Interview with Nicole Hametner on the occasion of the exhibition Prix Photoforum 2020.
Can you tell us briefly about the project currently on display at the Photoforum?
The series starts with the primordial idea of a shadow animal projected on a white piece of paper. Archetypes and the construction of an image is based on my strong interest for the basic photographic process and the question where an image arises and where it manifests itself.
It all started during the first lockdown in April 2020. Whilst strolling through the woods, I discovered a lot of human-made constructions: huts, little prototypes built by children, playgrounds and what was left of them. I was fascinated by the primitive forms of the found constructions, the repetitive shapes, between organic free, fragile and rigid structures, the alternate between order and chaos.
The playfulness in the little prototypes directed my approach more and more into the visual universe of a child, where free chains of association seem to rule, and the imagery finds itself often between vague representation and pure abstraction. The depicted found wooden constructions turned more and more into staged photographs. Furthermore, the idea of the house gained in importance as archetypical image and as primary symbol of self.
I use the term archetype on one hand to show drafts of archetypical images such as The House, The Tree, The Animal or The Face. On the other hand, it is the concept of archetype as the origin of an image that serves as mental framework for my investigations about the phenomenon of the photographic image.
What does it mean for you to exhibit this project? What would you like to convey to the audience?
A big part of the series is built around the found wooden huts. I wanted to transport the strong impact they had on me in the woods into the exhibition space. Therefore, the central part shows three huts in the large format of 252x170cm. The scale of the photographs deliberately invites to immerse, reflect and contemplate. The wall behind those prints is painted in a soft lavender colour. The idea of a pastel puppet house was on my mind, which contrasts strongly with the rather rough looking black and white prints.
On a white wall next to it, at eye level, there are small prints standing on a little edge, only leaning against the wall. They give a deepened insight into the image collection and the evolution of the work. All the photographs function like substitutes for my research about the construction of an image. For the spectator they show drafts, shadow figures, ramifications, a half found half built lively imagery in a seemingly empty place.
Archetypes can be seen as your very own working method. Could you elaborate on this?
It is a constant dialogue between what’s found during the process of photographing and an already pre-existing abstract idea of an image, a reconstruction of the original observation, a dissection of the seen and the attempt to formulate an idea around it.
My main interest lies not in the concrete scene in front of the camera, but rather in the metaphorical character of its appearance: the construction and decay, the signs of a draft and the strong presence of an absence.
I understand an image as a conglomerate and I very much like the idea of the fragmented state of an image that is never present as a whole. Therefore, the found constructed houses can be seen analogue to the assembled images.
You have chosen to display your work by assembling 81 separate prints and gluing them together, so that the works are moving naturally each day and each visitor will see it in a new state of being. Is this partly to reflect on the temporality and fragility of these constructions?
Yes, each of them is assembled with 81 A4 prints stuck together in the back. They are printed on Japanese Awagami paper, whose texture reinforces the depicted constructions. The assembling of papers provokes a movement of the eye and unsettles the overlay between the support and the content of the image.
This divided form emphasizes the structure of the huts with their provisional constructions. The photographs underline their volatility in places that where built but never meant to be forever. My focus lies in the moment of creation and the fleeting nature of an image whose fragments emerge before disappearing again in the ever-changing landscape.
Your project is still evolving. Where do you see it going?
As a work in progress there are a lot of concrete ideas for images that will be produced to complete the series. On my website a few of them are shown. Then there is like always lots of editing that needs to be done and different forms of hanging and installations will be tested, depending on the context the work can shift its form completely.
I am very excited about that freedom and it inspires me to see how the work evolves over a longer period of time. I can see that it is also somehow based on my previous photographic works, what makes me incredibly happy.
As mentioned before, the photographs all function as substitutes, as drafts which seem to become the consolidated ground for my interest in the theoretical approach to the medium.
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about your current or future projects?
Parallel to the photographic work I am trying to approach a project proposal for artistic research, built on questions of my master thesis: an investigation about the apparition of an image, its volatility, the question where an image is built and what materiality means in photography.
Furthermore, I am intrigued by the question of the reference in photography, what value is given to the depicted and where the pure imprint turns into concrete photography. The usual representative form of the medium often stands in my way for my aspired discussion about the very own process of the technical image itself.
In practice I would like to start a series of clouds, possibly with a technical camera. On one hand I am interested in their sculptural character and monumentality, on the other hand I am fascinated by how a cloud is in constant transformation. Standing between representation and abstraction these photographs should then complement the publication which for now is planned in a form between a children’s picture and an artist book.
The exhibition Prix Photoforum 2021 is presented at Photoforum Pasquart, Switzerland, from 3 March to 4 April 2021.