Reinhard Storz

The art of the erratic
on the artistic work of Christoph Storz

In my brief address I would like to give you a few tips on how one could approach the work of Christoph Storz at a somewhat conceptual level. Unfortunately, I am myself falling into the trap set by these pictures through my very discourse. Because I am speaking, above all, of the textual level of these pictures: words and sentences appear almost everywhere in them.

There exists, and we know this at least since Magritte, an incongruence between the language of words and that of pictures. Because, as literates, we trust more in the language of words, and expect, for instance, a verbal rendering of the content of a picture from its title, we are easily mislead. This waylaying is a consciously set trap in the work of Christoph Storz, because in his case, as he himself puts it, the erratic has its methods. The goal and the truth of the erratic is the logical fallacy.

At first glance, one meets with an atmosphere of "muffled sounding" or "soft-spokenness". As one enters the space where his works are exhibited, one is astonished by the censorious restraint in the formats (very often, they are A4-size sheets), and above all, in the colour. A lot of white on white walls. This impression of quietness mediates itself, as mentioned, at first glance and from a distance. After this first look,the viewer blocks out a few stimuli-filters, or, we bring our perception to a finer focus, to put it metaphorically. One approaches the drawings, drawing closer to them, and there, in this quietness, comes up against the loud. Perhaps Loud is not really the right word. Perhaps one should put it this way: at first, when one sees but little, and is still rubbing one's snow-blind eyes in the face of so much white, one suddenly recognises an abundance: the wealth of drawings, traces and ideas.

The pictures hold out the prospect of a play with meanings, metaphors and verbal statements. We look at the drawings, expecting them to give up their inner meaning to us, expecting the lines to show us what they represent, and where they lead, creating meaning along their way. But the gaze is distracted soon enough by the multiplicity of traces. In the Storzean field of symbols, we first have to learn the art of track-reading. We must realise that the hand of the artist traces false tracks on the white surface, placing only the smallest of differences between the decodable and the meaningless symbols, and throwing in the ballast of pigments and energy paddings along the tracks. We come to realise that the readable tracks, words and drawings do not help us in leaping ahead light-footedly.

Perhaps we viewers ought to take as much time to comprehend the pictures, as the artist has taken to draw them. In verbal communication, this happens automatically: I listen to the speaker as long as s/he is speaking. In the case of visual images, we are habituated otherwise: The rate at which our sensory perception scans the image could well come from an advertisement for a new scanner: 30 seconds per A4-size sheet.
In our information-age society, there is a tendency to size up the exchange of information in terms of clearly encodable units of information and data bits. The French philosopher Lyotard said: "If you want your sentences to circulate in the language market (this market is, above all, the media market), then, they must have a competitive edge. Sentences, of which it cannot be said, 'here is the transmitted information', will not be registered, and therefore not communicated. Philosophic and artistic language operates in a different manner."
The language does not serve as a mere vehicle for so-called messages. Rather, thoughts and ideas take shape in the language itself; the language is the object of its own reflection.
This demands from us viewers and readers of pictures a searching, insistent and perhaps even mistrustful effort. Mistrustful, insofar as the rules of language, the codification, is displaced with respect to conventional expectations of artistic language. We must approach art as we would a work in a foreign language.
These statements are valid, as mentioned before, for art in general, but I think it makes sense to recall them in the context of the work at hand. Because Christoph Storz's work consists, to an important extent, in the creation of a system of meaning with symbolic and verbal language.

In the beginning I used the word "Muffled-sounding" for the sensual impact. The play with the loud and the subdued, the great/monumental and the petty, forms an important part of the pictorial content in several cases. (I use the term content perfunctorily, I am not too comfortable with it).
In one work, the artist speaks, for example, of the Theory of Everything. One couldn't think of a greater challenge in the construction of theories. Abbreviated, the Theory of Everything becomes T-O-E, and then the following sentence appears in the picture: The TOE must go on. The toe must go on: the theory of everything must be developped further. In short turns of phrase, the Great in the universal theory is translated into the Inconsequential in the toe, and brought to the surface in that by-line of pop-culture 'The show must go on'.
In the next picture, one finds: The shoes belong to the road. I do not know exactly how the toe relates to the shoe in this theory. Hardly, perhaps, in the way thought relates to language. The Theory of Everything brings astonishing relationships to light, and expands ceaselessly, so as to keep everything including itself in view. In the process, it throws up a form identical to its own in all directions. (This is a concept from the theory of chaos).
In the Theory of Everything lies the dream of total abstraction, the idea of being able to translate objects and language into each other to such a degree that one finally approaches a metaphysical, primordial big bang; the moment where everything was still one, the great Whole.
One could imagine the Theory of Everything as an endless text, a neverending image, but just as well as a reversal to an absolute zero-point, to the sum of all colours: White. Back to the moment, where the theory swallows itself, like a black hole.
Just as our astrophysicists can only think up to and calculate up to a point just short of the physical big bang, the artist, too, cannot encompass the great Whole; - he labours around the beginning of differences. From the white emerge traces, signs, words. There is differentiation between space and movement, mass and energy. The amorphous, and the meaningful form. And the difficult or fascinating part is, that the universal null point does not explode into logical elements, into conventional sentences and data which can be archived. And there, next to the monumental details, emerges the finely written, softly uttered, word in gray: Universe. I am now speaking again of the drawings, without metaphors. There are drawn words and written lines. Nonsense poses confidently next to the meaningful.

The image space, viewed from a central perspective, is criss-crossed by values taken from the perspective of meaning. In the wall drawing, for example, the name of the place Baden is written using larger letters than the word Schweiz (Switzerland). And so on, with decreasing letter size, the words Europa (Euope), Welt (World) and Universum (Universe). Written down thus, they create an effect of total lack of meaning, because we know that Baden is smaller, for instance, than the World. If we look at it as drawings, from the central perspective, then it somehow appears correct again. To begin with, we are here first in Baden, which is our foremost reference point, and only in the second and third instance, do Switzerland, Europe, the World and the Universe. This way or that, there is something wrong: the apparent journey of Mr. Turtur from Jim Knopf is not far removed: on the horizon, he is gigantic, and becomes increasingly smaller as we approach him, until he shrinks to normal human size at arm's length.

The play with false proportions and hierarchies is a favourite motif in the work of Christoph Storz. Things are either too small or too big in relation to others: the inconsequential, the auxilliary, becomes prominent, the apparently meaningful leads into nothingness.
Orange strips, like those we see on roadside hoardings emphasise the bostitch-fastenings of the large drawing sheets; and in the drawings on the wall, we find dirty finger prints, which one would otherwise have only shuddered at if seen on clean white gallery walls. These trash-traces are quotes from the everyday life, neatly placed and in apparent defiance of rules, which rap our expectations on the knuckles, in a light, bemused manner.
Christoph Storz is a specialist in rules and systems. He looks at the neighbouring disciplines like the natural sciences, philosophy and economics, but also at everyday culture, breaks off pieces from there and leads them by the nose in his drawings and writings.
Like he says it himself, logic stands in his works next to pseudo-logic. Claims to truth questioned.
Nonsense and paradoxes generate heat of friction in our brains, till the assurances of rationality are burnt through, and we get an unprejudiced view, at best.
The semanitc turning point in sentences like "What is appropriate, does not belong", or terms like "Erratic" snap the logical connection through the multiplicity of meaning, and through verbal contradictions. I turn them round and use them in my head, and feel a slight irritation, a stimulation of the brain and the laughter muscles. Here, the serious literalness of a moral theory or of an academic discipline is hinted at, and sent back to the wilderness once more, with an appropriate chuckle. This sabotage follows the laws of the comic.

In the theory of laughter, as propounded, for instance, by the philosopher Joachim Ritter, the comic does not originate alone, disparate from the serious, but actually in the admixture of fun and seriousness, of madness and dignity. This wide world, regulated rationally, takes on the affectedness that comes from the craziness of trivia. Thus, its greatness turns grandiose, its dignity to affectedness.

Of course, the subversion of language in the work of Christoph Storz is directed against his own work as well, against the artist's own activity of drawing lines. I end with a smal quote from his book:
"The stroke gets straight-jacketed into the drawing in the narrowness of art. In the friction, it is understood as a sign of fatigue, of a wear-and-tear of everything concievable, including the conventional concept of art. As a small scratch, the stroke appears out of the surface of the wall; as a restricting line, with limited liability, it remains on the path of linear progress."

Inaugural address, Galerie Trudelhaus Baden, 27.8.98

(Translation: Kamakshi S.R., Bangalore)