Formation I + II
Baumgartner’s own excursion into war imagery is the diptych Formation. She was watching a television documentary on the Second World War, was struck by the extraordinary nature of the colour film and decided to video it. The two frames she isolated depict the shadows the planes cast on the ground and the sun glinting off their steel fuselages. Of course the next few frames showed the destruction they wrought as they strafed a target in Germany but Baumgartner was not interested in that aspect. It was the beauty of the images she found compelling: the tones, the shapes and the speed.
Images from World War Two, when seen from the distance of years and the safety of the home, have become mythical. They depict stories handed down with which a younger generation feels little personal connection. They no longer have the power to shock and have entered the realm of the aesthetic. […] The images we see through the refractive television screen are aestheticised and their meaning is somewhat neutralised. [The artist] disarms them even further by means of Photoshop and, then, by translating the image into woodcut. The final image is far removed from feeling, from experiencing the destructive capacity of the war machines. »
Excerpt from Jeremy Lewison, « At the Still Point of the Turning World », in Christiane Baumgartner, edited by Johan Deumens, 2007, p. 43
Christiane Baumgartner's practice is related to her origins. Born in Germany's historic capital of book publishing, she trained as a printmaker and has also made books. Woodcut is her preferred medium.
In her works she travels backwards in the history of image technologies, first by making videos or photographs that she transfers herself onto large-framed boards, then by carving and printing them. The topics depicted are often transport infrastructures (roads, tunnels, airports...) which evoke traveling, circulation in space, and also play a major role in armed conflicts; these urban landscapes in which concrete predominates, evince the alienation of the modern environment, the boredom of long journeys and embody the fanaticism for speed accompanying the development of transport in the contemporary era. Her motifs contrast with her use of a primitive handicraft. The slowness of this technique makes an ironic contrast with her subjects.
Christiane Baumgartner's artistic approach thereby weaves a complex relationship to time, combining a return toward the past, a contemporary fascination for speed, and the deliberate choice of a painstaking technique.
Christiane Baumgartner was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1967. She lives and works in Leipzig.