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Monique Thomaes: textcollections

Christoph Tannert

– In the moment of the light – 1998
published in "de passage monique thomaes" vice versa verlag berlin 1998
translation by John Epstein


lieux / white spaces / (e)space(s)
We live in a world of blitzy commercials and high performance cameras, of flashlight thunderstorms and flickering stroboscope lamps. Everything and everybody struts their stuff upon the ivory stage. This daily insanity seeks elucidation in the glitzy, popular mag-rags. The sparkling of the disco sphere is imitated by the picture muck of television. As Niklas Luhmann has put it, the "operative closed system" of mass media offers a mega-pack of possibilities for effulgent eye-catchers. He who has made it to the point of being embellished by the hot steamy spotlights is considered to be illustrious. Yet "honor and fame", Geneviève Brisac writes, "are no longer synonymous. Just consider the noise, that running about, those sassy-crass pictures. Just too many lights, too much din".

The work of the artist Monique Thomaes is also full of brightness, yet she is not concerned about producing a showy event: she searches for tranquillity, for silence, for the luminous room (which, as Michel Serres says, "is by its very nature reticent"), and she is motivated by the fascination of working with light as a volume, as a body.

In most of her previous works, Monique Thomaes has more or less dealt with the plastic aspect of those questions concerning light, movement, and time. However, she has not consciously drawn upon technological means taken from the field of kinetic art – thus she has not used those iodine, sodium, or mercury gas filled glass tubes, bulbs, or decoratively curvilinear light arches or those technologies (electromechanical, electronic, thermal, hydraulic, or what-ever) of composed light.

It is rather the natural rhythm of brightness to darkness… to brightness… to darkness… a secret of self-organization determining the artist's processes and parables. There is something astounding in these concepts, a savoir-faire of the meta-language which is driven by a process of continuous self-reflection.

Her works dealing with light, shading and reflection, moreover, become subordinated to a concept of energy which represents the tense relationship between the natural and the artificial. Thomaes thus tests the contemporary relevancy of the intellectual tradition of "micro-emotive art", an art which is extremely reduced in its use of material and which, mindful of the permanent remodeling, circulation, and volatilization of its medium, attempts to accommodate itself to the river of time so that the single work poetically "occurs" and thereby participates in the eternal legitimacy of nature.

Again and again what interests her is that line of demarcation, each indefinable space where wall and floor surfaces collide with one another. The compositional construction of these sculptures which lean toward the immaterial, absolutely follow the logic of mathematical proportions. In the form of the creativity of lights, the artistic layout unites together geometry, optics, light theory, and the playback of visual reality. Depending on the kind of light source or the time of day and angle at which the light is falling, natural or artificial light receives the task of conferring a form while at the same time taking an immediate influence on the genesis process as well as the processes involved in perceiving a work.

Transparency, openess, specificity of the situation, and transitoriness are the primary formal criteria of this art. To the artist, what is more important than the exact construction of a light or glimmering effect is the de-materialization of the environment, the variation, reflection, and transformation of ambient fields, and the inclusion of the audience in such a fluctuating situation. Monique Thomaes' on-the-spot-installations are journeys with and in light, a one-way ticket to the universal, a meditative exercise, a retrospective dream.

Even if Monique Thomaes does work with projectors and the mechanisms of video technology, it is not simply for experiment's sake. An important stipulation of her room presentations employing light is the observer's active experience of the room. It is exactly this correspondence which facilitates the initiation of a philosophical questioning while at the same time turning the eye inward. Silence. Opening. Now pay careful attention. Time is astray. What patience such a room needs!