Conversation with Silvio Wolf

Martina Corgnati

in "Light Specific", monograph, Nuovi Strumenti, Brescia 1995
in "Arte e Cronaca" N. 6, Lecce 1987

Silvio Wolf: Photography is made transparent and annulled by the abuse of images. Photography as such has disappeared while it has not at all finished with the objective representation of things. It should, however, be treated as a code, equivalent to the code of painting, which allows an approach with space as long as you know how to use it. Space is a dimension that can be worked on with techniques.

Martina Corgnati: Silvio Wolf feels free to act with respect to space because it is offered naturally. In his photography there are many spaces that intertwine with each other: internal space relevant to the image because it represents the space. In a recent work (Belvedere) this space is broken up even further in the space of the surface of a mirror and in the virtual space inside it. Furthermore there is the dimensional space of the cibachrome, a paradoxical and limiting condition of the language that is so thin that it annuls the reality value of the third dimension and is just a threshold between inside and outside.

SW: My work always concerns questions of a linguistic nature so that the images are finished forms of an object inside a language, which has light and time as its signs. The photography, a given fact, is a place of possible coincidence between inside and outside, which is to say between space (light = visible space) and time.

MC: The notion of time, in Silvio Wolf’s work, refers to a concept which in this case too is not uniform: the time in which an image is formed (photo impression) which is to do with the incontrovertible banality of train timetables; the time of wine cellars, that which passes between the moment when the raw photographic material is accumulated and that in which it is selected, about two years, during which Silvio Wolf has changed sensorially and mnemonically with respect to the immobile images; the missing time in the experience of a photograph, the instantaneous blindness which makes it possible to transfer a visual experience to a film; finally, time inside the work or what is represented.

SW: To understand what I mean by represented time, it is enlightening to consider a work by Peter Breugel the Elder (Danza di Contadini, Vienna). A set of figures dances, completely involved in the time of the work. Just one couple is running to reach the others, coming from a different time outside the picture with the result that one of the woman’s feet has not come into the canvas, it is still over here. A fantastic crossroads of dimensions, marked out by a diagonal and all in 114 x 164 cm. You don’t need much.

MC: Breugel, though, painted. Silvio Wolf photographs, makes images and experiments. One doesn’t ask oneself questions about time as a conceptual category.

SW: What counts are the deep formal structures of the mind, like the diagonal in Breugel. There is an interest in moral questions in his work, expressed almost didactically. There is something similar in J.S. Bach. I am thinking of the Art of the Fugue which I encountered in Berlin in 1982. Bach started with a simple and powerful theme to construct a solid and liquid combining work of art.

MC: Silvio Wolf performed B.A.C.H., a work on jets of water.

SW: Water is an infinite possibility of image and life. In photography change is effected in the sense of instantaneousness and simultaneousness.

MC: People speak of an artificial condition produced with a finished work, which is in fact the presence together of many instantaneities presented simultaneously (polyptychal). The linear succession of events, the sequence, as old as daily existence, is therefore shattered.

SW: This is similar to the idea of musical harmony, a single sound which comprises  all of them but which respects the uniqueness of the individual parts. With a musical score, all that is actually accomplished visually.

MC: The form that is sought is balance, worked order of the parts. The composition develops as simultaneity but also as space.

SW: The external images correspond to certain autonomous mental images that are pre-existing and relate to exploration of the world. There is a sort of clairvoyant sense in special zones of the real where some answers seem possible. The selection is a form of love.

MC: Love chooses a place, a particular point in external reality by which Silvio Wolf is pierced. Something is held back in this process, the photography, and the finished work returns it to the world.