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The sculpture as a picture

When looking at the three basic development phases of the plastic form in the twentieth century – from the classical sculpture to an object to be acted upon – metamorphoses are often spoken of. It was as early as at the beginning of the twentieth century that the classical form of sculpture, defined by a limited range of materials, was significantly expanded by Duchamp's 'ready-mades'. From that moment onwards, the industrially manufactured object, displayed in an institutional space, became a work of art. The object depends on the artistic act – on the artist's intention to declare it a piece of art. Thus, a work of art comes into being as a result of action and the contextualisation that comes with it. In surrealism, for instance, manufactured objects (“objets trouvés”) are altered, converted or combined with others, which leads to the creation of symbolical and finally content-related components. At the same time, materials, production methods and functionalities find themselves in a new mixing ratio and are re-encoded, opening up new creative opportunities in the process. This coincides with a change in receptionbehaviour. The resulting strategy is based on the usefulness of artwork. The audience is challenged to interact with the work of art; alternatively, the artist begins to endow the sculpture with behaviour, parallel to its functionalities; and by doing so introduces a performative dimension into the work of art. This immediately raises the question of time. Time-based artworks require documentation in the form of photographs, videos, films etc. That way, those materials or techniques also become components of the sculptural context. Finally, it is possible to formulate sculpture in other media, too. No reproduction or duplication emerges in the process; rather, the medium of documentation is recognised as an element of equal value. The sculpture comes into being on the basis of a transformation process in both media. The object and image are interchanged as categories. The object often becomes part of a composition that should be addressed as an image rather than as an item, in the exclusivity from which art comes into being. The audience is frequently placed in an environmental whole by a visual complex of meanings and movable pieces. This is where installation and sculpture encounter each other and can only be held apart with difficulty. The performative element – executed in a concrete way or existing merely in imagination – emphasises the character of a performance.

Thus, we have now arrived at a point where sculpture assumes the simultaneous availability of all possible materials and methods. Even before the 1960s, the definition of what plastics were began to shift under the influence of the ever-changing conditions of the media, institutions, society and politics. For that reason, nowadays photography, film, video, painting and drawing have to be included in the sculptural context as much as a reflexive practice towards the exhibition space and the time-specific social and political conditions of artistic production and their reception by the public. Nowadays, everything is suitable enough to be referred to as sculpture. The classical differentiation, which finds its expression in a classification in categories, is no longer binding yet continues to serve as a point of reference. The very legitimisation of artistic quality appears to require those boundaries.

Evelyn Loschy belongs to a generation of artists who regard those processes as part of history and who have already internalised the processes of transformation in the realm of sculpture. Fundamental liberation through art – taken for granted as late as the 1960s – is no longer her primary objective. Hence, her confrontation with destruction as a central force behind her artistic activity is free of “tabula rasa thinking”, which continued to characterise the avant-garde movements of the 1960s. She does not regard destruction as a complete or partial dissolution of an organic or inorganic unit through diverse processes and actions. Nor is the significance of objects that have been destroyed, found or discarded by society central to her reflections. Rather, the young artist benefits from the “zero hour” of the avant-garde movements, which unleashed the very pluralism of style, concepts of culture and painting techniques that since then have been labelled as the burden of the modern era.

However, it may well be – and this is something that the present shares with the past – that the destructive tendencies in the visual art should be understood, as it were, to be an echo of a general upheaval in the history of civilisation, or that frequently they should be interpreted symbolically, with regard to the artist's own mental and social condition.

In this light, “Ins Blaue” by Evelyn Loschy should be interpreted not just as an explosion of a rock formation being, but as a multi-layered compaction of diverse levels of content, methods and materials. The origins of “Ins Blaue” go back to the artist's collaboration with Rabenwald, a mine in Styria, which extracts hornstone, a material important in the industrial production of paints and lacquers. A rock formation previously painted blue was duly blown up. The explosion – something natural in a mine – becomes a stage in an artistic production; working processes are interchanged and re-encoded. As a result, the piece of art admittedly consists of a blasted rock with blue paint residues, but the process itself, the video and photographic documentation, are also defined in the piece as elements of equal value. In other words, a network of meanings and materials is created, which functions as a piece of art in the contextual interplay. The element of destruction loses its significance as an end in itself. In this case, destruction is a constructive element, which initiates the process of transformation.

In theexperimental arrangement “untitled (kinetic sculpture #4)”, a hand is stroking a face; both of which are made of plaster. The hand is coupled with an appliance that sets it in motion.

The rod moves the hand over the cheek of the head, causing partial erosion of the material in the process. Plaster comes loose in the form of dust and falls to the ground. The bottom layer of the objects (the hand and the head) becomes visible. The fundamentally positive gesture of stroking is reversed. The constant friction causes destruction. The motion and decomposition of material allow us to talk of a self-destroying structure; yet at the same time it seems imperative to notice that this is not the primary subject of “untitled (kinetic sculpture #4)”. In this case, the process of destruction is one of creation rather than annihilation. From the moment it is switched on, the sculpture behaves like an independent cosmos. The machine's movement patterns become a performance, a mechanical theatre. One can observe a compaction of processes and meanings, wayfaring from one medium to another. What remains at the end is the abraded hands and heads – which can always be replaced by new ones – as well as the documentation of the process.

In “is it me” we see an inflatable figure, connected by tubes with a pair of bellows, sitting on a rocking chair. A wiper motor rocks the chair, in the process causing the air pumped by the bellows to inflate the figure. Here, beginning and ending seem impressively connected in a perpetual motion. Once again, the peace that emanates from the movement of the rocking chair itself – the epitome of relaxation – is reversed. An excruciating mill of constant repetition comes into being. Rather than a commercially available product, a ‘ready-made’ rocking chair, the artist uses a metallic structure in the shape of a rocking chair. As a consequence, conditions are changed fundamentally; after all, a certain distance to the original context of that piece of furniture is indeed created. The harmless motion of rocking, having a pleasant and relaxing effect on the human body, becomes a gruesome mechanism of inescapability.

The functioning principle behind “nothing is for free” is similar. An anticipation of something negative is present in the very title. An all-metal children's swing hanging from the ceiling, put into motion by an engine located on the ceiling, moves alone in the room. Time and time again it hits the wall behind it, causing partial abrasion and leaving behind traces of destruction. The machine appears to create the space it requires in order to operate. It is only when enough material has been removed from the wall that the swing can fully swing through. However, it is never going to achieve this state, as this would be too much for the engine; too much material would have to be abraded. Apart from that, the mechanism would certainly stop functioning before that stage, which is tantamount to capitulation. It is not a children's toy that we see here, but a gruesome mutation of one. It looks more like an instrument of torture and leaves the audience with a deep sense of unease. It is the discrepancy between a toy and a machine that exudes danger which provokes uncertainty on the part of the spectator. The additional acoustic dimension emphasises the uncanny character of the installation. Also, this work of artcannot be limited to the metallic structure. Rather, the space in which the event, presentation or performance is taking place, is included in the overall context. One could say that the audience is integrated and, in a way, involuntarily becomes a witness to a mysterious, yet highly unsettling process.

The above works, presented as examples, set the tone for the artistic practice of Evelyn Loschy. They reveal how sculpture comes into being nowadays. The relevant levels of meaning manifest themselves clearly once the processes that have been briefly outlined at the beginning are internalised. The object and the image have been interchanged. As has been shown, the three-dimensionality or the idea of a sculpture can operate in various media. There's no doubt that Evelyn Loschy creates sculptural works. However, contextual shifts yield an immense density of meanings which, to a very large extent, can be experienced as a narrative. Art no longer has its being within its boundaries, which is the case in traditional sculpture. A swing hitting against the wall, a self-activated rocking chair, a stroking plaster hand, or a blasted rock formation – all of them provoke additional levels of reflection on part of the audience. Depending on one's sensitivity, there's a content-related amplification in one direction or the other. At any rate, however, those productions constitute highly memorable images. At the same time, the three-dimensional elements are pawns in a performative process that determines content and the visual impression. With the exception of the inflatable figure in the rocking chair and the plaster hand and head, direct bodily references are seemingly missing completely. However, they remain tangible in their absence. As it were, the appliances intercommunicate with the bodily realm. The various contents are interwoven with the work by the spectator's natural picture consciousness, even up to the point of completing it in the process. You do not have to see a child on a swing; it may also be a creature tormented in a continuously repeated cycle, or delinquents tortured by the machine.

Destruction and self-destruction as topoi in the development of art in recent decades play a central role in the work of Evelyn Loschy. Through her work, she analyses the transformation process of these methods. Her works are qualified to help us understand the way described at the beginning from the sculpture to an object of action. In this manner, new perspectives emerge, both with regard to the three-dimensional realm, as well as with regard to the image.

Günther Holler-Schuster, 2016
Barbara Wrathal-Proll / Translation


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