What Remains

2009/13, PAL 4:3, 13 min, colour, original sound, english subtitles
voice over: assistant editor de Volkskrant: Gijs van den Heuvel

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© Video still
If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, junk-space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. (Rem Koolhaas)

The thesis inspired by psychoanalysis that the opening credits of a film present, in nuce its entire contents, is also to an extent plausible when the film is not a full-length feature film made at a dream factory.

The opening credits in Annja Krautgasser’s video What Remains show no more than the title, and yet lead directly into the subject matter. The two words can be read in white capital letters on a black background for precisely four seconds. Without any further punctuation the two words unambiguously express neither a question nor a conclusion but remain fragmentary. The actual introduction consists of three shots of exactly the same length that introduce the protagonist of this—as it is called in the subtitle—“architectural portrait of the former newspaper district in Amsterdam-Oost.” These show outdoor views of the publishing houses of the Dutch newspapers Het Parool, Trouw, and de Volks-krant, which had their premises on Wibautstraat for decades before production at this location was successively shut down over the course of the last decade.

The close proximity of the publishing houses to one another, their originally divergent political leanings, their contemporary appearance, as well as their shared fate as industrial ruins with changing subsequent uses form the basis for Krautgasser’s work. Also in a literal sense, as the artist’s studio during her stipend was situated on the fourth floor of the former Volkskrant building, with a view of the complex opposite, which had been used by the newspaper Trouw until 2003. The artist’s approach to the object is nevertheless deliberately distanced. She does not embark on a subjective “search for traces” that could do nothing else than to read from the items, she finds what it is that she had previously put into them. Instead, the trained architect analyses the three buildings “structurally” by bringing more inconspicuous areas like lifts, corridors, foyers, office spaces, waiting areas, or production complexes into view in a precise succession of sparse stills and brief film sequences, and making them comparable with one another. Apart from a few design details, it is primarily the large newspaper mastheads on the façades that allow the locations shown to be ascribed to the appropriate building.

Long stretches are dominated by uniform, anonymous interior views that shed no light on, for instance, the editors’ ideas who worked for years in these spaces. Instead, what is to be seen is what Rem Koolhaas termed “Junkspace” in his grim reckoning with the architecture of the present. Junkspace is an architecture without any qualities, but which is far from being banal despite its facelessness and interchangeability. On the contrary: Junkspace is the triumph of infrastructure over space, the triumph of the amorphous over form, of ideology over politics, and of images over language.

What Remains5 undertakes a survey of Junkspace at precisely that moment when it becomes ubiquitous, and also captures an architecture fundamentally indebted to Modernism. So Annja Krautgasser’s video is not archaelogical, exploring a past industrial epoch, rather it is a stringent description of a current state without any sentimental haziness.

(Christian Muhr)

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© Video stills

Passing the Past

19. – 26.04.2009
P///AKT, Amsterdam
agentur: in transit: exhibition at P///AKT

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© Exhibition view: Passing the Past, P///AKT, Amsterdam, 2009

In this solo exhibition, Annja Krautgasser shows a selection of recent video works. The registered spaces are analytically studied and depicted within the adaptation by their new users. In “What Remains”, relict newspaper buildings seem to want to talk with each other, showing each other their bold faces. Hallways are mostly empty, tables leaning around uselessly. Every shot is an imaginary glance to the past, with once busy employees filling in the news of the next day’s issues. The only remainders of the former function are the large typefaces on top of the facades. With her architectonical portraits, Annja Krautgasser turns buildings into protagonists, revealing glimpses of their past. (Karin Christof, agentur:)

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© Building view, Trouw/Het Parool, 2009

screening (new version):
• Diagonale 2013 - Festival des österreichischen Films, Graz

exhibitions (old version): • ...what remains..., Andechsgalerie, Innsbruck, A 2009 • Passing the Past, P///AKT, Amsterdam, NL 2009

No: 09-002