Christoph Rütimann

Compared with Christoph Rütimann’s skepticism about our perceptual abilities, Gertrude Stein’s famous dictum, “A rose is a rose. . .,” sounds downright dogmatic or at least too clear-cut. Is a horizontal line painted by a brush simply a line? Does it describe a horizon? Does it define a distance or even a space? Perhaps it merely registers a movement across the surface. Rütimann’s response to such questions might have had the character of alternative suggestions, but instead, they have a “both-this-and-that” quality—similar to the description of a scientific model, which deliberately fails to explain two phenomena simultaneously. Thus, one line may emerge even when countless sheets of stacked paper have the same horizontal line printed on their middle. If we view this stack from the side, the printed edges of the single sheets add up to a single vertical line. The original thickness of the individual paper is barely perceptible, but the accumulation of sheets has given it a three-dimensionality.

Rütimann, using sheets of paper that are 1 meter long and 34 centimeters wide, constructs a one-meter-high objectlike stack of paper; these objects can also be hung on the wall, like huge books of varying thicknesses. The edge stripes form a horizontal line, interrupted by the varying gaps between the individual “books.” Once again, a hypothetical being, perceptible only in two dimensions, is produced on the basis of having a surface with a horizontal line.

Amid these books, there is a video monitor that transposes this horizontal line into a new dimension. The line is recorded in the preceding room by a camera, which focuses on one brush drawing. The viewer cannot determine the camera’s focus or where the image is being projected. Once the answer is discovered, however, it becomes apparent that the drawing, the line, and the projection belong together. Still, the brush drawing and the camera can never be viewed simultaneously on the monitor. The subjective experiences of reality, its factual presence and validity, are thus challenged.

In another work, half of one wall in the gallery is painted black. Only the word “iss” (eat) has been traced out. On the white, unpainted half of the wall, there are two white and therefore almost invisible letters, w and e, together with the incomprehensible command to eat. Combined, these letters form the German word “weiss” (white); the word is recognizable only when we realize that the w and e are a part of the word. On the other hand, the glass panes exhibited here are painted in yellow on their reverse; the invisible traces in the yellow paint are meaningless, for unlike the white letters, they transmit nothing. The paint on the back of the glass becomes a chance product, interfering with the viewer’s perception of the panes as flawlessly beautiful yellow mirrors. Nelson Goodman has described the human’s rational cognitive intention as possible versions of a “relative reality.” Rütimann keeps a path open—a path that includes and offers these “ways of creating the world” as prerequisities for continuity and discontinuity.

Anne Krauter

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel