Zwielicht: at the KunstRaum Berlin, November / Dezember 2000

Zwielicht (Twilight)—An Exhibition by KUNSTBÜRO
at the KunstRaum Berlin, November/December 2000

Twilight befuddles our visual perception: What is real? At which point does something begin to exist? The questions being formulated by KUNSTBÜRO in the exhibition Zwielicht (Twilight) move along the boundary between emergence and disappearance, between being and illusion.

According to the dictionary, twilight is a visible mixture of light from two light sources with different coloration, for example the mixture of natural sunlight with the artificial light from street lamps. The effect on our eye: optical befuddlement. In twilight we are no longer able of recognizing things clearly.

The length and frequency of light waves produce the visible color spectrum. From a biological point of view, we perceive the values color, light, and dark with different parts of the eye: daylight and color with the small cones in the optic center, light and dark with the rods in the outer area of the eyeball. In the fine arts, color, light, and dark became the focus of a new conception of color with the advent of Impressionist landscape painting. The (actually banal) realization was born that the brush can be dipped in color, but not in light.

Hartmut Bohls five-part work approaches this problem in a very unique way. He captures the reproduction of various ambiguous lighting conditions using varnish painting. Two groups of vertical rectangles can be distinguished: On the one hand there are three apparently monochrome works in gray, yellow, and red, in which when looked at for a prolonged period—comparable to one's eyes adapting to the lighting conditions in twilight—one sees deep spatiality and structures. In contrast, the second group of rectangles concentrates on the foreground of the painting with clear brush strokes or figure-like forms. The aspects of spatial vision and the recognition of things in this space of light and color combine the individual vertical rectangles to create a whole.

Harriet Sablatnig interrupts velvety-monochrome surfaces of color through the application of a linear symbol which arouses associations and which applied in the respective complementary color causes a shimmer on the colored surface. When does something begin to be something? Physically, biologically, sociologically? Only luna, in the form of an Alessi bowl applied with silverleaf, and sol, whose solar semicircles form a frame around the composition, are restful. The colors of the small squares are reminiscent of the refraction of the morning, midday, and evening light in their respective colors of the spectrum.

The third painter in the league dissects light and dark less the color. At first glance, Karl-Heinz Bethmann's pair of paintings show bundles of black strokes on a creamy white ground. They structure the light area like a thin, floating gossamer, changing from black to shades of gray to dark shades that become lighter and lighter until they blend into the white of the background. As is the case with Harriet Sablatnig, the viewer is left in the dark: A black line emerges from nowhere, exists, and then dissolves again into the background. This work is joined by a wood sculpture the artist created out of a tree and then reassembled to become a tree again—or might it not be a tree at all any more? Might this rather have become the artist's linear vocabulary, who defines being or non-being?

Hermann Sievers' art language, on the other hand, is clear and plainly politically motivated: The shady has to be brought to light. What at first is the playful treatment of the past suddenly becomes serious. While the game of memory has just begun, the Scrabble game has already ended: The names of German towns grow out of the term Leitkultur (defining culture). The letters of the finished Scrabble game leap to our eyes like memorials. The game, which is meant to be entertaining, becomes deadly serious: hunting down foreigners, murder, Nazi slogans, racism in the name of the defining culture. In contrast, the black, red, and gold sets of memory cards that have been turned over verify in plain numbers how the German economy made money in connection with the so-called compensation payments to former forced laborers. The responsibility to be borne for the past has finally caught up with the present—but the game is not over yet.

Everything is in motion in Gerd Scholze's work as well—the world in perpetual motion? God's word "For everything there is a season" collides with ironic fashion slogans such as "Already styled? Already grown old? Already burned out?" Women play a central role: Sometimes they appear as an erotic vision, then as the impressions of mature women's bodies out of gauze which mechanically revolve around themselves as stretched out skins. Projections of heart specimens bathe the impressions in a red-violet light and show biological images of a woman's insides. Woman—the mystery that bears human beings and arouses the curiosity of man. At birth we are thrown into a life that is full of motion, whose past we think we can recognize, but into whose future we cannot look and thus with our presence stand in twilight with regard to our cultural life history. Eternal twilight in a single moment: now.

Sigi Grunwald's work shows a circuit of tubes out of whose openings stag horn ferns are growing. Although they do not possess light ray receptors, plants react to different light stimuli. Sigi Grunwald visualizes this by optically emphasizing the stag horn fern with green, artificial light. In reality, however, the plants in the plastic system cannot survive without natural light or under unnatural conditions.

Barbara Steinmeyer actually performs an optical illusion with the aid of a metal device. She turns the principle of illusion around: In reality, a divided vessel is distributed about the space; only the optical device is capable of creating the illusion of it being reassembled. Do devices we construct to supposedly allow us to see more clearly deceive us? Or do they make things possible which our eyes would otherwise not be able to see in this way? Optical devices are primarily helpful to us humans for recognizing scientific phenomena. In Barbara Steinmeyer's work, however, the illusion is created that two completely different halves of a vessel, which was never a vessel to begin with, are simply put together. The ironic title is characteristic: Kleine Täuschung (Small Illusion).

Working with modern lighting technology, using artificial light to create light in a case that is as close to being natural light as possible brings us full circle: Jürgen Rach does not dip the brush into paint in order to paint light, he paints with a slide. The authenticity of color, the illusion of an image from nature in authentic colors, is only possible through the simultaneous use of artificial light sources—twilight as it is defined in the dictionary. Jürgen Rach does not ask when something begins to exist, rather he makes visible what we do not recognize—though at a much deeper level: It is not that we do not recognize things due to an optical irritation. We do not see them because we do not take the time to patiently look at things long enough until we recognize them.

Frederike Müller