Constantin Wallhäuser

Cosar HMT

Right in the entryway of this show loomed the projected image of a “carousel” made of wooden table legs and staircase balusters. Three steps farther in, behind the wall on which this was projected, was a room that seemed like a hidden world. Here one saw in reality the jury-rigged carousel one had just seen in the video loop; the sound of the projection gave the regular, swaying motion of the various shapes an almost meditative sense of inevitability. Between the projection in the entryway and this procession of wooden furniture parts, the boundary between image and real space began to blur. Through this world of shadows, titled Karussell (Carousel), 2010, the video transitioned to showing a man walking in a circle; the light of the projection beamed through the rotating assemblage.

Herr Schatten, Sie haben Prokura” (Mr. Shadow, You Have Power of Attorney) is the title Constantin Wallhäuser gave this simultaneously laconic yet pathosridden exhibition. “Mr. Shadow” enjoys a certain power, if the title is to be believed, and yet, as the protagonist of the video, he staggers about headless, reeling and staggering. He raises his arms in the air theatrically, then falls down flat on the floor: Mr. Shadow is on shaky ground. And if the word Prokura translates to “power of attorney,” Mr. Shadow seemed, appropriately, to act on behalf of the artist himself: eternally circling in the shadow of his own work, stumbling between euphoria and failure, constantly struggling to find his way.

Wallhäuser, born in 1975, studied with Tony Cragg and Georg Herold in Düsseldorf. In the 1980s, Cragg was fashioning his sculptures and room installations using found objects, including furniture. Wallhäuser similarly collects everyday refuse but combines it with wooden slats—recalling Herold’s signature materials. Slats appear in Disko (Disco), 2000, for example, with a mirrored ball whose play of light is a representation fixed to the wall with plastic foil; with a sculpture in the form of a raft, Medusa, 2005; and now in the carousel. Wallhäuser’s “wood,” however, is not a found material but rather produced by the artist himself, using synthetic material to create an illusion of the real thing, a reference to Herold interiorized in the very process of production. The disco ball and its reflections are made of D-C-Fix vinyl contact paper, and in the ceiling sculpture Supervision, 2008, the “slats” are made of epoxy resin, the surveillance camera is a dummy, and even the shadows are not real but video projections.

In Karussell, the slats are similarly ersatz, made of an epoxy resin. Yet the lathe-turned balusters in the work are in fact found objects and made of actual wood. With this confusion of things and their representations, everything can be seen as a kind of proxy, a power of attorney. The “wooden” slats seem to similarly stand in for the brand name Herold, or at least for the transformation of straightforward building materials into complex sculptures. In Karussell, things, projections, and references rotate and replace one another with dizzying facility. What at first appears as a straightforward allegory begins to seem like something else. Our belief in one overriding reality is suspended.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.