Klaus vom Ruch

Klaus vom Bruch’s installation, Surface to Surface, 1989, is based on radar recordings taken in Lapland. Vom Bruch has traveled around with a naval radar scanner mounted on the roof of his car, making a kind “landscape painting” of five famous tourist sites. The green, shimmering radar landscapes, after having been transferred to videotape, are shown on monitors enclosed in cases of black rubber and steel. Vom Bruch’s work has its roots in a European conceptual tradition that regards the idea or concept not as the dominant aspect of the work; like artists such as Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Mario Merz, and Jannis Kounellis, he has not looked upon the execution of the work as “a perfunctory affair” (Sol LeWitt). The object and its visible, tangible qualities are just as important as the concept itself.

Vom Bruch’s video sculptures are both visually suggestive and physically concrete; they are picture-sculptures, not thought-constructions. They have very little in common with the neo-Conceptualism of artists like Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach, whose posture seems to be quasi anthropological rather than, as in vom Bruch’s case, poetic. In radar, vom Bruch has found a potent instrument for what he justly considers to be “a poetic reflection on abstraction and realism.” His landscapes represent real mountains, even though they are—for most viewers—no less abstract than a Rorschach test. This installation is, I believe, a striking illustration of Nelson Goodman’s thesis that realism is a matter of convention, a function of our ability to read, and not a matter of allegedly “natural” iconicity. Our human vision is limited, as is that of the radar, which does not register living things; it only “sees” rocks and objects of metal. So-called reality becomes an anthropological concept.

Vom Bruch’s sculptures are hybrids: they mock the limited methods and genre-slavery of traditional art, and they look forward to future art forms. Surface to Surface constitutes a rare example of a constructive and successful meeting between technology and art—a meeting that transcends categorization.

Lars O. Ericsson