Klaus vom Bruch

Stadtisches Museum Abteiberg

In Klaus vom Bruch’s latest installation, Radarraum (Radar room, 1988), three black boxes of various heights—each with crisscross fencing on two sides—are distributed through the room. Their upward-facing TV monitors flicker and glimmer in green, yellow, orange, and red, flashing an array of letters and numbers and emitting squeaky sounds. In the middle of the room, a 7-foot-wide rectangular radar screen, installed at eye-level, turns on its axis. A steel scaffolding, extending from the ceiling and containing an engine, keeps the radar screen turning.

Upon entering the room, the visitor intuitively feels observed. And, indeed, the radar installed at the center does capture the visitor, transmitting a signal to a computer in order to make objects and people in the room visible—in the form of an abstracted code of colors strips and gauges—on the monitors. However, this equipment (unlike that of the traffic police) does not measure speed, it indicates densities and distances. Any movement, even the slightest, alters the image on the TV screen. Yet what appears to be state-of-the art high-tech is actually copied from nature: a bat moves only with the help of navigational sensors that react to objects in a similar way.

In the past vom Bruch has frequently employed the videocamera in his work. He has explored ideas of the camera as a faithful companion to the military; the camera as a weapon, which lends an erotic charm to its carrier, like a pistol (the English verb “to shoot” also means “to film”); the camera as a tool of voyeurism, working hand in hand with the fetishizing technology of phallocentric society; and above all, the camera as a gauge, a measuring instrument, a tireless and therefore dangerous sentry. Once celebrated as a progressive invention, the camera has long since turned against humanity; it never loses sight of us.

In this installation, vom Bruch does without his videocamera, videotape, and videorecorder. Nevertheless, he remains true to his past work. Once again, he observes, gauges, measures, collects, and stores data. This time, however, he does so with a barely visible detection device, one that instead of transmitting its detections onto a monitor and thereby making them easily recognizable, translates them via computer into signals that are beyond the ken of most people. In this way, vom Bruch dramatizes the feeling of powerlessness one experiences at the mercy of such equipment.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.