Tim Plamper at Unttld Contemporary / Vienna

Tim Plamper

Unttld Contemporary
Schleifmühlgasse 5
A-1040 Vienna

30.06. – 27.08.2016

Consciously exploring borders and coming into direct contact with
opposites fraught with tension stand at the outset of Tim Plamper’s new
work series and they thus also mark the beginning of the exhibition at
unttld contemporary. In the autumn of 2014 Tim Plamper embarked on
a six-week journey through south-eastern Europe and Turkey, traveling
as far as Georgia, all the while following the signs of change in Europe’s
border region. He focused his attention on the relicts of the cultural past
and the fragmented legacy left behind by political ideologies and
upheavals, and how they influence current developments and conflicts.
His flat in Istanbul was – to take one example – right in the middle of the
Kurdish district and he witnessed the violent altercations between
Kurdish protestors and the Turkish police which flared up almost every
night, at the very same time the IS was attacking the Syrian-Kurdish city
of Kobanî.
Plamper had documented his trip in great detail with his digital camera.
But as he tried to send his photos to Germany for an exhibition and
hooked up his computer in an internet café, a momentous short circuit
ruined the camera’s memory card. All that was left of the digital travel
archive was the fragmented sound tracks of video recordings. What
remained were the indelible memories and disturbing images etched in
his mind. The search for “fragments of everyday change” (Plamper) on
Europe’s borders yielded fragmentary impressions at the very limits of
the act of remembering.
Back in Germany, he developed sound collages from these
remembered images and the surviving audio fragments, collages
underpinned by a dystopic atmosphere. He gave the longest of the
soundscapes the title “Atlas” (https://soundcloud.com/
twentynineminfiftyninesec/tim-plamper-atlas), designating both a
geographical as well as a mythological and metaphorical border. The
composition’s underlying substrate is formed on the one hand by the
rushing waters of the Kura River in Tbilisi with passing ambulance
vehicles, and on the other the violent altercations between Kurds and
Turkish police in Istanbul with loud shouting, the noise of tear gas being
fired, and helicopters circling overhead.
Although he understands it to be an autonomous work, the title-giving
sound collage, once considered in interaction with the large-format
drawings, has something akin to an explanatory function for Plamper,
like an abstract soundtrack to the narrations woven into the pictorial
layers. For most people, listening to music triggers images and
emotions, which impress their attendant moods onto the process of
observation and can lead to projections being cast onto what is being
As with his earlier works, the starting point for the new drawings are
digital sketches. A large part of Plamper’s compositions are created on
the computer, where in detailed preliminary studies he combines and
layers motifs he takes from his extensive photograph and image
archive, using a certain degree of artistic freedom to realise them as
drawings. In the Atlas series however the decisive moment of
transformation is added. As previously mentioned, with the aid of the
surviving audio fragments, Plamper has translated the images of his
journey imprinted in his memory into soundscapes. In turn, the
drawings represent a kind of feedback loop of the acoustic material into
a form of visuality. The large-format works are based on the frequency
spectrum of the sound collage Plamper has visualised with the help of a
periodic function. “The spectrum frequencies of an acoustic signal
characterise, on the one hand, its sound, while showing the textures of
the rhythmical dynamic of this signal.” (Plamper).
Images of memory turned into sound, sound patterns turned into
images – this points to how our memory works and the process of
assimilating and remembering. Accordingly, the drawings are not trying
to “tell” us something, although they are interwoven with specific
content, but rather they show us something, namely the process of
recognition, which is closely connected with the process of
remembering, for as the American physicist and computer scientist
Douglas R. Hofstadter has observed, all thinking is based on analogies.
Ultimately, we can only apply the newly perceived to what we already
know. The spectrum frequencies will thus remind us of light reflecting
on the surface of water or landscapes shrouded in the darkness of
night, while in the middle of the abstract lead textures we make out
refugee boats, waterfalls or mountain chains. The works are thus about
the specific moment when one recognises something in what is
Although Plamper primarily draws, he works with the classical
parameters of the painter, with the processes of applying and removing
layers, the interplay between real and illusory space, etc. Naturally
enough, the depth of the material in the medium of drawing is played
out in millimetres. Before embarking on the drawing process, Plamper
scratches into the raw paper cipher-like structures and occasionally
words. As a result, the pigment can only partially, or at times not at all,
permeate these scratched indentations. This approach reveals his aim –
to explore the boundary separating the motif from the material, the
meta-space between the paper and the pigment, the space where
meaning entrenches itself. Recently, he has attempted to define this
space more clearly by – in the manner of a collage – splitting up and
overlaying it. For example: new non-representational motifs emerge out
of the overlaying at the intersections of the respective cut surfaces and
they cultivate their own reality.
Association and dissociation
The manifold layering and overlaying, combined with Plamper’s
paradigmatic working method of adding and removing, allows a
complex reference system of entanglement and disentanglement to
arise, one that manifests itself in the double movement at the heart of
networking: associating and dissociating. On the one hand, the
phenomena of the present are knitted together with elements drawn
from one’s own past and imagination; on the other, the attempt is made
to disentangle by taking a dissociating approach, so as to then describe
these phenomena from a position of distance. The conscious shifting
between the two states of being bound and being distant is – as
explicated by Rahel Jaeggi and Tilo Wesche – an essential
characteristic of critical thinking: “Critique always means simultaneously
dissociation and association. It discerns, disconnects, distances itself;
and it links, sets itself in relationship to, produces connections. In other
words, it is a dissociation out of association and an association out of
dissociation.” [1]
We live in an age in which everything and everyone are networked
together, an age in which people are increasingly perceiving themselves
as part of a web that spans the whole world, a web they share with one
another, but a web that also separates them – it connects and
disconnects them simultaneously. Tim Plamper has found images for
this complex structure of our present age, images which are both
socially relevant and aesthetically densely woven.

Roman Grabner, 2016

Images courtesy the artist and Unttld Contemporary