It should look as if the chair were moving through the room. Or rather like a picture of a chair moving through the room, as if the space itself were a movie or as if a movie appeared in space instead of on a surface. A 3-D-movie, but rather based on sculpture and early trick films than on contemporary technology for enhancement of the illusion of depth in motion pictures. The special effects of Georges Méliès’ works from the infancy of cinema is often said to have a phantasmagorical quality that permits us to see in them a continuation of what was known as phantasmagoria during the revolutionary years at the end of the 18th century: a particular kind of theater where images of sculls and demons , skeleton and ghosts were projected from mobile projectors onto screens, walls and smoke. I is not impossible that this tradition is brought to life again in this exhibition, with a power to unbind the spectator from space and time – all the while pointing the strangeness of everything out to us, here and now. —-Svensk version av texten här

When I write this, Peter Geschwind’s work does not yet exist. It is only a ghost from the future. There is something of an inverted science-fiction to it. By the somewhat jerky movements of this piece (at least in the test model of it that I saw), the audience finds itself projected to the time when the motion picture was invented. It is like taking part of an imaginary optical technology from back then, a technical isolate which did not have a part in the evolution leading to the motion picture or to any other optical device that has survived. In that sense, an alternative history emanates from this exhibition. – Or is it the other way around? Isn’t it the 19th century that repeats itself in this piece in a guise that it could not have had at the time (for technical reasons, although in principle, it could have had it)? It might very well be that this work reactivates a sensibility from the past, but conditioned by later experiences. If that’s the case, we could have a science-fiction like experience of our contemporary situation, viewed in the light of, and as, a the past, i.e. we would see it from the point of view of the future, a past future or a future past.

What is it about, this will to three dimensional motion picture? At the beginning of the 19th century, the image (a mental image, for example a perception) was no longer understood as an immediate copy of an object. Immediacy was replaced by a process in time, synthesizing a flux of stimuli into an image. This flux does not only come from the outside: the eye responds to stimuli by creating visual phenomena all by itself. If you for example look at a diptych, white on the one side, magenta on the other and first concentrate on the latter one before switching, then the white side will turn into green. An after-image has appeared and blended into the picture. This means that the image not only has extension in space, but also in time, and that it is not a still image, but a moving one since it transforms itself from being white/magenta to being green/magenta. Thus, it is no longer possible to understand the visible world as an immediate visual transfer from object to subject, but must be regarded as a plane common to both subject and object, to which both of them has contributed. It is a surface constituted by the way subject and object affect each other in the visual, or in the sensible – “a world of affects with the same rank of reality as our drives and affects”, as Nietzsche wrote, calling this world will to power. The visual world is then almost like a film-screen (but three dimensional, at least) where images move and change.

But even though the image concealed a process, the 19th century still considered it as in principle a still. Movement was attributed to bodies out there, in the world, not to the images inside the subject (nor to the ones hanging on a wall). This situation offered two possibilities to connect movement and image. Either, movement was thought to be a secondary phenomena, only existing in between poses. A movement of this kind was possible to recreate through putting several images of similar poses in a row, and show them in a rapid sequence – the invention of moving picture. Or you consider the bodies as images, and then movement become a primary phenomenon, that which is directly given (and this was Henri Bergson’s and Nietzsche’s solution), as in the transformation of the diptych mentioned above.

Peter Geschwind could be said to use both solutions in order to do something else with them. His image of a chair is a real chair: in that sense, the image is a body. Then he takes multiple chairs, puts them in a row and lets the light travel, from spot to spot, thus giving rise to a sensation of movement, a mental image-movement. Of course, this combination is not optimal if your aim is to create an illusion. But, Geschwind is probably not interested in the most efficient solution, in terms of illusion, but in the relation between appearance and reality. It is a traditional locus for art; the point where appearance and being merge and the appearance manifests its own degree of reality at the same time as reality manifests its degree of fiction. But in Geschwind’s work, being and appearence do not relate in quite such a traditional manner. He does not want them to merge. Instead, he wants tocreate a borderland between them, as large as possible, where the proceeding of things is different from the ones of being and of appearance, even though all the functions come from these two realms.

How make the illusory and fictional more real without simulating reality? Decrease its level of perfection. For a long time, perfection was a measure of reality or being. Thus, God was the most real being, the being with the highest degree of reality, since his perfection was the greatest. In arts today, it is almost the opposite: a sense of reality is often communicated by the very lack of perfection in an image (either in terms of composition or of technology). The rhetorical function that poor images have, is that of expressing a certain urgency and importance in recording events, an importance that is superior to that of appearance or the perfection of the image. Just think of all the pictures of war, taken with a cell phone: obscure blurred shapes in green light. The value of these pictures does not reside in clearly showing us something, in documenting the appearance and details of something, but in recording the existence, here and now, of something (a war), and making the images instantly accessible. The reverse side of this is that the poor images also give the impression that they actually have an audience, and that fast distribution is the reason for the images low quality. Access is more important than perfection; the image’s existence is more important than its essence. The message has to come across, that’s all that matters. That is also why the image quality of many movies we see today is not that much superior to what it was during the tender childhood of the motion picture.

That is the locus where Geschwind establishes his borderland. He takes the thought of reality and appearance to a meta-level, and applies it to illusions: if the illusory movement is made in a less illusory manner, it will appear to be more real to us, in spite of our calling its bluff. Which in its turn enhances the illusory power of it… This weird logic, which makes every unmasking reveal a more realistic, i.e. more illusory, mask, is one of the reasons for me to use the word “phantsmagoria” when speaking about this work of Geschwind’s. In this installation, our sense of reality is like an affective after-image. When we are not seduced by the spectacle, but see through it, we get a feeling of reality that we transfer to the illusion. And when it happens, the installation has suddenly become an image inside of which we suddenly find ourselves, like in a phantsmagoria.

All these twists of logic and turns of time (the past as our present viewed from the point of view of the future; decrease in illusion = increased illusion, etc.) that we have seen are to me truly phantasmagorical. But there is also another side to it. Some of that which we reckon as being real sticks to a movement of the image that is proper to early motion pictures, the effect of a few frames less per second than we are used to today. I believe that it is the association to time passed, provoked by old movies, that finds it way into Geschwind’s piece – but also the sensation of phantomatic technology that several new inventions, like the telephone, gave rise to. I think I got that sensation when receiving an automatic Facebook message, telling me to reconnect with a person there who, although dead, still had an account. All on its own, technology provokes feelings of forlornness, solitude, oblivion and death that may give this installation – and the audience – the quality of an undead, of a restless spirit. I also imagine that this piece will be reminiscent of a ghostlike roller coaster for one single person, transforming the exhibition space into an amusement park that is also purgatory or at least some kind of place for undead people. I do not quite understand why this work triggers off that kind of existential, slightly moral ideas. But the fact that these ideas come to my mind, pictures of death, of strange modes of life and a spiritual reality of peculiar proceedings, bears witness to the phantasmagorical quality of this work.

Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen