Lichtung – art berlin contemporary 2015
I grew up in close proximity to two of the main signifiers of the war, or rather, its aftermath. My grandparents’ house was located right at the border between Hesse and Thuringia. Their village was cut in half by the wall, which was a stone’s throw away from their house. They ended up in the west by a hair. The wall came down when I was 10. I do remember a strong sense of the tangibility of history through its odd physical manifesta- tions on the one hand and the idea that something significant which in turn would become history had just happened. So at the same time there was a sense of the past and a sense progress. Progress not in the enlightenment sense as in qualitative change, but just a kind of materialist, contingent change over time.
At art school, I thought that the post-national was the progressive position to take. I was already influenced by artists of a newer generation who emerged in the 90s, many of who are difficult to place based on nationality. So I thought that it was important to take a position against the idea that origin based on the concept of the nation would be a helpful indicator in either interpreting or conceptualizing an artistic practice. I thought that the conditions of the present should be analyzed so as to identify a legitimate artistic vocabulary and gram-
mar which could be used in critiquing the status quo through decoding the semiotics of the physical and digital world.
But over time, I became increasingly interested in how societies and cultures are constituted historically. I became interested not just in the ruptures in history or in histories and particular cultures but also in the dis- puted, so to speak. That which is lingering below the surface and often times is repressed, that which is not necessarily a traumatic distortion within the unfolding of time but rather a semi-denied aspect of a particular culture that is between being recognized as significant and yet too problematic to identify with. So what about the work for abc. All four works are also based on photographs which I took in 1999 pre art school. The two in the forest were taken in south east Austria close by my place. The other two of the galaxies were taken from an astronomy book.
This is my starting point: To position the work in between desire and basically the factual so to speak, as in an enlightened, secularized understanding of the world. But there already are problems in that statement as we know that an enlightenment concept of world history can easily lead to problematic ideas of progress. The work is not coherent. As in, the works undermine each other. The critical component may only be realized in juxtaposition. That is to say that the works depend on a larger context to identify their critical potential. They are all about analysis. I am negotiating concepts. I am not particularly identifying with any such concepts, or likewise, I am identifying with all of them.
Here’s one of the common threads that run through the work: Light. If the installation was to have a title, it would be Lichtung. Lichtung really is the concept. And again, it is at least two-fold, actually there are a lot more layers of meaning but let’s focus on the two. So it’s clear that in common linguistic usage, the term refers to
a place in the woods. Basically it refers to the appearance of light in the dark, although strictly speaking it is limited to something that can be found in the forest. In these works I’m interested in an expanded notion of Lichtung. What does it mean for there to be light? When you look at Genesis 1:3 and theories of the big bang,
it’s essentially the same: There was light. I’m applying this expanded notion of Lichtung or Light to Walter Ben-
jamin’s approach in The Origin of German Tragic Drama where “history loses the eschatological certainty of its redemptive conclusion, and becomes secularized into a mere natural setting for the profane struggle over political power”. Like light itself, the works fluctuate.
Light isn’t just something that allows our eyes to perceive the world around us. Since Einstein, we know that light is the fundamental basis of the universe, of causality and chronology. No information can exceed the speed of light. It’s a fundamental part of the order of the universe. So the emergence of light is synonymous with the emergence of a world or a universe. Lichtung gives birth to a micro world, or it becomes a corridor or a tunnel that opens up another world.
So if there is light and a universe is born, then how does it unfold over time? I’m not looking at this from a strictly physical point of view, we know that the universe expands and is ultimately going to collapse. But we don’t know the principles according to which this happens beyond a certain framework that science can ex- plain. And likewise we don’t know the principles of world history. And I’m not proposing any such concepts in my work. I’m negotiating ideas. Of course there is desire for things to come to an end and for this end to be good. That’s the Christian concept of redemption and also forgiveness. It’s something that transcends time and space. Like I was talking about forgiveness as reversing causality. This has to do with light too, as light
is constitutive of causality. The method is not so different: What’s done cannot be undone but the concept of forgiveness can override the principles of space and time. It’s about opening up possibilities.
There’s an end. There will be an arrival. This is opened up through light. Light is the medium that opens up worlds. Things may appear to be clear but whenever something appears to be clear that raises suspicion. The works are about direction but the difference is that two of them are based on the idea of a finality where the other two are undermining precisely that idea: contingent identities and there might have been light. Both sug- gest an endless, contingent cycle of progress and reversion. I wouldn’t say that the works are contradictory. They are not. Nor are they dialectical. I’m not presenting two proposals of how to interpret the world. I’m an atheist. I’m looking at religion from a psychoanalytic perspective.