Hans-Christian Dany, 2.99

Don't go to the phone

abstand* - A Step Back

catalog text for Gerwald Rockenschaub's exhibition 'funky minimal' (Hamburg / Dijon)

Being a seducer always requires a certain reflection and purposefulness. A seducer thus needs to have power. As soon as this power is given to him, the aesthetic interest becomes a different one, specifically: an interest in the how, in the method. A loose rendition of Sren Kierkegaard.
I had been walking some distance through the snow when I opened the door. Looking into a place of business in this branch, the glance is usually directed first to the things on the wall or a merchant, if in sight, and his helpers, busy with telephone receivers and keyboards, who generally nod briefly. Here there was neither one nor the other to be seen at first.


With its large window front, the shop appeared just as empty as full. A contradictory impression, which I was yet to encounter frequently in Gerwald Rockenschaub's work. My gaze was directed first to a red line that seemed to run horizontally through the room at eye level. I noticed that the line was situated on a plate of glass placed at an angle to the entrance. Thus its function was to protect those entering from being injured and its carrier from being destroyed. Aside from that, it seemed sensible to install two in winter, for there was a second plate of glass placed at a right angle, in order to block the cold draft.
Liberated from the weight of meaning through its function, the installation allowed the red ribbon to float easily in the air. The art, which was to be expected in these rooms, stepped politely back and looked good. Positioned as a draft protector, the sculpture forced my steps to the right.

little projector*

On the way to two passages located in the back wall of the room, which indicated possible rooms in the back, there was a wide angle lens hanging in the window, like the kind bus drivers use to magnify their rear view mirrors. This drew my gaze again to the street I had just left. Through the perspective-distorting visual aid, I could see figures scurrying through the twilight, while I myself stepped for a moment onto a stage framed by the lighted window. This programmed gaze and the appearance connected with it symbolically repeated a change of systems that had physically taken place as I crossed the threshold. The visual aid was transformed into a signpost; there were different traffic regulations in force here.

get personal*

The frequent use of the first person in this text might create the impression that I want to make my observations from an especially personal point of view; this is not my intention. Yet in conjunction with Rockenschaub's work, focusing on my perspective, which could just as well be the perspective of another, seems to be necessary because his work throws the observer back on him or herself to a great extent. By simultaneously retracting and urging actions, it compels a self-observation of one's own gaze and movements in space.
Initially I attempted to translate this perception into words by writing in the present tense. In the process I became aware that self-observation first crystallized in retrospect.

Once Upon A Time In The West

When I began writing this text, I borrowed one of Rockenschaub's favorite films from him, Sergio Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West." At first, this did not seem to further my intention of writing about the relation between Rockenschaub's work and film. I left the tape playing and went out of the room. When I returned to the room two hours later, there was a different film playing at the end of the tape. It was an elaborately produced animal film attempting to imitate the perspective of a bird. It virtually stepped into the body of an Other looking at its own false feet or claws.

give your color monitor a reason to live*

Generating a gaze, that of the observer, precedes nearly every one of Rockenschaub's works. It is a digital black & white film that the visitor to the gallery does not see, but instead enters into a model copy of it. Using a mini-CAD program Rockenschaub first makes a virtual reconstruction of the exhibition space and animates the placement of objects, interventions and remodelings. He checks the accuracy of the placement on the basis of trails simulating the observer's path. In these graphical films Rockenschaub imitates the observer's perspective. In a sense, he tries in this way to become the director of the observer's perception in the exhibition.


The number of placements that the guest in Rockenschaub's settings wanders through is limited. They result in the negative form of something that remains invisible. If something had taken place here, then the traces would have been perfectly erased. Instead the atmosphere has an air of expectation of something that has yet to take place, something that possibly had to be postponed.

Double Exposure

The first impression of a minimalist gesture is broken by the abundant colorfulness and a metaphor with a strange sympathetic vibration. The simultaneity, emerging in varying forms, of seemingly opposite, if not contradictory gestures: setting preconditions and simultaneously retracting them, swinging back and forth between showing and not-showing, these are continuously recurring figures in Rockenschaub's work. These are what I want to move closer to with the term double exposure.
If one reads this as a metaphor, it serves to create a space between the two "exposures", and it is in the double-bind of this space that seduction nestles. The observer cannot get hold of the object of desire in this crack. At the same time, however, looking at this procedure from the outside shows it to be an insight into the toolbox of the production of secrets.


Double exposure appears more optically as a layering of the visible in the form of various, more focused levels inserted in front of the gaze. They may be milk-colored screens, where one can only guess what may be hidden behind them, colored plates of acrylic glass, billowing plastic curtains or glass, on which reflections veil what is behind.
Insights coordinate the distance to the things, which also seem less than what they are and cross over into twilight. At the same time, maintaining or prescribing distance is transferred to a metaphorical level (curtain, cell, bridge, wall, etc.).

Flashback and Translation

In the summer of 1995 I was happily dancing on a car ferry circling the Lido before the backdrop of Venice at night. Rockenschaub at the DJ table called his early works to mind. Most of all, on my inner "screen"**** I saw acrylic glass plates with nothing to see behind them but the wall they were attached to. Frames, in which the contents remained unspecified by indicating another frame.
Dancing on the moving parking space, I saw a film directed by the helmsman of the ferry showing an uncut journey from perspectives of Venice at night.
It was only later that I realized what the party, jointly organized by Rockenschaub and Matta Wagnest, had to do with acrylic glass works from the eighties. What is involved in both cases is the demarcation of a frame, which is placed at the disposal of the observer/user as a possibility.
Even the title of the party, "The Cybernetic Big Bang", was a play on the grand promise of cyberspace of being able to watch oneself.
What has condensed in Rockenschaub's more recent works is the attempt at a translation of the knowledge that has developed in the area of electronic music and especially the shifting self-understanding of authorship this involves. It is less a matter of presenting something than of providing a space, making an offer.
This background is indicated by icon-like computer drawings of record players or party videos. Yet what it involves is not a direct import, but rather a complex transformation process from one cultural field into another. Rockenschaub does not attempt to depict club culture in a gallery, much less turn the latter into a club. Although a sense of chill-out-zone occasionally emerges, it cannot be used as such.
This translation process is also made comprehensible through Rockenschaub's dry texts about playing records, written in the style of operating instructions. Things do not happen, rather they are logical consequences.

moving images without tears*

Rockenschaub does not work at disabling existing rituals and mechanisms. This aspect only emerges as a dialectical moment in a chain. Primarily the work affirms existing conditions, usually of a gallery space. The emphases of law are grouped around omissions that are effective on different levels, the work of the presence of the absent. One might suspect him of playing a pleasurable game, but that only seems to be part of it. The motives - and according to Rockenschaub it only involves solutions to tasks that have been presented to him - must remain in the darkness of the blind spot.
Within this seductive dialectic, observers find themselves confronted with the emptiness, which the artist lets them run right into. The temporary vacuum invokes the observer as a subject, yet this specifically does not happen through the construction of a space liberated from relationships of power. Subjectification, or panning into the perception of one's own perspective, is instead the result of a repetition of the hegemonial relations inscribing themselves into the observer. At the same time, the director of the setting that is constantly turning inside out consciously leaves omissions behind, which reverse the effectivity of the the chain.

* Titles from tracks on Rockenschaub's CD "definitely something 04"

** The installation described was located at the Galerie Medhi Chouraki in Berlin in the winter of 1998.

*** Rockenschaub had the word "Augensex" ("Eyesex") printed on a poster for the Wiener Festwochen.

**** A term coined by Oswald Wiener in conjunction with self-observation and artificial intelligence.

Übersetzung: Aileen Derieg