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Song Wenxiang

The inspiration and method of “Difference”

A Few Thoughts on the objects of Silvia M. Grossmann

“Difference” is a specific concept on structure created by Derrida. According to his explanation, “Difference” is an act which associates differed spatial realism with time and place. As the degree of association may be different, different viewer may have various perspectives on the works, which makes the connotation of the works to be continuously uncertain and subjective.

There are two reasons why I use the concept of “Difference” to describe and make comments on Silvia M. Grossmann’s works. First, there is a “Difference” in understanding created by viewers. Second, it is because that the work itself is created by Silvia M. Grossmann according to the notion and concept of “Difference”. From her primary works, we can find an optical rhythm full of lightness, easiness and liveliness in those three-dimensional objects, which is made of wing-like photographic elements of architecture. And I am astonished by her creation which transformed the heavy and bulky sculpture, as I thought to be, into free-floating object that is as light as Chinese kite. In addition, when appreciating those artworks with strong optical rhythm, you will notice that she has a swift mind, who acts as a guide to lead you into a further level of thinking. At that moment, it is not only the rhythm of architectural construction that catches your great attention, but also a special meaning of architecture rooted in man’s deep heart and a subconscious expression of mentality that appeals.

After discussing with Silvia M. Grossmann, I then discovered that the reason why she was so infatuated with the architectural construction is also because of her living background. She told me that she was born in Switzerland and grown up in a small village. When she visited Vienna for the first time, she suddenly fell in love with the cityscape there, and was astonished by its urban buildings in particular. There is no doubt that the practical function of buildings—to meet human beings’ needs for safety, holds the most appeal to her. However, since the safety function provided by buildings can not come into being without construction, Silvia M. Grossmann was then immersed herself in enjoying and exploring the architectural construction. After graduation from university, she received an invitation from her friend, who is a dancer and choreographer, to help making stage models and sets. Afterwards, she came to take photographs of buildings, then had reconsideration and rearrangement upon them, after which three-dimensional artworks were created in the forms of models and sets. There, what she was exploring from architecture had gone well beyond the needs for safety and the aesthetic aspect of construction. Rather, she attached more importance to the realism behind the building facades and the cultural issues hidden in the buildings. Actually, in the post-industrialized society, the inartistic state of architecture and the “non-poetic inhabitation” led to a dilemma of uniformity and technologization. No wonder Derrida believes that the most secret intention of architecture is to control the communication among society. In a large sense, its ultimate aim is to control the economy. Therefore, it is suggested that post-modern architecture should resist the monopoly, domination, and special hegemony of modernism and also resist being separated from the classical architecture.

However, Silvia M. Grossmann hasn’t pondered as deeply over the spiritual significance of architecture as Derrida did. Instead, she managed to shake off the rational structure imposed by ideologist on the architecture, and give an open display of the architectural construction through the method of “Difference”. She resists the stable and unvaried state of being of building facades and demonstrates her own presence in the inner architectural construction, which presents a skillful use of “Difference” in the process of artistic creation.

As stay in China, Silvia M. Grossmann has to continue her way of creating artworks—“Difference”, in this foreign environment of oriental culture. In the viewers’ eyes, the traditional oriental architecture, which is familiar to our Chinese but is deserted bit by bit, and the modern architecture with a rapid growth have become the objects to be captured by Silvia M. Grossmann with the camera. Her exploration ranged from the Great Wall, palaces and courtyard houses in Beijing to the skyscrapers in Shanghai and the magnificent bridge and flourishing harbors in Ningbo, all of which fascinated Silvia M. Grossmann greatly. In the artist studio of Ningbo Museum of Art, Silvia M. Grossmann showed us various photographs taken in China, from which she will transformed into artistic objects later. She introduced to us many of her train of thoughts and ideas, when I noticed an unfinished object which aroused my great interest. This piece of art was made up of two different photographs put respectively in the front and the back. Through the hollowed traditional Chinese grilles, we can get a glimpse of the luxurious modern grass buildings and in the carved grilles there left some cuttings like “Double Happiness” which was immersed in a wedding atmosphere. Through the two layers of vertical and horizontal patterns, this work fully combined the traditional elements with the modern ones in architecture. Does this emphasize the meaning of safety in living or does it show another way of “Difference” in the optical aspect?

As a matter of fact, from photography to the three dimensional objects, what Silvia M. Grossmann used is not only a simple act of rearrangement. The former images as well as their connotation haven’t been removed away altogether. Although some have been changed through the process of rejoining, the content and the connotation of the newly created work were more rich and profound than the original elements. Through the artistic creation full of intelligence and wit, the original photographic images were added with an extended denotation and brought to the viewers a new sense of optical perception and perspective.

Due to the limited time of stay, it is not possible for Silvia M. Grossmann to look deep into all the resources, and the work created here is not so many and abundant. However, we are looking forward to Silvia Maria Grossmann’s masterpiece in the future which represents her visit in China.


Bejing, 2006


Song Wenxiang



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