Outside is in me
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© by Melanie Wiora 2005


Photography against Entropy – On Melanie Wiora's Series
Outside is in me

Helmut A. Müller

For the media theoretician Vilém Flusser, perception is also subject to the laws of entropy. We notice only what is unusual and new, yet only for a certain period of time. What was once new does not stay new for long. After a phase of habituation, it cools off and is overlooked. On this premise, aesthetics appears to be caught between the pole of unattainable density in the uniqueness of a big bang and that of absolute indifference.1 Considered from this point of view, man’s work, art, culture, religion and even science would be seen as strivings against indifference, disregard and neglect. Photography and, in particular, artistic photography such as Melanie Wiora’s is also involved in this pursuit. For Vilém Flusser, pictures taken by cameras and the written word participate in the interaction with symbolic images and concepts and thus in the struggle for the possibilities of new awareness. The task of photography, according to Flusser’s theory, would be to have the programs in the cameras submit to human intention. The best type of photography would be that “by which the photographer subjects the camera’s program to his or her own human objective.”2

In her new series Outside is in me, Wiora focuses her efforts against the apparatus by digitally enhancing the pictures which are produced with the help of the camera’s programs, and converting them into new, intensive and dense pictures poised between external and internal perception. The series, which presents the photographs in square format, shows portraits of people who are cut off by the outer edge of the picture and are posed in front of fragmented landscapes that are reduced to but a few elements such as skyscrapers, poles with power lines and neon signs. The scenes appear to be teetering between intentional staging and unintentional notation. We do not know whether the portrayed people are looking inside themselves, nowhere or some place the viewer cannot behold. The background settings and the facial images are placed in direct relationship to one another. The consciously highlighted elements in the pictures generate the impression of something like a net or tissue. In the piece entitled Anne a no longer clearly demarcated bent red line — perhaps the painted parapet of a modern industrial or residential building — picks up the hovering, wavy, up and down form of the upper lip of the protagonist. The red letters of the neon sign of a motel pick up the vertical line of her nose and the digitally intensified gray-blue of the clouds picks up the color of her left eye. The power lines from the industrial landscape weave her face into the ensemble. The intensified color values gray-blue, white and red take the plasticity from the landscape and the face and make both them appear two-dimensional. The facial image becomes like the cityscape. The conscious blurriness in the foreground and background, the missing middle distance and the seemingly shallow three-dimensionality cause the foreground and background planes to appear to penetrate one another and allow the impression of intangibility to develop. The otherwise clear demarcations between inside and outside, landscape and visage, man and nature run together. However, the portrait and the landscape do not dissolve into one another entropically, but strengthen each other, increasing their density. Wiora’s digitally enhanced picture makes us aware of an intensified view of reality, “which includes psychological conditions and the subconscious. Aside from the rendition of the outward appearance comes an inner view …, the intermediate area which comes into being through the interaction of these two experiences.”3 Wiora thus creates pictures with her camera against its programming which apparently do not determine the understanding of man and nature but leave it open for other perceptions. The picture does not place itself between man and his world but opens our eyes to facets of it that we have never beheld before. Melanie Wiora’s series thus awakens our awareness for the other side of reality.


1 Thomas Knöfel, Vilém Flusser; in: Ästhetik und Philosophie, eds. J. Nida-Rümelin und M. Betzler, Stuttgart 1987, S. 280.
2 Vilém Flusser, Für eine Philosophie der Fotografie, Göttingen, 1989, p. 341
3 Unpublished manuscript. Melanie Wiora, 2005.

In "Beyond the Moment", catalogue, Helmut A. Müller (editor), Hospitalhof Stuttgart, Edition Hospitalhof Stuttgart, 2005 – Further Texts