art of surveillance

Friderike Heuer’s spaces between

At Blackfish, the photomontage artist's series "Zwischenräume" considers a world under constant surveillance

In February, metal sculptor Steve Tilden and glass artist Jen Fuller’s collaboration Stories, a series of works rooted in Greek myths, fills the main sections of Portland’s Blackfish Gallery. It’s augmented by Free Fall, a large selection of photomontages by Friderike Heuer based on air disasters (think Daedalus and Icarus), each one incorporating an image from one of Tilden and Fuller’s pieces, as well. Blackfish’s intimate back room gallery is given over to another of Heuer’s photomontage series, The Spaces In Between, dealing with the ever-presence in the contemporary world of surveillance. For the past few months I’ve been looking at the images from Spaces, off and on, and thinking about them. In January I sat down with Heuer, and we talked about the series and the ideas woven through it.

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“I want to be alone,” actress Greta Garbo famously sighed in the 1932 movie Grand Hotel.

Fat chance, artist Friderike Heuer seems to reply in her series of montages Zwischenräume.

In Heuer’s world, which is also ours, everybody watches everybody, and there is no true alone.

The images in Zwischenräum – which translates from the German as Spaces, or, as Heuer more loosely has it, The Spaces In Between – are fraught with the realization that we are relentlessly, inescapably, seen. Created with analytical precision from her own photographs and remnants of mostly 20th century northern European paintings, they are teeming with portents of spying and entrapment: infrared cameras, piercing eyes, chain-link fences, metal locks, microphones. Sometimes the implements of surveillance are prominent: brute reminders of conformity through force. Sometimes they’re almost unnoticeable: the hidden persuaders of advertising; the quiet collators of computer and cell phone data mining. Always, they are there, even as the people in these fascinating and nervously crowded images seek to dodge them – to find “the spaces in between,” those private refuges from the probing eye.

"Rotkäppchen"

“Rotkäppchen”

Heuer’s 24” x 18” archival jet prints on German etching paper are seductively combined, and narrative but fractured – pieces of story with the plots cut out. Her images, overlaid and manipulated and streaked with lines of paint, are like collages, but not quite. “I do everything on the computer,” she says. “It makes it easier and harder at the same time. What’s harder is making it seem like a coherent piece. In collage, no one expects the jags and breaks not to be there. There’s a fluidity to these that you don’t ordinarily see in collages. People look at them and often don’t see that they’re montages. They’re like paintings.”

Continues…