“In the case of the schism between our home life and the outside world, it takes a taxing event to traction our movements in order to think through the slowness of change beyond the window sill”
Frame by frame, the casualties of observance are often manacled to an enveloping banality, a nothingness that sports little regard for excitement on behalf of the viewer. Change is perhaps constant, but it is not always perceptible to the human eye or experience. Small changes in atmosphere, weather and light play along the surfaces within frame, softly increasing the length of time and moment unpunctuated by change. How many of our days are spent lost in the non-reverie of constant motion and action? Daily, the grind and toil of work, home, work, home leaves less room for finding the energy to ponder the slow changes that occur outside of the window. In the case of the schism between our home life and the outside world, it takes a taxing event to traction our movements in order to think through the slowness of change beyond the window sill.
And we must be careful what it is that we wish for in considering the pontification of molasses-like change. I am reminded of the process of old glass. We tend to think of glass as being fragile, only erupting into a new form when it is broken, swept up and thrown away. In fact, glass is always moving, changing and shifting with the tides of gravity. Its surface, if you examine a window that has survived wars, baseballs, children, rocks and other hurling debris over the course of decades or centuries shows this slow pull of gravity on the surface. The casing at the top of the window frame becomes thin while the bottom edge becomes thicker, the glass pooling slowly at the bottom like sap down the rough body of a tree’s trunk. We cannot observe the process easily. It is almost speculative and yet it is a pertinent metaphor for the process of human observation raised as a bulwark against the rapid movements of contemporary living.
In the case of Mischa Dickerhof’s prescient Rear Window (Bergtatt Editions,2019) we find ourselves being confronted with slow observation. For those of you familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name, we can unpack immediately what the work might be about and indeed there are kindred alliances between the film and Dickerhof’s book. In fact, the book itself is small and feels something closer to a photo-novel or script in size and purpose. Within the pages, we are shown various motifs of architecture and street views, most photographed in such a way to promote a banality of frame that feels indebted to film continuity studies in which the frame before the current is intentional placed to create a quasi-cinematic reading of the work from first page to last.
“Within these frames, the concentration is on atmosphere, ambience and the slow and un-impacted views of local familiarity”
Within these frames, the concentration is on atmosphere, ambience and the slow and un-impacted views of local familiarity. There are very few people and when there are, they also pervade the frame in minute detail suggesting slow movement as when they do appear, they seem to appear in multiple frames hardly differentiated. There have recently been a number of investigations into the cinematic. I am reminded of Salvi Danés’ incredible work and the writings of David Campany. When not thinking in the cinematic mode, many of the images within remind me Michael Schmidt’s work Irgendwo with its considered studies of banal architecture, somewhere. In Dickerhof’s book, a number of these possibilities exist. In 2020, the use of the window under quarantine begs questions about how we look at the same view every day and what it means to slow down our powers of observation to a minute level which encourages a longer in-depth mediation of our processing. The book itself was however made presciently in 2019. It is small and a perfect takeaway for the present moment. It is not lushly printed, nor does it need to be. There is something really immediate to the format and I encourage people who are thinking through film and photography to give this a look. It will also be for fans of Schmidt, Dirk Braekman and perhaps a handful of other brilliantly gloomy minds working in the field of the skeptically familiar.