”Without even leaving, we are already no longer there ”


Recently one could see Johanna Domke’s video Sleepers (2006) in the exhibition ”Exit” at Gammel Strand – Gallery for modern and contemporary art in Copenhagen. An experience one could describe as a present standstill. The video takes place at Stansted Airport in London in the very late night and portrays sleeping people with slowly panning camera moves. The slow takes emphasise with the passenger’s tiresome waiting for an early morning flight. Within this physical location Domke grips a real, temporal situation that shows the airport - a physical locality as a form of standstill, that is not constructed but a real standstill. The video follows a sequence of sleeping people in a transit situation. But even if they are in transit they undergo a present standstill that deludes oneself into a void, where one is not quite sure how the situation will progress. With the interest of this kind of void Johanna Domke evolves her artistic praxis within the time-based media of film and the photographic still image, which on a conceptual level can be seen as a distortion of time and movement. A hybridisation, that opens up for other relations and references. Whereas the piece Sleepers shows an actual situation of standstill, other works by Domke stand out for their constructed stillstand through the use of loops and collages in the video.


The use of stillstand as a concept in Domke’s work operates on several levels, as some of her videos as well appear to be a critical comment to modern life and interpersonal relations. Her use of standstill is not only a formalistic method but functions as a comment on how the modern individual is caught in indifference – motionless trapped in life- and where the quest for meaning appears blurred. This critical comment on society is especially distinct in Domke’s depiction of youth culture. You’ll miss what’s gonna stay II (2004) is a triple-screen video installation, which resembles the interior of a lounge bar. The piece shows a social setting, where groups of young people stand around and talk, while they move to the rhythm of the music. But this social constructed reality changes, as all individuals are trapped in their own time, such as there is no mayor development in their action. This captive moment in time is suddenly suspended by the appearance of a woman that distorts the standstill for an instant by passing through the room. But the interruption is short and has shortly after no impact on the situation anymore. The same kind of odd sociality and reality appears as well in Domke’s sequent video, You’ll miss what’s gonna stay II (2004), that shows a similar gathering of young people in a trashy, graffiti-sprayed backyard. The video is in the same way a critical comment on the prevalent indifference in society and the lack of a consistent presence. There is no releasing ending in this piece. It is however through repetition that Domke’s works point out the necessity of presence for ones own social reality.


The video A sunset takes 7 minutes (2005) invites the viewer to follow a sunset on the top of a roof overlooking the city of Berlin. A group of young people is gathered to enjoy the setting sun, while they are having a picnic. The camera is panning from the sunset to the group of young people in a 360 degrees turn, a movement that is repeated five times in the run of the video. Even if there is a progress in time during the five rounds of the camera, the group repeats the same parts of their conversation and movements, while the sun is going on its course and finally disappears. The progress of time in this video is of an ambiguous nature: the group reiterates its words and actions, while the situation around them is changing. A paradox standstill constitutes itself and as a viewer one is uncertain about how things will come to terms or even if there will be an end at all. In another work, Let the wind blow (2003), there is a man and a women standing at a panoramic site on a mountain looking towards the end of the world. The video could remind oneself about the German painter Caspar David Friedrich’s romantic way of depicting man in nature. Both figures in the video remain motionless in their positions without any contact towards each other. While they stand there looking down the valley, the sky is changing in the rhythm of day getting night and night becomes day again. The standstill in these works is based on the progression of nature and time as an element, whereas the individual is figuring as an unchangeable, static position, seemingly ambiguous and odd.


With this kind of ambiguous distortion of time and movement constitutes Domke a different picture. The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze reflected upon this distortion of the image through the film media. He differentiates between the time picture and the motion picture. The motion picture produces an action that brings out a movement as a part of progression. In contrast the time picture produces a different image that opens up for a mental, present and abstract space, where the imaginary and the real interleave and shift against each other through a distortion of time and movement. In the same way are Domke’s works producing a wrap in the time and movement continuum that constitutes a presence. As the introductory quote states in the beginning of this text is the presence a rarity. ”Without even leaving, we are already no longer there.”

Lotte Juul Petersen, curator and art critic