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[text] David Deutsch


David Deutsch : »Nightsun« Series, 2000

by Sabine Himmelsbach

David Deutsch finds his motifs from a helicopter. From the onset of dusk he begins his nightly excursions through the suburbs of American metropolises on the east and west coasts of the United States. Nine years ago Deutsch began - originally as subjects for his paintings - to take photos from cars, trains and later from airplanes which would serve as image motifs. »The photographs initially informed my painting because their virtual nothingness made the paint more important to me.« [1] With time, Deutsch began to consider the photographs an independent part of his work - photos in their own right, and perfected the incidental way in which he had chosen motifs in the beginning. Strapped securely into the cockpit of a helicopter and equipped with searchlight, Deutsch spends hours searching for picture motifs. In the course of one flight he makes thousands of pictures. Not till he has developed them does he make his selection from the wealth of material. »On my last Los Angeles shoot I took over 3,000 shots at night. Once in the air, you canít stop the helicopter, you just keep moving, so you just keep shooting. The tough job comes later: editing, throwing away your work, finding the dozen that count. Subtle things make or break a photo for me, like a car parked at an odd angle, a patio umbrella that looks sort of phallic, a building that appears perversely abstract. If a figure appears during a shoot, the mood is ruined. For the figure then becomes the focus of attention.« [2]

Deutsch uses aerial shots reminiscent of satellite photos for his paintings. Because of the extreme distance to the subject, the details blur to form abstract images. Houses become little white boxes in the surrounding landscape - architectonic interference with nature. In part, the paintings are bathed in unnatural colors - in ice-cold blue or intensive red. The pictures appear like infrared photos or as if rendered with night-vision technology and this lends them an aura of secrecy and constriction.

The photographs in the series Nightsun are black and white and are extreme contrasts due to the poor light quality. The searchlight beam lights up only one detail, the rest of the scenery lies in impenetrable darkness. Similar to the round lens of a camera the searchlight filters out everything but a segment of the surroundings. Deutsch's photos permit us unauthorized views into suburban life and living - back yards with abandoned garden furniture, deck chairs lined up around a swimming pool, rental houses with balconies, factory buildings and isolated houses. All the photos have one thing in common: there are no people to be seen.

The photos have a disturbing quality similar to the films of David Lynch, where the absurd, the threatening suddenly befalls a typical small town. In the middle of the suburban idyll of having your own house and garden, we come across alienation and isolation.

Deutsch's photos give you the feeling that you are looking at the scene of a crime. There is nobody to be seen, the situation unclear, just an unpleasant feeling remains. For Deutsch it is exactly this moment of indefiniteness that is important. »Everyone is quick to make decisions from what they see, seldom from what they feel.« [3] The photos allow your imagination free reign. The aesthetics of surveillance allows the viewer to dream up stories which are not apparent in the photos. The fascination you feel when viewing the photos comes from constructing what could possibly happen and not from the object of the image per se.

Deutsch comments on the similarity to surveillance shots: »I analyze the pictures, I study them as if they were surveillance photos from the hidden camera of a satellite, to absorb impressions and consider what I might do with them. You know, a hidden camera or shots from a helicopter usually produce nothing.« [4] Video surveillance has already become normal. We find surveillance cameras and motion detectors on street corners and house entrances - not just in city regions but also in the suburbs. »A state of 'permanent visibility' looms over us as cameras and their tapes encroach on everyday life.« [5] The threat of total surveillance is evident in Deutsch's photos.

1 See David Deutsch in Paul Gardner: »The Twilight Flight of David Deutsch«, in: Art On Paper, Sept.-Oct. 2000, p. 53-59. ^

2 See ibid. ^

3 See ibid. ^

4 Paul Gardner: »Inside Hotel Planet. For David Deutsch, space is a place«, in: Artnews, April 1999, p. 110. ^

5 William G. Staples, The Culture of Surveillance. Discipline and Social Control in the United States, New York, 1997, p. 58. ^



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