Better Small Talk – Tatjana Danneberg
I know a kid. It’s my daughter. She has just discovered that language is a game, that language itself is the medium of thinking and that thinking is not bound to reality. She says different things as a test, to see what happens, and what the reactions will be from those around her. She says: “A bird came and scratched my nose with a fork”. The event is a past moment and now she is retelling it to us. She describes how the scene unfolded at kindergarten. Only the mark on her nose remains as a sign of the incident. The bird with the fork flies outside of the picture.
Ludwig Wittgenstein writes: It would be odd to say: “A process looks different when it happens from when it doesn’t happen.” Or “A red patch looks different when it is there from when it isn’t there—but language abstracts from this difference, for it speaks of a red patch whether it is there or not.”
Between language and reality, words become something more than a semantic representation of the objects and phenomena they describe. The meaning of words are not generally determined, they are negotiated. Wittgenstein calls this “a language game”, the context in which we utter words colors our reading of them – In Tatjana Danneberg’s work, scenes are created that reflect this phenomenon, namely the one between the figuration of reality and the abstracting effect of language itself.
The exhibition lends its title from Better Small Talk, a self-help book by conversation coach Patrick King, providing advice on how to “talk to anyone, avoid awkwardness, generate deep conversations, and make real friends”. There seems to be a desire for such advice in our current networked society, where technological advancements and shifts in communication methods have left many feeling ill at ease in basic social interactions. Presence, with each other, or in any given moment, is contested, fragmented by “communication parasites”, to use a term from the late Mark Fisher.
At the basis of the exhibition’s seven works are photographs, in which the attention is directed towards ambivalent scenes from Danneberg’s everyday life, caught by the artist’s poetic sensibility. On top of the photograph, the artist allows the painting to direct these scenes, the color sweeps in decisive gestures, like waves over the canvas, spread out in fields of restful impenetrability.
The act of painting in Danneberg’s work oscillates between accentuating and hiding the photographs that make up their base layer, it embraces, enhances, overlaps, confuses and deconstructs. As a result, reality is expressed in two different layers of time – an isolated moment being alternated with the continuous movement of the painting hand. This could be considered as an allegory for the discrepancy between a lived and a mediated reality and the attempt to maneuver it through one’s language.
But the red patch is definitely there.