“A thing that we see at a certain point in time, a book that we read not only remains forever tied to whatever was around us, but also remains faithfully bound to the person we were at that time.” Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
In his second exhibition at Sies + Höke, Daniel Gustav Cramer (born 1975 in Neuss) explores the translations of transient experiences of the present and how they are always linked to the images of our memory.
For the individual, experienced stories, narratives and interpersonal encounters are what make time palpable as a subjective entity. His works reflect these personal relationships to time that take place in fleeting experiences with people and nature and that can combine as fragments of memory to form a more comprehensive view of the world.
In Eleven Works Daniel Gustav Cramer presents the spatial constellation of his works between various fixed points that link distant geographies, their landscapes and direct contacts with their residents. One of the starting points is a series of four photographs, Eyjafjörður (2018), which show various colorings and transparencies on deep blue. Their location is explained by a brief text that describes how the original film negatives have been taken by a man who lives in Iceland. During his trips onto the fjord, for several years he shot underwater photographs, and archived their resulting negatives and contact sheets. With these images, the man unconsciously mapped the space between the two shores of the fjord, with his childhood home on the one side and his current place of residence on the other. Daniel Gustav Cramer’s display and their contextualization unfolds a structure of memory that goes beyond the visible water formations. As frozen moments, the photographs attest to the crossing of actual distances by the small boat drifting across the fjord as well as the intersection of past and present.
Observing the subjective perception of time and its interweaving with memory is a recurring theme linking the artist’s works presented in this exhibition. As a factual system of order, his works refer beyond their material being to something that can rather be felt than seen. In Landscapes (2017), he shows a series of shelves housing book objects. On the first pages of the books, landscapes, certain locations and environments are described in brief texts. The following pages are left blank. Using minimal means, sentence after sentence, layer after layer, landscape scenes are revealed, while the blank pages lend the evoked images an expanded spatial dimensionality. The series Dust (2017) consists of table objects that contain piles of paper made of marble dust from Carrara. The materiality of marble appears here in its smallest, most fleeting particles and merges with the flexibility of a sheet of paper. The immaterial white and the geometric reduction amplifies the impression of the sculptures being physical forms of a moving conceptual space, between the memory of mountains, the quarries in Carrara and the human desire to record what has been experienced. An underlying tension emerges in the photograph Todtnauberg (2018), for which the artist visited the village in the Black Forest where Martin Heidegger once wrote his main work Being and Time (1927). Hardly identifiable as an actual location in the flurry of snow, the image of his hut attests to the inconsistency and diffuseness of philosophical interpretations.
n another way, the work Rainbow (2016/2018) undertakes a material intervention in the concrete architecture of the gallery. Following the artist’s instructions, the three bearing columns of the space were painted in nine different colors in a certain order, one color after another. The last layer was set as a white RAL, so that the changes are only recognizable in the traces of paint on the edges and corners.
Finally, Daniel Gustav Cramer presents his film work Orrery (2012), which on several levels mirrors the photographs taken in Iceland. The film recounts a personal exchange between the artist and a man he met in the course of his travels. For three conversations, the artist sought out the man in his home near Melbourne where he works as a manufacturer of planet machines, an eighteenth-century craft that has virtually died out today. In the film, the artist reports of his encounters in the house through text, environmental sounds, and shots of interior scenes of the man’s workshop. With ellipses and flashbacks, he thus creates an interweaving narrative that makes clear that individual temporal perception fails to run in a linear and chronological manner. In the process, the film evokes childhood as a site of origin – from pebbles, that were once arranged playfully in a circle in the garden to the completion of an orrery made of ivory spheres that models the elusive trajectories of celestial bodies.
In this exhibition, Daniel Gustav Cramer moves back and forth between various time lapses within the microcosm and the macrocosm, between the ocean and outer space, the singular experience of a transient moment and traditional story telling. They are gaps in his system of order that activate the power of memory and thus create new narratives. Like explorers, we intuitively fill these gaps through what we learned from our own experiences.
Text: Simone Neuenschwander