Wolfgang Staehle

Wolfgang Staehle at Postmasters Gallery

In another age, Wolfgang Staehle may have offered surseance in the tradition of a Caspar David Friedrich but instead his three projections at Postmasters offer something spectacularly mundane. Creator of the art bulletin board website (www.thing.net) and early pioneer of web-based art (THE THING), the Stuttgart-born artist’s projections and hour-long video loop of Niagra Falls refreshes our understanding of being situated in the world.

Like the three views in his eponymous 2001 show, the current collection brings together views of a vista from the Hudson River Valley, midtown Manhattan seen from across the water and Wyoming’s Grand Teton mountain ridge. Updated every 10 seconds and projected on the wall, they could be read as moving landscapes at an intersection between German Romanticism and Hudson River School painting mediated via Warhol. However what Staehle emphasises is how the world is larger than it seems, yet with today’s technology its immediacy and distance are simultaneously made evident.

It is the very economy by which he has reduced the complexity of the internet to these simple projection that, at once, dispels the eternal and expansiveness of landscape painting, by recalling kitsch artefacts such as light-up paintings with moving water effects. On the one hand, Staehle also reminds us of how technology has now come to mediate modern life and even nature, no more so evident than his “Niagara” (2004) loop. Viewed from the position similar to Frederic Edwin Church’s “Niagara Falls from the American Side” (1867), it brings the painting to life, while asking questions of such objects.

Based in New York since the Seventies, Staehle’s last show inadvertently, but highly spectacularly, captured the events of 9/11 as it unfolded – as sublime and potent a moment and pieces as Gerhard Richter’s “October 18, 1977” series. But even without such an act of terror, Staehle’s projections still evoke a sense of day-to-day awe, although it might be best to conclude that his work bring new meaning to the term “technological sublime”: each projection an eternal now, yet always deferred by 10 seconds.

(16 Sept – 16 Oct)

Wolfgang Staehle is also included in Time Zones at Tate Modern

Sherman Sam

Published in contemporary magazine (issue 69, 2004)