Anne Rodler: Between the intimate and the public / about Thyra Schmidt’s installation »I can’t just be nowhere« on the facades of Oslo Translated by Joseph P. Huston [Published in: Thyra Schmidt _ I can’t just be nowhere, extra Verlag 2010.] Viewing one of Thyra Schmidt’s photographs is akin to confronting an unobtrusive, common everyday object, which everyone recognizes – like a peek into a mirror … when you look into one you believe to be confronted by reality. Yet, how real is the reality of this reflecting surface? And to what extent does it depend on the perception and interpretation of the viewer ... on his momentary state and perspective? The viewer assesses his appearance in a fleeting moment and questions himself – a snapshot. Thyra Schmidt proceeds in her photography in an analogous manner in that she chooses short random moments. In her snapshots she captures colleagues and friends on the road, outdoors, in the city, in the park or on a trip. Furthermore, there commonly appear photographic and film sketches from landscape images. Typically for the artist it is that she always combines text fragments with these scenic – mostly zoomed – picture cutouts. Her intention is not to present a characteristic portrait of familiar persons, but rather to capture a specific mood of an interpersonal situation or the human condition. She portrays feelings like familiarity, communality, uncertainty, tenderness, intimacy, anxiety, loneliness, proximity or distance, which the viewer can relate to. Accordingly, the exhibit project, which brought Thyra Schmidt to Oslo in the autumn of 2009, employed as a central theme the portrayal of such states. The idea for this project was inspired by previous trips to Norway and the reading of works by the Norwegian author Jon Fosse, from whom the exhibit title »I can’t just be nowhere« was borrowed. This installation, which covered eleven sites in the city center of Oslo, was realized in cooperation with the ROM for Kunst og Arkitektur at invitation by the Norwegian Goethe-Institute. Art in a public space has the advantage of appearing in the midst of life and being perceived by a wide audience. In such a situation the viewer does not have to decide on whether or not to attend to the art, since he is unavoidably confronted by it. The sheer size of Thyra Schmidt’s works ensures that the passer-by is invariably confronted with them. The large-format photographs surprise the viewer with private scenes and assume ambivalence, as they oscillate between the intimate and the public. However, they avoid the voyeurism, which private pictures often provoke in the media. Persons are often only shown in partial view, which thus protects their identity. In previous exhibitions, such as in June 2009 in Düsseldorf, the artist presented images of landscapes alongside handwritten passages of text on paper, which had been written by various persons. Here, as well, people expressed themselves in a very personal manner via their handwriting, their distinctive modes of expression, without their identity having been revealed. »Og eg kan vel ikkje berre vere ingen stad heller« – »and I can’t just be nowhere« – speaks to the character of the Oslo installation in the public space and refers to the essentials in Thyra Schmidt’s art, namely the presence of the human figure, the particular moment and the relationship to the location. The photos and expressions that were projected on posters on buildings often related closely to the architectural context. They were positioned onto various exterior surfaces of houses, public buildings, shops or walls and, during their presence, became an intricate part of the inner urban districts of Grønland, in which the Goethe-Institute is located, Sentrum and Grünerlokka. In contrast to earlier, place-related projects, Thyra Schmidt here refrained from using available advertising surfaces on streets and squares, but instead, selected unused facades. And yet, even though these works deviate totally from advertising displays on the basis of content and formal grounds, they insinuate the powerful visual effect of large street advertisement. Thus, the artist investigates the illusory nature of pictures in the context of the real world. How authentic are these portrayed individuals and how is our perception steered by the media? Thyra Schmidt already dealt with moments of illusion in her earlier works. For instance, in her extensive work »Montagen« (2003–2008) she combined photographs of different individuals into artificial group scenes by digital image processing, whereby landscapes taken from the Internet formed the scenery. By inserting text material into these scenes she created virtual text-picture collages. Unlike these compositions, the pictures of her Oslo project have not been digitally mutated. They are quieter in expression and more secluded. Despite these changes in the artistic technique, these works still emphasize the idea of private inner states, the nature of the individual or of the scenery and not to their detailed, realistic picture – John Constable, who already dealt with this issue, spoke of the notion or imagination of a landscape in contrast to the pretense or illusion of her authenticity. The Oslo exhibition included a pure landscape photograph, namely of the Norwegian Bay, which by virtue of the coarse grain of the video cutout has a faded appearance which emphases the effect of the bright gleaming light. Thyra Schmidt treats elements of photos and text, picture and script relatively independently: The photos do not necessarily illustrate the text fragments, nor does the text describe the photos. »I can’t just be nowhere« presents original verses and thoughts together with short literary passages, which in their dialogue with the photos allow for free association in the observer and underline the immediacy of the arbitrary fleeting moment. The viewer is integrated into a scene devoid of time and place and it is left to him to propagate the inherent poetry of this constellation.