work like a seismograph and draw an echo of the room”
An interview with Stefan Rasche
S.R. Standing with both feet on the ground is the basis for experiencing space bodily, the prerequisite of a dependable orientation. For as soon as a person – say an airline passenger – loses his groundedness, his frame of reference is breached, and perspective, dimension, the spatial constant begin to blur. With your floor works you, in comparison, seemingly cause physical and visual perception to go separate ways: the visitor to your exhibitions is allowed to walk around on the lines you’ve drawn, i.e., to feel solid ground beneath his feet, but yet a floating state is induced, at least the impression that he is moving on what itself is ground-in-motion.
H.W. ”Standing with both feet on the ground” to me means also being a functioning link in society’s chain. The thought of ”having the ground pulled from under your feet” is something I find physically as well as psychologically interesting. The loss of one’s relationship to the ground always results in a search for a new orientation. There are new perspectives that can open up for the viewer. A questioning of the here-and-now.
The ”new perspectives” you speak of lead me to an
associative area that is highly charged with pictures outside of
art’s realm. I move over your ground, determining direction and
tempo, and yet (alone) have the feeling of looking down from a high
tower onto an unknown landscape. Put another way, looking at your
I feel I am released from (and relieved of) my customary everyday spatial references.
It is exactly in this sense that your works have a strikingly illusionist quality that is, to begin with, not visually manifest as a seduction, but first of all as a physical experience. What it would probably be like to walk on water?
H.W. That reminds me of my graduation class trip to Israel. We went swimming one morning in the Sea of Galilee, and our teacher suddenly broke into laughter and said he now understood why Jesus was able to walk on water. There were in fact large stones under the surface of the water, and we also started doing the walk-on-water bit. My floor works awake similar illusions. Of course, first you experience them physically, but since the formal language of my works are so simple and transparent to anyone, the viewer can, through a rational fix, find stability. The body and the ratio are prompted to an equal degree, in which at times the one, at times the other dominates. That is my work’s appeal. Not the beauty of a trompe l’oeil effect (although sensuousness and beauty are important to me), but what the viewer himself – moving through the room, his tempo, his twists and turns – determines, perceives and the chain of association he creates.
this way your simile of a high tower from which you look down onto an
unknown landscape is a lovely one. Although rationally the drawing is
not an unknown entity.
I work like a seismograph and draw an echo of the room.
S.R. The metaphor of a seismograph is a very plausible one – sending the static room into oscillation, inscribing the level floor with the hills and valleys of waves, provoking pile-ups and shocks. Your graphic transformations trigger an out-of-bounds experience, stir up fears based not least of all on their physical immediacy that the work’s viewer/passerby cannot resist, even if he rationally succeeds in defining its affect. Fiction and awareness of fictionality lie side by side. As you already suggested, this permanent element of tilt makes me realize that our homemade, carefully maintained systems of order hang ”by a silk thread”, to turn against us at will. Thus the leaps in space and time that you initiate in your drawn lines contribute to destabilizing the field, cause vertigo and flickering vision, yet without ending in chaos. On the contrary, it can be claimed that a confrontation with hindrance and the out-of-bound is what first leads to a conscious look at and a possible change in the zones each of us moves and acts in.
H.W. Right, and I remember exactly how rattled some of the faces of the visitors looked who walked over my floor at the exhibit. Just the fact of walking over a drawing is strange enough, because this exposes it to destruction. Time and the transitory play a big role here.
My newest work in Magazin 4 in Bregenz/Austria is called ”Shift”, which includes the meanings: change, transformation, deviation. I would like to shift our angle of vision, create a new perception of space and of one’s self, which does not exclusively have to awaken fears as we claimed earlier, but can have a very positive effect. As if you moved house or redecorated your apartment in order to break with old habits.
My floor or room drawings relate formally and exclusively to the given architecture. First I make the room into a ”white box” by covering the floor with white linoleum, so that floor, ceiling and walls have the same white surface. Then with permanent felt markers I draw either the ground plan of the room that starts at its edge and tapers concentrically into its center, or I take the given architectural elements like columns or doorways, radiators, lamps or also furniture as the starting point of my drawing. The lines go out from these points like the waves of a stone thrown into water and splash together like an eddy. The room, because I mark off these architectural points, is perceived more intensively and more stimulatingly. Though you can logically follow my lines, because of the movement in the picture and the movement of the viewer, the eye finds nothing to hold onto.
Naturally what I find interesting – and what I also want to provoke – is that the different experience of space creates a shift in how we see out ”own things”.
S.R. When you, on the one hand, relate to the given properties of the room and its furnishings and, on the other, transform the architecture into a white box so as to mark it graphically with a felt-tip pen, you are describing a process that is a cross between reaction and transformation. This happens in places that are mostly institutional exhibition rooms that not on their own, but first through their function, define the new artistic intervention. It is here that I ask myself whether your graphic transformation – which in my opinion goes far beyond the now inflationary practice of formal site-relatedness – is not predestined for rooms not meant for art. I am thinking, for instance, of the wonderful photo you took on a beach at the Baltic Sea of a jelly-fish-like floor work. I could, however, just as easily imagine your graphic interventions in public urban spaces. Or do you think of your art as being dependent on a sheltered place so as not to endanger its aura?
H.W. Quite on the contrary. I would find it extremely interesting to install a work in a public place. In order to establish an artwork, the ”gallery as refuge” is for me an obvious one. But since it is the viewer who first completes the work, it would be almost more fitting in an urban space. That’s the reason the 400-square-meter floor work for this exhibition naturally appeals to me, located in a quasi public room, a multi-functional hall in Göttingen, which the curator of this project has made available. In the adjacent room a concert will take place during the exhibition and 1000 people who don’t want to see art but to hear music will walk across my floor, since it circumscribes the lobby. The thought that they will not be able to avoid walking over my drawing before listening to a concert pleases me enormously. Perhaps something will stick in their minds.
The floor drawing that you just spoke of is somewhat different. I laid the drawing over the smooth, damp sand and this installation existed only a few seconds, because a short moment later, the surf washed over it. Only the photo remains as a souvenir of that perfect moment in time.
My closeness to nature, to the countryside and to urban space is obvious and has recently become manifest in the way I set ”real” pictures in the form of photographs and video films contrapuntally to or in the installations or works on the wall.