Sonic Chemicals – Chromatic Pharmaceutics
Continuing her research into the historical and material conditions of analogue film, Schroedinger’s project in Büchsenhausen starts out with the history of the chemicals industry and in particular the pharmaceuticals industry at the start of the 20th century, which – like the photographic industry – had its origins in the syntheticizing of colourants. The project comprises material research exploring formal, social, economic and political questions of image production by means of experimental, performance-based image production. Schroedinger works with approaches aiming to deconstruct the dominance of the visual over the material aspects of film images.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB) – a chemical derived from a synthetic yellow dye and used in photochemistry as a developer in the field of colour photography – was used in AIDS-activist circles as a medication to treat Kaposi’s sarcoma in the absence of alternatives. Applied to the skin, the chemical triggers an immune response, which can lead to temporary improvement of symptoms. Since the 1990s, we can also observe “alternative” care models from activist structures of the AIDS movement entering into the mainstream more and more. Principles of self-care, organic foods or so-called alternative healing methods like acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), as well as the universally growing health mania may also be connected. The application of combination therapy with anti-retroviral medications since the mid 1990s means that the AIDS crisis is shifting more and more into parts of the global south, above all into Africa south of the Sahara. The Swiss pharmaceuticals company Hoffman La Roche denied access to research results for many years and is also guilty of profiting from the overpricing of patented medicines.
At the same time, the 1990s also saw a decline in analogue photography. Among filmmakers, however, there is a tendency to move away from technical developments and trends in the film industry and to develop film again oneself. At so-called film farms, for some years now filmmakers have been occupied with replacing the chemical substances necessary for film development with self-cultivated organic vegetables, for example with extracts of broccoli or paprika.
The deliberations and outcomes of the research will lead to a film project with the working title DNCB vs Broccoli, which is being developed in cooperation with artist and filmmaker Oliver Husain (www.husain.de). In Büchsenhausen Schroedinger and Husain would like to conceive a presentation format for this project – in the form of workshops, lab set-ups, lectures and installations.
In addition, during the research phase she will develop a series of material studies, in which she intends to examine the historical conditions of chemicals production beside the Rhine and in Central Europe, and the current cross-holdings of global pharmaceutical concerns. In this context, she is interested in the role of rivers in Central Europe’s industrialization in general, as well as in referring to the specific local conditions of the Tyrol, in particular the role of the Inn as a source of energy but also as a transportation route and refuse dump – and to what extent, for example, it is possible to relate this to the history of Sandoz in Kundl.
Kerstin Schroedinger is an artist working in video, sound and performance. Her historiographic practice questions the means of image production, historical continuities and ideological certainties of representation. Her works and curatorial practice are often collaborative. Recent works include The Alleged Body (performance), shown at Images Festival Toronto, and Les Complices* Zurich in 2017, Fugue (Film, 2015), as well as Rainbow’s Gravity (Video, 2014, GFTA-funded 2013) and Red, she said (Video, 2011) both with Mareike Bernien. Her work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Anthology Film Archives New York, Forum Expanded of Berlinale, Short ٍFilm Festival Oberhausen, International Film Festival Toronto, Gasworks London, Arnolfini Bristol, Whitechapel Gallery London, and exhibited at MIT List Visual Arts Center Boston (2016), Photo Cairo #6 (2017), FMAC Mediathèque Geneva (2016), The School of Kyiv – 2nd Kiev Biennale 2015, Helmhaus Zurich (2015), Kunstpavillion Innsbruck (2017), amongst others.