To subscribe to Afterall journal, starting with this issue, please click here.
Alternatively, if you wish to purchase this article individually, you may do so via the University of Chicago’s website.
When talking about her paintings, Monika Baer very often speaks about one thing being 'naturally' related to another, or about how certain motifs 'naturally' develop from earlier ones.
Coming from the artist herself, this naturalisation of disparate pictorial elements sounds provocative, especially as nothing seems more opaque to the viewer than the recognition of any obvious or 'natural' relationship between the heterogeneous signifiers in her work. Yet the causal relationship she claims between what is nominally considered abstract painting and technically realistic painted or drawn figuration is both astonishing and seductive. In this context, the idea of seduction is achieved by means of a cartographic technique, a form that is always already mediated. What we find recorded is a multi-dimensional terrain of niches, caves, dwellings, bodies, landscapes, quotations from the world of pop, media, the underground and the supernatural. However, for viewers to content themselves with any of these fields does not seem to be the idea. We are always led optically to a different field, a situation almost comparable with Madeleine du Scudery's Carte du Tendre, which leads us to an imaginary involvement with the work. Sometimes the paths of seduction in Baer's paintings reveal themselves clearly, swaying between organic and technical networks. Whether canals, tubes, wires, spider webs, floral ornaments, tangled roots or branches, these lanes often lead back to themselves, and always in an enticing yet cool manner. Whatever it is that floats here, its circulation is never linear but happens through diversions and in accordance with displaced desires.
Even though we may know from our understanding of rhetoric that emphatic reinforcements, such as the word 'naturally', are likely a fragile form of negation, a risky