Frank Morzuch

Centre D'exposition Circa

Stringing a strand of light bulbs from the center of a hollowed-out tree trunk and placing them upside down in vessels filled with water and chrome-yellow pigment may not be everybody’s idea of fun. After all, water is electricity’s best friend—a natural conductor—but for us humans the meeting of the two is downright dangerous. In Frank Morzuch’s Transformateur (Transformer, 1994), the transition from an inner response to outward recognition becomes a difficult barrier to cross, a pressure-sensitive membrane that separates the object’s meaning from its associative potential. Metaphors for the limits reason imposes on us, Morzuch’s works are awkward by intention.

Last year at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Belfort, France, Morzuch gave form to his vision of a world, one in which nature and civilization seemingly function as independent not interdependent systems. In the center of a four-foot-squarecage made of forest branches and suspended horizontally in space, one could see a stuffed deer hanging upside down, its lifeless eye seemingly watching the intervention. A series of revolving lights projected primary colors onto the scene that constantly altered one’s depth perception of the piece while four video monitors located at different sites in the gallery offered various simultaneous, “live” perspectives. Morzuch’s nature opera—recorded by a lake at twilight (including the sounds of frogs croaking, birds chirping, and an airplane) then remixed in a mine 600 meters underground—underscored that everything was beyond the bounds of both reason and instinct.

The piece included in the current show, Psyché, 1994, presented a scaled-down version of this earlier project. Tree branches projected from a mirrored wall horizontally at the same time as they disappeared into illusionistic space. Predictably post-Freudian, it recalled Eva Hesse’s linear arrangements of cotton-covered wire in Metronomic Irregularity II, 1968. On the other hand, Morzuch’s Psyche inverted the nature-nurture discourse in such an overtly denaturalized manner, it looked like eco-art unconsciously in search of Minimalism.

With its undulating loop of suspended sumac branches and the concrete shadow cast by tiny pebbles arranged in lines underneath, Filet (Net, 1994) was a less edifying, if more searching piece. A solitary light bulb circled above in awkward, protracted movements. The contrast between the actual patterns of the stones and the constantly changing shadows that they cast made one aware of the way our eye and mind fix, read, and arrange patterns at the same time as we recognize the elements in place.

As a footnote to the show, Morzuch invited photographer Sylvie Brousseau to photograph his installation and exhibit her own documentation of the show alongside his own works. A simple tubelike shape stood next to a small, camp cooking pot filled with red wax. After the show closes, in a Duchampian gesture, Morzuch will heat up the wax and seal Brousseau’s photos into a series of slats on top of the cube for a period of 40 years.

If Morzuch’s intention was to create situational instead of object-oriented art, the effect was not as unpredictable as he might have expected. When it comes to the use of materials, nature is not nearly so distinct from civilization as one might think. Entropy and pseudoscience aside, Morzuch’s material juxtapositions were so categorical, they tended to weaken our intuitive sense of the relations among energy, matter, and transformation.

John K. Grande