Curated by Lyn Hejinian
I have always been interested in the way that we, as participants in a culture, identify ourselves. Before becoming a photographer I studied Ethnology and Social Anthropology. The camera is a means to understand the world I live in. I like to work in series over long periods of time. This allows me to dive into a context and learn about the structures of relationships among groups of people or objects and how they interrelate- visually, emotionally, socially and historically.
Over the last few years I have worked in both photography and video to explore recurring events of day- to-day life, it's often banal rituals, and rites of passage signifying the passage of time. Recording and re-contextualizing familiar images and incidents, I look for universal aspects of human experience in varied socio-cultural and personal situations and expressions.
home/away is a series of photographs that I have been taking of hotel rooms on journeys in Europe. I think of these images as portraits that speak of a sense of a lack of belonging: in a place, in a time, in the world. Since 1999, I travel back and forth between California and Europe. home/away asks to what extent do we define ourselves in relation to "home"; the work examines what that definition means in a world where so many individuals do not live where they were born.
by Lyn Hejinian
Wherever we encounter a work of art, we know that a person is and was there before us. Heike Liss in her work takes this assumption-this obvious fact-forward and apart. History (an obsession of postwar German artists and, increasingly since "9/11," of American ones) and the lack of history, person and the absence of person, the convergence of somewhere special with nowhere in particular, the details of a world whose detail has been globalized (smudged)-these are some of the themes underlying (though never dominating) Liss' many and otherwise individually distinct works. She works in a variety of media, and she does so in ways that turn the conventions of each medium back on itself. Each work seems to ask of itself, "Who was here?" or "Who wasn't?" "Who saw this?" "Who didn't?"
The English language preposition "before" is metaphysically intricate. In meaning both "prior to" ("That happened before you were born") and "in the presence of" ("You are standing before the monument"), it suggests that the past and the present are coeval, parts of a single duration. Perhaps one of the functions of art is to allow us to experience this duration, to allow us to live historically. Few other contemporary artists seem as concerned as Liss is with creating works that let us feel time.
In the series of photographs called home/away, for example, time is a vividly palpable presence, a fourth dimension of the works, saturating the colors and redefining the objects before our eyes. It is because of this temporal fourth dimensionality that the boundaries of the objects may seem slightly vague, as if they consist of both more and less than matter, or as if something were lurking just behind them.
Life requires space, of course, but even more fundamental to it is time; time is the most vital, the most lively, of the dimensions requisite for living. Heike Liss' works, in portraying time, depict life.
Heike Liss was born in 1960 in Düsseldorf, Germany. She studied Ethnology and Social Anthropology at the University of Tübingen. Her early experiences as a photographer included a three month trip to Ethiopia on the one hand, and years working in a Polaroid portrait studio on the other. During the 1990s she exhibited her photos of musicians at festivals such as Music Unlimited in Wels (Austria), Musique Actuelle in Nancy (France), and the International New Jazz Festival in Moers (Germany), as well as Les Laboratoires d' Aubervilliers (Paris), FNAC (Marseille), and the Escuela di Arquitectura (Osorno, Chile). In 2002 Heike received her Masters of Fine Arts from Mills College, Oakland, California. She was awarded the 2001 Jack and Gertrude Murphy Fine Arts Fellowship in San Francisco and the 2002 Fellowship at The Photography Institute in New York City. Since then, her work has been shown throughout North America and Europe, in places such as Mousonturm (Frankfurt), Fluctuating Images (Stuttgart), Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (Strasbourg), The Antimatter Festival (Victoria, B.C.), OneTake Filmfestival (Zagreb), New Museum School (Boston), Arts Commission Gallery (San Francisco), and the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (Yerevan). Heike has collaborated with artists across many disciplines, including choreographer François Verret, composer and musician Fred Frith, multi-media artists Michael Trigilio and Nomi Talisman, and poet Lyn Hejinian. As well as working in video, photography, and site-specific installation and public intervention projects, she acts as a curator, most recently for the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg and The Lab in San Francisco. This is the artist's first solo exhibition in New York. She divides her time between Germany and California, where she lives with her husband and children.
Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essayist, and translator. She was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1941 and currently lives in Berkeley, CA. Hejinian is the author or co-author of fourteen books of poetry, including The Beginner (Spectacle Books, 2000), Happily (Post Apollo Press, 2000), Sight (with Leslie Scalapino, 1999), The Cold of Poetry (1994), The Cell (1992), My Life (1980), Writing is an Aid to Memory (1978), and A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking (1976). From 1976 to 1984, Hejinian was editor of Tuumba Press, and since 1981 she has been the co-editor of Poetics Journal. She is also the co-director of Atelos, a literary project commissioning and publishing cross-genre works by poets. Her honors include a Writing Fellowship from the California Arts Council, a grant from the Poetry Fund, and a Translation Fellowship (for her Russian translations) from the National Endowment of the Arts. She recently received the sixty-sixth Fellowship from The Academy of American Poets for distinguished poetic achievement for a mid-career poet.