Space Case

Marco Breuer Investigates Photography’s Outer Limits

In his show at Esso, there's a piece that Breuer made after cutting himself on one of the glass plates he was using for his negatives. Instead of wasting the fluid, he coated a plate with blood and let it dry. Even though most of the blood flaked off, when placed in an enlarger and projected onto photo paper, the glass plate produced an image that looks like cracked paint in extreme close-up. Another image at Esso is the result of glass cleaner sprayed on a glass plate. The negative, such as it is, remains constantly in motion as bubbles pop and rearrange, so the photo appears out of focus, like a liquifying, hallucinogenic sponge. And for the Breuer piece that's included in "Photography About Photography" at Andrew Kreps, he set a piece of cloth on fire, essentially allowing the fabric to take its own photo by providing the necessary light. "What happens," Breuer explains, "is that I record that transformation from the object to the image. Once the cloth is burned up, it's gone. It had to be destroyed for that image to be recorded, but what is recorded at the same time is that process of destruction."

The immediacy and sponteneity of Breuer's photographic process brings it close to performance; each piece is direct evidence of the artist at work. To underline that performance, Breuer's included several actual photos of himself alongside the photograms at Esso. Typically, the artist's presence is ephemeral and, as in previous series where he's been his own subject, not at all about self-portraiture. "It's really more about working with oneself as a way of figuring things out about yourself in the process," he says. "I go back to using myself in front of the camera the same way I use myself in interacting with the paper—that's just who's there. I really consider this a solitary exercise. So I like the idea of working by myself and using myself and whatever's at hand." Bring on the lighter fluid.

This is not nostalgia: Marco Breuer’s Untitled (Again).
This is not nostalgia: Marco Breuer’s Untitled (Again).

"For Now," Breuer's show at Esso, 191 Chrystie Street, continues through March 11. Pattern and Practice, a book of his photograms, is due out in May from Rosenfeld Publishing in Munich, Germany.

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