Artist features

Peter Welz

Peter Welz’s complex video installations explore the dynamic relationships between figure and space in a variety of ways. A trained sculptor, Welz places special demands on the moving image and questions the conventions of staging.

All images Courtesy by the artist

In contrast to the usual presenta1on of films, in dark projection rooms or on large screens, he treats video screens, projectors, and monitors like sculptures by placing them in the middle of the room. Viewers move between the projection surfaces on which the film is being played. At times they walk behind the picture; at times they stand in front of it. They view it from an oblique, menacingly foreshortened angle or head-on from the perspective of the original camera. They become part of the cinematic image itself. They steer their bodies and gazes not only through the space, but also through a sculpture and a moving image. The boundaries between work and viewer dissolve.

Peter Welz’s expansive moving-image sculptures are idiosyncratic, contemporary monuments to personali1es who have fascinated and influenced him. He sees them as a new form of portrait, conceived for various media and combining diverse techniques and crea1ve elements. From film, video, and photography to drawing, painting, and sculpture, from dance and performance to installa1on, Welz employs all the tools of our multimedia, cross- over art world. Nevertheless, his use of form is clear, precise, coherent, monolithic, and at times monumental. At its core is a person we see in a new light. The first of these portraits—or better yet, the first of these moving-image sculptures with the character of a portrait—was created by Peter Welz for the Louvre in Paris in 2005. It was dedicated to the British painter Francis Bacon and was subsequently shown in dozens of exhibitions worldwide.

Portrait #1 [Final Unfinished Portrait Francis Bacon]
encompasses all the essential elements of Welz’s cinematic- sculptural portrait series. At the heart of the multimedia work is a multipart video installation that was created in collabora1on with the US-American dancer and choreographer William Forsythe. Forsythe moves in reaction to Bacon’s ‘final unfinished self- portrait’. The camera captures Forsythe from a variety of perspectives – frontal, the side and from above as in understanding a figurative sculpture in space.

Portrait #2 [Casa Malaparte] shifted Welz’s focus to an architectural portrait. He captures the atmosphere of the writer Curzio Malaparte’s former sanctuary on Capri. Embedded in the landscape, the architectural structure is staged as an isolated retreat. It is a portrait of the writer himself as he described it as a ‘… house like me: glum, stale and rigorous.’ In this second portrait, Malaparte’s house is seen not only as a structure but also as a choreographic space. A narrative is created between that structure and the larger landscape, capturing its appeal and isolation.

We are drawn into several sea views from the windows in casa malaparte [window 01], 2014, looking onto the surrounding rocks and islands. The video projections are installed on large aluminum frames that edge out into the gallery space. They create a strong physical presence that alludes to the modernist principles of Malaparte’s house. Yet we cannot see the interior of the rooms. Like Malaparte’s home, Welz’s installation provides calmness and seclusion against the splendor of the view on display.

Portrait #3 [Antonioni and Vitti] is a hybrid work between an architectural sculpture and a video installation using found footage. Portrait #3 is dedicated to one of the major film director and best known for his “trilogy on modernity and its discontents”. Michelangelo Antonioni redefined the concept of narrative cinema producing enigmatic and intricate mood pieces favouring contemplation and focusing on image over story, as in Red Desert (1964). Antonioni’s first film in colour is a film about a woman trying to survive in the modern world of cultural neurosis and existential doubt. Renowned for its scenic design, the work largely takes place in industrial landscapes that have been interpreted as a correlative of the unease, aliena1on, and vivid perceptions of the main character, Giuliana (Monica Vitti).
Peter Welz uses a sculptural and architectural device made out of steel – often found as a spacial device in modern architecture – deriving its basic structure at the ‘Kino International’ in Berlin, a premiere cinema of the former GDR. The artist replaces the design of the destroyed panels, originally in glass, by white wooden panels as a projection screen.
The slats and panels cut up the projected image depending on the posi1on of the viewer in space, so that the video projection is visible as a whole only at one particular viewpoint, otherwise split up and is rearranged anew by the given structure. The projected video sequence focuses on a very crucial moment of Red Desert, when Monica Vim is asked to cry. It is the most vulnerable, private and powerless moment, and the very point where the fictional reality overlaps with the actual reality. During the filming Michelangelo Antonioni corrects the scene by walking  into the frame twice and finally neglects this sensible moment in the final version, as it would have altered the whole outcome.
Furthermore he projected an extract of the screen-test directly onto the white glitter curtain system covering the cinema screen between presentations.

The Portrait #4 is about the Canadian artist and curator AA Bronson, who enjoys cult status as cofounder of the artist collective General Idea. Bronson stands alone in an undefined space. Two cameras revolve around him. When one of them captures him from the front, the other is at his back. Like planets, they orbit Bronson at their center. One occasionally hears footsteps and the whirring of the cameras. The two sequences are projected onto two monumental screens positioned at angles in the exhibition space. The cameras’ different perspectives are understood in relation to each other; they converge and interlock. The central staging of a single figure without narration or scenic embedding is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. Welz consciously follows this tradition, while developing his own aesthetic and methodical approach. Unlike Warhol’s actors, however, AA Bronson is not limited to looking at the lone camera. Bronson stands calmly, as if in the eye of a hurricane, undeterred by the ceaseless, circular movements of the recording devices.

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Tique | publication on contemporary art #3: Six Questions