FRANZ-FRAYED: Gender, Spaces


  Excerpt from a talk given by Susanne Hochreiter on April 18, 2013 in the context of the light shapes the shadow
  exhibition at Kunstraum Bernsteiner. Translated by Lisa Rosenblatt (Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 2013).



  Franz Kafka: The Trial 1
  I understand Franz Kafka's novel The Trial as a process that makes clear the precarious (ideological) conditions of
  signifying, identifying, in the sense of a stable reference-relationship of signifier and signified. In connection with
  this, Walter Benjamin wrote that Kafka "took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his texts."  

  The meanings remain suspended. The answers to the permanently inscribed questions of what the things are
  and how something can possibly be thought, spoken, and written about remain makeshift. Representation
  begins from something prior; from the possibility of an existing thing that can be depicted and represented. On
  the contrary, Jacques Derrida maintains, "The representation of language as 'expression' is not an accidental
  prejudice, but rather a kind of structural lure, what Kant would have called transcendental illusion." 3
  Kafka's texts deal with this structural deception, this 'lure'; they illustrate misgivings about a pre-linguistic existence,
  work against clarification, against the privileging of sense. This symbolic practice, which can also be described as the

  interference of various configurations of meaning thwarts relations of representations. And it is precisely here, in the

  poetic questioning of practices of identification and modes of depiction, this technique of "de-signification," that I see

  a connection of space and gender in Kafka's texts: in the critique of how space and gender are produced and naturalized

  as categories. Space is always gendered space and the politics of space are also always gendered and sexualized, even

  when they serve, for their part, to make this connection invisible, as Beatriz Colomina emphasizes. 4 Pierre Bourdieu
  writes: "There is no space, in a hierarchical society, which is not hierarchized and which does not express social
  hierarchies and distances in a more or less distorted or euphemized fashion, especially through the effect of
  naturalization attendant on the durable inscription of social realities onto and in the physical world." 5
  We do not have to bother the old woman before the picture of the Virgin Mary or the disappearing servant whom
  K. sees, in order to be able to speak about what the cathedral has to do with gender. As a sacred site and religious
  space, the cathedral is gendered in a particular way: as representation of an androcentric and patriarchal spiritual and

  world order, and the same applies to concrete ecclesiastic practice and also artistic tradition, in which artists are male

  and "women" the objects of art. A central theme in The Trial is how spaces, in general,—whether concrete or abstract,

  private or public—function by means of exclusions and attributions, through specific materializations of hegemony.

  Through the erratic gaze, the agitation the space gets into, the text works to interrupt this arrangement—already
  its title hints at something mobile and variable, as well as its experimental character. The order inscribed in language

  and the images is consistently undermined in the text: to perceive does not mean to see something as "real," but

  instead, at best, the other sense of the word, "to notice something."
  Telling of light and shadows has an important function in this: as an inquiry into what is required for the possibility
  of perception. In a 1969 lecture, Werner Heisenberg stated: "The old rules, whereby nature had been successfully
  described for more than two centuries, would no longer fit the new findings. But even these findings were
  themselves inherently contradictory." 6 Likelihoods replace clarities, "the more precisely one is known, the less
  precisely the other can be known." 7 The crisis of perception, of knowledge, refers to more than the microscopic
  investigation of light, which sometimes acts like a particle, and sometimes like a wave, but rather, includes all

  "knowledge" that is recounted and engendered according to the old rules. The issue of awareness is tied with crises

  of being and positioning: with the crisis of the ego, which according to Freud is no longer "master in its own house,"

  with the crisis of language, 8 and with a crisis of the middle-class gender order. The political "women's question," and

  thereby the claim to autonomy of a female subject, in any case, could no longer be answered based on the old rules

  around 1900. In Kafka's visually overwhelming novel, some things seem to be made of stone, and then of cardboard,

  things appear and disappear again, what seems inexplicable, is suddenly entirely banal: light multiplies the darkness.
  Lines of sight, manners of speaking, movements, spatial dimensions, passing of time—are taken apart and put
  together askew, the relations of signs are askance, mad.
  "Women" and "men" are hereby figurations of an order that that does not correspond at all with an essentialist
  arrangement. Instead, they are rendered "implausible" as gender identities. 9


  Silvia Ederer: Light shapes the shadow

  Silvia Ederer's "final frame" series includes the painting 5 a.m. Another work is titled last sentence of a poem.
  You, too, most certainly noticed the titles, the paintings' names, the words people like to grasp so as not to
  inadvertently slip from language. The names of the paintings in this space make proposals, offer diverse clues
  to possible meanings, and hint at further names and titles and discourses.
  The painting behind me is entitled A Room's Gender. The name is not written here—signifier and signified are
  dislocated, as it were. I take a sheet in my hand, an outline, an image, a text, and try to find my orientation:
  "Final frame" is associated with the end of a film, with the last image, and as Silvia Ederer writes, "...the last
  possibility of a turning point, the final impression of captured light, the last second of a constructed reality, or if
  you will, the final moment of an illusion to which we have abandoned ourselves." 10

  The final image contains the entire story—as well as those that would have been possible, and those that were
  not possible and perhaps others still that are located beyond: between light and shadow, perhaps in a fog,
  whose beginning and end remain undefined.
  The final image shows the last light—maybe of a spotlight on a curtain with no one in front of it or behind it. It
  lets us suspect a movement—a person, an object that is no longer there. The absence, for example, seems to
  focus on what is not there. The light hereby congeals to an object, which at the same time, leaks from the form,
  becomes lost in waves. Light and shadows suggest form and material, where movement might be, and liquid or
  something else that shows itself and hides within.
  The final image is the last moment of a reality composed of images, which asserts itself so completely therein,
  as though there were no three-dimensional space and as though it did not need one to exist. The borders of the
  image are far from being the borders of the world that it comes from and tells of.
  Perception, experience, expression, and mimesis as central concepts in what Theodor Adorno identifies as "the
  primal history of subjectivity" are, in my opinion, not heralded here in any way, but instead, are in a state of

  continuous interrogation: and it seems that no one asks as urgently as the person who sees the final image.
  Walter Benjamin reflected further on the anthropological problem of watching a film—the passivity of the viewer,
  their experience of impotence at not being able to enter the on-screen events—and drafted a construction of
  the specific cinematic space in which the coincidence of audience and apparatus accompanies a coincidence
  of artificiality and immediacy: 11 Silvia Ederer's painted final frames, which are not film images, but instead,

  represent the idea of these last moments, now do what the film as film never does: they bring the time in the

  image space to a standstill. The illusionary movement of the film, which arises from the rapid succession of

  individual images, prevents the liberation of the body from the "visual unconscious." Yet, in my opinion, "final

  frame" does not appear as simply a metaphor for this liberation, but rather, also shows in it also something of the

  provocation of the medium, which claims to make visible phenomena that would otherwise not be recognizable.


  Final frame and The Trial
  When I create connections and see similarities, then that occurs with full circumvention of the old conflict about
  how poetry and painting, as arts, are each capable of imitating and copying. I see similarities in search

  movements: in the exploration of what perception and representation are, as well as in the investigation of art, its
  means and possibilities, which, at the same time, are expanded by this very process.
  Here is a depicted space, "...which as an optional content of form, as chimaera of memory, and as the glare of
  a supposed acquaintance ... never appears itself," but instead, as Ederer's text continues, forms " architecture
  of the invisible, the absent, there where the representational breaks off." 12
  There is the cathedral, where Josef K. discovered lights that had possibly previously not yet been there, where
  space congealed through the increasing darkness, as though simultaneously filling with matter and disappearing.
  In the story, time stands still. The space leaks from its borders and the darkness expands it to a size nearly
  unbearable for Josef K. 13 The de-coupling of signified and signifier should not be misunderstood as a replacement
  or alternative for meaning; instead, the contents are "preserved" in both senses of the term: maintained
  and taken away.






  1 Kafka's original German title, Der Process, has the double meaning of a court trial and a process or procedure.
  2 Benjamin, Walter, "Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of his Death," from Jüdische Rundschau, 1934,

     translated by Harry Zohn in Illuminations, 1968
  3 Jacques Derrida/Alan Bass, Positions, University of Chicago Press: Chicago 1981, p. 33,
  4 Colomina, Beatriz, "Introduction," in ibid, (ed.) Sexuality & Space, Princeton Architectural Press: New York 1992.
  5 Pierre Bourdieu, Physical Space, Social Space and Habitus, University of Oslo: Oslo 1996, p.13.

     Last visited June 17, 2013
  6 Heisenberg, Werner, "The Meaning of Beauty in the Exact Sciences" (lecture in 1969). English: last visited 15 June 2013. In (German):

     Heisenberg, Schritte über Grenzen. Gesammelte Reden und Aufsätze, Munich 1973. pp. 303f.
  7 According to the basic tenet of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.
  8 A crisis, which Hugo von Hofmannsthal so eloquently attests to in his famous text The Lord Chandos Letter:

    "Everything came to pieces, the pieces broke into more pieces, and nothing could be encompassed by one idea.

     Isolated words swam about me." Hofmannsthal, Hugo, The Lord Chandos Letter, transl. Joel Rotenberg, New York

     Review of Books: New York 2005, p. 122.
  9 Cf. Butler, Judith, "Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity," Routledge: New York and London 1990.
10 Ederer, Silvia: light shapes the shadow, from the text for the exhibition at Kunstraum Bernauer, Vienna, 9 March to

    May 1, 2013.

11 Koch, Gertrud, "Cosmos in Film: On the Concept of Space in Walter Benjamin's 'Work of Art Essay,'" in

    Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (eds.) Deconstruction and Experience, Routledge: New York 2002 pp. 209, 210.
12 Ederer, see footnote 9
13 Franz Kafka, The Trial, transl. David Wyllie, Planet e Book: Australia 2012, p. 249.




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