Karl-Heinz-Ströhle: Ornament und Aformation

Otten Kunstraum

Karl-Heinz Ströhle: Ornament und Aformation | Verlag für moderne Kunst, Nürnberg 2011.
Klappentext, bibliografische Angaben oder Entsprechendes

Der Zeichner, Maler, Performance-, Objekt- und Medienkünstler Karl-Heinz Ströhle gehört zu den interessantesten künstlerischen Positionen Österreichs. Die multimediale Auseinandersetzung mit Linie und Raum zählt ebenso wie eine reduzierte Formensprache zu seinen Markenzeichen. Mit Federstahlbändern nutzt der Künstler ein Material, mit dem er Gemälde und fragil wirkende, bewegliche Objekte gestaltet. In Ströhles Arbeiten treffen Emotion auf Minimalismus, Konzept auf spielerische Spontanität und konkrete Ansätze auf abstrakte Formulierungen.
Der in Wien lebende Karl-Heinz Ströhle hat zahlreiche Kunstprojekte im öffentlichen Raum realisiert, u.a. für die Swisslife-Rentenanstalt in München, für Krankenhäuser in Salzburg und Vorarlberg, für die Passage zwischen Kunsthaus Bregenz und Vorarlberger Landestheater, etc. und aktuell ein Baunetz für das Vorarlberg Museum. Das abstrakte Streifenmuster, welches die Baustelle in Bregenz verhüllt, erzeugt durch einen optischen Effekt räumliche Schwingungen, die Assoziationen mit einem Theatervorhang hervorrufen, der sich zur Eröffnung heben wird.
Karl-Heinz Ströhle hat am Mozarteum in Salzburg sowie an der Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, bei Bazon Brock studiert, wo er nach Lehrtätigkeiten in Salzburg seit 2005 in der Klasse »Kunst und kommunikative Praxis« unterrichtet.

Roland Stecher

Josef Otten

Josef Otten

Bazon Brock, Vitus Weh, R. Woelfl

von Ingrid Adamer mit dem Künstler

96 S.
45 Abb. in Farbe

Seite im Original: 23

“The minted form that lives and living grows"

On Karl-Heinz Ströhle’s aformative scultptures

Giacometti tested the dialectic play of forms of disappearances (so Sartre) and appearances. Karl-Heinz Ströhle builds on this concept with his sculptures made of flexible metal strips. The strips, oscillating into domes, hoops or cages, hold a (form-)tension which at any moment can break and move into another state_–_due to external influences such as dancers who move in and through the metal hoops, causing the material to vibrate (as in the Kunsthaus Bregenz for example). It is not the artist who unsettles firm formal positions_–_as adult evening classes like to teach us_–_but the material itself tends, at least temporarily, toward transformation in order to act out its material quality. We would, however, like to identify such permanent transformations in actu as aformations, because it is about a constant movement between deforming and reforming. In the case of transformation, one does not expressly think of a return to the starting point. Deformations too, in our understanding, aim at an irreversible condition. The softer concept aformation also refers to the very notable fact that forms are not final fixations, but evolve actively: Ströhle’s objects demonstrate most clearly that to which the ominous Goethe quote “the minted form that lives and living grows” might refer. Initially, it addressed the evolvement of genetic codes in the development of living creatures_–_the relationship of phylogenesis to ontogenesis. Since the beginning of the 14th century at the latest_–_apart from the ancient Greeks and Romans_–_artists attempted to achieve the effect of bringing the dead material to life. The shaped material appeared to be quasi vivente/nearly living. In the early 20th century this was characterized by the formula “as if”. But in all of these examples, the linear unfolding into a new condition without the expectation of a return to the original state dominates. The American John Chamberlain and the Frenchman Arman represent the technique of deformation as form finding in more recent art history. Chamberlain drew on the everyday experience of mass-motorized society. Motorists were fascinated by the giant presses which transformed their former beauties into wreck packages, stackable within the tight- est space. When bodywork became Pop-colorful in the early 1960s, the deforming pressing was accompanied by unexpected painterly effects which Chamberlain used strategic-ally in his sculptures. Arman too, with his explosions, took off on the general experience of destruction as creation: the so-called creative destruction which had been emphatically greeted by the Futurists around Marinetti as well as the economists close to Schumpeter. In both transformation-strategies, the irreversibility of the processes is unavoidable. Jean Tinguely went a decisive step further by attempting to reintegrate the self-destruction of machines into the closed loop of the movement-program of his machine sculptures. How that could be thought if not done was demonstrated by Fischli/Weiss in “The Way Things Go” with constructions which steered the cascades of events in such a way that it appeared as if the same starting situations were always reached. The viewer recognizes the principle which becomes potentially endlessly effective. Generally, however, cascades of events in all of these examples are a forerun to the end and not simultaneously a return to the beginning, as made possible in Ströhle’s aformations. In the early 1990s, material scientists discovered that in deformation-processes one can teach bimetals or trimetals to return to their original state. For Ströhle, primarily bimetals_–_non-ferrous metals_–_had the decisive characteristic of being able to remember. One could perhaps have a chemist produce a liquid which can be brought into an aggregate state like a pudding and which would demonstrate the formation-deformation-reformation relationship in a similar manner. On Sunday afternoons in my childhood, we had the pleasure of making the jello jiggle on the plate in order to experience these formal tensions. There are of course certain perversions in the case of stress tests on people who, at 3g and upward, show an aformation of the face or body. This we have seen in space flight. Shaking offers further examples of aformation experimentation. Shaking as a source, perhaps even in the Protestant model of the Shakers, might actually be something which could accompany these examinations socio-psychologically, for example with a view to today’s shaking in discotheques. Underwater shape-behavior at appropriate tensions and compression also captures aesthetic attention. Let us briefly recall the discussions of older formal languages which essentially classified the transition from formation to deformation as creating chaos. Chaos is the condition of the even distribution of essential creative elements which, while thereby losing their information and form, can be reanimated by use of force. So violence against chaos_–_today again a favorite understanding of the rappel à l’ordre. This form of creative destruction sheds light on a nice point of Nietzsche’s idea of “eternal recurrence”. In order to achieve a living aformative development of form, we need demonstrations of violence, as in the case of Ströhle’s actors in the web of his strips. We can thus regard Ströhle’s sculptures as monuments to the Nietzschean thought. Amidst all the influences of deformations, a battle for self-similarity is always also being waged. The material wants to return to the original state. A similar shape-behavior is sought in architecture, in the development of earthquake-proof buildings. I have seen several videos which were made for the purpose of observing earthquake-proof buildings in case of an actual earthquake_–_a whole hour of lined up material on aformations through earthquakes without destruction. The essential point is the margin of deviation, the expression of movement within the given statics. Whoever stands in front of a high-rise is challenged to imagine this apparently monumental stable mass as moving at its peak_–_and indeed in a considerable margin of deviation of more than two meters, which is actually naturally perceivable. This is very successful in Ströhle’s works_–_they in fact demonstrate the picture of fluctuation within stability. One can also say that there is only stabilitas where there is enough room for aformation. In the perceivers, provocative instability as a prerequisite of stability corresponds to the psycho-energetic shock within, which one remembers as a profound experience. If, for example, experiences when taking psychotropic drugs have been correctly interpreted, then in the case of Ecstasy, different effects on neuronal impulses occur, so that, as opposed to the beer drinker who staggers, the Ecstasy taker stands completely clear in the middle, and the world around him begins to reel. The frequency of the swing-back into the normal status of calm would suggest the influence of extra-psychic factors. Balance here, however, is achieved only in asymmetry. This is the psychologically important insight: one cannot want to remain stable while making oneself into a rigid character_–_like the unchangeable figure of the “Iron Mask”_–_, but rather one becomes a stable personality by continuing to expand the amplitudes of agitation. In this respect, these are really psycho-dynamic patterns of expression for the strength of being able to cope with external influences by avoiding them and_–_despite all deformation_–_returning back to the form. In view of architecture, contrary to popular belief, it is not about quick calculation, but about an ordered framework. There are other orders besides the calculated ones. For example, repetition is a fundamental principle of creating order, which is why one, while “doodling”, shows off the ornamental primal gesture_–_also an eternal recurrence. Creating order should here be understood in the sense that the linear process of surprise can affect repetition, and that is very satisfying. While in Tachism or Art Informel the decisive act is that it cannot be memorized or repeated, Ströhle is concerned with the principle of repetition as a retrieving of form. The lost form is retrieved in itself_–_this is a fundamental difference to Art Informel and Tachism where one strives to show singularity_–_according to the principle “once and never again”. In Ströhle’s case, the tension of each and every element lies in the fact that one can tell how it can be brought back into the form. That is of course rescue complete. Rescue complete actions can be summarized as all of those which make possible the principle of stability in the first place. And not by means of rigidly asserting iron-ness or granite-ness, but precisely in lively aformability and adaptability. A wonderful picture for Ströhle’s works would therefore also be the wind blowing through a wheat field. The question is how this can be translated into an artistic formal language. What does the material that represents the grain field look like, and what does the artist’s breath which storms in there and executes inward returning movements look like? When the wind blows through the treetops, the most interesting moment is the return from deformation to order. That is a primal creative principle. I remember children happily using elastic bands, originally developed by rehab-centers for muscle training, to make curious figures. One stood with both legs on the lower side of the elastic and pulled it way up to the left with one arm, all the way to the right with the other arm, and thus developed the most diverse types of formulations. The relation of inner forces to outer contour_–_the changeability of the contour_–_can be visualized by means of the elastic bands: as a displacement occurrence or as an accumulation occurrence of very peculiar dynamic tension. It gets interesting when one links the principle of expansion of the elastic bands with the principle of breathing_–_one can then say that the form breathes; it can stretch in all directions. The principle of expansion can also be found in Ströhle’s metal-strip cages in which dancers move. On the one hand they are reminiscent of cages in the original sense_–_for example, that clothing is a cage and swings with the movement, constantly straining and pushing, changing, increasing, but still returning to the body shape in the end. It is, so to speak, the cage of a captive bird who tries to set the enclosure in motion by singing. In the mid-1990s IT-technology developed the idea to build such cages by purely virtual means. These attempts were called “Cage”, in the sense of a large cage in which the all-round 3D simulation was developed. The metal strip does closely approximate the electronic impulse-paths, for when one looks at it from the side, the material-physical support disappears almost entirely. Only a very fine line remains. In Ströhle’s work we find an oscillating form, a shaken or quivering shape which perhaps wants to escape from its cage for a few moments. References to forms that breathe can already be found in architecture. For example the floor plans of Santa Salute in Venice or the Theatinerkirche in Munich show how, at the crossing, the movement of the transept and the nave is a constant breathing process: once stretched to the left, then again upward, then down and stretched to the right or simply stretched simultaneously to the left and right, upward and downward. These are breathing processes or form-breathing. The form on paper, by contrast, is dead. But this reflects the fact that the form breathes and that breathing itself is a creation of form. When God breathed spirit, the ruach, into the clay, it was also a type of liquefaction of form as an expression of bringing to life. The material seems, in fact, to have a will of its own, its own movement impulse, or also its own energy. It is associated with strong emphatic vision in spite of the fact that this is dead material. One can empathize, for example, with all gestures signifying breaking the fetters. One is constrained not with a rigid material, but to a flexible material. How would one move in order to unfetter oneself? Which movements occur on the ballet floor, when, as in Pina Bausch’s case, wrapped packages of prisoners begin to move? There was a time in Pina Bausch’s work when dancers performed inside closed plastic bags. From the outside a continuous deformation process became visible. Other choreographers were inspired by this. There seems to be something general in the bringing to life of the form or in the breathing of life into the form. Actually it is form brought to life, “breathed” to life, gaining the opportunity to independently build memories of the most different conditions in which it once found itself, and it sways in the memory of these formal states. In dance, first examples can be found in the famous interpretations of snake dancers or of expressionist dancers of the 1920s, from Mary Wigman and Rudolf von Laban to Harald Kreutzberg. The dancers created this type of movement with their bodies and used bands to study many different types of orientation. Kreutzberg, for example, sat on a narrow band which he stretched up and down in an incredible manner. If one were to make a film of eccentric movement from the expressionist dancers up to today’s freestyle-dancers, then one would have a pattern of loops of movement. This, however, would not correspond to its real objective_–_namely to have movement become the object itself, to transfer movement into the object and thus let it become real, so to speak as an objectification of movement itself. Expressive dancing which from punk on moved into the experience of the individual dancer at the disco actually conveys the truth of artistic exertion. That is, artists had to exert themselves incredibly when no one was yet able to find a point of reference in everyday life. The lost understanding of movement in everyday life is stored here. Here the dancer is able to step out of his body and let it dance on alone, but not as a computer simulation_–_it stands directly in front of him. It would certainly be beautiful to show something of the kind in a disco. Ten or fifteen people would move theatrically on a stage. Only their linear figures would remain and carry on the dance by themselves. That would be the continuation of Schlemmer’s “Triadic Ballet” as an “Amorphic Ballet”, in the sense of amorphy as shapelessness and polymorphy as complex shape. A sort of swing of form, in which form is seized by swing. The kidney-shaped coffee table was the notorious analogy to body forms in the 1950s. But it remained static and referred to a single shape analogy. Ströhle’s dance installation on the other hand would be discernable on the trail of life itself. One would only need a white wall in order to present this. No more is necessary. If one would paint the metal strips with UV-sensitive paint and work with black light on the stage, then the action could also be performed as a light ballet. Choreographers’ notations for the rehearsal of a dance as a movement- and behavior pattern are interesting in this context. Physical expression becomes readable as a written construct. Free spaces, such as parks or meadows in which people’s “game paths” are inscribed offer such a movement notation of groups of people without external direction, but rather as an “imprint” of a collective dynamics of soul for orientation in an undetermined space. They are so to speak organograms with distinctive instructions: where the number of lines intensifies indicates intensive relational intercourse; there where they are individually visible inaccessibility is indicated. It would be interesting to view this psychological level in relation to fixation in the pattern: for example tinkle traces in the snow, skiers’ tracks on the slope, ice skaters’ “scratches” on the ice_–_perhaps one could even include the entire starry heavens. In film, by means of time-lapse, analogous to time exposure in photography, thousands of car lights on a street can be caught in such a way that they become one continuous motion-lane, a light trail. That would correspond to collective recollections which have been memorized and emphasized by means of physical action. This is called the development of awareness by means of behavior and action. Ströhle’s aformative objects_–_I would almost equate them with the concept of the “theoretical object” or the “epistemological object”_–_can also be viewed as forms of object magic_–_similar to Kafka’s famous spool “Odradek”. Children of the Empire threaded thin elastic bands through the hole in the spool and then twisted them with a match. The tension created in the bands was released when the match was removed, resulting in an animated dancing movement of the spool itself: a reformation release as a return to the tension-free state. Already small children want to discover what conjuring an object might lead to. The movements of Ströhle’s objects are also the expression of the magical conjuring of forms_–_until something like a primal form as the sum of all forms becomes perceptible. That is the final form. The presentation of the primal form as final form by means of summarizing all individual movements of the form is then the closed surface_–_like the sum of all possible lines on a sheet of paper results in a sheet evenly covered in graphite. The sum as the representation of the absolute is quasi the “Black Square”. Magical conjuring is thus the updating of single concrete forms until a single unit, in which the details are no longer visible, results. Object magic by means of conjuring forms leads thus to orientation toward the all-encompassing possibility of creating. This, however, can only be reached in the black square of abstraction as the sum of all creative possibilities. Here, the primal form is not “that which underlies everything”, but “that which everything amounts to”. Virtual volumes, such as in the works of Naum Gabo or also Marchel Duchamp, also aim at the stability of unity of the first and last moments. In 1920 Duchamp set a pole onto a rotating plate, which in its movement simulated a vessel, a condition of eternal movement of the foundation. Goethe characterizes this with the conclusion that there is only permanence in change. Ströhle achieves the objectification of such change in a single object_–_and not in a medium of movement such as film. Were the cinema, with its illusion of a movement created by means of seeing 24 pictures per second, able to return to the single object status, then something similar to a sculpture by Ströhle would be the result. Moving cinema caught in a permanent condition, perpetually showing the aformatic loop of form, transformation, deformation and reformation. In terms the history of style and the history of art, this corresponds to a rediscovery of or a return to the Baroque system. During the past decades there was a renaissance of Neoclassicism with Minimal Art as its highpoint, of Gothic Revival and so to speak also of Art Nouveau in postmodern garb. Only the Baroque was ill-treated. The return of the Baroque was indeed postulated, but without anything genuine resulting. In this context, Ströhle’s works represent something like a unification of the scientific, the artistic, the architectural, and the creative markings of the transition from form to deformation and aformation as an always reversible process. In the thus understood return of the same, the various states become visible. They, however, without exception, tend to return to the original state. That is the pacified circle: tension-free existence in the harmony of self-similarity.