Sandra Rendgen

A central motif in Rebecca Wilton’s work is the exploration of historical superimpositions in both urban and rural environments seen in buildings, public spaces or in nature. Her work process resembles archaeological examinations in which she traces the cultural inscriptions of a location, making them visible by photographic means. In a carefully chosen pictorial language, she uncovers the layers of time that every site reveals. This opens up another aspect of Rebecca Wilton’s work: the difference between that which has taken place and that which is known, and their superimposition in the photographic image. Where do representation and that which is represented overlap? Where do they drift apart? Wilton’s probing interest focuses on the tension-filled nexus of knowledge and experience, of showing and seeing, which takes place in the photographic field. In this way, she attains the core of photographic representation: forms of making visible are doubted, and semantic determinations undermined.

In “moderngothic”, her new series of works, Wilton explores the architecture of early high-rise buildings. Her departure point is the lobby of the Deutschlandhaus in Berlin, in which the original architecture merges with signs of later usage to create a web of historical references. The building structure from the 1920s bears superimposed traces of renovations from the 1960s. Extensive use of the building was made by the Federation of expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen) which can be seen, for instance, in the mural depicting the city of Wroc?aw in a compa- rable past condition.

Out of these traces, Wilton develops a chain of associations which she links to further examples of early modern high-rise architecture. Delving into the preserved past of the mural, she portrays what is shown in the picture—the former Sparkasse building that still exists in the town hall square in Wroc?aw today. In a circular fashion, details of this architecture lead to further early high-rise buildings in Düsseldorf, Hamburg or Cologne.

Wilton’s carefully positioned views of buildings are contrasted with comparative shots of details and side scenes. Through repetition and subtle shifts or displacements in her close-ups, Wilton thematises photography as a technology of seeing and showing on the basis of which the indissoluble fault lines of photography can constantly be read: the status of the images remains modifiable. (2013)

Michael Wehren
Who Can Narrate Without Translating?
Rebecca Wilton – Memory / Out of Place

Since 2001, the photographer Rebecca Wilton has been examining the new central peripheries: the objects of a historical delocation of production, consumption, social life and history. The past and social life that once gave meaning to these places have vanished. Relegated to the sidetracks of history, these places have been withdrawn from the sphere of purpose, as a kind of fallow land. They are just as alien to the artist herself as they are to most viewers. Along with being delocated, these place have been estranged and no longer belong to our, or Wilton's, (hi)story. The photographs articulate this through their clear, objective style and their abstract, functional titles [1]. At the same time, they stop the machine of execution, the ruling phantasm of objectivity.

In all the photographs, we encounter a young woman (the photographer herself) on an exposed location wearing stereotypical clothes suited to the location's (now-missing) histories. Her visual entrance into the pictorial space expresses a mimetic act, or an act of mimicry, that is central to all the pictures. While she appropriates these places mimetically, she loses and relinquishes her identity, articulating the double violence of appropiation and objectivity. It's as if, through an invocatory action, she lends a body to the past.

Yet possesion does not take place, and this is cause for deepest concern, while also being a chance for »an emergence that turns ›return‹ into reinscription or redescription« [2]. Rebecca Wilton's works articulate resistance to the total sovereignty of the present, the necessity for converging with and dealing with the past, while at the same time they speak of the impossibility of its appropriation, as something irreducible.

»To historians who wish to relive an era, Fustel de Coulanges recommends that they blot out everything they know about the later course of history. There is no better way of characterizing the method with which historical materialism has broken. It is a process of empathy.« [3] Rebecca Wilton's photographs expose this desire for empathy, allow it to happen, and, at the same time, disturb and re-vision it. The historians' desire and the desire for history are exposed, and happen to us, with full ambivalence.

In a significant way, two pictures made in 2003 – Bücherei [Library] and Saal [Hall] – enter and redefine the scheme; they show not the wasting ruins of the twentieth, but places that are heavily frequented. Like the past, which is removed from any direct grasp, here the present is disturbed by the interference of mediality and its ghosts. It's not by accident that both photographs show places of cultural remembering, official culture, accumulation, continuity, and authority.

»And the sign of translation continually tells, or ›tolls‹ the different times and spaces between cultural authority and its performative practices ... in the words of de Man, ›puts the original in motion to decanonise it, giving it the movement of fragmentation, ... a kind of permanent exile‹.« [4]

The mimetic inscription of the witness is an experiment of translation, without the original, into an exposition of the desire for the lost continuity of the present. In the moment of answering and witnessing, Rebecca Wilton's ex-positions disturb the photographed places and the witnesses' statement. Thus they describe a trace of non-availability and strangeness of foreignness. In this sense, the photographs are like gestures: the Mitteilung of a Mittelbarkeit (mediacy) and thus a withdrawal. Being strange to the picture, being strange to our history, points to aisthesis as gap, a crack, an exterritorialization – aisthesis / memory out of place. Rebecca Wilton's works transgress desires here and now, the violent logic of appropiation and objectivity in the mimetic exposition of a medium that is libidinous and lethal.

[1] For example, Sprungturm [Diving platform], Turnhalle
[Gymnasium], Hotel, Kaufhaus [Departement store], and Disko
[2] Homi K. Bhabha, How Newness Enters the World: Postmodern
Space, Postcolonial Times and the Trials of Cultural Translation, in The
Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, 227.
[3] Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte, 253-254; Thesis
on the Philosophy of History, 256.
[4] Homi K. Bhabha, How Newness Enters the World, 228

from: Michael Wehren: Who can narrate without translating?, in: Mind The Map! History Is Not Given, Revolver-Verlag 2006, Frankfurt a. M., 75f