What I do is a lie, but it depicts the truth better than anything else.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
In Shanghai, Anita Gratzer exhibits a body of work that articulates her memory of lost stories, interest in Eastern traditions and forges links between them and the world as it is experienced today. Mourning the narratives that she finds, Anita Gratzer first preserves in the process of her work the printed fragments of antique books by transferring them into a new condition. Constructing clothes and sculptures out of these historical artefacts of a gone-by era, she simultaneously deals with hermetic narratives and analogue materiality.
Worn by the protagonists of her photographic work, these kinds of clothes cover up the relationship between the body and its symbolic representation by connecting the layers of historical materiality with contemporary personality. Anita Gratzer has experienced South- East Asia multiple times in the last decade and has worked in Japan, Korea and China at different artist residencies. The dichotomies of order and modernity and of creation and tradition, draw her awareness to the constant transformations undergone by those societies. Learning about Asian cultures, she delves deep into segments of the past, always keeping the human body at the center of her attention. As part of this focus, Anita Gratzer’s work is concerned with clothing being a symbol of culture, history, and tradition, as well as an expression of personal taste and individual sense of identity. Her interpretation of historic cuts used for clothing but executed using ancient books and private photographs, construct a multi-layered remembrance of the past citing cultural influence, colonialism and the female within society in East-Asia. Gratzer’s work demonstrates a kind of obsessive acquisition of reality. This utilization of the historical and the personal, lead way to the formation of a pseudo-memory with its own mythos.
Conducted by collecting different traces of personal memories, the set-up of the backdrop for each photograph differs in every scene and from person to person. Within this construction, which distances itself from any decorative intention, the mixture of elements produces portraits which feature the personal character of the protagonist out of their own timeline. Time does not stand still; it does not exist. It is not Anita Gratzer’s intention to reminisce about a historical past but to collide items of different centuries together in an attempt to avoid a singular time reference for her scenes. It is here that she negotiates the unique quality of all camera work, conserving the moment.
Therefore, it can not be compared to photography, when she recaptures the depicted scene in a post-process and communicates the result by changing the chemical layers of the crystalline structure of the film by scratching, bleaching and drawing on its surface. Using the unique materiality of photography, Anita Gratzer destroys and manipulates, digging the mirror-inverted and the color-inverted through the image’s physical layers. She erases the unique moment of photography and interweaves her inner expectation without any digital support. The repertoire ranges from unimpeded picture and sober excitement to baroque iconography to sophisticated room equipment. These works go beyond a historic citation or reenactment, they create their own mythos, a whole set of realities, entanglements and iconographic details. The pictures attempt to cling to the present, history and the outlook of individual life. Within this post-processing mode, she sometimes refocuses sections of the image, constructs inconsistent perspectives, places the portrayed in a cage, or a cramped room appears suddenly impenetrable and empty. During this activity, her search for a deeper inner order is made visible through the de- fragmentation of the body, the duplication of elements and the enhancements of the portrayed with the use of prosthesis. Perhaps represented as a torso, maybe deformed in a surreal appearance, the distortion of the human body becomes not an approach to mutilate but to enhance our perceptions. It follows the desire to structure reality and become an intense reference to the vulnerability of the human. In this moment other layers are to be unlocked, overlapping and repeating the discontinuity upon which our perception is based. When she adapts historical works of art with gestures of classical motifs, reality is reproduced and translated into a fading, distorted, mythological, elusory and alienating representation.
In this sense, it is not about a valid model, it is about modelling and thinking in possibilities, it is about designing and not about claiming. Behind the expressive portraits, we see a fragile artist whose eccentric methods of enquiry serve as a pattern of her special vitality to bring painting and photography into a more coherent union.
Shanghai Catalogue 2017