Gabriele Seethaler – a second identity as photographer

view inside – an experiment

Scientists, in their experiments, search for the answers to their questions as do the artists. Gabriele Seethaler is equally at home in the precise world of science as in the uncalculable and intuitively driven world of art. One of life’s major questions is „Who am I?“ How do I differentiate myself from others, where lies my individuality. Michel Foucault states „we should start out, establish and arrange ourselves as works of art“. Which consequently leads to the „aesthetics of existence“, to the art of living.

Gabriele Seethaler’s strength in artistic design lies in the settings and expressions of the medium i.e herself. Her first self portraits evolved playfully in nature, far from the laboratory. New ideas and combinations developed randomly. By  decomposing and expanding the visible outside World, Gabriele Seethaler is able to show in a lengthened moment of truth her „other side“. Experimental self exploration leads to self fabrication. With this newly discovered view inside herself she works scientifically and single-mindedly on her artistic concept. Her new definition of the classical term of the self portrait breaks the boundaries of photography leaving us with the mystification of the artist and her works.

The innovation of the 90‘s aesthetical pluralism involves the integration of one’s own surroundings; the theme of art becomes one’s own life. Creativity surfaces from Gabriele Seethaler in her own perception of reality which she stages in her photographic works as the true aesthetical moment. This is demonstrated in the poesy of the series entitled „Metamorphosis“ as well as  „Dualité“ where each individual „otherside“ reveals its own personality; this is also shown in the fine splits of many of her self portraits.

In her artistic practice she uses all objects present around her: a wooden chest in a hotel room, the boiler-room in her home, hands hiding a face, nature. Graphic elements are achieved through the deminishing and accentuating of light until the structure is visible as construction plan of the desired object (eg. a face).

Gabriele Seethaler defines a new and individual relationship towards the body (her own) and finds herself with this theme and her artistic interpretation in the ranks of Neo-Avant-gardism. What is important is the artistic action, to take your life in a new way in your hands and give shape to your personal perception.

Ulrike Guggenberger, 1999

Photography, Biology and Abstraction:

a convergence of images

Gabriele Seethaler, GABI, has been a scientific colleague and friend for more than ten years; we met first at a scientific conference near Toulon in the south of France.  Immediately, she impressed me with her enthusiasm for biology, her excitement for the research project she was pursuing and her determination to succeed in the competitive world of molecular and cellular biology.  At that time, although Gabi was still completing the experiments for her doctoral dissertation, she had already developed a scientific maturity and understanding that was far beyond her years.  Indeed, she was so enthusiastic about research that she decided to organize her own scientific conference the following year in a small village, Annaberg, not far from Salzburg.  This meeting now formally known as the "Annaberg Conference" was an immediate success.  Subsequently, Gabi, myself and another colleague Dr. Sharon Tooze, have been the co-organizers of this conference which has evolved into one of the major scientific meetings in Cell Biology held in Europe every two years.

After obtaining her doctorate, Gabi held a research position at the Austrian Academy of Science in Salzburg and during this time she spent a period in my own laboratory in New York where she investigated the mechanisms of how different types of proteins are sorted and organized in cells.  Her experimental skills, hard work and analytical ability were outstanding.  However, Gabi was searching for more than just the systematic and methodical analysis of the laboratory; she had already developed a passion for Art and photography in particular.  At every opportunity she could be found with her camera , taking a multitude of photographs in the laboratory, portraits of famous scientists, scenes at scientific symposia, in the street  photographing people, buildings, statues; everything excited her.  She has an insatiable appetite for exploration whether it be science or art; indeed Gabi has used her unique talents and training to meld these two disciplines into a novel and exciting whole.  Gabi had the inspiration and desire to use her scientific training to develop new techniques and approaches to the photographic image; the pictures in this collection attest to the success of her vision.

Biologists who study the structure and organization of cells often spend many hours, looking down a microscope probing the inner workings of the cell.  What they observe is a vast array of exquisite shapes, colors and structures. When tissues are prepared for microscopic examination and stained appropriately, the cells and components within them react with specific dyes.  The cell staining, their shape, number and arrangement gives a tissue its characteristic features.  The great cellular anatomists of the late nineteenth century appreciated that these patterns indicated specialized functions. In the last ten years, computer-imaging techniques have revolutionized how microscopes are used.  The combination of computers with new reagents that enable scientists to examine the localization of individual molecules inside cells, has generated images not seen previously.  Exquisite three-dimensional rotating shapes can be generated on a TV screen. Not only do the images provide important scientific information, they also have an artistic and aesthetic quality in their own right.  These pictures are spectacularly impressive.  Observing individual groups of molecules and the patterns they form within the cell often generates a seemingly random, abstract image which to the untrained eye may appear chaotic.  But this is not the case.  The structures are real, exciting and often beautiful; they hint at a greater whole and provide tantalizing insights into the fabric of life.  From apparent randomness there is in fact symmetry, order and beauty.

Similar to microscopy, photography can capture images that exactly represent the appearance of an object.  Yet Gabriele Seethaler is not satisfied with stylized  representations of an objects or person's physical appearance.  She wants to delve into their very essence, to understand their structure, how they are organized and to dissect the components from which they are composed.  Dr. Gabriele Seethaler was trained as a Molecular and Cell Biologist; she appreciates that apparently abstract shapes and unconnected images can be part of a highly organized structure. The very essence of scientific endeavor is to analyze fragments of information in isolation, and then the scientist tries to synthesize the "big picture".  This theme is apparent in many of her photographs.  Clear and distinct images merge into wispy ill-defined impressions that become increasingly abstract and less tangible yet retain a sense of reality.  Her photographs transcend reality and provide images that only hint at the original shape and structure.  These challenge and provoke us to delve into the meaning of an image; to ask why and how it has a particular shape, color or form.  They leave us wanting to know more about the picture; they are tantalizing.  Her large multiple repeating images recapitulate the ordered patterns seen in various cells and sub-cellular structures.  This convergence of biology, art and photography enables Gabriele Seethaler to generate pictures that possess a surreal quality; she was trained originally as a professional scientist and her approach is unique: she produces exciting, novel and innovative images that provide a refreshingly different perspective on the world.

Dennis Shields, Professor, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, USA, 1999.

© 2009 Gabriele Seethaler