A PICTURE OF A KNOTBy Wilhelm Schürmann for Sofie Bird Møller
Something is not right. It is always like that in art.
One sees a setting, but no people, only their wrinkled clothing and then only fragments of
it. The actors have disappeared, been hidden, erased, spotted out. Present, but not here.
Spectres of their images.
There is a knot in one picture. One sees a bed with a canopy and curtain that can be drawn
closed. There is an enormous knot in this curtain. Overlooking the fact that it hardly would
be technically possible to tie a knot in such a thick curtain, the knot prevents the curtain
from being closed. Why does a bed even need a curtain if it is in a room without a bright
window? To protect from the curious gaze of many other people present at the time?
Privacy in the privacy of a room?
Or is the bed in a house of ill repute? That would make the bed the stage, the scene of the
action. The light comes from the viewer’s side.
The curtain remains open but nothing can be seen; the past has been eradicated. The appear -
ance of an appearance. There are clues everywhere but this is not really the scene of an
offence. A closed hatbox, a hat, a besom, keys, jugs, cups, a broken pipe, ampoules of medicine.
It looks untidy, something is going on. A besom, but no witch. By the way, the curtain
should be much shorter with the knot than without. But it isn’t. This means that the curtain
isn’t really a curtain. It is a picture of a curtain, a copperplate engraving of a knot. Art has
overruled logic. We are concerned with knots and not physics. We are concerned with
drapery, with fabric, with the flowing impression made by flowing material through the
engraver’s hard burin.
William Hogarth was good at drapery. Without exaggerating too much, he repeatedly found
an opportunity to include it in his work as a demonstration of his craftsmanship. Folds in
opulently billowing robes. Three-dimensionality in flat pictures.
Sofie Bird Møller is good at leaving things out. The place, the bed, the room provide the
setting for an activity that can no longer be seen. It has been spotted out, removed from our
sight. We can only speculate or look at the original pictures by William Hogarth before they
were retouched if we want to discover the original situation. But, do I want to? Should we?
What would the historical pre-picture give me? Do I have to know everything, am I a histor -
ian, or can I interpret the contemporary picture by way of the reworked version? I only see
what I know. You must be joking!
Now the picture is the knot. The folds in the drapery dominate the scene. They fall, float,
billow; they are their own surface. They tell of a past that no longer is one. They are only
a curtain. They no longer hide anything, they are no longer clothing, they no longer cover
anything. Covering defines the figure but Sofie Bird Møller has kept the exterior and done
away with the person clothed by it. No skin at all left in the picture. Carefully erased.
Photographic technique used in engraving. It hides the hidden and displays the display.
The picture becomes skin, its own surface. The persons are still there, not visible – but also
not invisible. They are hidden beneath the retouching. One sees their drawing-like spectres
as a pallid echo without a drawing. Our eyes take their place. The action has been put on
hold. Time no longer plays a role. Sofie Bird Møller shows her version of the progress of a
whore who remains hidden in her own surface and, in this way, makes us aware of the
construction of art once again. The never-ending story of seduction, corruptibility, desire
and finiteness. In heaven, the same as in hell.