2Oth Century Warehouse
An old steel filing-cabinet with four extender-drawers, each of which is pulled out a small fraction. Just enough to reveal a miniature slide projection on the inner rear surface of the drawer. The images are projected from separate projectors in each drawer whereby each tray contains 81 transparent slides. All four trays are filled with slides which, without exception, portray works of art from the archives of famous museums. The non-syncronous carousel projectors give light to consecutive de facto hidden treasures in museum archives half concealed inside the drawers. For the observer this results in an endless series of new visual connections within the four image-constellations which are ultimately a product of a random, purely technical rhythm of projection. lt is a perhaps still too widely ignored fact that there are more recognized acknowledged works of art than there is exhibition space. Kuball thematizes this cultural political fact which museum curators regard with mixed feelings (after all, a richly assorted storeroom is always useful for widely diversified „stock“ exhibitions) by
deliberately choosing a filing-cabinet as the outer framework for his work, something not only typical for an office environment but also characteristic of museum administration. All data pertaining to exhibited or archived works of art are flled according to special systems in precisely these or similar filing-cabinets. lt is here that we can rediscover the data and facts which represent the very essence of a work of art. Every piece ofinformation bearing any
relevance whatsoever is stored here for daily consultation, but perhaps more importantly for future generations of researchers.
And even the works ofart themselves are soberly and systematically ordered to save precious space; they are after all „preserved“ objects, especially when robbed of all possibiity of unfurling their natural aura, for example in the museum exhibition rooms.
Mischa Kuball combines both these „aggregate aspects“ of official art administration by giving new, artificial life to a steel container. With the aid of technical apparatus a synthetic existence is granted to something that under normal circumstances would remain hidden to the public eye – it is more than the accustomed dry, preserved documentary material found in filing-systems, yet less, of course, than the real corpus of the living work of art; pretty authentic replicas nonetheless. In the monotonous, staccato change of images, the veritably endless sequence of projections, with quadruple intensity, demonstrates the abundance of Art, including Art of a higher level. The projector incessantly draws our awareness to yet a further work of art, flanked by three others all doing the same thing, increasing the sense of bewilderment. In addition, the uniform diminution to the standardized projection format unavoidably reduces everything to the same level and underlines the homogenous nature of Art . A further aspect deserving special comment is that by projecting the images into a half-concealed space, the observer is only able to perceive them through a narrow slit and at a slanted angle. This induces an almost voyeuristic participation on the part of the observe; as if the trays were too bashfull: – full of unexplored treasures yet still a little shameface, proud of their fullness, but at the same time embarrassed, reserved and inviting.
Only an artist can reflect on this hidden abundance and represent it in a way so tangible to the senses. Art reflects Art. Art interprets Art. Art takes ist place in artistic tradition. Art is Art – it cannot be put into words, it is there for eyes to see that are willing to see it.
The German Pavilion I + II
A chip-board box fixed at eye-level to a black square tubing frame with a rectangular aperture in the side facing the observer, enabling a glimpse into the inside of the box. A carousel projector installed inside the box out of view of the observer projects in steady sequence a total of 81 different examples of architecture through the open rear wall of the box onto a whitewashed column. The contents are manipulated by the cut-out of the photographic representation as well as by the peephole method of projection.
Once again the series of projections, the actual carrier of visual signals in Kuball‘s work, is ultimately forced into a container that impedes rather than facilitates viewing. The architectural motifs are not only reduced to relatively small formats, but are also confined and distorted as a result ofthe projection being partly illuminated along the inner walls of the box. The shorter distances, e. g. along the side-walls, „lengthen“ certain parts of the images, but at the point where the projection beam hits the projection surface at a vertical angle, i. e. on the wall, the perspectives straighten back to normal again. The architectural subjects are split up prismatically by the projection onto internal and external surfaces – not in an anarchistic manner as an act of destruction but rather in an analytic fashion. One tends to think of cubistic paintings, or Feininger‘s work which create a similar illusion on a flat surface to that which Kuball carries forward into an irritating three-dimensional puzzle – yet without disregarding the use of the flat surface.
By using this method the naturally presumed static essence of architecture, which constitutes a large part of its representative value (whether „morally“ founded or not), is challenged. The monumental status which is often enough associated with this (irrespective of philosophy or ideology) is literally shaken at its roots. Stability gives way to instability, the horizontal-vertical framework as the basic determining criterion for architecture is laid bare. That this should be ascribed of all things to the „German Pavillon“ (with the emphasis on „German“) may not cause so much surprise from a modern-day point of view. But that was not always the case, and for some it is still considered a sacrilege.
A huge, hollow cruciform construction made from chip-board is positioned on the floor. Towards the ends of the vertical side-surfaces are small, rectangular apertures. Each arm of the cross has only one aperture, and none ofthe apertures face each other. Hidden in the „ends“ are carousel projectors which project a steady series of miniature slides at an angle across the floor. By simultaneously projecting light from all four arms the cross is momentarily transformed into a swastika. The cross reassumes its original form as soon as the lamps are extinguished. The projected motifs are film stills from the 20s and 30s, e. g. out of „Metropolis“. The black and white shots have been tainted slightly blue creating a sense of alienation.
The choreographic timing switches the cross, a symbol closely associated with Christian belief, for a certain period of time to a symbol which stands more than any other in recent history for unspeakable fear, terror and destruction. On the one side the time-honoured symbol connoting charity, tolerance and hope, on the other a synonym for inhuman destruction – it is hard to imagine a more radical contradiction. The swastika takes shape through the projection of film-cuttings that can be considered a fairly representative cross section of the 20s and 30s. They are taken from film representations of widely differing, indeed irreconcilable visions of the early 20th century: - the unerring belief in progress, but at the same time a deeply-rooted sceptisism; Victorian retroflection, yet bold visions of the future; a new sense of detachment from values, counteracted by a surrealistic with drawal from the real world. The pioneer spirit of the „Golden“ years, which has been glorified time and again, and rightly so, is overshadowed by economic crises and unemployment, political chaos and racial hatred. That the darker aspects were to prevail is a fact that can be looked up in any modern-day history book. Mischa Kuball demonstrates that there must have been a point in time, historically speaking, when the two opposing worlds were still in conflict with each other. And if we turn aside from the historic aspect, this piece of work tells us that the antipodal forces are still as virulent as ever – a brief glimpse at a news paper or a television news-broadcast makes this frighteningly cleat.
The German Pavillion III + IV
A roughly wedge-shapedchip-board box is positioned on the floor of the exhibition room. A rectangular aperture has been made at the taller end which juts out at an angle; at the opposite, tapered end there is a smaller rectangular aperture enabling the observer to look through the box onto the floor. Out of sight of the observer (who instinctively positions himself at the aperture protruding towards him) there is a carousel projector hidden in the container which projects 81 transparent slides in steady sequence through the smaller aperture onto the floor. During the process the inner walls of the box are partly illuminated by the projection. The motifs are similar to those discussed under the exhibit bearing the same title.
On account of the sloping construction of the box and the projection perspectives engendered by this, the projected images are even more distorted than in the counterpart exhibit. This is particularly apparent from the wide spread of the band of light on the floor. Projected in this way the lines of the architectural motifs are upturned even more severely, the distortion becomes more grotesque, the motifs being stretched into infinity by the cone of light. In this case as well reference can be made to a prismatic splitting effect, but this time the gradual progression is more recognizable. lt is important to note, however, that in this piece of work the distortion is sometimes so extreme that it becomes exceedingly difficult to identify the original motif. Moreover, the sloping perceptual planes inside the box, which through their mere adjacency mutually relativate themselves, question the accustomed perspective adjustment mechanism of the eye. And the rhythm of the projector mercilessly squeezes one image after another into this corset of mechanical alienation.
In: Kabinet / Cabinet, Heinen Druck Verlag, Düsseldorf 1990