O P T I C A L   S C U L P T U R E S / P H O T O   B A S E D  W O R K

The aim in this work is to call attention to the process of vision itself, in which subject and observer are separate entities. In addition it collapses and challenges the boundaries between sculpture, language and photography.

The relation of observer to image is no longer to an object quantified in relation to a position in space, but rather to two dissimilar images whose position simulates the anatomical structure of the observer's body.
Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer

These three dimensional constructed black and white photographs inside white optical viewing sculptures reflect a critical, humorous and questioning view of the world seen layered through the lens of a future memory of a fictional place. The viewer is prompted to "peek, "look" or "see" and thus becomes a participant, a performer and a challenger within the Cartesian structure of vision.

"The relation of language to painting [images] is an infinite relation. It is not that words are imperfect or that, when confronted by the visible, they prove insuperably inadequate. Neither can be reduced to the other’s terms: it is in vain that we say what we see; what we see never resides in what we say. And it is in vain that we attempt to show, by the use of images, metaphors, or smiles, what we are saying; the space where they achieve their splendor is not that deployed by our eyes but that defined by the sequential elements of syntax. And the proper name, in this context, is merely an artifice: it gives us a finger to point with, in other words, to pass surreptitiously from the space where one speaks to the space where one looks; in other words, to fold one over the other as if they were equivalents."
Michel Foucault Les Mots et les choses – The Order of Things, 1970, pg. 9


Technical description: Contained inside the wall hung, white boxed optical sculptures are black and white photographs, that become three dimensional when one looks through the lenses, creating a spatial illusion of something photographic, yet completely imagined or constructed. The prints are toned silver gelatin prints of objects inside the photographs were created solely for the purpose of being photographed. The gallery walls are also inscribed with handwritten text.
NB: The photographic images have also been shown as prints.


This ongoing body of work is based on extracted and manipulated graphics and texts from 1940's and 1950's photographic, fashion model guide books and educational materials. By re-presenting these dated materials, the inner rhetorical workings of industries, such as that of photography or etiquette are amusingly pointed to. They are about the construction of beauty – literally and the construction of meaning.
The drawings are in the same vain as the artists books (see Rebecca-h.net).

Rebecca Hackemann
January, 2005
Brooklyn, NY

P U B L I C    A R T

Article Projects and Dabora Gallery are proud to exhibit "Peek" by Rebecca Hackemann, a storefront installation of the artist's stereoscopes, which make certain participatory demands upon the viewer, to gaze into the twin eyeholes to see the art—and when facing the images contained inside, one is also called upon to read the messages that accompany them, putting together the separate elements of a complicated esthetic event that is both imagistic and linguistic at the same time. Each of the collages in her stereoscopes is part quandary and part parable. Rebecca Hackemann is a contemporary artist whose pieces stretch the definition of fine art black and white photography as language and formally as flat image on the wall. Photography and sculpture are combined into "photo based" work or optical sculptures that humorously address contemporary political and societal issues as well as language and how it's meaning is constructed. The work most often consists of an installation of handwritten text on the walls as we well as hung white boxes, which the viewer peers into through 2 lensed peepholes. Inside these optical sculptures are stereoscopic black and white constructed photographs (silver gelatin prints)of a fictional world with text. By looking through the lenses the viewer sees the images in 3-D– thus the sculpture acts as both a stereo viewer and a conceptual container with it's own inscriptions.


Rebecca Hackemann is an emerging conceptual artist based in Brooklyn, NY, London and Philadelphia, PA. Rebecca Hackemann was born, raised and educated in West Germany, England and America.
She is British and is an MFA graduate of Stanford University, CA (1996) and received her BFA (Hons) from the University of Westminster (then PCL), London in 1994. In 2001 she participated in the Whitney Museum ISP Program in New York.
Recent residencies include the Headlands Center for the Arts, CA (2005), Light Work, Syracuse, NY (2002) and Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY (2003).
She has shown her work with blasthaus, San Fransisco, CA, Gigantic Art Space, New York, Fishtank Gallery, Brooklyn, Sotheby’s New York, Printed Matter and at LMCC, New York and other non-profit spaces such PS122 Gallery and Article Projects, NY.
The work is in the artist book collection of MOMA New York, Musée Français de la Photographie, France; the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany; the Museum für Fotografie, Germany and in private collections in New York and England.
More, including new conceptual drawings on photography, her miniature image/text books and recent public art projects can be seen at www.rebecca-h.net.
More work, including her drawings on photography, her miniature photographic books and public art can be seen at www.rebecca-h.net.



- San Francisco Chronicle,"Artist at work - Creating art outside the box - No limits: Headlands Center for the Arts pushes boundaries", Friday, April 22nd, 2005, by Ulysses Torassa, Chronicle Staff Writer


[...]" Downstairs, another artist, Rebecca Hackemann of Philadelphia, has mounted some of her drawings as well as boxes containing photographs and images that are viewed through a stereoscope. Humor is evident in her work; she's dubbed her Headlands space "The Institute of Incoherent Geography."
"I create my own world inside the box, and outside the box,'' said Hackemann. "I like playing with people's associations, and I'm interested in photography as a language.''


- The New York Times, "Young and Provocative, Time is on their side", September 12th, 2004, by Benjamin Genocchio


- Stereo World, Rebecca Hackemann Reinvents Stereo Photographic Art Form; tbd, 2005, by Bruce Bahlmann, http://www.birds-eye.net

[...]"Experiencing Rebecca’s art is about looking and seeing. The content of photography in general is about how we see the world. Just as two human eyes see in 3-D, so do the lenses on a stereo camera provide a 3-D illusion in photography. This theme carries through into Rebecca’s photographs and the things that one might not normally see (or perceive). Playing with associations between the collective image bank that people hold in their minds unconsciously and pushing these associations between the text and photograph is intentionally meant to challenge the mind to relate the photograph to the text through rhetoric and something personally meaningful to the viewer." [...]


- The Sunday Star Ledger. "Aljira Emerge 2003 presents amazing examples of technique". August 15th 2004, by Dan Bischoff


- Art and Letters, "Sight Unseem - at Fishtank Gallery in Brooklyn", March, 2004, by Sara Klar

SIGHT UNSEEM - Rebecca Hackemann & Jihyun Park
Oh what viewing pleasures! Small white boxes to peep into, miniature and large scale dioramas to enchant.
[...]Jihyun Park and Rebecca Hackemann, artists ideally matched for this show, each utilize the interior of the box for their own form of storytelling.
[...] Sleek snow cool exterior, shoebox-like in size, Ms Hackemann offers us the opportunity to peer inside and as from a gate, view her tantalizing 3D silver gelatin prints; smooth velvet universes of celestial bodies, hairy teacups and cynical monkeys that swing. Lush tones of black and white frame fantastical wondrous compositions that allude but are hardly direct and the text on the image that appears to swirl by, enlivens but never explains. Ah, we must focus, stand tall, stare straight into our optical lenses if we are to understand Ms Hackemann's complex imaginary world - formed by a childhood in Germany, England in her teens then California to grand finale New York. Many cultures she has touched down in but "The Institute Of Incoherent Geography", her 2002 invention, may be where she feels most comfortable. We are fortunate that from her moon perch, sometimes close and often far away, Ms Hackemann, with wisdom, points out to us mortals the follies of our ways. The disguised agendas of rhetoric; the far reaching devastation of war so ruinous to cause even angels to lose their wings; the lies our so-called historians tell us; these are some of her artwork's serious themes. Ms Hackemann like Mr Park cares. It is through her lens of Cartesian ambiguity and oblique intellectual bent that she projects her concern for the road where ignorance, individually and globally may take us.

Sara Klar is a painter and writer living in Greenpoint Brooklyn, New York


- Broadband Properties Magazine, "Broadband, HDTV, and Video Art - An artistic window with a view towards next generation broadband services"; June 2005; by Bruce Bahlmann, owner of www.Birds-Eye.Net


[...]Rebecca Hackemann (www.rebecca-h.net) is an artist who places intellectually stimulating stereoscopic photographs into aesthetically pleasing viewing boxes where by allowing the viewer to interact personally with the stereo images presented within the each box. This resulting personal experience with visual imagery typifies the common reaction that video art has with its audience – it becomes a very personal and private visual experience. [...]


- Crain's New York Business, "Arts Group Shows Promise", Sept/Oct, 2003, by Emily deNitto


- WWD, "Art in Brooklyn", November 20th, 2003


-Contact Sheet, Essay on photographs by Rebecca Hackemann, published by Light Work Annual, 2003 by Christopher K. Ho

(accompanied by 6 pages of 9 images)

Offered here are eight observations that, like Rebecca Hackemann’s boxes—or “optical sculptures” as the artist calls her works from her 2002 residency at Light Work—can be approached individually or read successively:
1. Lying alongside the works rather than laying claim to them, the observations foreground this central motif: The construction of a view, its counterpart, and the distension of the pair in a chain of variations. As the fluttering wings depicted in The Independent Wing! suggest, movement around Hackemann’s works is crucial. Privileging no single viewpoint, they also refuse a single account.

2. Evenly spaced and wall-mounted, Hackemann’s works resemble minimalist objects. Their horizontal span accentuates the architectural frame, while the matte white surfaces subtly register the immediacies of light. Yet lenses embedded in their sides open onto stereoscopic images. Just as the pregnant angel in The Revolt of the Angels is both mother and child, container and contained, the boxes cater to two viewing distances—far and near—alternately bleeding into their context or presenting private, interior worlds.

3. Simultaneously and respectively channeling each eye towards slightly different photographs, the stereoscope eliminates the single viewpoint assured by monocular perspective. As Jonathan Crary has noted, the stereo image offers “an assemblage of local zones of three-dimensionality [that] never coalesce into a homogeneous field.” Visually fragmented, the resulting composite’s effect is theatrical. Indeed, early Wheatstone stereoscopes employed angled mirrors to reflect photographs held parallel to the line of vision—mirrors to which The Progress appropriately adds a crystalline cloud of smoke.

4. In lodging vision within the subject, the stereoscope disengages observer from object of vision. Similarly, while the female figure in The Institute of Incoherent Geography clasps a double-lensed apparatus to her eyes, apparently mirroring the stereoscopic observer, her sightline, in fact, pitches to the upper left. Fracturing monocular perspective’s equation of eye and vanishing point, the offset axis voids the mutually affirmative reciprocity that once bound subject and object together in an immobile universe, heralding instead a geography that, as the title suggests, is insistently incoherent.

5. If Hackemann’s stereoscopic images undermine the fixity of monocular perspective, the collective arrangement of the boxes simultaneously dismantles the disembodied eye of modernism. Not only reminiscent of minimalism’s incorporation of the viewer’s bodily movement, the ambient sound generated by other viewers recalls the approaching footsteps that interrupt Sartre’s visual mastery through a keyhole and underscore his corporeality in “The Look.” Indeed, The Unbearable Lightness of Being—An Intellectual conjures less the lightness of the body distilled to its pure optical faculty than its inescapable heft.

6. Hackemann’s concomitant reference to stereoscopy and minimalism is not accidental. Just as the former places the viewing subject in a fluid world of ceaselessly circulating commodities, so the latter replaces the art object with total design, reflecting the rapacious expansion of capitalism. In this regard, The Turkey, depicting a quasi-anthropological bird surrounded by theatrical props, is less disarmingly fictional than disturbingly portentous, describing as it does an objectified subject within a totally controlled environment.

7. Presenting two exemplars of corporate capitalism, The HuMans elaborates this cautionary tale. Despite their upright bearing, the suited figures are headless, devoid of visual and linguistic abilities alike—the defining features of the human. In contrast, Hackemann’s works comprise precisely a combination of image and text. Indeed, the caption here specifically elaborates the centrality of language: “The reason they never mastered conversation wasn’t because humans were too complex, but because they were so simple.”

8. Hackemann draws from early nineteenth century physiology to late twentieth century art. With systematic consistency, the elements of her works demonstrate a commitment to maintaining multiple viewpoints—a commitment that is not merely theoretical, but has practical political consequences too. As the replacement of the notes in the first bar of the Star Spangled Banner by blindfolded heads in “Oh, say! Can you see?” suggests, this project is perhaps now more urgent than ever.

Christopher K. Ho is a curator and art historian who divides his time between New York City and Providence, Rhode Island where he teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.


- NY Arts, “Choice and Consultation at The HOTEL DE LA MOLE: an alt-biennial”, ?/2002, by Horace Brockington

Rebecca Hackemann, German born, grew up in Bavaria in what was then called West Germnay. She studied photography inLondon, England, and Stanford University (MFA). The artist now lives in New York. Most recently Rebecca Hackemann completed a residency in the Whitney Museum's ISP program. Although the artist has exhibited extensively in several solo and group exhibitions and has work in collections such as the Musee Francais de la Photographie France, adn the Museum fuer Fotographie, Germany, her work is only presently being shown here.

The artistis informed by the history of photography that becomes a key element of the work, a scientific history of anatomy and physiology, and surrealist notions of seeing and perceiving simultaneous realities. It is the pleasure of having no definite meaning that moves the work to delightful terrain of speculation not unlike the mystical boxes of Joseph Cornell or the mysterious world of Dali.

Hackemann creates photographic installations, and photographic book works whose subject/images combine contemporary stereo photography and historical optical illusion. The foundation of the work is based in a surrealist context and play of optical and scientific aspect of visual perception and illusion. The works play off complex and multifaceted aspects of observing reality and a more fantastic imaginary world. Hackemann's early works resemble complex strange and enormous one of a kind books often with strange references that are reflected in their titles - "The Autopsy of an Historian", "Scaled Down - a handbook for fishes about humans", and "The Incredible Hystery of the Artists" and "The Ideal Sight Restorer" - all defy any clear explanation. Several of the works require stereoglasses for propper viewing.

The books' images are based on photographs and drawing from 18th and 19th century scientific studies. They are equally related to Surrealist interest in book art and the numberous ambiguous mystical works that the Surrealist Circle created during they most productive period. These images include text that provides no direct entry into the work rather they function to further obscure meaning.

Hackemann's most recent work is highly cinematic, - white stereoscopic boxes in which rather strange images of toned silver gelatin photographsy is presented. The imagery still appears based on surreal framework and dependent on stereo photography. A consequence of such an approach the works are read as unique individual three dimensional objects rather work as simple photographs.

Horace Brockington is a writer and critic who lives and works in New York, NY


- The Washington Times, “Notable and New”, announcement/review listing, "Salvador Dali: a modern homage to a modern icon", Fraser Gallery, 1999


-The Buffalo News, “At Hallwalls, the world in an untidy set of boxes”, Feb 13th, 1997, by Richard Huntington

[...]Social Commentary is strong throughout. My favorite is Rebecca Hackemann's "The Art Critics", a stereoscopic viewer that reveals bloodless, disembodied heads suspended in a wire cage. Could she have had a bad experience with critics?" [...]