2002 Schloss Solitude, Text by Cornelia Brüninghaus-Knubel

It begins like a period film: the interior of a late baroque palace, a child in a pretty rococo costume running towards the camera, which then wheels around to adopt the child’s perspective, so bringing together those of the child and of the viewer. Just as “The Child and the Countess” could be a pictorial theme from art history (and Corinna Schnitt did actually recall an historical photo when making it), the motif of the observer as a repoussoir figure is also a trick of classical art intending to draw the viewer into the picture space. What the child, and later we viewers see and hear is the back of a female figure, also in 18th century costume, looking out of the central window of the round hall at Solitude Palace. But she is not only looking at the city of Ludwigsburg lying below, but into a mirror which she is holding up to view her own reflection. And she is singing - a little monotonously, but in a somewhat operatic manner - the same thing over and over again: “I am something special.” While we are still recovering from our surprise over this person’s open articulation of exaggerated self-esteem, the camera falls back, the “special lady” becomes smaller and smaller, and her song is now accompanied by a male choir: “Yes, yes”, they sing, followed by “we love you”. Soon the camera captures two flights of the open staircase and we finally glimpse the singers: policemen in uniform. By the time the tracking camera has arrived at the street and a local transport bus has driven past, the perspective shifts into a petit-bourgeois present from which our viewpoint is directed at the costumed, “special” figure. Looking back, what are we to think of her now? Here, at the latest, her special quality is seen as a pose or as something invoked; we have taken part in a self-staging that can now be smiled at.

In these film images, Schnitt defines the special within an historical framework: a costume and palace dating from the late 18th century, a period known as the age of enlightenment, of recent striving for self-knowledge (Diderot, Rousseau, Kant), but also associated with the last, exaggerated ego mania of the aristocracy. However, being special also means being isolated and lonely in Solitude Palace, correctly named to express this feeling. In the fairy-tale, the queen already sought confirmation in narcissistic contemplation of her reflection (who is the fairest of them all?) and today’s “superstars” dream of being popular and admired. (See Schmidtbauer,....) Indeed, a healthy sense of self-esteem is positive, even necessary.

We all require a counterpart to assure us of our significance. Here the policemen continually confirm the lady’s claims for herself: “Yes, yes…”, which makes us suppose that her self-perception has to be witnessed by some authority – perhaps she is not quite so sure? Is this why she, the noble lady, has to demand - or dream up - expressions of submission from the wearers of uniform in such an absolutist manner? Is it presumption, extravagance, loss of reality, eccentricity, exaggeration, haughtiness … or perhaps a considerable measure of uncertainty that makes it necessary for her to enhance her own value by means of historical clothing and some official police evidence?

However, when the lady continually persuades herself of how special she is, conjuring this up as if in a litany, the repetition becomes absurd, and one asks oneself what exactly constitutes her special quality. It rather looks as if all this is no more than beautiful semblance or a theatrical pose, similar to the expressive gestures and mimicry established by the theory of affects applied in baroque art. In addition, the swing into the present time makes the message ambiguous or rather cryptic, if one considers the way that modern “superstars” also employ clothing, behaviour and style in order to become famous and popular, yet only succeed in covering up emptiness in this way; conveying expression without any content.