By Krzysztof Jurecki
Translation by Kamila Michalak
What do symbols dream of? On Gespinste series
Corinna Streitz, in her 2011 Gespinste (English Gossamer) series, continues the surrealist photography programme with extreme success, focusing on its romantic and symbolic aspects. The series include approximately 30 analog, black and white photographs which have also been published in a book under the same name. Let's have a closer look at the specific atmosphere of the photographs resembling that of nightmares or horror movie scenes.
Obviously, Corinna is not a surrealist, since surrealist revolution happened a long time ago, in the 1920s and 30s. Her programme, and its relevance however, has been dictated by the works of André Breton. In 2011, the German artist returns to the exact issues which have troubled Parisian surrealist environment, in order to refresh a novel of this movement's guru - Breton - called Nadja. The novel explores human loneliness, in real life and in dream, which turns into a nightmare. This time, the boundaries between reality and surreality have been meticulously blurred in the work of Corinna Streitz, like in the best of Luis Buñuel films.
Each time we look at these photographs we get an impression that we watch a different person: a girl, a woman and sometimes even a man. The concept of gender has been deliberately blurred at times. Therefore, we deal with conscious transgression.
For four years, Corinna has been regularly taking part in workshops and seminars of Berlin's Neuen Schule für Fotografie, where she studied in the studio a renown photographer and tutor, Wolfgang Zurborn, who presented his exhibition at the Łodź FF Gallery in 2003. In 2011 Corinna also attended classes in Eva Bertram's studio in the same school in Berlin. Some analogies can be drawn between the "sparkling" and colourful piece of the world by Zurborn, a womanly introspection of the children's world by Bertram on the one side of the mirror, and its reflections of ever so personal and secret photographs by Corinna Streitz. But such analysis is to be made in another place and time.
The climate of some works resembles the 1930s surrealist works of Hans Bellmer. Naturally, Corinna is familiar with his works, but her current pieces lack the famous 'doll', unless it's the artist herself, and playing with herself in a narcissist way. Such interpretation, however, doesn't convince me. Here I see more of overcoming one's own fears and their simultaneous exhibition as well as surrealist masking of one's identity through defragmentation.
The presented series employ photo-performance, a formula which was quite popular in the 80s and 90s, but now is used less frequently. Both the tradition of German expressionism and surrealism can be observed here. Some of the works resemble those of Diane Ducruet, for instance her self-portrait with poppies, others successfully draw from the traditions of Francis Bacon painting.
This year in Bratislava, during the Month of Photography, we could also see a very good exhibition with an 'aura' similar to that of Corinna's works, surrealist-expressionist in form but connected to the comments which were pictures both referring to and conversing with their respective photographs. What I have in mind is the exposition in the style of the Vienna Fin de siècle by Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003). One crucial observation should be made, though. Corinna Streitz works are not feminist as in the case of the Austrian - they neither protest against nor fight for any ideas.
Notice the archetypal image in this photograph, which shows a person climbing up a hill, illustrating an endless spiritual journey, famously exploited by the renown director Werner Herzog, but used extensively by many other artists in their works.
Another important aspect which I have to point out is that the author perfectly manages each photograph creating both a visualization for it and the right mood. She does similarly well when photographing a sullen landscape, a luxurious interior or an architectonic detail. It rarely happens that an artist demonstrates such great ability to shape the photographs and fill them up with personal spirituality.
Still another projects may seem close to the gloomy and antihumanist mood of Francis Bacon works, while at the same time they may draw from the classic surrealism, which could reveal human-animal characters as coming from human subconscious, a technique used for instance by Max Ernst.
Observe the unusuality of the photograph that shows the contemporary Ophelia, symbolized by a limp body floating on water. Perhaps it's the eternal sign of death? It's marked with an undoubtedly novel stigma - a snake sign. What does it symbolize? Death, evil, misfortune or maybe all three at once?
The closing work from the artist's original book depicts a metaphor for the transience of life, which reminds of the unity of the nature world: people-plants-insects, and additionally highlights the impermanence of the photograph as a medium, which is shown by the photo's bent bottom edge, probably damaged on purpose. And not to mention the cover with its delirious reflection of the narcissist body once again camouflaged and strangely dressed in suffering, like St. Sebastian. So, following my analysis, the photograph is a late-modernism emblem due to the surrealism in its eternal life origin in a post-modernist world. New iconography requires new symbols of life and death, and the condition for their creation is one's loneliness and alienation in the unreal world.