Text by Elisa Oddone for the exhibition at WiE Kultur Berlin 2011
Can geometrical forms be something else from what they actually are? If yes, could they serve as basis for a new vade mecum apt to instruct us on how to construct meaning? This last question is the leading theme of A short guide for the construction of meaning, the exhibition presenting the new works of Berlin based artist Frank Hülsbömer.
Using photography and video as art media, Hülsbömer depicts a parallel universe inhabited by minimally structured surfaces and forms in which all contradictions are admitted and – sometimes – happily unified. The artist’s way of treating objects is both poetical and playful: it seems as though he is taking a step back in order to allow his objects to live and to develop their own life (tennis speed of light, decelerating flashmob, how B became A). Hülsbömer does not want to disturb the scenery he is looking at. Indeed, it appears as if the artist has just limited himself to the mere observation of the aesthetic scene he is in front of and then named it by taking recourse to his elegant and characteristic sense of irony.
The importance of the playful experience and of the natural development of the state of affairs is one of the fundamental features in Hülsbömer’s art. As the artist himself explains: “When I was a child, I used to pick up my father at work. At the time he was working in the building of the West LB in Münster. This building, erected during the 60s by architect Dahlmann, and surrounded by a big park, is known for its big modernist art collection. While I was waiting for my father to come, I spent my time playing, jumping and daydreaming in this exciting and magical space. Today, when I reflect about it, I come to the conclusion that I was very lucky to have had my first encounter with art in this unpedagogical and unostentatious way. Art should primarily be presented in such a way instead of being preceded, as it often happens in museums due to their intrinsic nature, by a sort of announcement reciting: Attention! You are in front of an art object!”
If, on the one hand, the playful experience is a central point in Hülsbömer’s work, on the other, it is unavoidable not to be struck by his rigorous and clean mannerism. At first sight, Hülsbömer’s dynamic depictions of objects can arouse suspicions of just being computer renderings or 3D computer graphics. However his work surprisingly is subject to no other intervention except for the pure instrument of photography and the simple act of filming.
Due to the clarity and minimalism of the work and the artists striking virtuosity of photographic technique, the viewer is led to think that Hülsbömer wants to reach a sort of visual perfection. Hülsbömer himself says that there is no attempt of portraying perfection in his work: “Perfection is just an idea, which people can only aim at.” Hülsbömer is attempting to demystify and simplify the phenomena of reality through a continuous reference to the dualism permeating our human experience.
In this attempt of simplification and demystification one is able to recognize a connection between Hülsbömer’s work and the artistic production of the group active in Germany during the `50s known under the name of Subjective Photography. The photographers belonging to this movement – Peter Keetman, Wolfgang Reisewitz, Otto Steinert and their students – were interested in pursuing a visual purism obtained through the exercise of formalist imagery. Otto Steinart describes features clearly recognizable in Hülsbömer’s work: “The photographer transforms the motif by creatively intending the world throughformalreductionsthatplace out-of-frame the everyday presentations of reality, defamiliarizing that world and reconstituting it at a deeper level of personal perception that is realized in new types of formal ordering”. Hülsbömer’s demystification of reality follows those lines and achieves the absolute photographic creation mentioned by Steiner in which “the subject is defamiliarized to such an extent that it remains only as a formal armature of the construction of the image’s geometry”. Hülsbömer gives the results achieved within the Subjective Photography a new twist. This is made possible by the very personal interpretation of the media used to portray the geometric shapes by the artist who is not bound to the mere use of photography but crosses over to video art achieving a further fragmentation and reduction of the represented objects. Hülsbömer’s original use of Photokinetiks, reminding the viewer of a zoetrope, in which the illusion of action comes from a rapid succession of static pictures giving the impression of a “vision held in suspension”, points out the change of the current state of affairs within the scenery intended by the artist as a metaphor for the human condition. Hülsbömer’s Photokinetiks has a narrative value that, although detached from the perceptual world and characterized by an extreme simplification, allows the spectator to reach a deeper understanding of reality which appears lyrical in its elementariness.
Realism and representation, chance and science, movement and calm, a playful and a rigid way of representing objects, light and shadow are the sort of dualism recognizable in Hülsbömer’s estranged world.
A short guide for the construction of meaning focuses on the strong tension between chance and science. This is a recurring theme in Hülsbömer’s work, already present, indeed, in his book The Fiction of Science. However, in his new work the artist shows an enhanced and matured treatment of the topic, which reaches a full-fledged mastery in works, such as Wheel of fortune. The balance offered by the rotation of the geometric shapes puts us in front of the fact that, whether the obtained combinations are merely a matter of chance or the result of a rigid calculation of probabilities, it is, in the end, solely a different perspective of observation. The movement of the objects might ultimately remind of the revolution of a hypothetical planet system explicable through physical calculations and scientific theories, which are - in the end - based on the analysis of pure forces instantiated by an innocent combination of chances. Where are the bounds between science and chance to be set? Do they exist in a pure form or do they rather constantly overlap? Those questions constitute Hülsbömer’s mantra, who now, from his agnostic altar, seems to have discovered an aesthetic golden rule capable of serving us with those answers through the representation of a happy reconciliation of opposites.
The objects represented in Hülsbömer’s work are aesthetically disconnected from the world. This choice of presentation puzzles the spectator who, once faced with his works, has no idea how big or what the objects represented are, because the artist does not provide (or, more correctly, does not want to provide) him with any objective scale of measurement. Indeed, Hülsbömer’s universe exists, functions, develops and plays in its own peculiar dimension without any dimensions. This is a context in which, again, Hülsbömer’s scientific fascination is evident by offering an attempt of a concrete application to theoretical physical insights.
The importance of science in Hülsbömer’s art originates from his interest toward the language of mathematics, particularly from the work of the mathematician and philosopher GottlobFrege (Begriff, Funktion, Bedeutung). “I compare arithmetics to a tree that unfolds upwards in a multitude of techniques and theorems while the root drives into the depths”, claims the German philosopher and Hülsbömer continues this statement, trying to discover what these depths actually are and by offering an aesthetic portrayal of the techniques and theorems characterizing their nature. Could those unknown depths offer us an ultimate meaning? Borrowing from Frege Hülsbömer’s works investigate the areas of sense and meaning, establishing a playful relationship with them: Can it be possible to find an unchangeable rule that allows humans to construct meaning? Is Hülsbömer inpossession of it? The elegance, balance and minimalism that characterize his work seem to answer positively.
„From the exterior to the interior“ an introduction to „The Fiction of Science“ by Gestalten Verlag, 2009. Written by Matthias Harder (Curator of the Newton Foundation)
We are living in a time where the specialist sciences have become so far removed from general knowledge that it is now rarely possible to test scientific discoveries in real life. It is possible that even the winners of Nobel Prizes falsify their experimental results in order to ostensibly prove their own idée fixe.
Frank Hülsbömer tackles this strange phenomenon and paraphrases it in a number of new series of photos. “Truth cannot possibly be an absolute concept”, says the photographer, who began his own investigations. Pure forms, including abstractions and colour patterns, are the things that have been of interest to the artist recently. These groups of works were created between 2006 and 2008 in a flood of inspiration, the process corresponding to a neutralisation of the senses – as Hülsbömer described it. In these years, he felt an urgent need to create a type of parallel world: a gradual leave-taking from documentation of the exterior world and a turning instead towards the construction of an interior world. The transition is formed by shots of his own studio with a refusal to show any details at all there or to tie down the location where he produces his works. Instead, Hülsbömer photographs the corners of rooms or rolled-up photos and dips everything in a sinister grey; he turns the face of older photos to the wall, or piles up magazines covering up just what magazines are involved. This is a particularly radical form of revision of one’s own work and of its creation.
Pure, minimally structured surfaces already appear in his architecture-related photographs. Berlin sights such as the Television Tower or the Reichstag are marginalised in Hülsbömer’s fire-wall series. Characteristic of the rear courtyard series is the neutral-tone, cloudless sky over the Berlin, which appears as an equally valid background surface alongside the wall surfaces. This photo series was exhibited in 2000 at the EXPO in Hanover, and at other locations, in order to represent Berlin (in a different way, for a change).
The current series “Clusters”, “Anatomie der Fläche (Anatomy of Surface)” and “Piktogramm Studie (Pictogram Study)” deal in a more abstract and explicit manner with variants and variations on a theme, with the declination of various formal possibilities. Or at least it looks this way at first glance. There is no concrete object here generated solely for a photograph, which would then become an image and be visualised in turn as a more sophisticated variant. The process is similar to an experimental set-up that appears to refer back to strict, scientific methods. However, what is actually involved here is an intelligent game with the self-created object and us observers, evaluations of pseudo-scientific representations; this is often accompanied by a healthy dash of subversion or irony.
It is well known that our planet consists of innumerable tiny particles, and we now know that they are even smaller than atoms. We cannot see these micro-particles because they are so small, but we can imagine models of them, or at least try to imagine them. Imagining infinity – whether in the macro or micro-range – and thinking about our own finite lives makes most of us a little nervous. When Frank Hülsbömer distances himself from exterior appearances and focuses on the world “en miniature” as an imagined model, as appears here, he is not just formally moving from the exterior to the interior. He is searching for that which ultimately holds the world together in terms of content too, if we want; since Goethe’s Faust, this has been a spiritual and scientific question and, at the same time, one concerning the history of ideas, and is a matter which may not be of daily interest, but which does nonetheless raise its heavy head from time to time. Hülsbömer makes connections here, but refuses answers. Borrowing from Gottlob Frege, the photographer’s abstract works touch upon the areas of sense and meaning, as well as returning again and again to the ideas of logic and truth (in photography too). And Leibniz’s idea of monads appears in the title of one group of works: in Hülsbomer’s works, tiny round mirrors, which appear to distil the unpopulated architectural environment down to a single small point, are formed from the living mirrors of the philosopher’s universe. This tends towards an excerpt-like compression, a concentration on that which is essential.
His series titles are always intelligently chosen, sometimes in German, sometimes in English: “Anatomie der Fläche (Anatomy of Surface)”, “Photomatique”, “Cluster - Korruption des Zufalls (Clusters – Corruption of Chance)” or “The Fiction of Science”, which is now also the title of a book. These are concepts that surprise us and influence the way we perceive these works. The assignment of a concrete title always occurs only at a late stage in Hülsbömer’s work; most of the photographs remain untitled initially.
The Berlin artist is interested in myths from the world of science and the tricks associated with them. How do mathematical, physical, or, in general, scientific control systems arise? And once they have been created, how are they communicated, developed and continuously verified? As we known, everything possesses a number of truths or, at least, various facets. For example, light consists simultaneously of waves and of particles, which is actually an irreconcilable physical contradiction. Other dualistic principles also determine Hülsbömer’s work: interior and exterior, realism and representation, light and shadow – as if he wanted to exploit the tension created by opposites for his work.
Hülsbömer’s Leipzig-based colleague Ulrich Gebert documents natural phenomena in a painstaking, scientific-like manner: for example, the pinales in his Typus (Type) series, where he assembles tableaux using naturalist images of the pinales. Even today, there is still no consistent system of botanical nomenclature, and thus Gebert uses the classifications suggested in a specialist book from the 1960s and attempts to avoid incorrect classification interpretations for his conifer photos. When presented in an art context, Gebert deliberately exaggerates ad absurdum these scientific efforts at standardising Latin nomenclature.
With Hülsbömer, everything is based on purely photographic creation; for a number of years now, he has only been taking digital photographs, but does not treat or modify his works. At the same time, his images look similar to computer renderings; the medium of photography is only revealed by very few details. The battles between the authentic and their last remains have already been fought in the realm of photography. And for some time now, visual artists and photographers have been attempting in investigate the phenomenon of truth in images. Almost every image throws up questions about how it was created: Is it representational or designed? Does it illustrate a real situation or does it generate a model representation? With his new works, Hülsbömer remains in a definition-free grey zone.
Chance also plays a central role in his work, although always in combination with process and control. In a manner similar to the American composer and artist John Cage who investigated the “I Ching” and made it an important decision-making tool, Hülsbömer allows chance to play its role at a crucial point in the artistic process and partially gives up control over the creation and finishing of the artwork in question. On the other hand, one could also say here that this is a subtle game with chance, and with the conscious arrangement that acts as a process controlled by chance.
In the studio, he experiments with small, round plastic discs and bent papers on a neutral background. The stacked-up discs could – in a presentation made by a town-planner, for example – also represent investigations on the construction of residential estates or of urban density distributions. Evaluation and association with regard to Hülsbömer’s cluster photos are almost automatic, as we unconsciously allow for certain weightings with respect to the size, form and colour of the circular elements. From the almost infinite range of combination possibilities available, Hülsbömer selects a more manageable number for each group of works – sometimes a few, sometimes a dozen or more. On occasions, lights move in circles in front of the camera, their geometric forms illuminating certain areas of the neutral-grey image field and overlapping to form a continually changing abstract pattern. The effect is peculiar, and the resulting forms appear to be both two-dimensional and spatial at the same time. This light experiment by Hülsbömer, which led to his series “The Fiction of Science”, is reminiscent of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator, a kinetic machine which was designed over the course of many years and finally exhibited in 1930, and which generated light reflections using a number of bulbs. In the same year, Moholy-Nagy produced an experimental film, entitled “Light Display Black-White-Grey”, which featured these immaterial light impressions. When Frank Hülsbömer designs a formally similar experimental set-up today, he is (unconsciously) referring to his famous predecessor and is transporting Moholy-Nagy’s non-concrete intentions, which were revolutionary in terms of media for their time, into a contemporary context. Image-generation using computer programs is of course easier today than conventional manual artistic production, and for this reason Hülsbömer’s conscious decision in favour of photographic methods is noteworthy. In contrast, the strangely matt surfaces (here: sleek, coloured cardboard) and the reduced spatiality form an interesting matrix.
In Hülsbömer’s work, formal and contemporary parallels can be discovered, such as with Wolfgang Tillmans and his series of works with bent and folded paper (e.g. “paperdrop star III” from 2008 or the “lighter” series from 2009). Tillmans deals with photographic paper in a self-reflective medial manner by showing copies which appear to have been developed in a dilettantish manner without proffering any claim to be representative. In the other part of Tillmans’ paper series, the sweeping motion of the bent paper, sometimes with an atmospheric blurredness, is fascinating. In contrast, when Hülsbömer folds or bends monochrome paper curves with the sole aim of photographing them, he is following a different, more precise impulse. In the series “The Anatomy of Surface”, he is also carrying out a type of material study, but the bending and folding of paper leads to the formation of shadows and to a static spatiality. Hülsbömer avoids the illusion of three-dimensionality, but here too arranges a supposedly geometric figure of scientific-mathematical relevance. Formal ties between Hülsbömer’s abstract work and that of Op Art figures such as Jesús Rafael Soto or Gerhard von Graevenitz could also be drawn; in both cases, the analysis of forms also has a playful quality.
In art history terminology, Hülsbömer’s new series from 2006-2008 are still lifes, i.e., deliberately arranged compositions of objects without any reference to a human image or landscape scenery. These still lifes are abstract, but not non-object. In the “Clusters” series, however, Hülsbömer bridles up the abstract horse in a different manner than his predecessors have done. He doesn’t arrive at the formal reduction of abstraction, but rather begins with abstraction – in concrete terms, with the colour points of a foam modernism, as he terms it, in order to then generate concrete relationships between these points. He assigns a meaning to abstraction as an artistic ritual, as he says himself. Some photos are merely thrown together, with minimal corrections to that which was randomly produced, while others emulate randomness and but nonetheless appear quite deliberately arranged.
In “Piktogramm Studie (Pictogram Study)”, his subtle humour comes into play, such as in the case of the captions for the foursome arrangement of polystyrene packaging corner elements. Hülsbömer repeatedly arranges them in new ways, uses the shapes to represent people, and composes images of everyday situations and scenarios ranging from dancing lessons to a sex club.
His interest in the subject of knowledge concentrates on the topic of ignorance and the creative fantasy that may result from it, according to Hülsbömer. His closest relations in an artistic sense are the Swiss artists Roman Signer and Fischli/Weiss with their films of absurd/comic experimental set-ups. Signer launches DIY rockets into the sky, or catapults a wooden chair out of the open window of a house. For “The Way Things Go”, the artist duo Fischli/Weiss designed a warehouse-sized causal-relationship machine which combines inimitable slapstick with physical experiments, and then documented this in a film.
Hülsbömer (still) remains true to two-dimensional forms of representation, even though certain series, when considered in sequence, are indeed conceived in a cinematic manner; a temporal continuum is quite evident when observing these pieces. He also investigates functions and the principles behind them, and renders these (seemingly) visible. However, we ultimately shouldn’t trust the artist: often there are no new levels of reality, but instead simply bare, model-like designs and inventions. However, this happens in such a multi-faceted manner that, once seen, Frank Hülsbömer’s abstract, sometimes irritating photos will never again loosen their grip on us.
by Nicola Ricciardi
Viviamo in un’epoca in cui le nostre azioni sono scandite dal tentativo quotidiano di esercitare controllo su ciò che ci sta intorno. Non a caso consumiamo una quantità’ senza precedenti di informazioni - dall’andamento dei mercati globali ai dettagli della vita intima del nostro vicino - al solo scopo di poter prevedere, e dunque controllare, eventi e fenomeni lontani e vicini. Affascinato e a sua volta soggetto a questa tensione, Frank Hülsbömer (Münster/Germania, 1968) ha dedicato la sua pratica artistica al tentativo di ricostruire un universo parallelo che fosse a suo modo “controllabile”. Davanti all’obiettivo della sua macchina fotografica non sfilano dunque imprevedibili esseri umani, ma oggetti inanimati e coercibili, che vengono disposti secondo un ordine che rispecchia da un lato il rigore delle cose e dall’altro la casualità della natura. Queste composizioni a prima vista astratte danno vita a fotografie, video, installazioni che sono scenari di pura materia, di cui l’artista e’ demiurgo e regista e davanti ai quali lo spettatore spesso si smarrisce, nel tentativo di ricondurre quelle immagini a un significato, a un’interpretazione che gli permetta di esercitare a sua volta una forma di controllo su ciò che ha davanti.
La forza delle opere di Frank Hülsbömer nasce proprio da questa tensione tra il tentativo dell’artista di controllare i propri soggetti e il tentativo da parte dello spettatore di controllare ciò’ che sta osservando. Una tensione di volta in volta enfatizzata o allentata dai titoli delle opere, che possono facilitare la decodificazione dell’immagine oppure lasciare spazio ad infinite possibilità di senso, allungando o accorciando lo scarto tra intenzione dell’artista e capacita’ interpretativa dello spettatore, in un gioco di forze che non si esaurisce mai: tutti vogliamo il controllo, ma il controllo rimane una pulsione che non riusciamo a soddisfare appieno. Per stimolare un dibattito intorno a questo tema, sempre più attuale, Mazen ha deciso di allestire un percorso di opere dell’artista esplicitamente volto a esaminare questo gioco di forze. Le opere verranno esposte per una notte soltanto in via dell’Orso 16 a Milano, nello stesso cortile che ha visto nascere una delle realtà più interessanti del panorama dell’arte concettuale milanese, la Galleria Francesca Kaufmann (oggi Repetto Kaufmann, trasferitasi in Via di porta Tenaglia 7). La mostra aprirà alle ore 18.30 di mercoledì 18 luglio e sarà visibile fino alle ore 23.00 dello stesso giorno.
Our 6th Kabinett Termin took place on March 24th. This time speakers included Frank Hülsbömer (artist), Elisa Oddone (guest curator), Prof. Philip Percival (University of Nottingham) and Prof. Ludger Schwarte (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf).
The artist about his works
constructing meaning in 3 steps
“On the one hand it’s about the struggle to constructing meaning as an artist with whatever he does. But of course it’s also about the ironic side to it – the struggle that we have in finding and constructing meaning. The word ‘guide’ also comes from the “Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” by Douglas Adams where earth is considered to be a computer that is supposed to find the questions to the most important questions. So the title and the picture have a link to this struggle.“
“Altar suggests something mysterious, although in this picture everything is meant to be logical. The way the light works is purely physics and logic. The grey part is just doubled and they have this foil that works like a mirror. I let a lamp shining into it, and the reflections would go on this wall. So what’s happening is: when you see the reflections of the light that is going through the mirrors and on the board, in the middle they are more squarish, and then departing from the middle becoming more and more round. It seems to be like mysterious or something unexplainable, but it is due to the fact that the mirrors are like lenses. In the end you have the image of the bulb. It maybe looks like something mysterious is happening but it’s just clearly physics. And to the colours: They are made on the computer at the one side. The grey was the original. And the other side is re-coloured. This is pretty much the only one, which has such a strong Photoshop influence.”
the quarter revolution
“It reminds a little bit of big revolutions, like in Africa or the French revolution, but also personal revolutions in terms of personal development. We never get the full 360 degrees.”
“It is technically a mirror. There is this circle, which is turning and indicated by the green arrow. It just turns once around, and ends up in the same spot. Something is turning, but nothing is changing. Plus, the disk is a mirror, but the reflection never changes.”
how b became a
“It’s from the language of mathematics like Gottlieb Frege might have developed it. It brings some lightness into the mathematics, it’s an alternative way to how B can change its position to become A. It’s just moving over A.”
the tennis speed of light
“It’s intentionally like this: I mean, you cannot play tennis by the speed of light, although I’m suggesting it here. Chen Yang calls it ping pong.”
“This one doesn’t have a title yet. Sometimes the titles come later, much later, when I start to understand my work as I work a lot subconsciously. So sometimes it just needs development. It’s also about coincidence. On the other hand I’m already manipulating the coincidence in these pictures. So it’s really a mix with my other series in my book The Fiction of Science, called “The corruption of chance” where people are supposed to doubt if it is accidental, coincidental arranged."
“I was hoping that Jan Lazardzig, the theatre scientist would come and could tell us something about “performance of objects”. For me it has something of a theatre performance. You also have this in the catalogue; I have set it up with the single objects, some kind of alphabet of symbols or signs. This piece came in the catalogue where symbols get coincidentally matched, and you develop phrases or sentences. And where all symbols come together, they start to make sentences or even sense. This stage, for me, is more like a sketch with those symbols or signs coincidentally being combined with each other. So they are not linked with each other the way you would always get the same combination again.”
The discussion (excerpts)
Ludger: Do you make drafts before you shot your series?
Frank: I didn’t do it with these.
Ludger: But you come up with the theory first? Do you first make the theories, or does it come from the objects?
Frank: It comes more from the objects. And then it’s a subconscious thing- a slow process. And also names and the possibility to explain the works at all come later.
Ludger: But do you take the pictures in serial form?
Frank: I usually take more pictures. And in the one context sheet I pick the one I want, so in the end it’s getting like a flow. Photokinetics of course has something to do with flow, with movie. So it’s very much about form finding processes. I find things, build them and cut something. I have them on my window shelf. Sometimes it takes long time. But then, after I have collected some of them, I shoot a lot in a very short time. I need the inspiration of the object itself. My home is full of still lives; there are boxes full of objects. After some time it starts making sense to combine this and that, and not only in an aesthetical way. At the end, this whole process gets revealed on this wall with “Constructing meaning in 3 steps”. That’s why I do it. It’s so simple in a way. But at one point, you have the feeling that it is good, that it makes sense for reasons you cannot really explain. With the conscious you explain, the subconscious you load up with things.
Meaning and title
Philip: When do you have the feeling that the work is right – do you think it’s predominately the form of the work or the meaning? When you introduced the work you tended to explain the meaning or significance but many of the works are very strikingly, pleasingly formal.
Frank: I have the feeling that this is in my case one and the same thing, how it comes together. For me, if something aesthetically is right there’s already some kind of meaning in it. It is a thought being, in this case, very often abstractly put on data. I try to explain sometimes the meaning, but here metaphors always work. But even before I came up with the title or I saw a metaphor for something, I somehow felt that it was right. Aesthetically, plus in terms of content.
Petty: But isn’t it interesting that each of us can put a different meaning into the form? But like Frank said: he has the form, and there’s this meaning attached, from his point of view. I see something different; everybody probably sees something different.
Philip: Well, my idea is that the formal properties of the works are not attributed by the viewer in a way that’s signifying personal revolutions. I think the arrangement of geometrical forms, which may or may not be pleasing; I think this is a completely objective property of the work. Like colour. When I interpret this painting as a composition involving blue and black, I’m not interpreting it in the same way as Frank is interpreting this work signifying personal or political revolution. These are compositions whose arrangement is purely objective.
Frank: Let’s just work without the title. Without the title you would also develop something, the title is a vision and suggesting a meaning or leading somewhere and it’s also operating with an ironic twist. But I see your point as well. It’s an objective arrangement. You can freely associate many more things with it, than this small title. You are not sticked to its explanation.
Philip: This work does not even look like a possible photograph. I mean just forgetting the kinetic aspect and just seeing these nine still lifes, the top image of the left corner. It’s very hard to see in that photograph a physical object or an object existing in a physical space; and yet the representation is special, so this creates a very pleasing illusion of a space, which is not a physical space. I think of it as transcendent, it’s a window on a spatial world, not the physical world around me, a window up to a space with pure form.
Ludger: Ok, I totally disagree with that. It’s an object and I sympathy for that.
Philip: Oh no, I see that. Of course, it’s a free dimensional image of an object in space, but it can’t be a photograph, because there’s no physical space.
Frank: Maybe the solution for this part of the discussion is, that I’m not offering a scale. You don’t know what size it is. That’s one important thing and that’s why you get lost with it. In the context of this you’ll get suspicious and think: “Maybe he just didn’t use real tapes and that they have a different size.” But most of things you don’t know how big they are, what material they are made of. It’s more concrete. But also since it’s not motion. I made sure, especially with this, that you don’t see the changes in the mirror. So you don’t even know it’s a mirror. […] It’s an upper space in the background, when I turn it and keep the same contrast level on the mirror. There’s a little of technique to it. Perhaps.
CHEN Yang: I would like to pick up the earlier point. My question would be: Do you always settle things leading to that line frame and do you always have to find a meaning to settle things? And if this, for instance, we argued about shadows, three-dimensional spaces, but somehow Frank thinks about mindscape the most. Without bringing it to this three-dimensional, four-dimensional, this measurement. Can we actually say where it stays in that space? For instance without meaning, without struggle and searching for meaning and stay at this turbulent moment, being aware that we are nowhere, to find the last settle.
Frank: […] you have to believe in meaning. That’s the funny thing about it. I’m quite nihilistic about my and other lives. I don’t see meaning, that’s also why I was referring to this Greek ‘inventing’ the concept of meaning. But somehow, absurdly, you have a work, and you get connection to it – we could call it meaning. We could also take a different concept, a different word. It does something with us.
Marx: There’s some point of finding sense, right? You work on something, you struggle with it, and then there comes that moment of really strong tension. And then this place where you can rest.
Frank: Yes. And also some things have meaning to you because of what you have uploading your brain with, other the years. What you’ve been listening to, see and whatever. It’s a very subjective thing. There’s no absolute meaning in anything, it’s always a personal relationship.
Marx: And the meaning changes too.
Discussion about changing titles, art with and without titles
Frank: […] “Constructivists’ vacation” had this really banal title: “Sexual Peeling”, from the song “Sexual healing” as a working title. Since I came up with the new name it also changes the work for me. I’m the artist – so in a way it might sound stupid – but I can change my title, it’s something you shouldn’t do in art – it’s even published under the working title.
Marx: Why shouldn’t you? I even think you should. You’re the boss!
Philip: But Frank, I gave business about the form properties of your work. I don’t believe that you could turn the work that it was – let’s suppose it was a bad artwork – into a good artwork by changing the title.
Philip: The real substance is not altered by the title.
Hutter: Well, but the way of reading changes. The title gives you a direction. For me the interaction of a piece of art I see, the forms and the name is very important for the piece, at least his peace.
Philip: You are distinguishing between the work and an instruction to the audience in terms how to interpret the work. […] There is a clear difference between an artwork and something I would like to say about it, to explain to the audience how to interpret. Those are two different things. As you have explained it, the title is not really part of the artwork, it’s a kind of instruction how to view.
Frank: They would work without title. For me as well. I’m adding an ironical edge to it, through the title. Or I suggest something that I see in it. But that’s only consciously spoken. The subconscious always says much more than a title. But also, I mean, we cannot see it like a dualism. It’s a bit like “light is travelling in waves as much as it’s in parts”. These are at least two theories that we cannot really bring together. The dualism of light might be the dualism of validity whether a work is just a work by itself, or a work with a title. Both are possible. I mean the work was a work in the beginning, and the other stuff came later. There’s clearly first the work. […] In the end my work is more about the struggle to construct meaning, then the meaning, the achieving itself. It’s about building up tension, and then come to a point where I made it to the end, or I know that I won’t make it to the end. There’s a lot of nihilistic attitude, and it might be like in a movie with an open end, or a movie where you build up tension; and in the end there’s not the big thing happening, revelation or so.
Hutter: Yes, we go to the rules of meaning, which are behind it. It’s about to find the rules.
Frank: I was wondering, since we have some experts on the philosophy of mind: Isn’t also erasing that the more you get into something, the more questions you begin to raise? And in the end you have more questions than anything else. And the more you find questions in the end, the less you will find the answer. Or is this leading to far?
Elisa: I don’t know whether it is like this, of course the more precise the question is the more likely it is to find an answer to the question. But it’s more: If you tend to isolate very clear questions, and try to give an answer to these questions. It’s necessary to isolate the topic of your research. But probably the development of this topic raises other questions as well but in order to concentrate on your first question it’s necessary that you isolate the topic of your research. But when you’re actually work on that other questions may raise, more doubt, and also by the criticism you get. But the goal is to come to a conclusion that might work or that cannot be defeated until you come to a better one.
Ludger: There might be an answer when you look at them, as they need to be looked at – as not calm, as not formal but as paranoid, neurotic. I think we also need to look at them in the position in time. What is antecedent? The formalities of abstract art in the 20ies what is somehow reflected here. Or minimal art. […] The play with pure form in 2011 is a different one of Kandinsky and Mondrian.
Elisa: I’ve been thinking of Plato as well, and the same example. […] But I have a question: Because for this show you have been working with photographs and videos. What did this video experience did to you and to your art?
Marx: I think the title is something, you were saying earlier as you can make a bad work good, giving him a title. And I think this is possible, but it is not as likely as making a good work bad giving him a bad title.
Jeremy: isn’t it a mystery? Untitled is always a mystery, isn’t it? You are always interested in art and saying: “Ok, what does it mean”? What is the meaning? Cause it is in the name.
Petty: Oh yes, this is what I said in first place. If there is a title, it gives you a certain direction. But that´s only in the first place and I keep looking at it and again it does something to me. […] And even if I had a certain direction, I might change by looking at it. ‘Cause I see it in a different way than you do for example.
Philipp: As Frank sais; it can happen that the title is an integral part of the artwork. I think, why not, especially when we are speaking about sculpture or painting. Than, if the title was an integral part of the artwork the artwork is not very good.
CYC: I have a fieldwork fact because I’m a museum curator. And it’s very rare for me to work with living artists in my first 10 years of career. In most cases I don’t have anyone to ask about title and this and that. […] And the things you read from museum, those titles, when it was – you could trust it but somehow it’s also already filtered to a certain knowledge frame. If people would deal with the same object in a different time, in a different country, they would come up with very different conclusions.
Marx: I’d like to say: Generally, titles are simply useful, and there are so many different ways of titling. You can number your works, and you can give a frame to each one. It’s also useful to distinguish them. You make so much work every year. You have to catalogue it somehow. And what I’d like to add is: Even ‘Untitled’ can be a provocation, so it can be a title.
CYC: Title is a specifically European question. Full stop. When you look at Asian titles, they just tell you exactly what you see, like “Flowers”.
Frank: Like in impressionism, you would also have just descriptive titles. I think that was more like an archive and for the identification. When you were talking about the piece that was not there. But that’s a different kind of title. Or when you give a number, like I sometimes do. But there it’s also an addition, and it’s also what Lu said this little psychogram, It seems a bit like an escape through irony or humor of the seriousness of the matter. There’s part of it in it, I need this kind of humor in there, or this twist.
Elisa: But even without title it would work. One of the most important German philosophers, Kant, wrote the “Critic of Judgment”. In his book that an object achieves its own goal when it reaches people, but it is mediated generally and universally received in this way. A title would be a kind of mediation. And I would say – of course the titles that you use are linked to that image but your images are so clear that they would even come without a title. So you succeed!
Elisa: Frank, it’s not the first time that you are working with video, but here you are offering more examples, and it’s always like a kinetic display of objects or geometrical forms. So I wanted to ask you what the difference is between the result achieved in the photography and in video.
Frank: The videos are a bit like the automated form finding processes. It’s an automating. The things are rotating and there are things that are repetitive obviously but still there’s always a change of shapes all the time. So there’s always a new shape, a new combination.
Elisa: So you’re a kind of scientist looking at that.
Frank: Maybe a little bit, I don’t know.
Ludger: To what extend does the size and form of the screen matter?
Frank: I was first thinking of beaming it but somehow I found more and more reasons to use these screens. They feel a bit like a window. It’s also the size of it, I felt more comfortable with this size compared with what the objects actually are. It’s not really one to one. Still, I wouldn’t put too much focus on the presentation and the screens. […] The videos and the photos are the same subject, but I present them in two different ways. […] because the screening also has a bit of a machine. Here it is getting out of control, and into motion, and coincidence. […]. I thought of this room (Kabinett-room) to be a cinescope.
Ausstellungstext, Berlin 05/2012
Die Flucht ins Dingliche wird aufgrund der anhaltenden Wirtschafts- und Währungskrise aktuell vor allem mit der Flucht in Sachwerte in Verbindung gebracht. Eine materiell-geistige Verbindung wird auch hergestellt, wenn Gegenstände unseren sozialen Status demonstrieren sollen. Die Auseinandersetzung mit oder die Flucht ins Dingliche kann aber auch ein innerer Vorgang ohne wirtschaftliche Relevanz sein. Die Schönheit und Ruhe der Dinge und ihre hohe Assoziationspotenz strahlen eine andere Sicherheit aus. Gegenständlichkeit ist aber kein fixer Zustand. Phänomene wie Auflösung, Vergeistigung, Belebung oder Auferstehung, sowie Begriffsneubildungen können im freien assoziieren dabei auftreten.