In her multimedia work, the Berlin-born artist Yvon Chabrowski deals with the visual formulas of contemporary media, which she decontextualizes to uncover its mechanisms and manipulation strategies. Her sculptural video installations and performances are at the centre of her practice. For her current series of works, exhibitied at the Dorothée Nilsson Gallery in Berlin, the artist dealt with the functioning of surveillance and recognition systems designed to evaluate faces, movements, or feelings. Consistent to her practice, the exhibition opens up a fragmented view of the relationship between the image and the body, and asks its audience: "How much freedom can you still live?“
We met up with Yvon to get familiar with her work and find out more about her current and upcoming projects.
Can you tell us something about your ongoing exhibition "FACES AND MOVEMENTS" at Dorothée Nilsson Gallery?
In "FACES AND MOVEMENTS" you can experience four video installations. My research for the works revolved around different monitoring systems. In a setting consisting of video installation and live performance, I make different aspects of a certain image world visually and spatially experienceable. My view is fragmented; I am analyzing images in their different qualities and questioning the relationship between media images and the body.
"DYNAMICS", a two-channel video installation, repeats the bird's-eye view as we know it from surveillance shots. From above, you see a large group of people, who appear in life-size. They are constantly in motion. But as the two video images show, it is hardly recognizable that the same performer group can actually be seen in both pictures, which are in sync. I myself find it difficult to reconstruct the space in which the performers move around. Images that are made to oversee a group of people create their own image world.
Yon Chabrowski, "DYNAMICS", 2015/2016. © Yvon Chabrowski & VG Bildkunst, 2018
Parallel to your exhibition at Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, you will be showing one of your pieces in the exhibition at Uqbar. What is the exhibition and your piece "TERRITORY" about?
At Uqbar, among other works, my video installation "TERRITORY" will be shown. Both works – "DYNAMICS" and "TERRITORY" – make the dynamics that can develop between a large group of people spatially tangible. You can approach both two-channel video installations and find your own position in relation to the pictures and to the group of performers. You decide whether to step into the frame and become a part of the picture. The beholder can experience moving pictures in their very specific quality and, at the same time, meet performers at eye level.
Yvon Chabrowski, TERRITORY, 2016. © Yvon Chabrowski & VG Bildkunst, 2018
What are the topics or issues you're most interested in addressing through your work?
I'm interested in the images that we all carry with us in our collective memory. I'm working with highly iconographic pictures – pictures that are looked at as though what one sees were already completely clear. It's all of the pictures that are already part of our visual memory and inscribed in our bodies.
Why? What draws you to these topics?
I make works about images because I want to understand them.
You were formally trained in photography, but your work has encompassed mostly video installation, and recently performance. How did this process of stepping out of still image into moving image and further into live performance evolve?
My occupation with pictures started through photography. In my adolescence, I took b/w photographs of the reality surrounding me in Berlin Mitte, where I grew up. The process of analog photography decelerated reality and gave me a kind of retreat and distance through which I saw how the images developed. I have been looking at media images and reproducing gestures, or movement, for a long time. In my early works, I used my own body as a model to reconstruct gestures and I decontextualised them from the media image. I don't think and work in strictly one-line "categories“. I am using still and moving image, video and performance to approach the qualities of images by creating a space for possibility. I'm also working with video as sculpture. Overall, my references come from photography, sculpture, conceptual art, and philosophy – such as Hannah Arendt's writings.
"FACIAL EMOTIONS ONE TO SIX AND A TO E" and "SCREEN", two very recent video installations, remind me of the TV plays of Samuel Beckett. They consist of fragments of bodies, like a face in the media – a face that is there just because there is a a medial frame.
Yvon Chabrowski, "FACIAL EMOTIONS ONE TO SIX AND A TO E", 2017. © Yvon Chabrowski & VG Bildkunst, 2018
Are there any upcoming projects you'd like to mention?
I received the "Aartist in Residence" grant from the Auswärtiges Amt (The Federal Foreign Office), which is for a duration of three months beginning in April. This will be very interesting due to the nature of the institution and its architecture. I will have to go through security levels every time I go in or out. And I will have working hours, from Monday to Friday, from 8 to 18h. Unfortunately, though, this institution does not see artists as part of society.
I'm also part of a project that is coming up at ZK/U, called "Commons“, by the curators Stefan Klee and Branislav Mihajlovic from frontviews.
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Yvon Chabrowski, "FACES AND MOVEMENTS"
February 2 - March 31, 2018
Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin
Yvon Chabrowski: "CASSANDRA/MOVEMENT PATTERNS" - Live Performance
March 24, 2018; 17h
Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin
Yvon Chabrowski, Anaïs Héraud-Louisadat: "TERRITORY"
March 26 - May 27, 2018
Opening: March 25, 16h
More info: www.chabrowski.info