Caitlin Franzmann

Invisible movements
Metro Arts, Brisbane
16 July - 2 August, 2014

Invisible Movements again demonstrates Caitlin Franzmann’s distinctive sensitivity to spatial ambience—both light and sound—via an elemental composition of video, light, sound, static sculpture, an esoteric newspaper and one-night performance. The installation’s pace, somewhere between slowness and staidness, seemed eager to make space for contemplation. (Meditative but not annoyingly new-agey.) On screen, the video’s lone protagonist sat alone in a café reading a newspaper unremarkably, while the multi-tasking restlessness of the composition pushed ahead. Ticking, clicking, tacking sounds (a dripping pipe and Istanbul’s ubiquitous Okey chips) kept time, while also traveling in stereo. LED lights behind the screen emphasised its solid objecthood, and only occasionally behaved as intermezzo between scenes. At the far end of the gallery, a four-armed wooden and stone apparatus called out for bodies to turn it and perform.

This exhibition at Metro Arts is the outcome of Franzmann’s artist residency at Torna, Istanbul in early 2014. Most of the work has already been shown at Torna, but for this iteration, it was transplanted back into Franzmann’s originary context. Making international relationships and conversations is the most basic tenet of such programs, however, at the core of what Franzmann has produced is an interrogation of such connections—visible and otherwise. In this something is made sensible and, in unequal parts, withheld. (‘Invisible Movements’ already sounded spectral and potentially melancholic, didn’t it?) Franzmann’s work is reminiscent of Mike Nelson’s incredibly byzantine installation, ‘Istanbul’, in the British Pavilion for the Venice Biennale of 2009. There are clear differences—not least of which is Franzmann’s restrained taxonomy of site. Still, material has been collected and transported from this (the same) place. I have a sense that Franzmann is into psychogeography, yet I also recognise something of the purposeful anthropologist’s approach. (One can also get a sense of this in Franzmann’s divination card project Magical Thinking (2014), which borrows a performative formula from occult traditions to reveal that projection is always already part of the game when it comes to visual analysis.) 

In an interview with Torna, Franzmann explains time as an ultimately ungraspable part of being, though something that is seemingly visible/palpable in a city via construction, transit, etcetera.1 Her newspaper’s printed pages of geometric designs, constellated dots, blurred images and a singular entry of concrete poetry (a meditation on progress) are explained as ‘personal speculations on time, which stem from established symbols for, and ideas of, time, movement and nothingness’.2 Franzmann mines the opaque libidinal plane for ‘moments that are not so visible—in the beat of our hearts, the secret impacts of eye contact, and the feelings of togetherness that can exist in a street protest or at a dance party’. On the exhibition’s opening night a performance activated the static sculpture and was thereafter reinserted into the exhibition as video. The performance and its documentation, reflecting neither protest nor party exactly, was/is a coming together of bodies made uniform in draped and hooded grey for the collective endeavour of slowly rotating the three-dimensional cross. The four performers garb and carefully measured movements manage to simultaneously reference monastic ritual, collective labour, cyclic time, and futility. Watching this, a specific point from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s entropic observations comes to mind: in 1971, Lévi-Strauss observed, ‘man’s’ Janus-headed fate of being both solely capable of a rational, emotional, political, moral (etc) life all the while knowing—without question and by this very virtue—the temporal limitations placed on embodied existence.3 

Thus one possible reading of Invisible Movements is to see it as an act of durational attention and a memorialisation of some thing/time that could otherwise be forgotten. Perversely, or inversely, however, there is a (somewhat) new kind of cultural anxiety that is neither anticipated nor captured in Lévi-Strauss’s 20th century text/thinking and is equally relatable to Franzmann’s work: that we are in fact too visible. As a cultural movement ‘Normcore’ has been somewhat misinterpreted to mean the look of nothing. But, as Kate Crawford, in a recent article for The New Inquiry ‘The Anxieties of Big Data’, is careful to point out, it is still very much symptomatic of current cultural anxieties: ‘the cultural idea of disappearing has become cool at the very historical moment when it has become almost impossible because of big data and widespread surveillance’.4 Under this light, Franzmann’s performance in Invisible Movements reemerges as an act trapped in its own feedback loop. This moment/movement—which happened, was recorded and then shown as documentation—becomes a metaphor for the surveillance of daily life (and art?) and what may once have passed invisibly but is now likely captured. Through her own series of Invisible Movements, Franzmann pushes us to consider a teetering threshold between wanting to see and remember, and maintaining the right to privacy—or at least the possibility to forget and be forgotten.

Caitlin Franzmann, Everensel Kate (Universal Cafe), 2014. Video still.

Installation view, Metro Arts. Courtesy the artist. 

Invisible Moments, 2014. Video still of performance.

notes: 

1. ‘Caitlin Franzmann: Invisible Movements’, Torna Conversations #1. Accessed 15 August 2014, http://www.tornaistanbul.com/conversations.html

2. Ibid.

3. Claude Lévi-Strauss The Naked Man: Mythologiques, Volume 4, (published in French 1971), translated by George Steiner in Nostalgia for the absolute, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto, 1974, p.35.

4. ‘Normcore’ is a neologism branded by New York City-based trend forecasters K-Hole that entered the style lexicon sometime in 2013 and is currently visible on the street via its associated dorkwear vibe. In Crawford’s dazzlingly insightful reading ‘Normcore’ is where mass consumerism and mass surveillance coalesce. By way of further context, in this article Crawford unpacks the ‘Squeaky Dolphin’ PowerPoint deck from the Edward Snowden leaks last year to reveal certain strategies playing out in Big Data’s expansionist program. One of Crawford’s key points is how, in an effort to make sense of the incredible amounts of data collected by their clandestine mass-communication surveillance programs, the United States National Security Agency and British Government Communications Headquarters et al are now desperately looking to augment traditional data analysis with tools belonging to the social sciences. Most significantly, what these leaks allow us to see is the other half of surveillance anxiety—that of the surveillers. Kate Crawford, ‘Big Date Anxieties’, The New Enquiry, published 30 May 2014, Accessed 30 July 2014, http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-anxieties-of-big-data/