Gerwald Rockenschaub

Villa Arson

The ordinary scaffold with which Gerwald Rockenschaub divided the great room of the Galerie carrée is neither a found object nor a sculpture—although it was built to his specifications. Despite its overwhelming material presence, it is not the object that can claim to be a work of art, but, rather, the art work is the physical experience out of which the esthetic and intellectual dimension of the work grows. The construction of the scaffold allowed the viewerto ascend to a platform and traverse the space, ultimately descending on the other side of the room, behind it.

It is this path that one must understand as the work, for it directs the act of seeing—a central premise in all Rockenschaub’s works. For him there is no object worthy of our view; it is the act of perception itself and the desire created from a certain visual pattern that are significant. Every exhibition of Rockenschaub’s work is planned as an elimination of seeing up to the point when the viewer realizes that the art work is nothing other than the artist’s intervention, which leads the viewer to search for the work. Rockenschaub’s preferred gesture is dividing a space with barriers in order to give the viewing space and the space of the art work a material incarnation.

A similar exhibition in Paris—at Gilbert Brownstone—brought this concept to the fore. The front of the room was painted green and a railing several meters from it was constructed, offering a space for the viewer to pause. If this railing represented a physical support for seeing, then in Nice the scaffold was an instrument of seeing as well as its means and ends. As in any other exhibition, the role of the viewer was to look, but here his visual desire was unsatisfied, only intensified and transferred to the level of intellectual reflection.

Rockenschaub’s critical stance visa vis the art work as commodity leads him to create exhibition situations in which the theme is not only the esthetic relationship between the work and the viewer, but also the economic relationship between product and consumer. This results in a consideration of the concept of functionality in his own artistic practice: the scaffold is functional, one can walk on it and look from it, but ultimately its function is an empty one. This is the ironic dimension of Rockenschaub’s work. The scaffold was constructed at a height that required the viewer to duck several times because of the ceiling. At the source of light, on the ceiling, to which Rockenschaub prepared the way, he forced the viewer to his knees. Thus, the moment of “illumination” was also one of great physical presence. And this is Rockenschaub’s strategy: to answer the viewers’ expectations with facts in order to open an intellectual dialogue about forms of experience within the art market.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.