Ingeborg Tyssen: The voice of silence

Paris 1991–1992: A series of eight untitled works
Artspace, Sydney

FRAGMENTATION OF THE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL BODY-for the transient with few ties to his history or nation, for the migrant with little claim to any continuing identity, quotation is perhaps the only way to articulate one's peripheral, partial and intermittent presence in the discourses of culture. And this is because a fragmented and detached lifestyle is already quotation, a combination, redistribution, mobile, intersecting and plural use of culture.

Nelly Richard , "Love in Quotes", Hysterical Tears: Juan Davila, ed. Paul Taylor, Victoria,1985


The initial photographs for The Voice of Silence were taken at a number of different 'cultural' sites in Paris. lngeborg Tyssen's selection of anonymous 'relics', images from Antiquity, copies, originals, pieces, details, fragments and shards of figures, columns and drapery, when seen from a colonial perspective, echoes the weight and collapse of European influence. In this body of work, Tyssen focusses on the idea of perceived cultural experience; starting with original material, she imposes a process of re-assemblage which although analogous to memory is highly formalized.

On one level the work questions the idea of the cultural pilgrimage-that journey which can only be made by someone apparently (dis)located or displaced from the centre of a particular cultural heritage/civilization. Inherent in this journey is the suggestion that through a physical proximity to these 'objects' it is possible to be relocated or at least to come to understand one's own position in time and history.

Contained within a single frame, each pair of photographs has a synergistic effect. The two images often complement and parallel each other, 'making up' missing parts or reinforcing a suggested feeling in the other. In pairs they also manifest the notion of a dialogue-not just a visual exchange but a voice within the silence. The viewer is positioned to see an image which is suggestive of a panorama- not that it has been photographed as such but Tyssen subsequently uses the technique of flattening and elongating the space. Experience has been orchestrated; ordered to produce an almost 'stereoscopic' view in which two images conflate to form a panorama.

Here the 'split-screen' effects blurs and invites the viewer into this imaginary space.

The use of an elongated space also sets up the possibility, in the mind of the viewer, that the photographs might actually 'pan' a particular predetermined distance where every image forms part of a logical sequence which portrays an actual site or location. Although not an installation, The Voice of Silence surrounds the viewer- in the way film does-leading him or her into the location and requiring the same suspension of disbelief. Just as is the case with a film sequence you remain aware that you are seeing through the eyes of another individual.

By focussing on details which emerge out of darkness-a darkness which is accentuated by the absolutely matt finish of the works- Tyssen gives the sense of fragments of memory alluding to a specific migrant experience or recollection. Within the formal and physical arrangements of this body of work is the potential for completely interchangeable parts-although the work is fixed, it acknowledges the possibilities of other individual experiences of migration.

Here, too, is the idea of difference in cultural myths and personal realities-on one hand the perception of European culture still implies an Australian cultural cringe and perpetuates a European concept of 'civilisation', but this now operates in a political and social climate advocating the flip side-being a shift to Asia and a denial of the perceived importance of European influences and power. So, where does this leave the European migrant's experience and perception of culture? Further fragmented and dislocated : arguably this is the position of all Australians lndigenous, non-European and European-and from this dispossession now comes the greatest possibilities for a society that has an heterogeneous concept of culture not delimited by a single standpoint.

The Voice of Silence allowed the viewer to glimpse Tyssen's experience of a cultural gap or disruption and touched our need to re-order and to accommodate our own experience outside of an imposed position of constructed identity.