Contents under Pressure
During the past year, Renate Buser has been working on several pictoral themes. Black and white large format photographs dealing with issues of the body have been selected for this exhibition.
These images have been meticulously glued to a smooth pristine white wall somewhat suggesting a "Silver Screen" the better to dramatize the black and white tonalities of large format photographs Their disposition equally suggests a silent cinematic narrative. The images, figurative in nature, target a truncated body (an arm, a torso, a leg, a fist). The models head has been deliberately eliminated from the composition as if to emphasize anonimity. Now the spectator can concentrate on elements of the figure. Renate Buser draws the viewerinto the work in several ways. First, by focussing our immediate attention on the extremely tactile blacvk and white visual contrasts between substance and form-crisp ,tonal variations of a matter that partially covers elements of afemale body. On further examination, this tactile substance can be identified for what could be shavin cream or possibly "Dream Whip" a questonably delectable desert topping. An element of humour deliberately interjected by the artist ? The surreal qwualities of the imagery is now clearly in focus. The photographic image retains its persuasive power in its transformed -manipulated form in combination with other aspects of the artist's own interpretation of pictural representation such as rich contrasts of lights and darks. Several new meanings are brought to the reading of the figure. The foamy material used as icing on the body ( cake) is clearly reminiscent of a DADA sensibility. Many of the Dadaists invested a new meaning to their images while also projecting a persuasive poetic power. André Breton was to have said....." a true photography of thought -where the creative , the hallucinatory faculties are left free to roam through a subtle tonal vehicle, an often formless but suggestive field in which the spectator is invited to indulge his/her imagination".
It is of interest to note that in 1924, Man Ray photographed Marcel
Duchamp while his hair and face were in thick white lather during a shave
and shampoo! The image was used by Duchamp to create thirty 'Bonds' to finance
his experiments at the Roulette tables in Monte Carlo.
The photographic image became a lithograph of a green roulette table , bearing a red and black wheel with it's numbers, in the center of which was a portrait of himself.
While an element of humour prevails in Renate Buser's recent photographs,
there is unquestionably a powerful subtext at work here.
A geometry begins to reconstruct itself from the body's primary matter. The artist is suggesting that to understand the Social Body (the Political body) one must better understand one's own flesh first. These body armatures portray truncated lathered parts that have been sensually applied with foam in a manner that could suggest methaphors for what can be interpretde as perhaps protector belts-a cloak, sheilds, etc., often refered to in asymbolism of mythological vocabularies . Embedded in such tales are potent images that allow us to imagine what "true aliveness " of the female body really is.
Like many artists of her generation, Renate Buser confirms that in a culture dominated by the media , through the use of the photographic image, they continue to control the status quo. As such, mediation must be examined very closely for it's all too often oppressive objectives. The subtle humour of the artist's work and pictoral content can be equally retaliatory and vigilantly political in the messages her work suggests. She is grounded in her respect for technical challenges. She also has what seems like a passion for abstraction. Renate Buser has a need to play with notions of transformation of the body both figuratively and metaphorically. Through her camera lense Buser's subject matter successfully construct themselves into other beeings-animate or inanimate, into topographical landscapes or into just plain fantasy. Her images continue to find in the body a subject of study with infinite potential both aesthetically and politically.
Brena Wallace, curator of the exhibition in Occurrence, Montreal
Mois de la photo, Montreal 1997