behind curtains

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Behind the curtains: transparency and fulfilment
Flashback! As if this photo were speaking to itself: Look at me, look at me, take a good look at me until I’m see-through from your gaze. That is the kind of thing this photo would say and it would photograph your gaze from inside out in doing so. Transparency and media, window and windowsills with flowerpots! Pot plants would always be symbolic in this case, a secret iconology of the gaze from inside to out, backlit in the photograph. That’s what photographs are for: to get a perspective on everything. And the longer you stare at this photograph, the act of photography itself becomes gradually more transparent as a part of a past life, and life behind curtains takes on a new meaning and you think up something to add to this when looking at this private view and these windows that have offered the hermeneutic frame for world interpretation since Leibniz invented monads in the eighteenth century or art history invented iconic difference. And you notice that you always invent something new with your memories or possible memories. And these curtains and window sills form a metaphysical, intermediate realm and outside, it is late summer and the roses are in bloom and the curtains and the flowers will become transparent but this is now a metaphor because you are not getting anywhere with your interpretation of this photograph. And you desperately try to rehearse the perspective from the ‘70s or ‘80s and reconstruct its “Schöner Wohnen”* connotations from home improvement magazines that you could buy back then at station newsagents in Bamberg, Wanne-Eickel and Buxtehude and to think of the never-ending retreat into the private realm and the Red Army Fraction out there as a counter reaction to it as well. And you remember those TV pictures from X where, after weeks of dragnet investigation, the police finally surrounded the terrorists’ apartment and in the neighbouring houses, people stood behind those ADO** curtains with the golden borders and looked out of the windows with very determined stares and the ADO curtains twitched a little as they did so and the pot plants too from breathing, and looked at how the police tried to tackle the RAF by talking to them, and said they should lay down their guns and come out with their hands up over their heads. And those surrounded stood behind some kind of curtains too and breathed, pressed against the material. When curtains twitch, I always have to think of the Red Army Fraction. Rainer Totzke

*”Schöner Wohnen” is a leading German home improvement and interior decoration magazine, first published in the 1960s.
**ADO is a leading German curtain manufacturer that was especially popular in the 1960s.

View across a threshold
A windowsill with plants; their various silhouettes make it possible to make out what kind. A corner window; a view out onto fir branches, an apartment on the second floor of a detached house, curtains that hang halfway so that the plants have enough light, further to the right a balcony wall that catches the brightness of the daylight.
Photographed boundaries. Drapes, gaps, distances between the plant panorama on the windowsill and the trees in the garden. Elements that separate: the glass pane, balcony wall, backlight. One’s gaze lingers on the contours of the plants, drifts over them, traces the outlines of the leaves, draws lines of sight in the rhythm of the curtains. No view out. The gaze lingers on the glass pane. On the gauzy layer of membrane facing the outside. A view of an in-between space.
Perhaps there is nothing to see in this photograph other than the distance between the private space and the outside world and the Not being close enough to things. The outside light falls inside and leaves the contours of a furnished interior. The photograph seems to have captured the edges of things by representing the silhouettes and contours of things. Contours of thresholds.
In the centre of the photograph is a dark, middle wall; so dark it could pass as a shadow. An area of the unfulfilled, the empty state of mind, absence or the corner of a room, a depository for a heavy velvet curtain that cancels out all views, whether intrusive ones or those from inside out.
Here in this dark area of the photograph, an empty space begins, a blind spot. The distance of the photographer, his Not being close enough to the things, the indeterminability of his gaze, the ambivalence between the presence of the photographer and his physical invisibility – this eerie presence lies in the dark area of the room, in the corner. The threshold view of the room, even here. Birgit Szepanski

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