stalker material - matthias lindner - captive in time /review

captive in time /by matthias lindner

“The machine-gun-man on the … motorcycle.” The projection opens with words from the contemporary witness Arvo Iho, the only comprehensible speech in the video installation. The former intern on the set bears witness in this way to the starting point of Polster’s video – the former locations of Tarkovsky’s Stalker. In the course of the 40 minutes Polster will modify additional typical Tarkovsky scenes and ambiances/environments: the train trip and the waterfall, the large areas of fog, fire, landscapes full of ruins. For Tarkovsky the aesthetic point of departure was always the idea for a movie, the tale of a character with its insoluble captivity in time. He sought cinematic images which follow a poetic logic because they are based on observation: “In my view poetic reasoning is closer to the laws by which thought develops, and thus to life itself, than is the logic of traditional drama.” (Andrey Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, 1984, eng. University of Texas reprint 1986, p.  20)

Polster isn’t making movies, but in a similar manner he makes the element of observation into the basic principle of his works: “The cinema image, then, is basically observation of life’s facts within time.” (Tarkovsky, op. cit., p.  68) Polster expands this observation process patiently and trusts to happenstance with enormous perseverance during the production of footage. He organises for himself well selected and carefully composed scenes like in a painting, he waits like a spider in its web, later on the computer he cuts out the prime pieces of the action. In Stalker/Material the camera is filming more in a documentary style without spectacular images and panning shots. After all there isn’t any psychology of characters to be illustrated. It is the place that brings forth what is impressive with its appearance and the unforeseen events.

Polster’s film arises substantially in the cut, its characteristics are shaped and grow with the material available. In this way the handling of time becomes the most dynamic means of expression in Polster’s videos and the strongest axis to the everyday experiences of the viewer. Movement allows the time experienced to pass more quickly, almost unchanging scenes lead to loss of the sense of time. Rarely does the sense of real time prevail. The multiple projection in the exhibition ensures additional disorientation of the senses.
Polster plays with the viewers’ capacity for experience and makes quasi-documentary material into a series of intensively experienced high-contrast situations of great density. He throws them into the dichotomy of perceptions between slow motion and multi-channel awareness, into a turn toward settings and details that otherwise do not tend to demand our attention because they are familiar. Through extension everyday visual situations are given the opportunity to emerge as metaphors and to entrench themselves in our memory. The sound supports this contemplative perception with a very static, far from natural sound-noise structure which is only rarely interrupted or given rhythm.

At the same time Stalker/Material is a production staged in space. Five large projections with an outlook character on three sides face a small transparent disc in the middle of the space, which appears to be self-illuminating because it is lit from both sides. The viewers must first find their place in the generous spatial arrangement. One longs for an ideal place with a total overview. But with seven projection on four sides there is none. One has to accept that one will not be able to see everything. Orienting the attention in accordance with what is happening leads to large-scale movements in the installation, which are quickly felt to be inappropriate and are reduced to a minimum. This is also due to the fact that Polster’s camera work knows no viewer’s perspective. One remains in detached observation, which enables experience and reflection in equal measure.

Mathias Lindner, May 2015