in context of room, building and city

>Fritz, I like the way you grasp the situation by its balls

Interventions in the entire building of the Academy of Arts, Hanseatenweg 10, 10557 Berlin, September 4th through 25 October 25th 2015, Tuesday through Sunday 11am to 7pm, Curator: Wulf Herzogenrath, Anke Hervol; Exhibition title is a citation of Paul Batlan, 1987; Photographs: Friedhelm Hoffmann

Fritz Balthaus: Fritz, I like the way you grasp the situation by its balls

>Locations’ Regulations

 

In his site-specific experiments and ironic encroachments into the house regulations of the Berlin Akademie der Künste – a place for the arts, artists and archives – Fritz Balthaus intervenes in a functioning cultural institution and turns its functionality and daily operations into the subject of his work. This also includes §4 (1)

of the house regulations from August 23rd 2013: “All spaces in the Akademie der Künste are to be used in accordance with their declared, intended purpose”. His intervention parcours leads one through the public and non-public parts of the Academy structure at the Hanseatenweg. The inspiration for this exhibition parcours stems from situations found in the building. Balthaus’ interventions are not “just visiting” the multi-functional house

of the former West Berlin Akademie der Künste, opened in 1960; they are “at home” there. The works, both brought to and created on site, embody the conditions of their own creation on the one hand and, simultaneously, their presentation environment

on the other hand. As such, they turn into “staff members”, objects and inventory, and infringe upon – or respect – house regulations. “§13 (1) Violations of house regulations must be immediately reported to the administrative director. In serious cases, they can lead to a temporary or permanent ban from the property. The ban is declared by the administrative director.”

[01] What happens when a bicycle is locked to a sculpture by Henry Moore in the forecourt of the Akademie der Künste? First of all, the owner infringes upon §7 (4) of the house regulations on the subject of “parking”, since “bicycles are to be placed and locked at the places that were intended for them”. Henry Moore was an extraordinary member of the West Berlin Academy from 1961 until his death in 1986; he bequeathed a large reclining figure from1966 to the artist society. The sculpture and the bicycle confuse ownership statuses in More – the bicycle is secured by being locked by the owner. However, he also tangibly breaks into the aura of the artwork. Balthaus himself operated against his own internal hesitations in this act of locking the bicycle up. Couldn’t this be read as an indication of a collectively internal- ized respect for the borders between an artwork and a function from daily life? Contemplation and control meet here. Locking bicycles to sculptures is a practice that occurs every day in public space. More (2015) anticipates changes in social values for those who would like to see art as simply one system among many.

[02] Only a few steps away from Moore’s reclining figure with alternating bicycles, two grey / orange sand grit containers – sep- arated by a pane of glass – face one another. According to the street cleaning law from January 1st 1979, with an addendum from January 2010, “winter maintenance” is also an aspect of “orderly cleaning” in accordance with §2 (4). “This includes snow removal, applying sand grit to winter surfaces and slick ice, as well as the removal of ice in general. Slick ice is created by ice rain and frozen moisture. “Ice development” is a sheet of ice that is especially in- curred when snow is not removed soon enough and the snow that is packed by car tires or pedestrians turns to ice.” Both sand grit containers are filled with sand for this purpose. A multitude of mir- roring occurs in the studio foyer: a location that is simultaneously an entryway and a venue. It leads to the large studio; its stage has an audience on both sides. The one container is inside, in the mirror image of the exterior one; the other is outside, in the mirror image of the interior container. Both containers differentiate between the interior and exterior of the Academy building and are thus in two different interpretative contexts. In Balthaus’ inter- vention Winterdienst, these are hardly identifiable artworks that could be mistaken for aspects of the Academy’s daily routines.

 

Fritz Balthaus brought the works Reisekonstruktivismus (2010), Objekt plus X (2000) and VEB VAM Albertinum Dresden (2003) with him to the Akademie der Künste. This complex of works gives an artistic form to the act of transporting artworks from A to B, packing and unpacking as well as to the placement in a specific location. At the Hanseatenweg, they are placed be- tween the exhibition and storage spaces. The location’s spec- ificity is suspended by addressing the mobility of artworks on loan. Thus a smooth integration is assured in Balthaus’ concept for the surroundings and situation at the Hanseaten- weg; presenting exhibitions is the intended use for the spaces.

[03] The picture Reisekonstruktivismus (2003) was set down behind a column in an off-hand way, as though it had been placed there before or after an exhibition. The blue transport tape secures the glass against damage during transport. The construction of the image with the monochrome tape structures is completely caused by “art handling” that occurred outside of the work; from an internal perspective, it appears as a construc- tivist painting. In this case, immanence and transcendence face one another. The image construction and exhibition construction have a maximum and format-filling interface. While the transport structures the image, the visible image composition reflects the usual preparations for an exhibition. In 1996, Fritz Balthaus had already created a work complex – made up of empty aluminum frames with securing transport tape – for the Mies van der Rohe Haus in Berlin-Weißensee. In a further step, it was used as a statement for the reconstruction of the same architect’s Dessau Trinkhalle that had been demolished in the 1970s.

[04] Objekt plus X (2000) is made up of a flat and an unfolded art transport box in museum climate boxes. At the time, these expansive empty boxes, form led to controversial discussions about senseless transportation costs: invisible emptiness was transported worldwide by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V. Stuttgart for the Quobo. Kunst in Berlin 1989–99 exhibition. “He [Fritz Balthaus] sees neither imitation or representation as the actual purpose of contemporary art. Instead, the circulation of ideas is the point. Why else should artworks travel? Thus, in his work Ohne Titel (2000) – which reflects on the various conditions of the boxes, shows its compressed and completely unfolded form of appearance and unveils the artwork’s process of creation, Fritz Balthaus can do with- out an Andy Warhol Brillo Box made of plywood, and he also doesn’t transform the box, as Robert Rauschenberg did, into an element of the image that follows compositional rules. The box simply takes the place of the painting.” (from: Ein Objekt plus X, Annette Tietenberg über Fritz Balthaus, Quobo. Kunst in Berlin 1989–99, exhibition catalogue, Stuttgart, 2000, p.71).

[05–06] The artistic plan for the Museumsarbeit VEB VAM Albertinum Dresden, 2003, was to produce the largest possible sculpture that would fit through the given transport elevator of the Galerie Neue Meister and thus uses the maximum space within the elevator (194×225×175 cm). The transport elevator and the access path as the smallest eye of the needle for the Albertinum Dresden’s museum situation determined the sculp- ture’s size, form and function. They defined the possibilities of how the sculpture could be brought into the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s collection. The museum and its transport elevator thus gave form to the sculpture. But also the light that reaches a mirror in the interior of the sculpture through a light well and is redirected to the door handles and elevator buttons is also a part of the artwork. The sculpture’s path through the Albertinum can be seen on video in the exhibition. The sculpture stands within sight in the Buchengarten.

 

[07] §4: “Bringing pets into the Akademie der Künste buildings is prohibited.” But what if birds follow their natural inclination to find a good place to nest? The Nest (2015), a sculpture of galvanized reinforcement rods with a diameter of 120 cm, offers opportunities and is located in the Atriumhof. In a reference to Francois Morellet’s sphere sculpture at the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Fritz Balthaus developed the work Nest (please see D’Legne-Liez, Anibas: Niklas Luhmann’s Inheritance and the Spaces’ Laces).

[08] Möbel (2015) plays a hardly noticeable game between moving furniture and the real estate itself. The house regulations (§§4,9) state that the “Users... are obligated to treat the building, its furnishings as well as the technical equipment in a careful way. ... Third parties are fundamentally prohibited from using the operational technology.” What defines a piece of furniture and when does the property itself begin? This question can, in fact, be decisive. For example, this is true for a remarkable dispute about the inheritance of the system theoretician Niklas Luhmann’s index card system. It was a legal battle among his inheritors, of which one part claimed the index card system to be a part of the “real estate” because Luhmann “lived in his index card system as though it were a library building”. Since this party was accorded the “real estate”, it was forced to argue in this vein. The opposing side, which had been given the rights to the “movable goods”, interpreted the index card system as “furniture” in order to inherit it. It would have been interesting to have forced a decision with the “index card system inhabitant” Niklas Luhmann’s system theory. In its final decision, the courts determined the index card system to be “furniture” and thus not “property”. It thus also de- cided in favor of a scientific evaluation of the index card system and against its high-priced auctioning as “real estate”. In the same way as the index card system will open and close for research purposes in the future, the cabinet doors of the Academy’s bar will open and close imperceptibly; they thus create various wall and cabinet images: furniture / real estate.

[09] When art opens up to a context, then house technology is not all too distant and the terms are the same. The circulation of water, electricity and money in daily life have a loose connection to circulation in art. They are also called “installations”, but are completely different media, equipped with different values. A faucet and a sink in the bar in the first floor form the Brunnen (2015). The faucet runs audibly for the run of the exhibition and thus flows in surroundings that evaluate and interpret it in different ways: tech- nically via the water meter, aesthetically as a water stream fountain. In the sense of common house technology, a running faucet is

a senseless waste of resources. In the sense of art, in contrast, it allows for the interpretation of an open artwork: house technology/ art; it calculates the costs for “water” as a material just like it would in the case of the implementation of wood, cardboard, etc.

(10] The display case work Modernes Wetter (2015) is made up of a flash battery pack Traveler 3000G and David Janecek’s flash. Sigmar Polke signed the photographer’s battery pack

in an act of displacement in 1997. Polke’s autograph symbolically short-circuits the electrical and author loop and sends posthumous flashes of light into the exhibition foyer on the first floor and down into the Buchengarten. Here one can see how recursive valuation relays function in the art business, and new values of art and money accumulate. Though the two systems – the artist’s signature and electrical current – have no contact to one another, script and electricity become connect- able in a direct eye contact and “flash contact” to the visitor.

[11] The artist published the Edition Akademie der Künste (2015, print run: 20, 3 file copies) on the occasion of the exhibition. This limited edition is made up of printing press prints of one of the small end-grain blocks of wood that serve as the floor; it has ex- isted in the exhibition halls 1–3 since the Academy’s opening in 1960. The woodcut, still colored by the printing process, is replaced in its original position in the exhibition room’s floor. The print hangs on the wall, framed in a classic way: plinth/wall art. An additional infraction against the house regulations was avoided here; the authorization for “nailing” things onto the wall had been given.

[12] The artistic method of the German painter and object artist Peter Roehr, who died in 1968 at 24 years of age, was applied by Fritz Balthaus to Peter Roehr’s art catalogues: cutting out the same images from advertising brochures, organizing them in a serial way and composing them. The work in paper that was created in this context, Roehrroehr (2012), will hang in the office of the Akademie der Künste administrative director during the exhibition’s run. He has the domiciliary rights for the institution, but can also transfer them to third parties. With this step, another border between public and non-public spaces, between exhibition spaces and administra- tive spaces, between house regulations and art has fallen.

[13] Gerücht (1991–today) also makes reference to the artist Peter Roehr and is whispered at irregular intervals over the house PA system: “Paul Maenz invented Peter Roehr“. This rumor (German: Gerücht) indicates the constructability of history and its creation after the fact. For the period of the rumor, “formal and codified” art history is undone.

Fritz Balthaus’ interventions perceive “interpretation” not as a passive act performed by observers, but rather as a hands-on activity performed by all participants.

 

Anibas D’Legne-Liez and Anke Hervol

 

>Niklas Luhmann’s Inheritance and the Spaces’ Laces

 

A past volunteer at the Folkwang Museum Essen, Peter Friese recalled that birds had once nested in a sculpture by Francois Morellet in the 1970s. An “outrageous” attack from the world of birds that – from the perspective of today’s observation – is the stuff that art is made of. François Morellet’s outdoor sculpture in Essen stood in the local Museumsgarten. Grass and plants grew into the sculpture and created the ideal prerequisites for birds

that then bred in the protective lattice sphere: Francois Morellet, Sphere-trames, 1962, aluminum, diameter: 240 cm. The sculpture’s intricate, dense and latticed structure protected the birds from enemies, and attempting to remove them was difficult. The artwork and nesting had found an unexpected interface; the symbiosis was stable for quite some time. Two systems with different laws met in the sculpture’s interior: the system of art and the system of birds. The new inhabitants changed Morellet’s sculpture with their own system knowledge. They thus gave the artist Fritz Balthaus the decisive hint for the art environment’s necessary opening to- wards the system of birds. As a result of the birds’ “authorization”, he recreated the aluminum sculpture with its optimal nesting conditions in galvanized steel reinforcement rods. Nest (2015) by Fritz Balthaus, is thus an aesthetic differentiation from Morellet’s original and a “mimicry” of two successful museum buildings and their art from the 1960s. In this adaptation to an object and environment, the new work by Balthaus remains almost invisible and only demands attention because it trespasses so slightly into other spheres. The nest building, anticipated in Balthaus’ work, trans- forms the birds’ past hostile takeover at the Folkwang Museum Essen into a friendly takeover at the Akademie der Künste Berlin – if, of course, the birds’ system actually accepts the art system’s sculptural invitation.

Extensive experience in realizing art in contexts has repeatedly drawn attention to the limits that become visible when the art system asserts itself on the one hand and other functional systems do so on the other. When artists and non-artists interact, conflicts of interest and personally asserted limits materialize that either prevent or facilitate art contributions or non-art contributions. The assertion of limits mentioned above is constantly noticeable in daily life. It is equally immanent and effective in art’s “house regulations” as well as in the Academy building’s house regulations. Sculptures, historic preservation and nature conservation, art transport, gardening, winter maintenance, energy supply, exhibition practice, technical building and security services as well as administration and insurance all assert themselves with their re- spective, existence-defining logic. If the systems that create order in the house do not open – i.e. make the system more defined – then the artworks will disappear in the small print of a highly complex rejection of responsibility.

So why are interdisciplinary approaches asserted as an estab- lished and successful work method, even though they are con- stantly threatened by failure in daily life due to the specific inter- ests of individual disciplines? What forms do these border conflicts take? What do these borders of interest between art and other social practices look like? Fritz Balthaus’ interventions have the aim of working to make the powers that maintain the system – as well as the countercurrent strategies – visible. What do the aesthetic limits look like in the context of the systems that produce them? And what happens when the highly secure borders are opened in both directions from within the respective systems? Fritz Balthaus’ proposals to various systems pose and answer such questions in

a perceptible way.

 

Anibas D’Legne-Liez