Wolfgang Weileder – Atlas, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland

Text by Rachel McDermott

Everywhere we go we leave traces of our presence. A hair caught in the fibres of a chair; a photograph uploaded onto Facebook, a tweet about ‘what we’re up to;’ we even alter the elements in the air around us by the simple act of breathing. The archiving of man in time and space has occupied the artist from day one. In this technological age, never more so than now have we been able to accurately map our temporal and special interventions.

In the NGCA, Wolfgang Weileder presents an expansive body of works he collectively titles Atlas. In the purpose built gallery space, a series of manipulated photographs adorn the walls of the gallery. On first sight, they don’t appear to be photographs at all; the large-scale imagery is painterly, it’s reminiscent of Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings of the 1990’s. On closer inspection though, the digital hand reveals itself; pixel-sized lines slice the plane, and the image reveals itself as stacked photography.

Weileder, like many tourists, sets up his camera in iconic streets or squares in cities across the globe, but unlike the tourists, his camera remains there for hours. Shot using a time-lapse, Weileder records not only the place itself, but also the how it changes over time. After collating this imagery, it is fed into a custom-made computer programme which takes one pixel slices from each photograph, stacking them to create a single image.

The works are presented as (mainly large) framed photographic prints hung on the gallery wall. Displayed in a series of rooms, the viewer must walk around and enter different spaces to engage in the works. This navigation reemphasises the geographical thesis running through the works. From Paris to Singapore, and Sydney to Rome, Weileder’s body of works are a temporal and spatial atlas.

The photographic imagery itself has lost its figuration in its formatting, instead the works are beautifully complex and dense, and yet simultaneously pared down to the principle colours of the scene. A dark section remaining static across the slices of photography could be a building, whereas men and women passing through the scene become nothing more than a fleeting colour; there, and then gone.

In the corner of each work Weileder provides some information including the start and end time of the photography, the date, the name of the place and a map of the scene. Weileder also gives a synopsis of the scene that only heightens the intrigue. In Singapore, ‘ladies sell lotus flowers and incense sticks in front of the Buddhist temple while Hindus celebrate the Deepvali at the adjacent Sri Krishnan Shrine,’ yet when our eyes return the imagery, we see only fluid inky blue slices broken by fine dashes and smudges of colour.

This type of engagement with time and place operates outside of typical information gathering. I am reminded of Heidegger, whom argued that absorbed non-theoretical modes of activity offer more fundamental understandings of realities than detached and theoretical analysis. The ‘data’ gathered is so dense than it is no longer readable; the imagery is wholly abstract and yet simultaneously loaded with detail. Not only is Weileder’s Atlas an extensive achievement in archiving, but by exploiting both time and place, he provides us with a re-envisioned sense of reality.

Wolfgang Weileder: Atlas is on display at NGCA until 8 February 2014.

Image courtesy of NGCA. © Wolfgang Weileder and Workplace Gallery.

Rachel McDermott is an Artist and Writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Published 31.01.2014 by Lauren Velvick in Reviews

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