Vienna

Constantin Luser

Christine König Galerie

For six weeks, Constantin Luser lived and worked in the Christine König Galerie and filled 132 pieces of paper nailed to the wall with drawings in green and black fineliner. Even the panes of the display windows became part of his “Panoptikum,” as the exhibition was called. The drawings were like pages of a mental diary where chains of association emerge, dovetailing events and discoveries, where images reminiscent of anatomical or technical drawings mix with phrases like “field of attention,” “community-cloud,” and “thought-wanderings”—concepts that circle around the artist’s activity without explaining it. It is as if the gates were opened on the daily overflow of information and it all spilled out directly onto the walls, without justification or hierarchy. Some passages were drawn simultaneously with two or more fineliners; the doubling could make you dizzy, as if your eyes had suddenly gone out of focus.

In Luser’s hand the idea of the panopticon undergoes an interesting reinterpretation in that it also describes the ordering principle of the work as an omnium-gatherum. In the early nineteenth century, the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham proposed a model for factories and prisons with a central organ of surveillance under this name. Michel Foucault famously took up this idea and characterized it as an ordering principle of disciplinary societies—that is to say, liberal, Western societies. Luser pushes this idea of permanent surveillance ad absurdum, because it is not self-discipline but, rather, liberation from hierarchies and loss of control that guide him: His panopticon lies in the system of “automatic writing.” Inspired by Freud’s theory of the unconscious, the Surrealists devised this method to uncover hidden images and feelings. Luser’s automatic writing, in contrast, is based on neither a metaphysical belief nor a literary propensity toward experiment. Instead, he seems interested less in the unconscious than in the way consciousness itself seems to lie outside the individual.

Luser’s objects pursue a different method than his drawings. Before training as an artist, Luser studied industrial design, and now he uses his knowledge in reverse. For with these objects it is not a question of frictionless functioning, but rather of playful access to the world: In Ohne Titel (Rückblick in letzter Sekunde) (Untitled [Looking Back at the Very Last Moment]), 2006, a pyramid of bicycle mirrors is welded to the handlebars of a bicycle, the space becoming a puzzle of fragmented views. In the second space one finds 2-Takt Viertel—Fahrbares Rotationsquintett (2 Beat Quarter—Mobile Rotation Quintet), 2006, a mechanical children’s carousel in which several musical instruments have been mounted—a reinvention of an old-fashioned toy. The world is put together anew; not that a coherent image is thereby produced, but the many details of the everyday all find a place, completely undisciplined and full of curiosity.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Diana Reese.