Memory starts where experience ends

Our memories branch out from situations and events that no longer exist, embellishing and intensifying reality, and thus creating a near-autonomous inner world.

This principle is exemplified in Esther Burger’s work. What appears to be a frozen moment, a locked-in experience, or a smothered memento, sparks a myriad of new possibilities and connotations. An episode is closed, has become lifeless, mummified – but new vistas are explored, animated by the workings of memory. It is one of the paradoxes that Burger presents us with.

The use of polymers, such as silicone and acrylic, hints at another, related, paradox. Their transparency and constantly changing light play heighten the resonant and elusive qualities of her work. However remarkable the result, the use of these materials is never an end in itself. They are applied delicately and unobtrusively to intensify qualities – such as nostalgia and detachment – that seem to contradict the industrial and matter-of-fact nature of the materials.

Burger’s approach to art is rooted in her personal sensitivities and relation with the world around her. The Zu Hause series, for instance, addresses the question what constitutes ‘home’, seen from a personal and spatial rather than a societal perspective. Not a surprising question, knowing that it is Burger’s deliberate choice to alternately live in three countries, resulting in the need for frequent travel, and a redefinition of the home concept. Her choice for a modern nomadic lifestyle – like her work – suggests a desire to alternate the intensity and focus of actual experience with the more aloof and distorted ramifications of memory.

Tactile, vibrant, charismatic… Burger weaves filaments of understated information, never imposing meaning, so that the viewer is free to discover or assign significance in a continuum ranging from the abstract to the semantic… She uses organic material, suffocating it, and at the same time preserving it. A still life… A landscape… A cross section of a story… Or a memento of an accidental experience – distorted – from her own or an anonymous past… She reinvents the space around it by applying synthetic layers that create a mist between the viewer and the image. A moment is captured and instilled with new meaning. A world emerges that is at once familiar and alienating, calm and dramatic. A world that seduces us to enter it.

Dennis Duchhart

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