Barbara Probst

During her lecture at the Aperture Gallery in Chelsea, Barbara Probst discussed the origin, conception and evolution of her work over the last two decades.  Starting as a  sculpture major in Munich, her initial involvement with the medium stemmed from incorporating photographs into her structures.  Later, her interest in the idea of the simulacrum inspired the realization that her sculptures weren’t as interesting as their photographs, so after taking their picture she would destroy the physical piece.  This ideological shift in perception marks a departure point in her career as an artist.  Drawn to the duality of photography, Probst was mystified by the medium’s deceptive relationship with reality and truth.

On January 7, 2000, at 10:37 PM, she embarked on a project entitled ‘Exposures’ that has been her focus ever since.  Arranging twelve synchronized  cameras in different positions on the roof of her midtown apartment, she captured herself leaping into the air using a radio wave transmitter and receiver.  This experiment unveiled the complexities lacing the conditions of perception.  Although the twelve resulting images shared the same exposure, they all told very different stories.  The complicity of contradictory narratives stemmed from the disparate camera angle, which determines how one read the photo. The field of viewpoints rendered an irrational melody of confounding stories and the illusion of different genres.  Whereas one image had the aesthetic of a fashion shoot, the other felt like a film still and the other voyeuristic.  Probst was intrigued by the simultaneous, yet contradictory representations of the same subject at the same moment.  From this point on, the question of perception, representation and photography’s dialectic between the real and subjective became central to her work.

For Probst, there are endless representations of a single moment which complicate the veracity of a single photograph. Our view of the world is unique and cannot be shared.  A photograph simulates the act of seeing, it is physical product of perception.  In truth, a photo can tell more about photographer than what is being told in the photograph itself.  Probst interests lie in the enigmatic nature of the subject and how photography translates an image into a narrative.  In Exposure #37, she has two subjects photographing each other- rendering the photographer and model one in the same- the observer becomes the person observed, having power yet surrendering it simultaneously.

Not all of her work is completely staged, for instance exposure #9 is shot in public space, showing the six possible views one can have of a subject on the street. The conflicting accounts of a pathological moment is unsettling and furthermore unveils the spectrum of points of view.  In her recent work, she has taken on an installation approach photographing a moment with a number of people involved. The viewer is able of move around the space and interact differently with the images, which Probst hopes gives it a sculptural aspect.  The multiplicity of perspective undermines the notion of the ‘decisive moment’.  The divergent narratives that manifests due to the fragmentation of the moment undermine the pretext of a single gaze.

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