Yuko Shiraishi - point-counterpoint
06.11. – 20.12.2013
At first glance Ursula Mumenthaler’s compositions appear to be reproductions of urban structures: On closer inspection however, they nevertheless show widespread deterioration, giving them a ghost-like appearance reminiscent of the tragic images of cataclysmic events represented in the media. This deleterious atmosphere forms a stark contrast to the color prints, presented in their museum-style frames, disturbing the reading of the images ... just what is their status? Do they bear witness to some natural catastrophes? Or are they topographical views, aerial or frontal, of urban landscapes? Or the rigorous abstract composition of some imaginary cities? Which reality are these photographs mirroring or, in other words, what is their referent? Or furthermore, their truth?
Ursula Mumenthaler plays with these interrogations and reveals clichés that shy away from a unilateral reception. Using codes that belong to the mechanical reproduction of reality, she questions the notions of mimicry, of verisimilitude, of the effects of reality or truth, which still appear today as ontological to the act of photography itself.
But before the final realisation, the creative process relies upon the perceptive ambiguities of the visual reproduction of an object: the artist photographs the isolated facades of buildings – in Paris, in Berlin – and she then randomly assembles them to create models. These fragments of urbanity are then subjected to the intervention of the elements – water, snow or fire – and these corrode the surfaces little by little and damage the building. Ursula Mumenthaler’s photographic eye focuses on this slow deterioration that brings about the destruction of human creation; her work is saturated with recollections of shock images seen in the press, with their rigidly frontal or bird’s-eye views, appropriate to “monstration”.
Traces of real buildings, reassembled into improbable towns and evoking cities buried deep in our distant memories, become abstract topographies of a land henceforth dislocated by fictional catastrophes and the passage of time; deliberately, no other element of scale or measure appears in the reproductions ... References fade in favour of the material qualities of both the prints and the hanging of the works, a clear contrast with the apparent post-apocalyptic chaos of the images themselves.
However, beyond these interrogations of the photographic, Ursula Mumenthaler is equally attached to the idea of opening up representational space to a more poetic reading of this chaos, one that she presents as a mise en abyme of nature’s recapturing of the space taken over by humans ... a way of bringing the city back into the garden...?
Myriam Poiatti, August 2013