Roman Buxbaum

Galerie Bob Van Orsouw

This work by Roman Buxbaum was installed in the two basement rooms under the gallery. After being empty for many years, the cellar was damp, dank, and dusty, and Buxbaum left the space as it was for this installation entitled Times, 1990–91. On the dirty floor of the first room, viewers saw a circle of 250 portraits of celebrities of the Aargau area from the first half of the century. The effigies of these once-prominent citizens were actually the envelopes of newspaper printing plates that had been discarded as useless. The circle was ringed by three easels, each bearing an oval plate of black glass reminiscent of a headstone. Indeed, the plates were engraved with three different kinds of script, deriving from the invitation to the Nazi’s “Degenerate art” show.

On the front wall in the second room 41 pages from a calendar were displayed; during the years 1921–61, these pages had been used for notes by an executive named Hunziker at the BBC firm in Baden, near Zurich. In a meticulous script, he outlined the events of world politics as well as personal matters. The outbreak of World War II appears next to the dates of Hunziker’s wedding, his vacations, his broken arm, or the pope’s death. On the opposite wall, Buxbaum hung a red wool ribbon with Hunziger’s signature and “1921–1961” embroidered onto the opposite ends, thus resembling a grave festoon. The word “Zeiten” (times), made from printing plates, lay on the floor. This installation focused on an era that, like few others, has been marked by great tragedies, upheavals, and revolutions. Yet what remains of all that? Portraits of VIPs, unknown today; penmanship somehow linked to the esthetics of the Third Reich; and some diary pages that note the outbreak of the most dreadful of wars as scrupulously as the onset of a common cold.

These found objects became shreds, shards, quotations—albeit quotations without references. Their meanings, now autonomous, created an infinite loop of the beginnings of thoughts that no longer distinguish between a beginning and an end, between earlier and later, between important and unimportant. This is the process emerging in today’s highly technological society of communication. Little by little, it is replacing the old Cartesian view of the world—a view based on detachment, hierarchy, and objectivity. Today, we can no longer maintain protective distance from the world; we have become part of this impenetrable universe.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.