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Into the blue
A sculpture by Evelyn Loschy

Strong images, visual bafflement, a shock with breath-taking visuality – Hiroshima and 9/11 become sources of previously unimagined visual power. Both historic events stand for a state of ultimate destruction, an endpoint. In many cases, the irrationality in the assessment results from their representation in pictures. What we see is not what it is, respectively what we feel. There is death and destruction on the one hand and fascination in the visual experience on the other. The real event and the visual power form a strange dichotomy.

In the early 1950s, Harold Edgerton, an American Professor at the MIT, took pictures of an atomic bomb test, which came to be of significant sustainability. In those pictures, the destructive capacity of modern Western society became obvious. At the same time, these images of horror radiated a somewhat magical affection. The fusion of terror and fascination thus becomes classified according to two aspects that have become decisive for post second world war art. The real disaster and the spectacle of images form the basis of these double considerations.

60 years later, the attack on the World Trade Center in New York poses a comparable situation: another ultimate state of destruction, another visual spectacle of unimaginable dimensions. Renowned artists made some euphoric statements:
"The biggest existing artwork in the whole universe" (Stockhausen), "The thing about 9/11 is, that it is an artwork in itself."
It may be "evil", but "breath-taking" at the same time and precisely calculated in its visual impact. "On some level, we almost have to thank them for that", said British artist Damien Hirst. He tried to apologise for his choice of words afterwards. One might think of it as inhuman, when artists express themselves like that and put aesthetic calculus before human suffering. But there remains a bit of fascination in the light of horrific images – red and yellow clouds of fire against deep blue skies. The underlying idea in the utterances of Stockhausen, as well as Hirst, is that the whole world can be shaken by apocalyptic images. Looking at the attacks of September 11th in isolation, two basic ideas can be identified, which have already appeared in the field of art of recent decades: conceptuality (planning and preparation) and emotionalising (bafflement and overpowering). However, this standpoint is only stable as long as the media level of the catastrophe is concerned, not the actual perception of a series of tragic circumstances that is becoming more and more unbelievable. The actual site itself gave a whole different impression of the event. The people involved experienced the apocalyptic situation they found themselves in as incredibly loud, terribly smelly and were covered in thick clouds of smoke. Only the presentation by the media facilitated the unfolding of a fascination in the horror. So we are talking of an imagery of events, both in respect of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the attacks of September 11th. But is it separable? Is it possible to abstain from the actual suffering in view of terrible events? Certainly not. It would only approve of the most abstruse mind-set of a criminal and his or her actions. Combined with Josef Beuys notion that "every human is an artist", this would quickly lead to perfect chaos in the world. The problem becomes obvious when Stockhausen, as well as Hirst, tried to put in perspective and apologise for the ambiguity of their utterances soon after.

However, the explosion, respectively the ultimate drama that emanates and engrosses spectators entirely, is and stays something fascinating. The visual power of the image will never leave us unaffected. Accordingly, such practise in artistic work had been made a subject, used directly and interpreted differently quite often. After all, it is a physical process of transformation that occurs in a blast like this. Material is transformed from its original form into a new state by crushing and blending. A process that is also observable in art – in sculptural art, especially. It also adds and subtracts, reprocesses, shreds and merges material into new forms.
In her work "Into the Blue", Evelyn Loschy integrates the element of explosion as a method into her artistic work. Classical methods of material processing within a sculpture have become obsolete, new approaches in processing and mediation are consequent results. The collaboration of the artist with the Rabenwald mine in Styria, where Leukophyllite – a material used in industrial colour and lacquer production – is mined, formed the basis of this work. The artist does not only address the development process of the artwork, but also of the classic artistic material – the colour. A rock formation was drilled several times and prepared with liquid paint, colour pigment, talc and Plastorit, before being blasted properly. This short but intense moment, the maximum compression of the production process so to speak, becomes the output of a complex artwork. It is about both the sculptural act of real material transformation and the performance and visualisation in an image. The common work process of controlled explosion in mining becomes a production process within the field of art. Work processes are being transcoded, or newly evaluated. In the light of this "experimental arrangement", one may ask what kind of artwork this was supposed to be. The blown up rock, with all the scattered blue colour stains, is not enough to fully grasp the comprehensive concept of the artwork. Both the process of blowing up and the resulting documentation in video and photography have to be comprehended as equal elements. This combination of meaning, contradiction and potential misunderstanding defines the power of the artwork. The contextual interaction of meaningful elements guarantees its functionality as an artwork. The element of destruction becomes constructively effective and loses its cultural connotation as a life-threatening destruction. The artwork inherits a time-based structure – the explosion takes place in seconds – and therefore requires a visual documentation level. Therefore, those processes and results of the documentation also become part of the sculptural context. Consequently, sculpture can also be expressed in more than just classic media. And it is again a transformation process that makes the difference. One that does not take place in a material sense, but is manifested in the transgression from one medium to another.

Thus, a point is reached, where sculpture art can be conceived in the simultaneous availability of all possible materials and procedures. Currently, the documentation level of the image has to be equally included in the sculptural context, like for instance the reflective practise in the showroom and the time-specific socio-political conditions of art production and its public reception. In today's art production, a classical differentiation in categories is only permissible as a reference. Breaking down or expanding boundaries time and again seems to be an essential impulse of art in general. Today, it is less about clearance as strived for by the avant-garde in the 1960s. It is much rather about the "zero hour" in avant-garde trends, that the younger generation, which Evelyn Loschy is a part of, profits from, which led to that pluralism of styles, art terms and visual techniques that ever since could be claimed as references. It is the playful handling of regulations and consequences in modern art, respectively the avant-garde, that resulted from the fixed concepts of art-historical evaluation and expanded the area of artistic activity.

The image of the explosion stays the same. Depending on time and context, the meaning of the explosion process changes. The traumatising potential on the one hand and the visual fascination on the other form a unity, which makes such images interesting and timeless. The feeling of an ultimate, last possible act of art and the individual in general is expressed here. In the end, it's the power of mankind to be able to erase everything in its surrounding that's so attractive to producers and recipients.

Despite all uncontrollability that comes with an explosion, Evelyn Loschy manages to present it as a strictly calculated and self-evident act. Which in the context of mining, it actually is. Nevertheless, in the context of art it is about the complexity of the levels of meaning of an action or an image. The tense interplay between control and coincidence in the work "Into the Blue" extends its significance. Even though Evelyn Loschy tries to put the implicitness of the non-artistic level into artistic practise, she triggers the spectator's feeling of multiple possibilities of interpretation at the same time. Shock and fascination, or fascination through shock, seem to come into effect in a most impressive manner.

Günther Holler-Schuster
Mag. Wolfgang Kanduth / Translation

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