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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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