pieter van bogaert

About Maelstrom by Roman Kirschner

for Maelstrom (revolver books)

Image – skeleton – body
The first thing you see is an image. An off-white surface with a black stripe at the bottom.
As if Malevich’s black square had flowed out to the bottom edge of the painting. It wakes up at the bottom left. The sound, the movement; it makes you think of a scanner. It paves its way through the black area. And then it goes upwards. It drags black lines into the tainted white. It draws and it wipes out. Like a vacuum cleaner that also squirts dust. It fills the screen with streaks of magnetite, a very fine and magnetic powder – first movement. It wipes out the streaks – two movements in one. A drawing that appears as quickly as it disappears. It resembles fractals, which create and absorb themselves.
The image fills a screen. It adds a new dimension. With a bit of good will it makes us faintly think of the new flat screens in our living rooms. Only the shape, the proportions, the depth, the height are different from what we are used to. It is placed in a cabinet, a rather massive piece of furniture, in order to hang on the wall: more object than screen. It is filled with a mixture of water and glycerin: more aquarium than TV. Behind the screen there is a magnet, guided by a mechanic arm: a skeleton connected to a computer. In the liquid there is the black metal powder. The magnet is not visible, but perceptible: through the movement on the screen and through the sound behind it. Or through the searchlight which at times shines in the darkness.
The result of this assemblage is a dynamic sculpture, such as those Roman Kirschner has made before: “Roots” for instance, in which living crystals stick together and produce sound, or “Still Life”, his video with an animated toothpaste sculpture. It has got something of a vivarium, such as – again – “Roots”. This dynamic sculpture is an installation that wants to live. Completely programmed but still with its own will. An ensemble of factors, which is impossible to be controlled entirely: the computer, the liquid, the powder, gravity take care of ever new combinations. They animate the shown. It is a world (“a world”, this is the term that Roman Kirschner also used when he talked about “Roots”). It is a cycle, a life, in which things continuously come and go. A persistent state in between de- and regeneration. It is a body: always in movement, whereby each new end stands for a new beginning, for the moment in which the object entirely coincides with itself – a continuous subjectifying.

Body – house - universe
This image and this skeleton together form a body. They contain, conceal, process, produce, follow and imitate each other. The repetition, the cycle, comes back on different levels. It depends on where you look: at the image, the screen, the installation. Or how you look: at the drawing, at the movement, at the whole. The cycle is essential for a good understanding of “Maelstrom”. It is an ongoing restart of programs, of series, of information. And yet it always looks different. In a short text about the work, Roman Kirschner writes about information overflow – always the same, different. In een korte programmatekst voor het werk heeft Roman Kirschner het over de overvloed aan informatie – altijd hetzelfde, anders. This is his answer to that feeling. In opposition to the viewer’s physical turning away from the TV-image, he sets the hypnotizing, regenerating attractive force of this autonomous image. This body that mesmerizes.
The magnet has got a nest. Name it its house. Each cycle starts and ends there. It provides a feeling; name it being safe. It turns the magnet into a soulful creature. It creates a relation. Sometimes a sound of sighing and moaning blends with the sound of the machine. The mechanical sound, which comes from the arm that moves the magnet and the pump that controls the supply and removal of the magnetic powder, blends with the soundtrack. Concrete sounds – something that resembles gravel under your feet, sighing or moaning – take on cosmic proportions every now and then. They adapt to the image. They turn the work into a universe. They give a spirit, a feeling, an affect to this universe. It animates technology.
This universe is an gathering of loose elements: a screen, a liquid, some dust and a magnet.
A construction of arms that move, a pump that supplies and removes, a computer that controls. Thus an image, a sound, a soundtrack emerge. Thus a comment, a viewer, a circuit emerge. Thus a cycle with predictable movements and details, that each time look different, emerge. Thus an attitude, a feeling, an expectation emerge. An object, a subject, an assemblage. Fear, fascination, respect. All these elements together make up “Maelstrom”: a box that shows things and other things not. You can project a lot on it, or rather not. Think of a Rorschach test. Or think of Frank Stella and his answer to the question what there was to be seen in his work: “What you see, is what you see”. That was his answer. Tautology or synergy? Folded within itself or turned to the outside? Perception or projection? The same or always different?

Universe – structure - chaos
This universe contains the whole world. It is a black hole that slurps up everything. A black sun. One whose rays don’t point outwards, but rather inwards. What it gives is immediately taken back. Growing is also shrinking. Drawing is unavoidably also deleting. Leaving is always already returning. Each new drawing instantly degenerates: a consequence of gravity that drags the dust downwards. Rising is directly also falling. Each awakening carries the compulsory promise of a new sleep. Each beginning is an end and each end a new beginning. That’s how this universe works. A universe, which permanently negates its own goal.
This game of give and take, that return of coming and going, is already contained in the name. ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom’, the story of Edgar Allen Poe, which borrowed a part of its title to this work, to this universe, to this structure, is a story about fear of depth. You can read it in this book. It is about the depths of the whirlpools close to the Norwegian coast. It is about the fear of the abyss, but as well about the fascination for the unknown. It is about the movement of the sea. It is about fishermen who always again set sail and who – attracted like magnets – always again return to the harbor. They make space for the Maelstrom that constantly comes and goes. It is about the repetition, the cycle of ebb and flow, of day and night. And it is most of all about the one chance that it goes wrong and that the boatmen are dragged into the deepest of depth. That chance, that is about the sublime. About the fear in each astonishment. About what overwhelms.
That’s how ‘Maelstrom’ answers to the abundance. It is an attempt to bring order into the chaos. It is the work of a director. The artist is the person who has thought up and created this universe, this structure, this chaos. He took care of the magnet to start and to stop. That the movements shock. As if an unceasing doubt compels the magnet to decide – left, right, up, down,... – and search. But searching for what? Something else? Itself? This magnet tries to catch up with itself, it loses itself in its own chaos. It makes order without ceasing. It redraws its own drawing, its own movement. Never satisfied, never rests. Sometimes it lets loose. Then a light appears, an enlightenment, in the depth of darkness. As if the magnet takes a distance, in order to see better. Or in order to show something. Something that concerns us. That regards us. Then the light fades away once again. The sun turns back to black. The chaos back into an image.

That chaos, that it is this image.