Wolfgang Staehle "2004"
On September 11, 2001 I found myself on the streets of New York City, like everyone here, in a state of shock after witnessing the World Trade Center collapse. I roamed about in Chelsea and found myself at the doors of the Postmasters Gallery and had my first introduction to the work of Wolfgang Staehle. In that exhibition I was confronted with, three panoramic projections of live video feeds displayed on the walls of the gallery. One of the images included the New York City skyline with a plume of dust and debris covering lower Manhattan. I recall staring silently at the images and feeling a profound sense of powerlessness. The gallery director and I both stood in silent witness. I turned and walked out of the gallery with that image fixed in my mind.
Wolfgang Staehle, weary of the regular channels within the art world founded www.thing.net in the early 1990's and became an early pioneer in using the internet as an integral part of his work This site and web server has played host to other art world web sites, as well as online forums for digital art. His work integrates web cams which capture images of architecture or pastoral landscapes which are then relayed to projectors within the gallery.
Staehle's recent exhibition "2004" at the Postmaster's Gallery is a quiet reprieve from the rhythms of urban living. Upon entering the gallery once again panoramic images captured by web cams updated every 10 seconds dominate the darkened space. In the first gallery midtown Manhattan viewed from the east river's edge of Brooklyn dominates. Adjacent to this is a Frederic Church inspired view of the rolling hills on the Hudson River valley. In the back gallery is a stunning pre-recorded loop of Niagra Falls with full sound roaring into the space and serving as a vehicle to draw you into this awesome spectacle. At the entrance, is another small monitor capturing images of the Grand Tetons mountain ridge from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This last piece is less compelling perhaps because the resolution of the image was low and pixilated and presented in a familiar format found on computer desktops everywhere. But the images in the main gallery have a meditative quality about them which resonates.
These mundane real time images stand conceptually on the shoulders of Andy Warhol's 1964 film "Empire" in which Warhol captured eight hours of footage of the Empire State Building. In the 1999 exhibition "Net_Condition" at ZKM Center in Karlsruhe, Staehle revisited this subject with "Empire 24/7" in which the artist captured digital images of the iconic building resulting in a reinterpretation of Warhol's attentive backwards gaze, turning the web cam into a vehicle for reverence.
Staehle's "2004" evokes a degree of contemplative distance. The work has evolved picture making and turned the traditional static reproduction of the natural world around us into a dynamic reflection of it. With each new image presented every 10 seconds the illusion of sublime escape is dashed and real time forces the viewer into the position of historical witness that has some residue of anxiety perhaps stemming from the times we live in.
By Andrew Robinson
Written for the Gay City News,
Exhibition dates: September 10 - October 16, 2004
459 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Telephone 212 727 3323
Facsimile 212 229 2829
Images of past works referenced in this article, but not included in the exhibition "2004".
"Empire 24/7, 1999"
More about Wolfgang Staehle
"Wolfgang Staehle was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1950. He attended the Freie Kunstschule, in Stuttgart, and in 1976 he moved to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts, New York (BFA) where he studied with Joseph Kosuth (Conceptual Art), Marshall Blonsky (Semiotics), Robert Mangold (Painting), Jackie Winsor (Sculpture), Richard Van Buren (Sculpture), Storm De Hirsch (Experimental Film), Todd Watts (Photography), Ed Bowes (Video), Anina Nosei (Art History), and Jeanne Siegel (Art History).
After a successful career in various New York in European galleries in the 1980s, Staehle decided to work collectively, and in 1991 he founded The Thing, an innovative online forum for artists and cultural workers."
- Wolfgang Staehle in an interview with Klaus Ottmann in the Journal
of Contemporary Art
speaking about his earlier collage work that mixed different genres like news, commercials and fiction and work he did while working a danceteria. Below are two examples of these earlier projects.
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