Sonja Braas’ series “The passage”(2009 – 2012) suggests the depiction of a journey through a minimalist landscape reminiscent of polar regions. Fifty two images create the time frame of one year, with each image representing one week, thus evoking the perception of a film like, extreme time lapse.
A chronological succession of the images is implied by the continuously changing sky as well as the change of source and intensity of the light: a gradual darkening from a near white out to an almost complete darkness, which only the light of the stars and the moon interrupts and a subsequent reversal of this process to the original lightness.
The lack of scale leads to the loss of any spatial orientation; it is unclear, where one is located in relation to the surrounding environment, whether one is moving through the landscape or above it and whether the landscape consists of snow, ice or water. Only the horizon is constant in its position and distance. Changes in the landscape’s structure lead to a perception of movement. This movement has no destination, the last image appears to relate to the first, perhaps one has arrived at the beginning. The implication is that of a loop – an infinite repetition instead of a definite beginning or an end to the journey.
Neither the landscape nor the movement or time exist in the suggested form. All images were created as sets, that emphasize through the reduction of detail and color not a narrative but the abstract correlation of space and time and of change and movement as elements of time. Through movement space and time connect, space becomes the stage for the passage of time. Movement creates awareness of past, present and future, which are generally associated with a linear order. Any deviation from this linearity – as in a dream, a sudden appearance of something past or future – positions the viewer outside this order and appears not to be real.
Seemingly following the linear time model the individual images of the passage represent not only the pictured moments, but because of the suggestion of a chronological succession supported by the perceived authenticity implied by the medium of photography, also the time and distance between them. Inherent in the exchangeability of starting and end point and the lack of causality between the images is the potential suspension of this linear understanding of time. As opposed to an attempt to document linear time, as in for instance Eadweard Muybridge ‘s work of serial photographs of motion sequences, the passage approaches time as being subjective and dependent on the viewer.
In contrast to the accelerated succession of images in film – which dictates the sequence and directions of images to be viewed – the serial depiction of frozen moments in “The passage”suggests but does not prove a chronology and allows the viewer to see past, present and future simultaneously. It is up to the viewer to define the direction of movement and through that time frame and direction. Certainty in determining the position in time and space is replaced by assumption and interpretation. Through the gradual realization that the images do not fulfill the expectation of authenticity and the resulting dissolution of the illusion of the chronological succession, space and time become abstractions, pure illusions, that are no longer independent from the viewer, but entirely defined by him.