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Monique Thomaes: textcollections

Brigitte Hammer

– Construction of space and time in the light of events – 1998
published in "de passage monique thomaes" vice versa verlag berlin 1998
translation by John Epstein


Quiet strength and a highly charged emotional atmosphere are the predominant qualities which come to mind when regarding those works of Monique Thomaes which instigate the apprehension of space through examination and experience. Her sparing use of materials permits a minimal shift in the light intensity of a multi-layered process of self-reflection to activate the observer's self-experience and to set free a grandiose quality of experience. However, the nervous system of the observer is not overly stimulated by this occurrence of the "event culture“; rather, what is increased is his abilities to feel in the manner of a cultivated and finely tuned sensibility.

In order to examine how the artist achieves this effect, an intense occupation with her procedure, which brings into the foreground complex concepts through an application of simple means, is required. At first it might appear to be a simple matter when, in 1992, the artist laid down on the floor of a room in the then still un-renovated "Hackesche Hšfe“ (a late nineteenth-century living and business complex located in the district of Berlin Mitte) plain, rectangular-cut glass plates; the effect, however, was astounding; yet it was not astounding only owing to the fact that the visitor was initially unsure as to whether he may walk into a room with such a floor covering.

The mirroring of the windowpanes on the floor depicted not only the light falling in through the wall's outer opening, but also the window's form as well as the constant transformation of reflection caused by the continuous increase and decrease of light intensity in the outer room, this latter being a process which usually is unnoticed because it occurs "un-reflected“. What is interesting here is that the observer can only become conscious of and discover such processes when he is willing to surrender himself to the act of observation for a good amount of time; the reason for such patience is that, as a rule, the changes are more likely take place – allowing for the fact that thunderstorms or similar dramatic weathers events are not happening – slowly and progressively.


au lieu de
In the ruinous structure of the Berlin's Parochialkirche, Monique Thomaes conceived of a "light sculpture“ which resumed this window motive in a different way. A circle of twelve museum display cases, the bottoms of which were laid with blue glass plates, were set up opposite to twelve huge arched windows. The light falling through the bright, makeshift glass reflected the forms of the windows on the blue display case bottoms, and thus by means of the resulting shimmering blue light reflections partially restored the colored light which the damaged building had lost due to the war's effects.

For an installation in the Potsdamer Kunstspeicher as well, the artist employed the mysterious and transcendental effects of light descending through a blue window. Owing to a blue pane placed before the window which, on one hand, allowed some light to penetrate through while, on the other hand, muffled the sound and course of events occurring outside, this work was able to make clear that special duality of the window motive as being the boundary between the here and there, inner and outer, reality and transcendence, worldly and heavenly, earthly and the spiritual.


de passage
For this exhibition in the Kunstspeicher, Monique Thomaes displayed still another room installation which through rhythm, movement, and imaginary space experiences – and in contrast to the previously described works all of which made visible the "natural“ transformations of the light – simulated an active time experience by using guided light directed from artificial light sources in darkened rooms. Onto a wall, three projectors threw square, quadratic light areas which were distorted in their perspective owing to a slight tilt in the angle of incidence. While the left surface with its sharply defined edges remained motionless on the wall, the auto focus of the right surface's projector was in permanent operation thereby causing a pulsing vibration which arose from the rhythmical changing in the degree of focus; such vibrations were further increased by the sequential hum of the "working“ projector. Using a blue shaded slide, the middle projector blended together the two areas standing at a slight angle to one another, consequently intensifying the "seeing“ of an actually non-existent room. The feeling that this room is actually present was so intense that the observer had to reach out in order to see that his hand is not "realizing“ a room, but simply a flat wall.

Since Monique Thomaes' spacial works essentially develop over a time span, it was inevitable that she should also come to terms with the video medium, since this medium processes an even better facility for illustrating time-dependent processes. By using video, she becomes independent of light's natural behavior and by sequential filming techniques she can make clearer the often minimal process of change or she can influence such change processes through artificial light sources thereby gaining an even more dramatic element.


This process became especially clear when, in 1995, a work entitled "Lieux“ was created in the cellar room of a Salzburg museum. The empty cellar room had only its bare cement walls and already existing neon tubes – the artist neither added nor changed anything to what was already at hand. She shot one minute films from three different camera positions before changing the size of the aperture and again shooting for a minute until the picture was completely effaced owing to the fading. The final result were three eight minute films which depicted the cellar room progressively revealing itself, first from the obscure depths of deepest darkness only to finally disappear again in a dazzling brightness. Here the emergence and consequent disappearance of the "room itself“ is staged as a time-dependent event, a breathtaking happening of terrific vividness.

Based upon the experience that a closed room is perceivable only through light and illumination and that time is perceivable only through the increase and decrease in the intensity of light or by the repetitive changing and minimal altercation of rhythm, Monique Thomaes develops a very complex "neo-conceptional“ art, the intellectual stringency of which is accompanied by a thoughtful application of technical media and a provident use of material resources with a high emotional impact. With artistic means the artist adds important aspects to the examination of space and time, light and movement, taken from the knowledge of the creating subjects and, insofar rhythm is a feature of all which lives, thereby enriches our experience of beings-in-the-world.