The Spectres of Memory

by Claudia Slanar

The presence of time is underlined by the absence of human protagonists, at least in Claudia Larcher’s video animations. People may be present acoustically, in the objects we are shown, in the form of a voice slowly emerging from the background din only to quickly fade again or, in a more abstract way, as sound fragments indicative of human activity. Visually though, all human beings seem to have simply vanished, as if after an apocalyptic catastrophe, while their belongings have been perfectly preserved. “In its countless alveoli space contains compressed time. That is what space is for”, Gaston Bachelard writes in his “Poetics of Space”. Larcher’s works thus pose the question of their chronotype: How are setting and story connected, what do we learn from these places and the objects they contain, props that claim to have a function – living, homemaking, working – we never get to see?
On the one hand, Larcher’s films are studies of architecture (BAUMEISTER, HEIM) and its intrinsic character. On the other hand, these are shown to be especially in the context of the compression of time, as reconstructed rather than deconstructed spaces of memory. In HEIM it is a typical family dwelling – perhaps the artist’s parents’ house as the title suggests – whose interior is meticulously recorded; in YAMA it is a montage of places Larcher visited when she was living in Japan.
Claudia Larcher’s technique of recording individual images then animated into virtual sequences and tracking shots, pans, tilts and parallaxes provides new perspectives on the extant architecture, thus broadening the narrative options. The films suggest movements where there is none, spaces start to move, they protrude and recede, jump forth and back, they expand or turn two-dimensional, they seem to be almost at bursting point and in the end they go back to where they started. This return to the point of departure is another distinctive feature of Larcher’s work, suggesting a narrative and visual cohesion that turns every video into a cosmos of its own following its own chronotopical logic.
These leaps in space and time may seem practically seamless. Much rather, though, the seams between the real and the virtual are folded into one another, giving the rooms a stage-like semblance that highlights the sinister within the homely. “The unconscious abides” (Bachelard) in these rooms and with them the past, experiences (traumatic or not), memories, dreams, déjà vu. Sometimes this unconscious literally rises to the surface, often buoyed by Constantin Popp’s dramatic scores hovering between operating noise ‘real’ sounds and abstract composition. These outbursts are sometimes delirious (BAUMEISTER) or repetitive (YAMA), often unsettling (HEIM) but always controlled (EMPTY ROOMS). Larcher’s “topoanalyses” make use of a laconic gesture of observation that is often at odds with the new perspectives and the rooms’ artificiality. Not least, this can be seen in the complex relationship between inside and outside, which is clear-cut only at first glance but fluid and keeps shifting. The boundaries of space are porous and dissolve, even glass doors are opaque most of the time and windows open up onto things threatening and surreal. Interiors eventually turn into the internal (that, is the triggered psychological state), which in some of Larcher’s works can actually be quite funny: carps at the window, a “dripping” sound score and echoes of Stanley Kubrick in Dornbirn’s broadcasting centre.

(from" the raw and the boiled", Viennale catalogue, 2013, p.276)