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Barbara Wally



Traveling, seeing and photographing.

Four new series by Rivka Rinn.



In subject-matter and medium – (digital) photography -, Rivka Rinn's work is – perhaps more than other artists – determined by her personal circumstances.  These are influenced by constant changes of location – her journeys, the route she takes, her means of transport and the speed she travels at.


This book is a sequel to the Galerie Fotohof and the International Summer Academy of Fine arts 1998 publication, View Through, a much-sought after book since it was sold out shortly after it appeared.  The present photographs document the artist's travels over the past ten years, as well as places where she stayed for a short time.  They also show how travel has sped up within this period along with an increasing shift to air travel.  Artistically, Rivka Rinn's works go far beyond mere documentation however, and she finds it important to stress the private, personal aspect of her "travel viewpoint" within the apparent anonymity of where she stops off.


Most artists travel a great deal.  This distinguishes them from people of many other professions.  They also travel differently – this distinguishes them from other people.  For an artist the idea of travel as a holiday is simply absurd.  When traveling they switch on, not off.  Artists' journeys, even if they are part of their professional activities, are not business trips.  They are focused on the journey as an artistic activity.  They are not tourists guided along predetermined paths and shielded (willingly) from anything that might be new, strange or different. 


Travel and artistic work have much in common.  Both tread new paths, research, explore, involve a change of surroundings, move in different contexts, require adaptation or isolation, experiment, reorientation, probing, diverging, wandering, migration, seeking and finding paths, seeing time and space as constants and variables and moving and orienting oneself within these criteria.  Aimlessness and the pursuit of precise aims within the constraints of space/time can equally lead to insights, experiences and repositioning.


Rivka Rinn's frequent travels are determined by a few constants and several variables.  The constants are:  primary residence and partner in Rome, atelier and friends in Berlin, teaching in Salzburg and Innsbruck, family in Tel Aviv, sponsors, collectors and friends in Munich, old friends in Florence, teaching, exhibitions and friends in Beijing.  Also her languages: Italian, German, Hebrew, English, French, and above all the language of images.  As for the variables, they are work-related:  galleries, museums, periodic major exhibitions, collectors and sponsors worldwide, from Johannesburg to Moscow, Warsaw to Istanbul (see exhibition list).


Photos dominate my life like a diary and my experiences in these situations.  My most "anonymous" aerial photograph was taken at sunset – this was a quite special moment.  That is the aim of my work.  It is how I feel things and why I accord importance to it.


The complex relationship between anonymity and subjectivity at the moment of taking a photograph reflects the contradictory condition of transitory existence during travel.  To the seeming anonymity of the eye behind the camera, Rivka Rinn adds the subjective experience of the snapshot and the emotional spheres of memory, which may leave behind biographical traces.


There are several more or less fictitious versions of Rivka Rinn's biography.  Her real biography often proves to be unreal and absurd and has "shifted".  The criteria for making biographical lists often turn out in case of Rivka Rinn's life and work, to be surreal.  Also the biographical constants change along with local changes in their place and significance in life.


For this publication, the artist has grouped the pictures from the last ten years – the earlier ones taken with an analogue camera, using standard colour printing, the ones after 2003 taken with a digital camera – into four categories:


The sequence "Art in Architectonic Context" comprises her space-oriented works, i.e. photo-installations commissioned for specific places – galleries, museums, shops, public displays.  Mostly she covers the windows or other glazed surfaces with large-scale plastic transparencies of her work and allows two places to connect and overlap.  The identity of a different place is introduced and combined with the existing spatial context by integrating two-way views of other urban realities.  Many of these photo-installations were only temporary – some in the context of an exhibition – while others are permanent.


The sequence "Framed Velocity" focuses on the difference in perception between the human eye and the camera eye.  Whereas at high speed (in a car or train) the eye perceives the passing landscape only as unclear or blurred, with a very fast shutter speed, the camera can capture details or even give a visual representation of the blur.  The camera is far superior to the human eye at high speed, and produces a kind of image not dependent on human perception.


Under the title "Crowded Vectors", Rivka Rinn collects photos in which people are caught in traffic or travel situations.  "Capturing" people with the camera when they are moving at speed is a challenge.  People rushing through traffic, moving around in public places, look like everyone else and anonymous.  For Rivka Rinn, it makes little difference whether or not people appear in the picture – they are in any case always present.


People are always in my work, because I am behind the camera.  For me, there is little difference between the experience of photographing a series of tunnels or a picture of traveling through the tunnel. .... When I'm taking photographs, I take the standpoint of a person behind a camera.  Even before people appeared in my pictures [before 1998 (ed.)] I always thought that these "anonymous" pictures were extremely intimate pictures because they show how we experience things.  We are just as sensitive when we are out and about as we are at home, or dreaming at night.


The last sequence "Accelerated Heaven" brings together pictures of and about flying – airports, runways, pictures taken from aeroplanes with glimpses of parts of wings, jets, the earth below or the clouds and the sky.  This sequence, unlike the others, has a highly poetic dimension.  It conveys the solitude of the passenger, far removed from the bustle of daily life, in the still vastness of the air, weather conditions and the shifting of time.


What, and how, does the artist see, as she moves so fast and so often from place to place – not an active participant in the traffic, but a passenger?  What does she photograph?  Usually she is looking through a window – a train window, an aeroplane window or a windscreen.  This means that between her eye and the pictured slices of the outside world there are at least two filters:  camera and window.  She sees streets, traffic signs, vehicles and their lights, crossings, landscapes rushing past, pictures from a bird's view, transport buildings – airports, train stations, car parks.  Most of the photos have two or more different levels of motion, speed and acceleration since they show moving and stationary objects and subjects.  Thus the pictures have different degrees of sharpness or blur.


The artist's recent trips to China and her encounters with contemporary Chinese photography have played an important role in her work.  When multi-disciplinary artists such as Ai Weiwei see the artist's task as documenting the rapid changes in the urban surroundings of Beijing, something that cannot be achieved quickly enough by individual artists, they carry out the task with almost military teamwork.  Rivka Rinn is amazed by the difference in visual thinking.


In China I realized that visual thinking is different.  People in China live between the present and the past.  Walking from one place to another there was something like a multiplication process.  I experienced the same kind of thing in Japan when I photographed motorways, for example, and saw how everything piles up.  I could photograph ten motorways at once, all crossing one another.  It was the same with the people I saw at the Communist Party convention in Beijing.


In Rivka Rinn's videos, her photographs are reduced to their essence, multiplied and compressed, joined in a rapid sequence of up to 6,000 images at intervals of one second – too fast for the human eye to process.  Speed and acceleration again overtake human perception.

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