Susanne Kriemann



21er Raum at 21er Haus, Vienna

October 2 — November 10, 2013


In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni is not the title of this exhibition, but of the series from which the works on display at the 21er Raum derive. The phrase is a palindrome, meaning the same when read from left to right or right to left: “We wander in circles at night and are consumed by fire.“ The exhibition, too, makes us move in circles, among several lines of narrative.

It is obvious that most of the photographs on view were not made during Susanne Kriemann’s residency in Vienna. They show some vertical reddish rock, the interior of a cavern, and a landscape that seems more or less American. The pictures were taken during a research trip in Texas. The archive of images resulting from this journey is huge, whereas the selection made for the exhibition has been narrowed down and is extremely focused: five landscape views piled on top of each other, showing the region around Barringer Hill. Kriemann’s pictures were taken with the vision in mind of shooting the images of the Barringer Hill photographic collection again in our day. In 1887, a number of minerals were discovered in the region, including fergusonite and gadolinite, both of them rare-earth types. When the Westinghouse Electric Company acquired the patent for Nernst lamps in 1901, the mine became the chief supplier of glowers required for these lamps and made of the rare-earth minerals in question. By 1910 Nernst lamps were already out of date, with light bulbs having found their way into most every household. In 1937 the mine was flooded with water, which now extends beyond Barringer Hill as Lake Buchanan. In the meantime the demand for rare-earth minerals have increased more than ever before. In LEDs they are once again used for emitting light, and neither LCD screens nor plasma displays can do without them. Currently, China is in control of the market for rare-earth minerals and in 2011 delivered 97 per cent of the global production. In the USA, mine sites are presently being redeveloped in order to reduce the degree of dependency on China for the urgently required minerals.

Kriemann herself employed a technology based technique on rare-earth minerals in order to solarize her landscape images – the light of her iPhone in the production of her photographs. For the picture of cave walls, which creates an anthropomorphic impression, LED spotlights illuminating Longhorn Cavern near Barringer Hill were implemented. 

One of the larger pictures was not taken in Texas, but in the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. To create it, gadolinite, a radioactive and rare-earth mineral, was used in combination with large-format film, in a process that lasted about 20 days. The artist describes the result as follows: “The stone looks as if it were flying towards you directly from the cosmos. You can truly lose yourself in this image. The cave landscape, on the other hand, looks as if you were able to recognize something but the longer you look the less you know what you see. It’s as if the moment of confusion has prompted you to move in two directions: in the first, you don’t know what you see and try to define it and in the second, you know exactly what you see but get lost and eventually know nothing at all.”

The last picture in the exhibition was also taken during the Texas research trip. It is a digital photograph showing a monolith of red granite. It occurs naturally in the place where it was installed: near Amarillo Ramp, the last land art project by Robert Smithson. In 1973 the artist died in a plane crash when surveying the site, and his wife, Nancy Holt, had the rock installed in this very place.  

Smithson borrowed a term from physics in order to use it for societal and universal phenomena: entropy. According to Smithson, the second law of thermodynamics is the fact that it is easier to lose energy than to conserve it, so that the degree of disorder (in social sciences also referred to as uncertainty) is constantly increasing. He sought to create moments between decay and renewal or chaos and order while everything is subjected to continuous change. 

Entropy also meanders through the exhibition: a mine that is now a lake and a lake that is also a mirror and simultaneously represents the potential of a mine cavern to turn into an eroded landscape with rocks transforming into a kind of sculptural process. That Smithson has slipped into the exhibition metamorphosed into a rock underscores Susanne Kriemann’s almost mystical approach to the subject of entropy. The rare-earth minerals constantly change their appearance and meaning as the exhibition progresses with the invisible radiation of the stones turning into a metaphor for the radiation of the screens by which we are surrounded today wherever we go, and for the many things we only believe to see, but actually do not. 

Living in a permanent exchange of information leads to a constant verification of potential knowledge, which is as repetitive as the impressions of the photographs from the artist’s series, all of which resemble each other closely, although they are not the same. Similarly, the phrase “we wander about in circles at night and are consumed by fire” has different connotations in different languages. “While we stroke the skin of light bodies in order to roam the realms of information, we permanently look into the light. What is in between is glass, so that the devices are actually showcases and the images and texts have already been archived and turned into museum exhibits, i.e., they are no longer alive,” Kriemann maintains. We can only hope that entropy will soon be on the decline again and we won’t end up like moths attracted to light.  


Susanne Kriemann was born in Erlangen in 1972 and lives in Berlin and Rotterdam. Her works were recently included in exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2013), at Arnolfini, Bristol (2013), at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2012), at Kunstverein Braunschweig (2012), at the Kunsthalle Winterthur (2011), at CAG Vancouver (2010), at KIOSK Ghent (2010), at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2009) and at the Berlin Biennale (2008).


Exhibition catalogue:
21er Raum 2012 – 2016
Edited by Agnes Husslein-Arco and Severin Dünser
Including texts by Severin Dünser, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Paul Feigelfeld, Agnes Husslein-Arco, Lili Reynaud-Dewar and Luisa Ziaja on exhibitions by Anna-Sophie Berger, Andy Boot, Vittorio Brodmann, Andy Coolquitt, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Iman Issa, Barbara Kapusta, Susanne Kriemann, Adriana Lara, Till Megerle, Adrien Missika, Noële Ody, Sarah Ortmeyer, Mathias Pöschl, Rosa Rendl, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Anja Ronacher, Constanze Schweiger, Zin Taylor, Philipp Timischl, Rita Vitorelli and Salvatore Viviano
Graphic design by Atelier Liska Wesle, Vienna/Berlin
Softcover, 21 × 29,7 cm, 272 pages, numerous illustrations in color
Belvedere, Vienna, 2016
ISBN 978-3-903114-18-0