Introduction: Bettina Krieg | by Kai Horstmannshoff

Wherever I turned, coherence vanished: The sentences dissolved into single words, the words into arbitrary rows of letters, the letters into fragmented signs and finally these into a blue-grey trickle with traces of silver.

Bettina Krieg keeps this sentence from W.G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz in her notebook because it aptly describes the worldview underlying her oeuvre. In works of paper, three-dimensional paper-cuts, large triptychs, silk-screen prints and works of ink, crayon and pencil, Krieg traces the vanishing trickle of silver signs. In her works, the process of dissolution is held in time, and motives of decay are transformed into the basic structure of a creative process. Isolated, decontextualized structures and machine parts are turned into topographies of signs and labyrinthine structures of artefacts.

Krieg finds the figurative building blocks of her paintings in her everyday surroundings. With her camera she files rusting bikes, naked trees, ruins and other liminal objects in order to archive them in an ever-growing catalogue of forgotten form and aesthetic potential that she can draw from in composing her works. In many ways her working process is that of an urban archaeologist searching for images about to fade into oblivion.

Although many of her archived objects share a thematic link to death and transience, Krieg’s emphasis lies not so much on the negative connotations connected to dissolution and liminalization, but rather on the creative potential of disintegration itself. In separating visual form from its original meaning she perfects the dissolution of signifier, signified, and logos that began with the physical disintegration of her motives.

Every sign can break with every context and bring forth an infinite number of new contexts. This doesn’t mean that a sign can exist outside of context, rather the opposite, it means that all there is are contexts without a transcendental centre.[1]

Following this insight, Bettina Krieg discards the traditional binary structure of centre and periphery in her paintings: The idea of a pictoral centre, directly connected to century-old idea of a transcendental signified that all signifiers can be referred back to is replaced with a decentred aporia: In exploring the paths of her visual labyrinths, meaning is always already deferred. It is created in the endless reference from one sign to another.

There is no “right” way to read Krieg’s paintings, and the messages and emotions they harbor and disclose depend on the reader encountering them. They are visual explorations in the ruins of meaning, “the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and the innocence of becoming.“[2]

  1. Translated from: Derrida, Jacques. Die Differance. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2004. Page 89.  ↩

  2. Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference: . Ann Arbor: Univ. Microfilms Internat, 1975. Page 278.  ↩