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Man and Medium - Philosophy and Art by Dr. Phil. Tatjana Schönwälder-Kuntze

Man and Medium

Central to Karina Smigla-Bobinski's art is a human being. All mankind is meant by this, the viewers of art and the artist herself, although obviously these two categories occupy different positions. By implementing varying and various media, especially contemporary electronic and digital ones, the differences between these positions are accented and the works of art engage, involve the viewer, thus completing, indeed perfecting the experience, the process.

Although the artist sets the stage and is a key player in the initial trajectory of the process, providing ideas, discovering thoughts and their connections, she views the spectators not only as recipients but active co-creators which alter her work. It is through and with the audience that the works arranged and then "left" in the exhibition rooms develop and experience their creative fulfilment.
"A work of art no longer belongs to the artist, once he has released it. It then becomes a part of the world, effects it, changes it, and is itself in the process of confrontation with others effected, changed." (Karina Smigla-Bobinski) The delicate task of appropriately and adequately mediating between the content, which Karina Smigla-Bobinski has conceived and presented, and the audience is given to the medium specifically selected to accommodate this purpose. The importance of balancing the scales between the content and form of the medium with its artistic function as well as its direct and appropriate, indeed almost symmetric correspondence with the audience requires that neither outweigh or overpower the other. Neither can the artistic engagement in the mediating interaction between the medium and audience be inappropriate or asymmetric.

The video installation "TÊTE-À-TÊTE" clearly demonstrates what is meant by this: the fundamental idea is to show "our" shadows. To stand opposite one's own self as a reflection produces always and only the same image. In this installation however the shadow of one's self is consistently created anew, changing each time a new viewer enters the scene. In this way the entire work is renewed, updated, personalized through the presence of the different visitors, while simultaneously and immediately engaging, involving the viewers, including the artist herself.

Philosophy and Art

Not only does the question of humankind and the human condition with its unique form of being, its interactional forms and necessities, its weaknesses and strengths occupy a central thematic focus in art, but also in philosophical discourse. The artist's personal artistic goal is to articulate this philosophic discourse not in words and concepts but works of art. Therefore one could draw a parallel conclusion that her work is dialectical art, since it is through its to- and fro movement between the artist and audience, mediated, contained, guided by an appropriate and adequate medium, that this momentum originally develops and is developed.

In philosophy "dialectical" refers to the enrichment of ideational content and this mutually beneficially altering process which is occurs by being embedded in ever more complex, varying application contexts. Incrementally comprehensive understanding takes place when this process is originally perceived and the different aspects, which although apparently antithetical, unified (conflated) in a new whole, a synthesis constituted by these very differences, united in and through its dynamic tension.
Another dialectical process is revealed when the creative process itself is consciously studied: the artist selects an insight, a problem, a situation from its environmental embedding. This "extraction" becomes a new idea, a new thought, which in the artistic process of selection experiences alteration and which experience in turn alters its context, that is to say: is released as a new, efficacious thought into the world. This is how art alters the world in mirroring it.
The "Routes" demonstrates how "single-ular" an individual qua single drop is. Because the drops are in motion, the faces they represent and reflect alter themselves and this speaks to a kind of plurality in singularity, perhaps the different rolls lived in daily life. This "single-ular" individual is nevertheless a part of society, for there flow several, indeed many drops.
When one carefully observes these drops, it becomes evident that the faces in the several other, the many drops are actually all one and the same face, which underscores the singularity and particularity, the "single-ness" of the many. Since however not all drops flow at the same pace, the singular, the individual timing of each individual is addressed.
Observing this installation engages, involves the observer and enable him to observe and thus comprehend the dialectical movement between the individual and society, the single and the many, back through the observation and in the process of observation. This observation is a kind of seduction, because it moves thinking and feeling into a particular direction. The discovery of this direction, this dialectical movement and dynamic tension does not take place in the intellect, but in and through the evocation of feelings, spontaneous associations and as such it remains preverbal.
Maximal momentum, vivacity, approximation and evocation of all that is alive is achieved through Karina Smigla- Bobinski's interactive video installations, which from Socrates to Hegel, Heidegger to Sartre was and remains a prerequisite for philosophy. On the other hand, installations by their very nature are ephemeral and illustrate the character of life in its ultimate dialectical antithesis: death. To grasp and enjoy the essential, the eternal in art as in philosophy means that we comprehend its ability to communicate the complex interplay between becoming, being and dissolving as a dialectical process and not a final result.

München, im März 2004
Dr. Phil. Tatjana Schönwälder-Kuntze
Department für Philosophie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Translation: Saskia Bobinski