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Franz Schuh | "This coolness is not so different to hubris." On selected works

What captures my gaze at once, what's a real eye catcher, squeezed in between promising transparencies, is the inscription WHAT IF GOD WAS WRONG. This sentence is remarkable because it is one of those sentences that are on our mind anyway – be it subconsciously or at least involuntarily. There is a sheer indefinite number of variations how to render this phrase less precise than intended and required by the English language. But what is implied here is something that is quite close to the tip of our tongues and our hearts.
After all, religion stands a chance if we can find the strength to think that there may in fact be an evil spirit, messing with us just like a transcendental, vicious Viennese. We struggle and it all results in a preliminary apocalypse and above all, way up in heaven thrones a bearded guy, a typical Viennese, enjoying a drink at a Heuriger, holding his stomach, laughing at everything we do, what we pursue and how we die.
But here is an additional element, that of the coolness of architecture within which the artist has placed his writing. This coolness is not so different to hubris as such buildings, either arbitrarily or not, very quickly radiate a certain sense of presumptuousness, almost as if we fell back into the good old Vienna ways, proclaiming: "Yeah, but what is really going to happen? Here we are and we are here to stay!"

There is also another kind of architecture, more playful in its details, more mannered, on principle abstaining from making a clear statement. But here, marvellously realised from an artistic point of view, the complete opposite is the case. This architecture bearing the sentence WHAT IF GOD WAS WRONG has no need for any mannerisms. It is as clear and concrete as the phrase itself is ambiguous and metaphysical. The Leuchtturm von Maissau (Maissau lighthouse), which reminds me of an old German pun also forming the title Wa(h)re Landschaft. For a landsman like me a lighthouse always embodies a clear statement: per definition the lighthouse has to tower over its surroundings, otherwise it couldn't serve its purpose. It is on top of everything! The same is true of a lighthouse placed in a landscape with absolutely no sea in sight.
Landscapes have given us the chance to leave them in peace, not to change them. But as we all know they are far from being left alone. And if we, in a first step, assign landscapes to nature, any intervention in this nature by way of art is not a simple one. All other interventions embody certain thoughts of calculated use and also of profit, not necessarily in a polemic sense. Landscapes are obstructed with buildings and those buildings then serve as our lodgings. But if art is placed into nature, prominent and clearly visible from a distance, these thoughts driven by purpose and usefulness are somehow circumvented. But then, what is the additional value? The additional value lies in the fact that these discrepancies and bridgings are rather exceptional, for a work of art placed in nature always bears a mutual alienation. On the one hand, the artwork alienates the natural preconditions, on the other hand, the natural preconditions alienate the artwork. Of course, there are objects that fit our sense of aesthetics, meaning and perception of a landscape better or worse. In that context, the light house represents what is given, set in a landscape that can be perceived with the naked eye, because the light house itself deals with the conditions of visibility and the question how to improve them. We could of course also imagine putting the light house into a mountain scenery, expressly choosing a spot from which we cannot see anything. This would, so to speak, parody the concept of the naked eye: no sight, no light house. The light house, free of purpose, wonderfully meaningless.

Since the book of nature is not simply based on numbers but on quality, one has to mention the landscape in Austria's northernmost region, the Waldviertel, as something exceptionally particular; it is a region where beauty meets roughness. It is, therefore, the ideal place for people who are rather irritated by beauty – something that is the case with some Austrian lakes, which are of immense beauty, but evoke the feeling of diving into a post card when going for a swim. That is a different kind of natural beauty. This connection between roughness and beauty deserves its own light house.
A technical object that is transformed into a piece of art: The artist labours his way through whatever is peeled off, whatever remains of these efforts of technological nature.
He seizes his finding, the purpose of which can only be retraced by specific experts as it has been thrown out of context, and by refining the object and renaming it, Shuttle, he ennobles it to be a work of art, exfoliated from the old functional context. Being a work of art it has emancipated itself from its former function. It is here that a form of utopia becomes virulent, for there are plenty of such objects with a former technological function. Whatever has been said about the end of art, therefore, cannot be true at all as there remains so much from human activity, so much waste, not at least technological leftovers, that can be used for art by lots of generations yet to come.

Charger, a monstrous pickup truck wrapped in tin foil, cannot really be classified as waste, as the remainders of human activity, but it is, just like Shuttle, to be seen as a hybrid between ready-made and modified objects. For me this metaphor, somehow real with all four wheels put on the floor, is a game, putting me in a melancholic mood, for the cars are part of human life, they almost seem to be adhered to the families. Wrapping a car in common tin foil is an accurate, in any case a characteristic strategy. The social fact that we, humanity in its grand collective, are not, and most probably will not ever be able to find a sensible relation to machines, either belittling or demonizing them; this fact may or even shall be emphasised by art, be it ironically or seriously. And so there it is, this huge car, all dressed up in tin foil and nowhere to go.
Contrary to Shuttle or Charger, there are also ideas, technical phantasies that can never become real. And then there are basic forms of human experience, one of them being, without a doubt, that of the wave. Waves embody a complex element and due to their constantly flowing form, oscillating between stability and movement, they are brilliant sensations. Just as one, Shuttle, has been found along the way, the other, Welle, is a piece of imagination, an invention and this invention, the work of art, alludes to the waves in nature.

It is part of human nature (or probably seems to be) that among their most important possessions is the product. The product which we command, also in such a way that we can sell it. The product, which we become ourselves either in this or that constellation... The piece inglorious voyeurs depicts this phenomenon that people, be they themselves the good or not, distance themselves from it and, at the same time, identify with it. Under certain circumstances this work is, in a certain sense, also a product in which the artist is not reflected personally but as the creator of the ensemble. But the fact that this man, trying to sell a gazing ball, shows himself, in an intense, crouched position, taking a photo of what he wants to sell, also shows one thing: it is not always easy to simply break away from something; and the act of selling itself, which is supposed to be a smooth transaction, is not so smooth and traceless after all, as the powers of our soul rebel against it. A lot of times we actually want to keep our product!

Traces keep people in motion. Traces in the sand. Traces that shall endure. And it is the profiles that leave traces. In order to leave traces, it is sufficient that there is a profile. It is not necessary that a profile assumes a specific form. But be it necessary or not, profiles always assume a specific form, at times also a vague, and they are defined by the form capable of leaving traces. And with this form of profile, as an image of a profile, as a photo, a Profile Picture, the intention lies in the form (everything that leaves traces can be a profile) and in what we can remember therefrom, what remains as defined, forming a well-balanced-equilibrium. The observer has the chance to remember the profile. For forgotten profiles are another story.

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