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Siegfried Zielinski


“Images of Wolves”

The eye had to pay a high toll during the process of civilization for being promoted to the highest rank in the hierarchy of sensual organs. It was converted into a device for detached perception, into a mere visual apparatus. Before this process began some 2000 years ago, seeing had been understood above all as a joy of discovering equal in rank to hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. What was viewed did not suffer, but was a sensation for the viewer, and vice versa: Whoever or whatever was being seen, would open itself fondly towards the viewer. Invisibility or inaudibility would mean rejection; in such a case, communication did not work.

Stephan Reusse’s “Thermovisions” use advanced media technologies. Yet they also tell a tale of the times when humans started thinking systematically about perception. Through a media-based process of translation, the eye is given access to what had been a sensorial privilege of the touch, namely the experience of temperature, of heat and of cold. Only in this way, an absent body may become visible. Its shape does not leave any impression in the empty space, its skin color does not inscribe any traces into a space that immediately forgets whether a body is beautiful or ugly. But the space will remember for a while if anything has penetrated it that is of a different temperature than the space itself. The thermograph is a special kind of differential writer. But only through the transformation in the photographic image the data gathered and registered by the sensor are transformed back into a sensation. The sober scientific structure is poeticized with aesthetic means.

Our ancestors understood the wolf to be a “devouring damage.” The tracks that wolves left to the eyes of the peasants were bloody, their presence meant danger and threat. The wolf was a hated animal that came from the cold and would retreat back into the cold. The wolf would represent the alien, the extraneous, something you had to keep out and to destroy. Reusse’s images, however, add a quality to the wolf that it never really had. In the expanded artistic moment, the beast enjoys a touch of tender affection. Only when the object of enmity has nearly been eliminated from reality, it may unfold its fascination to people, may get both respect and warmth: in its state of an image.

Siegfried Zielinski, Köln 2002

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