MANISHA JOTHADY: A Depiction is a Picture is a Picture …

One of René Magritte’s best known pictures shows an illusionistic painted pipe with the phrase “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”) written elegantly beneath it. By presenting an apparent contradiction the artist wanted to initiate thoughts about the relationship between an object, the noun referring to it and its visual representation. For even the most realistic reproduction of an object is not, according to Magritte, identical with the object itself. Consequently, he is not showing us a pipe that could be filled with tobacco and smoked but an image of a pipe. Incidentally, he went on playing with this motif in a range of variations throughout his life.

Now, when, in the series she made in 2014, Eva-Maria Raab concerns herself with the relationship between an object and its visual representation, she may be unconscious of working in the spirit of the Belgian Surrealist, but there can be no doubt that she is moving in the same semiotic direction as he did. She has entitled her tripartite sequence of pictures Ein Bild von einem Bild (A Picture of a Picture) and its first part
shows a white canvas stretched on a frame 30 x 40 cm in size. In the next step the artist shows us a depiction of that very first part in the ratio of 1:1 in size, now reproduced as a photographic print on canvas mounted on an image carrier of 45 x 60 cm. The third part of the work finally turns out to be a “picture of the picture of the picture” 60 x 80 cm in size.

Eva-Maria Raab is interested in translation processes and in principle photographs are the result of a translation process. In the photographic theories of the twentieth century the medium was reduced to the signtheory concept of indexicality, according to which the photographic image is a trace or effect of the photographed object specifically a depiction of the beams of light returned from an object to a light-sensitive carrier. This physically and chemically based indexicality underlies the truth claim of photography, which has, however, been developing cracks in the age of digital image production and manipulation. Eva-Maria Raab also reacts to this in Ein Bild von einem Bild, by emphasising the status of the photograph as an image or depiction not only in the title but also in the doubling of the subject and by having the photos not developed on light-sensitive paper but printed on canvas.

The artist also follows the same approach in the following series, which is entitled Von hinten wie von vorne (From the back as from the front). We look at the back of a stretcher frame covered with canvas with a canvasprinted photographic reproduction in the size-ratio of 1:1. One has to approach very closely to the two image objects if one is to become aware of the difference between the “subject” and its photo-graphic reproduction. A familiar effect in painting is the trompe-l’oeil, deception of the eye. In particular the work Trompe l’oeil, the Reverse of a Framed Painting, created by the Flemish Baroque painter Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts in 1670 catches one’s attention as a point of comparison for Raab’s works. When it leans against the wall in a collection or workshop, this painting is meant to seduce the viewer into picking it up and turning it around to find out what is on the presumed front side. An almost perfect illusion, which was able to reach its full effect when the viewer is disillusioned on discovering it.

In her series Palindrom (Palindrome) Eva-Maria Raab takes a corresponding experience of disillusionment to an extreme: the reverse of the picture is represented on the front so that the subject of the photograph and its photographic depiction become one in the image object. Form and content are congruent. In one exhibition the artist presented this work hanging freely from the ceiling, hovering over white pedestals. One could transform it correspondingly in one’s consciousness so that one could immediately catch sight of something that could not be seen just then. This matter of simultaneous presence and absence had already been announced in a series of black-and-white photos where Raab went in search of the impressions left by demolished buildings on the adjacent walls of neighbouring buildings. Schattenfassaden (Shadowwalls) is what she calls this series in a factual documentary manner. In Camera Lucida Roland Barthes speaks of “This is how it was” in order to point out that every photograph includes traces of the real and of the past. In the Schattenfassaden on the other hand, past and present, presence and absence are condensed into a documentation of the contradictory. In this not least, from the point of view of media theory, are the foundations of the convincing quality of Eva-Maria Raab’s works to be found.

text published in EIKON - International Magazine for Photography and Media Art, issue 91, Vienna, September 2015, p. 16-21


in dialogue
Andrew Tetzlaff in dialogue with Eva-Maria Raab for the exhibition "Silent Matter" at the RMIT School of Art Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, August-September 2013

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AT- You’ve grappled with the idea of silence in a number of your previous works—through sculptural installation (Silent Matter, 1m3 of silence), public performances (J’ai un cadeau pour vous), x-ray photographs (My head(phones)) and mock-merchandising (i-pluggg). Can you use your projects as conversational landmarks or vehicles to talk through your definition and views of silence?

EMR- For me it’s a way of making something visible, that you can’t see, that you can’t hold in your hands. The sculptural installation with the cubes of silence tries to store silence. The silence is hanging from the ceiling, locked in boxes. In the room you have several silent “sections”, little islands floating in space, moving slightly and forming a kind of landscape.

With the public performance it was more about making a collective and at the same time individual experience. I distributed earplugs to the people and we shared 1 minute of silence. Earplugs and mp3-players do have one thing in common: both serve to absorb noise. As a parody of the daily use of mp3-players, pluggg came into being: an object that combines earphones and earplugs as an allusion to the omnipresent noise in big cities as well as the habit of counterbalancing it with music. Silent cubes or earplugs, I use objects and media from daily life in order to be more conscious about the noise that surrounds us. It’s always a slightly different approach, but in the end it’s about being here in the present, in space.

AT- J’ai un cadeau pour vous was a work in which you invited participants to share a moment of silence on Paris’ inner city streets, your title referring to this moment as a “gift” away from the metropolis’ rather constant noise pollution. R. Murray Shafer, on the other hand, talks about “ear cleaning” and how “[n]oise pollution is what happens when man does not listen carefully”(1) He goes on to say that noise abatement is a negative approach to the problem and that the positive approach is to encourage listening, which will make boring or destructive sounds conspicuous and naturally lead to their elimination. It seems that these two positions are slightly at odds with one another. What do you think about Shafer’s ideas?

EMR- I agree that it’s not about abating noise but about listening. Besides, the sound insulation of the earplugs have another effect too: when you use them you can hear your own breathing much louder, which refers us to ourselves. So there is, of course, no silence. It’s a more conscious way of listening to yourself, listening to the world with all these little noises. Offering 1 minute of being aware of yourself during my performance in Paris can be seen as a very generous gift.

Also with my sound installation Present Perfect Progressive Tense I tried to encourage this way of listening to ourselves. It’s an installation that inverts the situation of the everyday use of MP3 players by using headphones that emanate recordings of surrounding noise. As a work it is both silent and resounding. Each of the twelve sets of headphones diffuses the same sound, recorded in real space, but at different times. The totality of these parameters forms a specific kind of interaction between the viewers, who finds themselves isolated but simultaneously prompted by surprise to engage in dialogue with their neighbour about the experience. So, if you want, “boring” noises like footsteps or the opening of a zip fastener suddenly get an importance that they usually don’t have in the “hierarchy of noises”. But in the end, we decide in every situation which sound we find boring or destructive by focusing on what matters at the moment.

In the Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis there is the world’s quietest room: -9 decibel. The “Anechoic Chamber” allows you to hear your own blood circulating. The silence is apparently so disturbing that people can’t bear more than 45 minutes inside. This is, of course, an extreme example of silence. For me silence is when you are suddenly able to perceive noises that you are usually not aware of. It’s this kind of beauty of little sounds that makes the range of audible noises complete.

AT- Acoustic foam is an interesting material to chose to work with in a sculpture, if only because it is produced (and usually used) more for its function than for its form. Here, it’s presumably being used for both and, on that topic, its form seems to be informed by a particular aesthetic. Is there anything that we can get out of contextualising this work in relationship to concept art, minimalism, or postminimalism? For instance, Donald Judd’s Untitled (1971) set of 8 orange steel cubes or Joseph Kosuth’s Box, Cube, Empty, Clear, Glass - A Description (1965) seem to have some striking similarities; not only were they making use of the same form, they were making use of the multiple and were interested in the cube’s relationship to its materiality as well as its surrounding architecture.

EMR- When I work with acoustic foam I use it in the opposite way. I put it AROUND a box to block the noise coming from outside. Since we are outside of the cube, we can’t experience the silence inside the cube. A cube is also always a box in which you can enclose something. I am interested in both the form of the cube and the material. I like the soft form of the acoustic foam contrasting with the sharp outlines of the cube. The fact that I put the cubes right into the space, floating in different angles makes their form even more visible.

AT- There is another part of the form of your work that I’d like to touch on—something that perhaps Kosuth refers to in his abovementioned texts Box and Empty—and that is its relationship to the ideas of container or vessel. Boxes are filled with things and I’m wondering, what would Silent Matter contain, if it were to contain anything?

EMR- A closed box always has a mystery enclosed. You don’t know if it’s empty or not, or if there is something special inside. You can’t open my silent cubes, so you can never be sure if there is really silence inside. When 1m3 of silence was exhibited, I noticed that the visitors often showed the need to go inside the cube to really discover the contents. There was always a kind of frustration that they had no access to the inside of the cube. And that’s what I am interested in, this persisting doubt, the range of possibilities of the content. Using multiple cubes also multiplies this secret.

AT- If we move on from the work’s form to have a look at the function of your cubes, we can easily see their direct effect on the sound environment as they subtly change the resonance and acoustics of the space. Even if we cannot hear this effect, we are conceptually able to recognise it through your use of material. Potentially, though, this is too narrow a view on your work. If we were to expand your sculpture’s “territory” beyond its foam edges then another reading is possible; the cubes, the air (sound is after all just a series of air compressions), the architecture, and everything contained in the space becomes “the sculpture”— the Silent Matter. It is no longer a set of “sculptural cubes”. It is a “sculpture in the expanded sonic and spatial field”. It is site-specific. It is moment-specific. What are your thoughts on this?

EMR- The RMIT School of Art Gallery, with its square plot and white walls without any windows, comes pretty close to being a cube itself. Putting several cubes of silence within this space creates a whole universe, where the walls respond to the form and the material of the cubes. When walking through the gallery the cubes move in response to the visitor, the egg-crate surface of the acoustic foam catching the air. The silence in the cube starts to pulsate, to rotate. The impulse for the “moving” of the silence comes from the visitor’s presence. It’s an attempt to define silence not just in time (J’ai un cadeau pour vous’ 1 minute of silence) but also in space (1m3 of silence) and weight, as the cube is quiet heavy. Seen from this point, it’s a very site- and time- specific work.

1. Shafer, R. M. (1993). The soundscape: our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Rochester: Destiny Books, pp. 4.


hidden tracks
an essay by John Harding (AUS)

Time and space is neither here nor there. We can create our own space, time and world simply by closing our bedroom door, or by choosing to exist or not exist in a space.

Austrian-born artist Eva-Maria Raab has explored these concepts utilizing multiple media, including photography, sculpture, performance and installation. Raab muses on the question of time and its digitalization thru modern technologies, like MP3 players and social online networks.

She has spent several years in Paris studying, and while there explored the notion of how the absorption of noise and silence serve to place us in our own world, through utilizing MP3’s and earplugs. Raab reflected on how we simultaneously try to replace the omnipresent noise in our cities with constant music: not really being in the “here and now” but creating our own world while co-existing with each other. Her creation of the pluggg— an object that combines earphones and earplugs—is a savvy comment on how we less and less experience silence.

When interviewing Raab for this catalogue, through our mutual partial language difficulties, I realized I was experiencing a passage of time, framed by the very concepts she was exploring. Although we were in the same space, our different histories and our different worlds affected both our ability to communicate and seemed intrinsically linked to our personal experience of the conversation.

To quote Raab, “It’s the ‘pluriverse’ I am fascinated with!”

The Space Invasions series require close inspection before one realizes that there are two horizons in each photo: two worlds that sit on top of each other. As Raab states, “All the airports look the same, it doesn’t change no matter which airport … underneath the clouds you can’t see the sun, but when you fly above the clouds it is shining the whole day.”

When one peers into her photographs, it is impossible to discern which land mass is in which country. We have preconceived notions of what a photo of Paris should look like, don’t we? We aim to make it known we have been there by including landmarks, proving we have been in that space and in that time.

This series is a reminder that most space is not land, but an otherworld, with its own rules of what is and isn’t possible, what can and can’t be heard.

Similarly, her work 1m3 of silence explores how the silence is trapped within a cube constructed of acoustic foam, conjuring notions of the different world that exists within it, and a strange curiosity to experience it from the inside. Does time exist within the cube, do we even matter as entities outside its parameters? The portability of the time and space within the cube could reference us taking our own little worlds with us as we move— when we choose to block out the changing environment by simply popping in an iPod and closing the door.

In her puddle works, Raab similarly explores the fleetingness of time and place. The puddles can be observed as temporary worlds trapped within a passage of time that is neither finite nor infinite. They also act as mirrors to the sky, displaying another world, creating another sky. In their lifetime the puddles have created temporary worlds, and when they dry what is left behind?

That Raab scrutinizes who, what and why the stereotypes and representations we all possess within us say about us is what is so attractive about her work. It scrutinizes our perceptions of how we have been constructed by someone or something other than ourselves to observe, act and react, rather than be constantly present, truly present.

In one of her earlier works, 10 Jahre Zeit/ 10 years time, Raab shows a piece of wallpaper with a circular rust mark left behind from a clock that had been removed after ten years. The inference was that while we think we dominate time by “knowing” it, the embodiment of time—as the structure and presence of place— cannot be determined by simply where you are or what it is you choose to hear.

Placed in the Australian context the overtones are obvious, and Raab’s work offers other notions: of colonialism, co-existence and sharing a world without the constant need to block it out, but to be present, truly present.

essay on the occasion of "Eva-Maria Raab: hidden tracks", exhibition at RMIT project space gallery in Melbourne from 24 August to 20 September 2012


Text von Petra Noll

Es sind die schwer greif- und darstellbaren Phänomene wie Stille, Zeit und vor allem Raum, die Eva-Maria Raab, 1983 in Hollabrunn geboren und dort sowie in Wien und Paris – ihren ehemaligen Studienorten – arbeitend und lebend, in ihren fotografischen, filmischen, installativen und performativen Projekten variantenreich zur Disposition stellt.
„10 Jahre Zeit“, „Now“, „Present“ oder „Moment“ titelt sie ihre künstlerischen Reflexionen über die Zeit – neben Raum eine Basiskategorie unserer Wahrnehmung und Realitätseinschätzung und doch so flüchtig und relativ.
Ihre Erforschung von Raum beinhaltet zum einen dokumentarisch-sozialkritische Arbeiten, wie „Connecting people“, eine Fotoserie über nach dem Fall des Eisernen Vorhangs künstlich angelegte, stereotype Event-„Paläste“ in einem ehemaligen Niemandsland zwischen Tschechien und Österreich. Sozial engagiert war auch ihre grenzüberschreitende Installation zum Thema (Lebens-)Raum und Völkerverbindung im Rahmen des „Viertelfestivals Niederösterreich– Weinviertel 2013“ in Hardegg auf der Thayabrücke nach Tschechien. Konzeptuell entwickelt wurden die Arbeiten „Space Invasions“, eine fotografische Raum-Zeit-Studie, oder auch die aktuelle Fotoserie „Blickpunkt“, die durch unterschiedlich inszenierte punktuelle Beleuchtung eine Nachtlandschaft in immer „anderem Licht“ erscheinen lässt und Raum somit als etwas flexibel Wahrnehmbares definiert. Raab untersucht Räume auch in Bezug zu Objekt, (eigenem) Körper und Bewegung (u.a. Fotoserie „My Space“) sowie im Kontext von Kommunikation. Hier interessieren sie die Auswirkungen des Gebrauchs technologischer Unterhaltungs- und Kommunikationssysteme und -räume – wie Online-Networks, mp3-Player, webcams und digitale Fotoapparate – auf die Verständigung zwischen Menschen. In dem Buch- bzw. Online-Projekt „YOUNIC/ FaceBOOK“ beschäftigt sie sich, ausgehend von (Platzhalter-) Profilbildern von facebook, mit Individualität und Standardisieriung, Identität und Anonymität, Präsenz und Absenz, Realität und Fiktion – Themen, die viele ihrer Arbeiten bestimmen.

Petra Noll, anlässlich der Verleihung des Kulturpreises des Landes Niederösterreich für Medienkunst (Anerkennungspreis) im November 2014


Text von Barbara Thaler

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Den Fokus im Werk von Eva-Maria Raab bilden Momente der Gegenwart und Spuren körperloser Existenzen, die sie durch unterschiedlichste Medien festhält. Manches ist dabei nicht direkt zu fassen wie die Stille in ihrer Akustikschaumstoff-Installation „Silent Matter“, die Zeit in ihrer Arbeit „10 Jahre Zeit“ oder die Gegenwart im Versuch das Wort „Present“ ins Wasser einzuschreiben. Manches fängt die Künstlerin mit Fotografien ein. So hält sie nach der Arbeit „moment“ nun für „roots“ alltägliche Situationen fest, die dem Beobachter für eine begrenzte Zeit gegenwärtig sind.
Im Sommer 2013 kam Eva-Maria Raab am Weg zu ihrem Atelier in Melbourne bei den abgebildeten Baumwurzeln vorbei, die ein Unwetter der Erde entrissen hatte. Die Motive, die sich der Künstlerin in diesem Moment unerwartet anboten, waren am nächsten Tag nicht mehr dort. Mit den Fotografien entstanden folglich diese Dokumentationen, die mit den aus der Erde ausbrechenden Körpern verstärkt durch die Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografie eine skulpturale Wirkung enthalten.
Der Reiz dieser Motive liegt für Eva-Maria Raab in der Kraft hinter dem Unwetter, das die von Menschen gepflanzten Bäume einer Großstadt entwurzelte. In ihren Bildern wird diese von der Natur demonstrierte Vergänglichkeit spürbar. Die Stabilität eines fest in der Erde verwurzelten Baumes wird gestört, Oben und Unten umgedreht.
Wesentlicher Bestandteil der Fotoarbeit „roots“ – wie schon der Arbeiten „my space“, „moment“ oder „space invasions“ – ist das Spiel mit der Perspektive, das BetrachterInnen veranlasst ein zweites und drittes Mal hinzusehen. Der Gehalt der Fotografien ist kaum im Vorübergehen zu erfassen. So weisen die Bildpaare von „roots“ jeweils das gleiche Motiv, die gleiche Wurzel auf. Fotografiert von der gegenüberliegenden Seite scheinen sich jedoch das städtische Umfeld sowie die Gestalt der Wurzel dadurch grundlegend zu unterscheiden.


catalog text by Britt Salt for "Complex Matter" at beam contemporary in Melbourne, 2013

10 Jahre Zeit / 10 years time (2012) is a shadowy apex of the passing of ten years by Austrian artist Eva-Maria Raab. The original clock now removed, all that is left of this slice of wall from her studio in Vienna is a nail hole and a halo of faded wallpaper. Every ray of light that licked colour from around the edge of the clock has contributed to an unseen marking of time that ran in synergy with the movement of the clock’s hands.


Text zu den "space invasions" von Daniela Wageneder-Stelzhammer, Kuratorin (AT)

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Die Bilder von Eva-Maria Raab sind während des Start- bzw. Landeanfluges entstandene zeitversetzte Städteansichten. Das Interesse der Künstlerin gilt dabei sehr konkret dem Raum über dem Boden. Wie sieht dieser aus? Und wie unterscheiden sich Lufträume voneinander? Luftraum ist zwar staatliches Territorium, jedoch weniger mit nationalen Zuschreibungen besetzt und aufgeladen als der Boden.

Die Fotografie wird oftmals als ein reines Medium zur Abbildung angesehen. Sie trägt dabei die Bürde, bestimmte Augenblicke festhalten zu können. In der Amateurfotografie gehören Aufnahmen aus dem Fenster eines Flugzeuges beinahe zum Standardrepertoire. Diese sind fest im Bildgedächtnis verankert, werden aber meist vom Zufall diktiert.

Die Bilder von Eva-Maria Raab halten jedoch keinen Moment fest. Die Künstlerin nimmt eine Vermessung des Luftraumes vor, indem sie mehrere Zeitabschnitte auf eine bildliche Ebene bannt.

Die dabei entstanden Aufnahmen sind mit gehörigem Aufwand verbunden, der z.B. sicherstellt, dass Abflug und Landung zeitlich richtig fallen. Es muss geklärt sein, um welchen Flugzeugtyp es sich handelt, um die bestmögliche Platzwahl treffen zu können. Und schließlich muss klar sein zu welcher Jahreszeit am jeweiligen Ort die größte Wahrscheinlichkeit von bestimmten Wetterverhältnissen gegeben ist.

Die Aufnahmen vermitteln den Eindruck einer Gleichzeitigkeit, die so nie gegeben ist. Sie bieten Irritation durch die aufs Bild gebrachte zeitliche Verschiebung und sind weit vom Zufall entfernt.

Text anlässlich der Ausstellung „Geheime Dimension“ im Atelierhaus Salzamt, Linz, 2012