Ute Eskildsen: Perfect Worlds, in: Kat. Ausst.: Aspects of Contemporary German Photography, Goethe-Institut, München 1991.
Playing on her ficticious world of images, Dörte Eissfeldt has collected works for this exhibition from the years 1986/87 under the title “Perfect Worlds”. She works in individual pictures, but underlying them is always the plan for a paring or a contrast of the images. This working method proceeds on the one hand from a thematic consideration, i.e. work cycles; at the same time, it also alludes to the filmmaker Dörte Eissfeldt.
At the age of twenty she began to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg and received a diploma in art education upon completion of her examination in 1976. After fice years of teaching art at art school, Dörte Eissfeldt decided to got into freelance art work. Since then she has dealt primarily with the technical means of image production, film and photography.
“For me making photographs means working with reproductions. It means building up a collection, the fund out of which they articulate themselves.” With this statement, Dörte Eissfeldt underscores that her approach to photography is not direct representation, but rather that her handling of photographic images has developed through the medium of film. For the production of a film, including documentaries, always depends on piecing together raw material. Dörte Eissfeldt has transposed the moment of cutting and editing, through which picture sequences and overlapping occur, to the static photographic image and has developed it in a completely autonomous manner.
The notion of a “fund” mentioned above refers to her photographic source material out of which she selects and creates “vibrant presentations”. In order to transform these primary images into a picture the artist has recourse to photographic techniques that were in high regard especially with avantgarde photographers in the Twenties. These include printing montage, solarization and the photogram.
Dörte Eissfeldts photographic work began with such activities as recording journeys, a mixture of found and photographed memories, which she linked together with texts in the form of a photo album. In 1984 she made pairs of pictures in which her activity as a filmmaker was unmistakeably evident. In these works she juxtaposed two pictures, which relate to a particular place or situation, but contain a lapse in time or a shift in the perspective. In these pictures Dörte Eissfeldt set her sights against the conventional reading of photographic picture series by bringing photographs together that suggest a causal order, but at the same point to the photographic work contingent on time and selective enlarging. Less didactic, but formally more intense is the series “Eating and Drinking”, which Dörte Eissfeldt began in 1984.
In this work the artist not only increases the number of pictures used as source material, but at the same time combines different techniques for bringing the photographs together. Shes uses photos of her son, her friend, pictures of the kitchen, situations of daily activity. By means of montage through pasting and printing, solarization and extreme blowups of detail, she places fragments of everyday life in an associative context. In these fragments cut off from the present Dörte Eissfeldt sketched “reproductions” which are made understandable as constructions by the non-concurrence of lived and represented experience.
These pictorial constructions are aimed at a kind of observation of photographs that does not expect direct recognition. On the other hand, it demands an openness toward discovery and individual interpretation, for which the observer hast to activate his or her own repertory of experience.
Dörte Eissfeldt does not work conceptually, but instead develops her pictorial ideas out of the playful utilization of a means of image production that is full of manual and techno-chemical possibilities of manipulation. She does not apply such photographic processes and techniques with a particular result in mind for a work, but rather makes use of an unconventional mixture of them as an aid in finding new picture forms. Dörte Eissfeldt has maintained the photo laboratory as a “dark room” for the unforeseen and for surprises, and the lab again and again provides her enthusiasm for the craftman’s skills with an opportunity for new discoveries.
In the series “The Travellers” and “Happy Ship rides over the Roofs”, the artist also employs the process of picture-taking as a phase of her mise-en-scène. She places the masks normally used in the laboratory directly in front of the camera, thus creating a relation between the cut-out forms and selected details of the real world of objects. A further transformation is effected in this series through the use of cut-out figures that are either exposed directly onto the paper or reproduced on photographs. But these descriptions only explain certain stages of her multifaceted working method. In the meanwhile Dörte Eissfeldt has developed an unusual combination of different optical, chemical and technical possibilities of the photographic process, which makes her works immediately recognizable within the framework of the rediscovered experimental techniques.
A decisive factor in her working method and its result is the constant attempt to change. In fact, in 1987 she began to dismantle the mixture of experimental techniques she had so successfully adapted and to concentrate on the process of photographing as an extreme fragmentation of the world of objects. In the works “Embers” or “Performance”, trivial objects are consciously removed from their context and then in a process of selection forced into a new relationship by being placed together with other photo images.
In these picture compositions Dörte Eissfeldt also deals with the subjects of reproduction/original image and meaning. Like in her previous works, she does not offer the viewers here any pattern of interpretation, but rather refers them to the fragmentary and subjective character of the representation. By way of appropriating very different photographic methods to set the stage for her works, Dörte Eissfeldt has found the way to “simple pictures”, to a news approach to “direct” photographs.