_Born in Munich, Germany
_Lives and works in London

Johari's Window, 2000
Digital video / 4 DVDs (color, sound), approx. 20'
Courtesy of the artist
and FACT, Liverpool

view a sequence 2100 KB


Karen Alexander

If we know anything about the illusion of cinema it is, what you see, is definitely not what you get. This adage is taken to new heights in the work of Monika Oechsler. In Johari’s Window her most recent creation, we have multi-screen work in which a group of seven women seated around a poker table in a cavernous, deserted casino play cards. There are no hints as to who these women are or where they come from. As we watch it becomes evident that, these are females playing at being themselves. We are observing actresses working to outwardly represent themselves to the mirror of the camera, and the image at least is that of women as women at play.

Like so much of Oechsler work you the spectator have to take an active role to see beyond the surface representation. In so doing he/she is rewarded with clues that reflect on the dynamics of the games we play. In Johari’s Window as in her other work, like High Anxieties and High Achievers, what we see is the result of a process of group improvisation, where her performers are asked to deconstruct the fragile self and self presentation, in order that we the audience can reconstruct a sense of unity from the scattered fragments. Unlike conventional cinema, the reconstructive process is not about finding a linear narrative, but rather about unravelling the complexity involved in the very act of attributing meaning. In the case of Johari’s Window the given clues are pointers towards the identity and motivation of the characters, which we are free to interpret as we see fit. Crucial to how we read the game play in Johari’s Window is it’s installation. Four huge free-standing screens of wide screen format meet in the centre creating an X formation. On the four screens thus created, we see the images of seven women reacting to each play as the camera’s rotating device moves the image around the screens capturing the progress of the game of poker. As spectators, our reading of these cinematic images, projected in a darkened space and larger than than life, is continually fractured as we circumvent the work. As in life, the more we look the more we change our perception and understanding of what it is we think we see, in the act of looking. (..)


Please also visit the archive of Basis-Wien at




  catalogue order