Olivia Kaiser

There, Not There
Arie Amaya-Akkermans

“The disappearance of the past is something one can find consolation for easily; what is inconsolable is the disappearance of the future as well”. –Amin Maalouf, ‘The Disoriented’ (2012)

Invisible dotted lines map out the configuration of human time, a smooth surface of notations often undecipherable, but logical upon close inspection. When the essence of this temporality breaks down, we do not notice an immediate rupture but a sudden change of direction dictated by the closure of certain borders, after which the dotted lines become an abstract dispersion. Pictorial images, on the other hand, have naturally resisted this corrosive effect of time, often associated with decay and abeyance, fixing the gaze towards a horizon that is both finite and infinite; constructed formally as a durable presence but ontologically rooted beyond all possibilities of representation. Throughout the history of painting, this ambivalence between the possibility to exist simultaneously across varieties of concrete worldly experience and the interminability of such an experience, have placed artists in an intermediate position between the history of objects and their phenomenal nature.
But what happens when the research material of the artist is a reference without referents? What we are dealing with in here is not invisibility, for morphologically speaking, the invisible carries a potency of the visible that has been temporarily disestablished. Disappearance, on the other hand, is concerned with the absolute rupture of a time-image sequence that cannot be retrieved, only invoked. The mechanisms adopted to resolve this problem throughout the modern period are many, including the color field and even the empty canvas, yet even there the question of visibility precedes over the nature of presence. In Olivia Kaiser’s exhibition “Ghosting”, the reference is to a socio-psychological construction of our times, noticeable only in light of the complex networks of interconnectedness based on exchange and commodification that define human relations. An absence in this context is not merely a quantitative lack of relative presence, but a hierarchical rupture.
Since our abandonment of nature –our current habitat is the interface between private and public property, and not the natural world, reality is constructed in a two-fold manner: A synchronized network of agreements on the semantic value of objects, and the sum aggregate of the totality of phenomena, both of which are mediated solely by human relations. When a person vanishes without a trace, leaving behind the objective world of utilitarian means and exchanges that constitute reality under the conditions of capitalism, the hierarchical rupture occurs in the manner of leaving out temporal gaps in which there is no correlation between the subject known and the knowledge thereof. Should this occur in isolation, and concerning a merely phenomenal relation to the world, it wouldn’t be a matter of interest, weren’t it for the fact that this gesture means to break out of intimate social structures. And to disappear from the world also happens to alter how others appear in it.
To undo a fundamental promise, that is, the promise of being present and a known entity –almost identical premises, ultimately means to shatter the temporary reliability that the world will last in its current form, and challenges the durability of language and truth. When the interlocutor disappears, language becomes void and the speaker’s utterances are nullified by this inability to access the enlarged system of truth and meaning where exchanges take place, the site where judgments are made possible. The quintessentially contemporary aspect of this situation is that with the impoverishment of private life at the heart of our version of capitalism, it is only those semi-private spaces where we appear with others what makes the world understandable and relatable. When the other is nullified, we lose access to the symbolic order as well and remain on the margin of the sign, able to communicate with the world only through political action and monetary exchange.
In these paintings, Olivia Kaiser articulates the spatiality of language and maps out a variety morphological relations between human time, speech and images, however devoid of syntax; endlessly arresting time is omnipresent devouring the architectural remnants of specific memories, and transforming them into shadows. Clean slates of anti-memory saturate themselves with semi-narrative, semi-linguistic content, in an attempt to write a palimpsest in reverse, a palimpsest without layers, and without weight. When the other disappears into the endlessly open structure of social relations, it is but this very possibility what emits a worrying sign: Human bonds can be deliberately abstracted into mere dotted lines without concrete content or tempo. In a situation of ghosting, the ghoster does not leave the world, but reappears elsewhere with different parameters, naturally changing the course of a history that he or she had earlier determined.
A qualitative change occurs: For the ghostee, the disappearance of the past modifies not necessarily the consciousness of the present, but the grammar of the present-future becomes a disjointed echo, searching for wavelengths coming from all directions, trying to find again a solid ground that paradoxically, exists only in waves: Waves of remembrance, of the reverberations of speech creating directional movement. In these paintings, elements appear in togetherness but they never merge or collide. Their autonomous present-here-and-now status points towards empty time; it has neither ended nor begun, it is suspended in a recollection of fragments. The gaze can never be stabilized or fixed, and with arresting time –general time, world time, opposed to our lived every day, these elements solidify in their isolation and become insular. Archipelagos of meaning, speaking different tongues, separated by turbid, unnavigable waters.
The spectral quality of these shadowy elements, ghostly –no longer truly present but neither altogether distant, is a house of mirrors in which a recurring figure appears and disappears whimsically and stubbornly, latently awaking but without enough will to reappear. The suspension is indefinite, and accordingly, the image penetrates into the cruel essence of time, leaving the viewer at the mercy of certain moments that he or she can conjure up only speculatively. And very few clues are offered, other than the poetry of William Carlos Williams, underlying the titles. Speaking from another world, from the grace of another world, which is yet here and now but somewhere inaccessible and not locatable, the large paintings in the exhibition, are ghosting each other, questioning the singularity of the other, and asking the question whether there have truly been others at all. We are speaking from there, from the other end, but perhaps in the end, there’s no other, only pure sheer thereness.