Reiner Zettl: Only the distant hills are green
Only the distant hills are green or so the saying goes, since naturally, this quality is lost when you approach them. We distance ourselves from the sites of our imagination to the degree that we approach them and never get as close to the far away as it seemed from a distance. Near-sighted, we find fragments more thrilling than the whole, but we still know about the other, hidden side of things behind the mirror.
Our field of vision always shows us only parts of objects, which we then complete, and it is this active participation of our knowledge, our memory, and our curiosity, that renders the unobvious interesting. Things speak to us in a way that we ourselves have established and thereby recognize
Some living creatures react only to movement, that is, to change, in either the form or position of an object that thus first becomes perceivable as such. Movement offers a type of viewing position that is sequential, multiple. The information of the individual impression is hereby not as important as the phenomenon that results from it. If you’ve ever walked along a narrow picket fence or a dense hedge and wanted to see what was hiding behind on the other side, you’d do best to go with the flow of the changing impressions rather than try to stand still and set your gaze.
The objects reconstructed from their impression are also cognitive subjects, yet this connection manifests itself only gradually and is not always immediately clear. The analogue dial of a clock shows a field organized in a radial pattern, which, in most cases, has two or three hands. The object, however, is not the clock itself but the time. In the case of a railway clock, the material object is clearly subordinate. The relationship between the two poles is culturally specific or depends on a civilization’s stage of development. According to classical art theory, the process of luxuriating, which is a movement analogous to the biological aging process, gradually shifts emphasis in developmental cycles to the side of the material object until arriving at renewed attempts to again approach the objects behind the appearances.
A cup is defined by its emptiness, and also here, the attribute relevant for the function is actually not present: at the center of architectural thought is space. Space is conceived by the material world, but can only be grasped as a negative. Nineteenth century art history can take credit for discovering space: the abstract object behind the deceptive luxuriance of material surfaces.
It was not possible to enter Elisabeth Grübl’s installation 10 000 Hz, the space of her graduation piece. It thus remained abstract, preserved as such, and its energy of color and sound substituted for what the beholder was not allowed: A form of definition of the qualities of a site through negation and shifting, and perhaps, a possibility to persist in progressively approaching without thereby losing sight of the phenomenon.
Her work Scan shows only parts of constantly changing faces. We aren’t running along a fence, however, a picture strip moves across a monitor and hereby paraphrases also the picture tube’s cathode ray. The objects appear, but can’t be fixed unambiguously, liberating the subject: the transience of our impressions, the flow of appearances. The question hereby arises: what do we remember in the end: the faces, which don’t really allow us to come to a conclusive identity or the specific space that results from the movement of the viewing strip?
There is a form of ballet that entirely disassociates the body’s movement and the music. Both music and movement follow their own plans, however, they meet up in one context, leaving us almost compulsively seeking a connection and also possibly finding it for brief moments. The black stripe on the three monitors in front of the DJs in the Viennese Lounge by Elisabeth and Manfred Grübl likewise does not react to the music, which is created in its immediate vicinity. It remains in its own space, measures it, and through that, gives it its dimensions.
While we can detect that smell and taste carry intense memory, auditory phenomenon mediate the connection with the environment. Ambiance means surroundings that constantly penetrate us, without our awareness. The sounds that Elisabeth Grübl uses in different works are, in part, located beyond the threshold of sound. It is not possible to clearly locate auditory phenomena of 7,000, 9,000 or 20,000 Hz. Their abstract precision refuses a harmonious embedment in a relation with the site.
With Elisabeth Grübl, we are faced with different manifestations of a form of fleeting “primary object.” The black square in the video Untitled (made together with Manfred Grübl) constantly changes its proportions, as well as dimensions and position; it disappears, and surfaces again in another place and challenges us to reconstruct the space or object that appears. With all of the allusions to the three dimensions, one isn’t satisfied with the logic of the surface alone. In Grübl’s works, the investigation of our perception through deconstruction and recombination of elements leads to manifestations of spaces and objects whose factual existence conceals how enigmatic they are: Situating them requires more than understanding merely how they are made or how they function.