To float an idea: by Shana Levy
Marie Lienhard is a French artist currently based in Stuttgart, Germany, who enquires into the elasticity of visual behaviour through photography, video, drawing, virtual reality and installation.
Her creations wring with the dreadful and delightful moments of physical and mental loss of control and address personal & social experiences while playing with the unhinging of customary states of perception.
She works and exhibits internationally and is part of several art-groups and projects with artists, initiators and thinkers from various sections.
In spite of Marie’s many layered concepts which ring with different psychological, philosophical and scientific questions her work is accessible in a very direct and authentic manner. A physical access to aesthetics through the senses being, for her, an essential bridge from art to conceptual questions.
For example, when she creates perception shifts by pushing technical boundaries to provide visual access to otherwise inaccessible experiences:
2013, she sent out her own probe way beyond the earth’s atmosphere. A large helium balloon, equipped with sports cameras eternalised the sight from above and the free fall back down.
The impressive images of the flight, the explosion of the balloon in the stratosphere at a distance of 32 kilometres and the following freefall back down to earth became the material for a virtual reality video - Logics Of Drops. 2016, the public were given the opportunity to experience the ascension using VR glasses. The beholders are lifted out of their visual surroundings and get to see the place where they are physically standing from above. This experience retraces the flight of the balloon, forcing us to let go of our physical position.
The journey then takes the viewer outside the world, enjoying the silence of the universe, the moment where the balloon explodes and the rapturous ride whose sound recordings threaten to split the air. What an experience! Through the 360°view from within the glasses one really visually flies with both feet on the ground to a place we will never be able to access physically. In the context of Stuttgart’s long night of the museum she entirely covered the floor of the exhibition space with a grass meadow- a reversal of inside and outside- the grass also mirrored in the virtual reality: at the end of the video one lands in mud between grass tufts. The silence is complete again, an ant walks through the image on the left. Looking up between the green blades of grass one sees the sky up above, the clouds we were gazing at from above and came flying through a few moments ago. An insect silently flies passed, we have landed, the batteries of the cameras are empty: -cut. We take the glasses off and stand with both feet on the grass surrounded by the gentle scent of a meadow in summer.
Marie Lienhard also creates perception shifts through the creation of new spaces such as in the temporary installation Les Ailes du Regard, which she created in the context of the performance festival Kinact#1 in Kinshasa (DR Congo); a round mirror of 150cm diameter was lowered into the earth to level with the surrounding ground. This simple intervention in a public space invites a very direct and accessible shift in visual reality. Heaven on earth, a pure and playful puddle, swapping above with below and letting the viewer become part of the installation on approach. It puts the self on the edge, perhaps on the brink of a deepening hole to another reality, in the middle of the mundane, and throws spatial positioning off track.
Also a playful installation: Longing, created in 2014 in the context of the exhibition ‘walk the line - experiment landscape’. In this case removing the reflection of the water surface of a small lake in the idyllic black forest of southern Germany. A raised hide invites to climb and look down onto the lake and the vision through the ‘long view’ could not be deeper: the impenetrable reflection of the surface is removed though a pole filter and sight falls through the water onto the lake’s bed. Does she steal the depth’s secret by negating one optical phenomenon through another? Or does she offer a supernatural range of vision which turns our daily perception into a surreal reality?
Marie’s Plaisirs et terreurs de la levitation drawings (2015) are potentially her most direct work addressing the theme of levitation. Three very delicately precise HB pencil drawings of naked persons, the size of birds which could fit in the palm of your hand, floating alone in the white of the A3 paper they are drawn on. The figures are not personalised and have their backs turned to the beholder – are they falling, flying, dancing or levitating in the air? In water? - They generate, on contemplation, a curiously simultaneous feeling of pleasure and dread.
This feeling is also present in Lienhard’s ‘…’ photo installation from 2016. A photo strip unrolls from the glass dome, through the rotunda of the spiralling multi-storey parking of the main train station in Münster, all the way down to the ground. Colour photographs of naked bodies, again seen from behind, are depicted in regular intervals on a 1:1 scale. Yet again it is not quite clear whether they are jumping, falling or floating. Bridging the storeys in this manner is a very refreshing use of the medium. A sound installation from Lisa Tuyala plunged the space and its rhythmically positioned bodies into a magically weightless atmosphere.
This piece is a development in situ of another photo installation from 2013: RIP. life size B/W silkscreen prints of parts of a nude female body. In this case the material used is perforated medical paper. The placing of three rolls on metal dispensers suggest that parts have already been, and could carry on being ripped off, together with the body parts along the practical perforations. This piece is just as delicate as it is violent.
She had already revisited this piece in 2015 under the title RIP I. In direct interaction with the work the visitors were invited to choose, buy and rip pieces from the fully printed newspaper roll as they wished. Lienhard’s intention was not to dictate how to relate to the work but make it ruthlessly accessible. The social experiment showed that the life-size C prints of mostly entire human bodies were preciously taken home by their collectors. In this version the public’s reflections turned around themes of nudity, vulnerability and finitude- but also upheaval in connection with delicate daily realities and social networks. Her own biography lends the work an authentic sensibility which the public was not insensitive to.
In her artistic practice, Marie Lienhard manages to manifest her diverse interests and experiences through consequential representations. Her installations let the beholder actively and interactively experience the work, thereby opening new points of view. Her practice is much less connected to particular objects but rather to experimental spaces. She plays with different forms of presentation and exhibition possibilities within the contemporary art discourse. Furthermore, developing a socially and individually relevant position through new ways of thinking and the stimulation of new ideas.
Despite the complexity of both idea and realisation, her work radiates a lightness, authentic freshness and a touch of humour. In spite of the uncertainty of where she is actually taking us, her work opens up the desire to expand our minds. The ever-so-deeply seated human dream of overcoming physical laws and borders in body and mind are opened through the visual shifts in perception she invites us into. Whilst encouraging personal negotiation with our own instincts in existential terms, she releases us from the weight of body and convention. She invites us to give up control, question our points of view and habits, face fear and joy and sharpen our perception. Allowing imagination experiments. Opening up gaps, creating spaces to float ideas.