Frank Hülsbömer, constructivists vacation
March 5 – April 9, 2011
Can geometrical forms be something else from what they actually are? If yes, could they serve as basis for a new vade mecum apt to instruct us on how to construct meaning? This last question is the leading theme of A short guide for the construction of meaning, the exhibition presenting the new works of Berlin based artist Frank Hülsbömer.
Using photography and video as art media, Hülsbömer depicts a parallel universe inhabited by minimally structured surfaces and forms in which all contradictions are admitted and – sometimes – happily unified. The artist’s way of treating objects is both poetical and playful: it seems as though he is taking a step back in order to allow his objects to live and to develop their own life (tennis speed of light, decelerating flashmob, how B became A). Hülsbömer does not want to disturb the scenery he is looking at. Indeed, it appears as if the artist has just limited himself to the mere observation of the aesthetic scene he is in front of and then named it by taking recourse to his elegant and characteristic sense of irony.
The importance of the playful experience and of the natural development of the state of affairs is one of the fundamental features in Hülsbömer’s art. As the artist himself explains: “When I was a child , I used to pick up my father at work. At the time he was working in the building of the West LB in Münster. This building, erected during the 60s by architect Dahlmann, and surrounded by a big park, is known for its big modernist art collection. While I was waiting for my father to come, I spent my time playing, jumping and daydreaming in this exciting and magical space. Today, when I reflect about it, I come to the conclusion that I was very lucky to have had my first encounter with art in this unpedagogical and unostentatious way. Art should primarily be presented in such a way instead of being preceded, as it often happens in museums due to their intrinsic nature, by a sort of announcement reciting: Attention! You are in front of an art object!”
If, on the one hand, the playful experience is a central point in Hülsbömer’s work, on the other, it is unavoidable not to be struck by his rigorous and clean mannerism. At first sight, Hülsbömer’s dynamic depictions of objects can arouse suspicions of just being computer renderings or 3D computer graphics. However his work surprisingly is subject to no other intervention except for the pure instrument of photography and the simple act of filming.
Due to the clarity and minimalism of the work and the artists striking virtuosity of photographic technique, the viewer is led to think that Hülsbömer wants to reach a sort of visual perfection. Hülsbömer himself says that there is no attempt of portraying perfection in his work: “Perfection is just an idea, which people can only aim at.” Hülsbömeris attemptingto demystify and simplifythe phenomena of reality through a continuous reference to the dualism permeating our human experience.
In this attempt of simplification and demystification one is able to recognize a connection between Hülsbömer’s work and the artistic production of the group active in Germany during the `50s known under the name of Subjective Photography. The photographers belonging to this movement – Peter Keetman, Wolfgang Reisewitz, Otto Steinert and their students – were interested in pursuing a visual purism obtained through the exercise of formalist imagery. Otto Steinart describes features clearly recognizable in Hülsbömer’s work: “The photographertransforms the motif by creativelyintending the world throughformalreductionsthatplace out-of-frame the everydaypresentations of reality, defamiliarizingt hat world and reconstitutingitat a deeperlevelof personal perceptionthatisrealized in new types of formal ordering ”. Hülsbömer’s demystification of reality follows those lines and achieves theabsolute photographic creation mentioned by Steiner in which “the subject is defamiliarized to such an extent that it remains only as a formal armature of the construction of the image’sgeometry ”. Hülsbömer gives the results achieved within the Subjective Photography a new twist. This is made possible by the very personal interpretation of the media used to portray the geometric shapes by the artist who is not bound to the mere use of photography but crosses over to video art achieving a further fragmentation and reduction of the represented objects. Hülsbömer’s original use of Photokinetiks, reminding the viewer of a zoetrope, in which the illusion of action comes from a rapid succession of static pictures giving the impression of a “vision held in suspension ”, points out the change of the current state of affairs within the scenery intended by the artist as a metaphor for the human condition. Hülsbömer’s Photokinetiks has a narrative value that, although detached from the perceptual world and characterized by an extreme simplification, allows the spectator to reach a deeper understanding of reality which appears lyrical in its elementariness. Realism and representation, chance and science, movement and calm, a playful and a rigid way of representing objects, light and shadow are the sort of dualism recognizable in Hülsbömer’s estranged world.
A short guide for the construction of meaning focuses on the strong tension between chance and science. This is a recurring theme in Hülsbömer’s work, already present, indeed, in his book The Fiction of Science. However, in his new work the artist shows an enhanced and matured treatment of the topic, which reaches a full-fledged mastery in works, such as Wheel of fortune. The balance offered by the rotation of the geometric shapes puts us in front of the fact that, whether the obtained combinations are merely a matter of chance or the result of a rigid calculation of probabilities, it is, in the end, solely a different perspective of observation. The movement of the objects might ultimately remind of the revolution of a hypothetical planet system explicable through physical calculations and scientific theories, which are – in the end – based on the analysis of pure forces instantiated by an innocent combination of chances. Where are the bounds between science and chance to be set? Do they exist in a pure form or do they rather constantly overlap? Those questions constitute Hülsbömer’s mantra, who now, from his agnostic altar, seems to have discovered an aesthetic golden rule capable of serving us with those answers through the representation of a happy reconciliation of opposites.
The objects represented in Hülsbömer’s work are aesthetically disconnected from the world. This choice of presentation puzzles the spectator who, once faced with his works, has no idea how big or what the objects represented are, because the artist does not provide (or, more correctly, does not want to provide) him with any objective scale of measurement. Indeed, Hülsbömer’s universe exists, functions, develops and plays in its own peculiar dimension without any dimensions. This is a context in which, again, Hülsbömer’s scientific fascination is evidentby offering an attempt of a concrete application to theoretical physical insights.
The importance of science in Hülsbömer’s art originates from his interest toward the language of mathematics, particularly from the work of the mathematician and philosopher GottlobFrege(Begriff, Funktion, Bedeutung). “I compare arithmeticsto a tree that unfolds upwards in a multitude of techniques and theorems while the root drives into the depths ”, claims the German philosopher and Hülsbömercontinues this statement, trying to discover what these depths actually are and by offering an aesthetic portrayal of the techniques and theorems characterizing their nature. Could those unknown depths offer us an ultimate meaning? Borrowing from FregeHülsbömer’s works investigatethe areas of sense and meaning, establishinga playful relationship with them: Can it be possible to find an unchangeable rule that allows humans to construct meaning? IsHülsbömer inpossession of it? The elegance, balance and minimalism that characterize his work seem to answer positively.
- Elisa Oddone, guest curator