Bucharest – Fragments In A Box

At Atelier 35 Gallery, Bucharest, 4-18 July 2008 The history of the peep boxThe increasing need for education, information and images in the course of social upheaval and trends of enlightenment in the 18th century made the peep box (German: Guckkasten) popular. Through holes, usually provided with loupe-like lenses, the curious viewer could look into a box where he could see images of the world. The graphics were illuminated through a natural or artificial light source from behind, while spatial perception was generated by the dark interior. What could be seen were views of near and foreign countries, biblical and mythological scenes, and depictions of historical events. The visual experience was usually commented with texts and songs by demonstrators. In the 18th century the peep box satisfied the visual desires of the masses, who until then, apart from murals and paintings in churches, had only little access to visual media. The box was wandering from fair to fair as a disseminator of information with a highly entertaining value. For the lower classes of the population, who weren’t able to be mobile, the peek in the box was like a short journey into unknown, unseen worlds. Bucharest – fragments in a boxThe German photographer Greta Hoheisel and the sound artist Norbert Lang use the old media “peep box” to adapt it to the digital present and create a contemporary portrait of Bucharest with sounds and pictures. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the purpose of peep boxes was mainly to show attractions and curiosities from foreign countries. In an era in which the mass media have taken over these functions to a large extent, Bucharest – fragments in a box is searching for the opposite: fragments of everyday life. Thus Greta Hoheisel and Norbert Lang underline the fact that it is not the pompous and spectacular view of the city that forms our relation to it, but the seemingly incidental and fragmentary occurrence. Fragments of the city, not only in pictures but also in sounds: this approach focuses on a part of our life which is always present, but to which we hardly pay any attention. We “close” our ears because the domination of our visual and literary culture makes us forget its auditory counterpart. If we take the step to concentrate on the sounds around us, we can follow strong narrations of our environment and ourselves. The goal of the project Bucharest – fragments in a box is to find a balance between the visual and the auditory elements and thus create a contemporary portrait of Bucharest, full of gaps.

by Greta Hoheisel & Norbert Lang