Karin Schmuck, Imaginary Landscape, Limitis, 2020. Courtesy l’artista
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE ARTIST AND ANDREA LERDA:
Karin, in exploring your work I noticed how certain elements recur in much of your artistic production. The fascination with the concept of the limit; the tendency to reflect on perspective, understood in its cultural meaning and through its representation as a line separating Earth from Heaven; the recourse to walking as a founding experience of the creative process.
Your works are characterized by an apparent formal simplicity. In reality, a slow and careful look reveals the complexity of meanings that the images, compositional technique and type of display are intended to evoke.
The mountain is a central element in your research. Can you tell me what the mountain is for you and how does it enter into your work?
The mountains have been a part of my life since childhood. I grew up in an area in the middle of the Alps, and with family and friends we often spent time in the mountains, practically every weekend. Later, my student years and beyond, I lived in larger or smaller cities and felt a certain indifference to it. Some time ago, however, I rediscovered it and now I live the mountains a lot, both in my private life, practicing ski-mountaineering and climbing, and in my work life, in which, particularly in recent years, I have made it a main subject of my research, especially for the Limitis project.
Like the mountains, the sea is also a fundamental element of my research, I put them on the same level. They are pure nature for me, and the places I look for, are remote places where perhaps man has not yet set foot or his trace is not so recognizable.
If we think about the historical imagery of mountains, the physical relationship between the human body and the natural body appears central.
In many of your works the body is an important element. I am referring to your body, which becomes a functional tool for the production of the photographs and their conceptual signification. This happens for example in Limitis (2020, ongoing), Widest View (40 days, 40 walks, 40 views) (quarantine), 2020 and Hercules’ Pillars (2019).
To make my works, I use my body as a real “recording device,” making physical rotations by 180 degrees when I need to take photographs. This happens in the case of Opposites (Limitis) or Imaginary Landscapes (Limitis). The body is a tool that allows me to enhance the gaze. Consequently, the gaze is not limited to sight, but calls into play the whole bodily dimension. This process affects both me and the viewer who, when enjoying my works, is called into a physical, as well as a visual, relationship.
The body is activated in its entirety. Looking and walking are in fact two actions in dialogue. Both have to do with awareness and help me to develop a cognitive and creative process. Walking for me means moving at the “right” speed, which is why I choose to integrate it into my work, of which it is certainly influenced.
Can you tell me how the Imaginary Landscape project came about instead? What are the references that guide these photographs and how did you make the images?
Imaginary Landscapes consists of a series of photographs I took as part of the Limitis project, for which I traveled the borders of my province, South Tyrol. They are black-and-white photographs that, at first glance, look like classic mountain photographs, even a bit old-fashioned, if you will. In reality, as the title also reveals, they represent mountain landscapes that do not exist, at least not as I show them in these images. What these photographs show is the union of two shots taken while standing at a border point, which I reached only after hours of walking, overcoming considerable obstacles and many meters of elevation gain, and making a 180-degree turn to take the second photograph. Only a careful and perhaps somewhat slowed-down look reveals this game to the viewer; looking at them carefully reveals that there is “something wrong,” that the light cannot be this, that the landscapes are fictitious.
Karin Schmuck, Water #08, Limitis, 2022. Courtesy l’artista
I would like to ask you to talk more about the photographic series Limitis and how it explores the concept of limits. A theme that you also deal with in another very interesting project produced during the pandemic period and entitled Widest View (40 days, 40 walks, 40 views) (quarantine).
As I said, for the Limitis project, on which I have been working since 2020, I walked the perimeter of my province, giving substance to a cycle of works consisting of photographic series, drawings and installations. I started at a time in history when regional boundaries have taken on a new importance, although in the artistic outcome I did not want this territory to be overstated. In fact, there are no particular historical references, nor do I show any human intervention. I focus on the concept of the border, and its transience; on the difference between the line drawn on paper and the fluid and gradual dimension that connotes the actual passage.
I made the project Widest View (40 days, 40 walks, 40 views) (Quarantine) during the first lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, between March and April 2020. Every day, for 40 days (a time that historically coincides with the quarantine period) I left home at the same time, to do the same walk, with my Mamiya c330, a medium format bioptic camera. I took the same picture, from the same spot, the one furthest from home and the one from which I could see furthest. A kind of expression of nostalgia of going far, but at the same time an affirmation that by taking the same walk every day and taking a photograph from the same point every day, this will never be the same.
Karin Schmuck, Widest View (40 days, 40 walks, 40 views) (quarantine), 2020. Courtesy l’artista