Markus Raetz

Centre Pasquart

What exists—something? Or, more likely, nothing? Markus Raetz spatially unravels this ancient philosophical question literally, in sculptural alphabet letters, thereby raising the question of the standpoint from which they are observed: Depending on the viewpoint chosen, the Dutch word “iets” (something) or “niets” (nothing) may be read in the blocky architecture of a window lintel. The anamorphic object Dutch Window, 1996-98, was installed at eye level in front of one of the large windows so that the opposing concept is also always visible as a reflected image. In a single sculptural form, then, a fundamental opposition of occidental thought could be grasped—assuming, of course, that one took the opportunity to move about the space. The playful ease with which one’s interpretation may be changed by a small step to the side evokes Adorno’s statement that philosophy is that which is most serious but then again not so serious.

Markus Raetz began to deal with the physical and intellectual incorporation of the viewer’s perspective long before interactivity became a theme in the so-called new media arts. Although his works make no secret of what there is to see, Raetz puts what is visible thoroughly in doubt by multiplying its meanings exponentially. In the great Pomard Hall of the museum (recently expanded by the architects Diener & Diener), several anamorphoses made of words and figures were integrated into an imaginary landscape. As one walked by or circled around the stela-like plinths, a head turned on its head (Silhouetten [für Ernst Mach], 1992), the profile of Joseph Beuys changed into that of his hare (Metamorphose II, 1991-92), and “ceci” (this) became “cela” (that) (Ceci/Cela, 1992-93), and so on. Whatever could be seen between these legible forms belonged to the realm of abstraction. Never is there nothing to see; the question is, at what point can we recognize something concrete? Words become bodies and indecipherable phrases gradually but seamlessly turn into characters. The unambiguous difference of linguistic signs is expanded to include a universe of approaches to meaning.

The selection from Raetz’s huge trove of drawings ranged as far back as 1960 and revealed great, recognizable threads in a playful kind of thinking that freely switches between the languages of image and word. A number of these drawings were also packaged as facsimiles with the catalogue, freely movable and combinable into new fields of association. In recent years Raetz has been increasingly drawn to doing drawings in space: mobilelike creations made of twigs or wire that turn slowly in gentle breezes and form continually changing images. The movement of observers around the objects follows the motion within the objects themselves.

Raetz’s works coalesce into a growing microcosm. In it, we too can move like the photographer Jennifer Gough-Cooper, who recorded her observations in November 1999, in the artist’s studio, revealing further levels of intricate complexity in his work. By incorporating this outsider’s perspective in the exhibition, Raetz has further opened his work to dialogue.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German Sara Ogger.