, everything is subjective and changing all the time. And the world is mediated through 2D media, which you come to rely on.”
In the same conversation, she references Foucault’s 1967 lecture ‘Different Spaces’ and his idea of ‘heterotopias’ – alternative spaces that bring together within one actual place, various relations of proximity (emplacements) that seem incompatible in themselves. Like theatre and cinema auditoria, and like gardens.
“ … the theatre brings onto the rectangle of the stage a whole succession of places that are unrelated to one another; in the same way, the cinema is a very curious rectangular hall at the back of which one sees a three-dimensional space projected onto a two-dimensional screen; but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias, in the form of contradictory emplacements, is the garden … The traditional garden of the Persians was a sacred space that is said to have joined together within its rectangle four parts representing four parts of the world, with a space even more sacred than the others which was like the umbilicus, the navel of the world at its center (this was the location of the basin and the fountain); and all the garden’s vegetation was supposed to be distributed within that space, within that figurative microcosm.”
I remember that Peter Ainsworth described his father’s garden as a stage for his photography.
It is interesting that some of my newest slides have come back looking rather like an animation set – the lines of white paper flags demarcating the vegetable patch resemble miniature strings of bunting, and set up a curious sense of scale against the shoots and leaves.