in context of room, building and city

>Trafo of Art, 2016

Onarte, via San Gottardo 139, Minusio; with E. C. Aguirre, F. Balthaus, J. Bucher, FORT, S. Henning, D. Hepp, K. Heydekamp, C. Kübler, M. Kummer, O. Mosset, H. Otto, H. Pallanca, C. Piepenbrock, M. & S. Reichenbach, RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co), A. Sassenroth, U. Seo, K. Spät, A. Wischkony, S. Wittmer, Foto: Friedhelm Hoffmann

Fritz Balthaus: Trafo of Art, 2016

>Trafo of Art


The exhibition title is a palindrome – it can be read the same backwards and forwards. Just like electric current flows back and forth in a Trafo (English: transformer), art can be seen backwards and forwards, from the front and back. The ex- hibition’s title and it’s reading influence the entire exhibition and its various interventions. Nominally, “trafo of art” can be translated as “Transformer Art”. Just as electrical transformers transform the energy flow of electricity, the art system trans- forms everyday situations into meaningful situations. In the transformer space of art, this is how everyday objects can be read as objects of art. Such objects that end up close to art are often weighted differently than in daily life. They create a cir- cle of tension just like the wire coils on an iron transformer loop. Inductions and interpretations are both brought into line in this moment.


For example, the moment that Armin Wischkony’s flower pots, the artist couple FORT’s popsicle, Claudia Piepenbrock’s matresses or Susanne Henning’s exhaust pipe soot are in a gal- lery space, they mean more than just the sum or their previous function, form and materiality. In the exhibition space, their qualities, aggregate states and references become meaningful, also because they are then in surroundings whose emptiness always reminds one of the art that had previously stood in these white exhibition spaces. It was already the 1960s when Brian O’Doherty began to critically examine the fascination of the “white cube” and to demystify it in his text “Inside the White Cube”. But there still seems to be remnants of magic in these walls – otherwise this exhibition would have never been created.


What exact energy stems from other systems and transforms things at this place? What happens between the input voltage and the output voltage in the black box of the transformer? What happens between the entrance and the exit of the “white cube”?


Niklas Luhmann would formulate it more or less as follows: the white exhibition space is a part of the “marked spaces” of art; everything that is shown within it is most probably art. In the floors below us, there where the Rivapiana car dealership has its home, is where the “unmarked space” already begins: here Locarno’s urban space continues and a constantly weakening and ‘lower voltage’ reference to art exists. The established art institutions, the museums, galleries, art academies and their communication media have always been able to offer evi- dence of art’s existence at a ‘higher voltage’ level.


So, the environment plays an important role in interpreting artworks. Even more, the art context itself is a part of the art- work. The awareness of the surroundings as an important part of interpreting art explains why most of the artists who are exhibiting their works here directly work with these surroundings: with the walls and floors of the exhibition space, with the light and air in this space and even with the weather on the terrace, as David Hepp does in his thermometer picture.


In times of autonomous artworks, the art space was still a blind spot behind paintings and pedestals. In this exhibition, attention is specifically also drawn to the space and elevates it to the status of an art object.


In almost all of the works in this exhibition, it becomes clear that studios have become less and less important as locations for the creation of contemporary art. What has also declined is traditional hanging and placement of works that have been especially brought to the space from zones of isolated crea- tion. The art studio has been replaced by productive work on location to the advantage of interventions in the exhibition space itself. This self-understanding also has its roots in the 1960s and has become a beautiful habit called “poststudio art”. In the process, this turned into “learning by showing” for art students and professionals.


In addition, mails and posters prepared and framed the meeting at this location. The guarantee that art can be seen in the “trafo of art” exhibition is also supported by the exhibition catalogue that you are reading right now. Printed works remain an important component of art’s “marked spaces” and, as a publication, always give temporary exhibition situations a completely new form. This form is not a documentation that promotes the hierarchical construct of ‘actual’ and ‘past’ works, but rather a completely different approach in a con- stantly new context. In the case of a catalogue, it is made up of white paper and printed color. Just like the white walls of the exhibition space interpret the exhibits in the exhibition, the white paper pages interpret the images and texts, emphasize them and once again promote the certainty that, in “trafo of art”, all of the interventions, their things and images really are art.


Fritz Balthaus