Kunsthalle Münster, 2004
In the second half of the last century, the act of withdrawal into the private domain was censured as the cause of a decline and demise of public life. The loss during the nineteenth century of a model of transcendental order led to the growth of a secular materialism and gave impetus to the individualization of society. Henceforth what was important in the private sphere was to compensate for the lack of public expressivity through intimacy, self-revelation, and authenticity; this led to the so-called cocooning which formed the individual person but imposed a lasting deformation on urban structures and their communities.
For heute hier, morgen dort…, René Zeh has developed an installation which focuses upon the phenomena of residence and travel along with their peculiar alliances, but also upon contradictions with respect to contemporary tendencies toward individualization. A rough construction scaffolding with a height of 3.5 meters and a surface of 3 x 4 meters culminates, just under the pipe bracings of the hall’s ceiling, in a walk-on plateau at the side of which a simple, cubic wooden box is attached with one side open toward the platform. The inner sides of the box are lined with maps from cities throughout the world, a blanket lies upon the floor, and the sole furnishing is a notebook which shows the simulated route for a journey as a rhizome-like web in the style of naïve, abstract video games from the early nineteen-eighties.
As a minimal living space on the one hand, the box is reminiscent of the provisional dwellings of nomadic, homeless persons. On the other hand, it conveys the impression of a primitive transportation vehicle which has been realized sculpturally on an absurd starting ramp, and with which it is possible to travel throughout the world at the click of a mouse. The navigation proceeds upon the arrangement of maps, whose two-dimensional representation levels out unevenness and reduces the world to a manageable pattern.
BLOCK consists of a modular ensemble which is formally oriented toward the architectural features of the exhibition hall and, in its dimensions, confronts these parameters in an almost truculent manner. In the dynamic relationship between assimilation and the cancellation of boundaries, the installation proves to be a complex utensil which organizes an (imaginary) interweaving between public and private, world and individual. Above all in this regard, the walk-on aspect, in the sense of an expanded utilization, is intended to preserve symbolically the integrity of the individual and to issue a challenge to responsible, aesthetic activity. Yet the work does not pursue an artistic realization of architectural and social visions or utopias, but instead takes into account above all the basic need for a dwelling, while giving consideration to found phenomena. For inasmuch as humans are beings who require a residence and whose relationship to the world is characterized by the aspect of habitation, the creative, self-assuring creation of a living space is imbued with a dynamic quality of life. But does not the process of travel stand in diametrical opposition to the underlying physical figure of residence, especially since the dream of total mobility would require a release from the body? The intersecting set of both (life-)categories, on the other hand, includes the individualizing media techniques which are supposed not only to involve a virtual/mental nomadism, but also to usher the cosmos into the bubble of a private world, in order to satisfy humankind’s need for creating a world in the sense of an other-worldly openness to the world.
The inclusion of media in the transporter box offers the possibility of accompanying oneself and of simultaneously functioning as a distance-giver in the sense of a tele-socialism, so that separation and (self-)exploration manifestly coincide. The resident/user accordingly does not any longer complement the transporter-box through the media themselves; instead he is absorbed into them. Thus there is to be found no trace of him, and the blanket, as a cozy instrument of spatial self-enclosure, in the search for an unmistakeable space of one’s own, lies wadded up in a corner. The bubble has burst, and the loss of the body as the most intimate abode yields the paradox of the final step taken on the way toward individualization.
It remains uncertain as to where the journey is headed. One hypothesis tends to be offered by two clip-like film sequences on the intermediate level of the scaffolding, and above all, up near the ceiling, by the two tree-house collages which, as an ironically subverted transcending of the theme, quite (un-)romantically offer as a place of refuge precisely the sort of sensory provinces which are characterized solely by their artificially shifted staging. Thus there appear in the treetops drawn on paper sections from lifestyle-, fashion-, or vacation-contexts which, as emblems of contemporary robinsonades, have dissipated within the lovely illusions of the media even before they could be grasped.
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