When Blossfeldt meets Googie Style and Interaction of Color meets Star Wars
A studio talk between Florian Waldvogel and Janine Eggert/Philipp Ricklefs
Florian Waldvogel: Are your sculptures and objects preceded by design drawings?
Janine Eggert: Yes, on the one hand we use design drawings simply as a practical means to implement our work; to know where to put which screw. But principally drawings precede the sculptures as a means of sketching and visualizing, especially to coordinate our ideas.
Philipp Ricklefs: The development process goes as follows: dialogue, sketch, model, 3D blueprint, 1:1 test, concrete design drawing, and finally the work is executed. The drawing is indeed the binding master plan, but due to the concept of collaboration the development process remains fluid.
FW: I’m asking because when I look at your works I get the impression that they are geometric drawings which dissolve into multiple layers and become three-dimensional.
PR: Great that you see it that way. Both in our joint work and in the single artistic production, geometry serves as the basis for the finding of stereometric formations. Our formal concept of framework or skeleton as the shape giving element can be compared to a drawing. The final cubature results from the use of the surface material.
FW: So, an important aspect in your work is geometry. Do you use geometry because it eludes a simple cursory viewing and because it requires successive viewings in order to decipher?
JE: For us, geometry is a means of schematization, a possibility to build objects whose components create an industrial aesthetic, one which negates the feeling of being “hand-made”. These polygonal volumes have complex angles and sight lines, so they cannot be captured only from a single viewpoint. They can only be realized fully by moving around within the space.
PR: For the spectator, this capturing of the room is a performative act. This understanding is done gradually, by starting with the details of each component of the sculpture. This inductive process then creates the overall picture.
FW: Is geometry an alternative to the picture, like a cosmic signature? A sort of temptation that is triggered by the absence of a two-dimensional picture?
PR: Geometry is the necessity to decode the environment by means of mathematical laws. The point is to interpret nature instead of imitating it. Geometry offers the possibility of creating an equivalent to nature which is autonomous, not merely a copy of it. Therefore something natural is created through artificial means.
JE: In any case, geometry is an alternative draft to the image. It creates a structure. Rhythm, shape, and color are visual elements which stand for themselves and can also be used to realize the concretization of intellectual forms. The works don’t communicate to the viewer via a certain image, rather through the parameters they create.
FW: Or is geometry rather an invitation to the viewer to semantically give their own meaning to the question of form?
JE: This is something that is inherent to geometric or abstract entities, it is a natural process of perception. However this does not have priority in our works.
PR: The thing is that there are examples for many works which stay recognizable despite formal reduction, and which function as an invitation to the viewer to get into the work’s cosmos and its semantics.
JE: The term cosmic signature gets another meaning then. Since the ideas the works are based on become accessible not pictorially, but structurally, one could maybe say that their cosmic signature is radiated through or embedded in the work. Like a planet that sends out a specific light spectrum and thereby leaves its fingerprint, its signature, the Concorde also has its own particular signature which is a part of the work “Polygon”.
FW: How important is the concept of “space” to you?
PR: The concept of “space” or “site” becomes important on different layers. Our joint works have a relationship with site in general which consists of a contextual debate between a site of art representation and production. The architecture of the site, the space, then determines the formal realization of the work.
JE: The works may be conceived starting with specific sites, and the exhibition space is structurally a part of the work, but the concepts of modularity and reproducibility make the works flexible, philosophic models which can be adapted to other spatial relations. They are related to the site but not bound to it.
PR: On the other hand, the extensive and accessible installations create an architecture which constitutes an area of interaction between the work and the viewer. These areas, which don’t overlap in the usual frontal encounter, intertwine. As three-dimensional objects in space, the works infringe upon the viewer’s field, and as interactive structures they surround him, making him become a part of them.
FW: Is it a trick that your works have an abstract character which is capable of describing specific ideas in their intellectual proportions and visualizing them?
JE: Why trick? Geometrism as a statement of intellectual ideas has immemorial tradition.
PR: I would rather consider it as a method that enables one to draft ideas in a universal language.
JE: Geometry is meant for phrasing the spiritual, the ineffable. The outset occurred with cultic symbols and continued into writing as form of communication. The principles of geometry are mirrored in the way the human mind works and because of this, reading abstract forms becomes a natural process.
FW: Do you extend the reference area for the awareness of site and theme by means of combining perspectives of natural and fictional spaces?
PR: The natural space is a necessary part of the perception of stereometric formations to the same degree as of the objects themselves. In establishing or abandoning a point of view, the space serves as frame of reference and becomes an integral part of the piece.
JE: The design principle of structure and shell creates inner and outer spaces that are very diverse. The interiors are detached from their topology and are removed from the reality of the exhibition space. Instead they simulate a fictional space, that broadens the view of site and scope.
FW: Is this fictional space a range of thought, like a universal frame of reference?
JE: Yes, this space is a vessel, that sets up a reference system. Depending upon the work you have to differentiate between absolute and relative spaces. The interior of the piece 'A Diamond As Big As The Ritz' is an absolute space, like the universe as universal frame, in which the action takes place only in reference to the space itself.
PR: Physically the wheel is set in motion through the spectator’s own movement. From his perspective he can't determine whether it's the wheel that is moving or himself. His benchmarks are just himself and the surrounding space. This situation raises awareness of relationships.
JE: In the piece 'XEROX' however, there exist several fictional spaces. In the first space the star is on view assembled out of its separate components and therefore allows one to imagine its deconstructed state. In the next space it is shown the other way round, the star is fragmented and can only be assembled conceptually. Following there is a third space, an actually impossible space, from which both phases of the work and its virtual complements are conceivable. Upstairs the cat is alive and downstairs it is dead, two states of matter at the same time, a principle of quantum mechanics.
FW: Is it possible to speak of referential spaces, in whose universal frame of reference made of subjects, contexts, nexuses, coordinates, data and knowledge we can find our way despite all of the complexity?
PR: One really can orient oneself therein, since it is a matter of fundamental experiences and the spectator has to decide for himself to what extent he wants to yield to the further scope of reference.
FW: Would you agree if your works were referred to as symbolic sites where past and future meet?
PR: We are interested in utopias or utopian ideas, past and present, good and bad equally. These pipe-dreams will never become reality, since as utopias they already imply failure. Blossfeldt can meet with Googie Style and Interaction of Color with Star Wars.
We have a comprehensive view on the world of forms that permits us to view things detached of a specific context in time. In this process different concepts are transformed into an autonomous formal language.
FW: Do you think that this playful perception of structure is due to the fact that the standard is always the human being?
JE: The starting point is always the self and its relationship to the setting. Meaning man and his proportions are central to our pieces. The usability of the works creates a natural contact with them almost like they are everyday objects. There is no barrier between piece and spectator, neither through scale nor through the formal presentation. The initial approach occurs through immediate experience and without intellectual translation.
PR: In the same unhampered way we enter factories and play with the techniques of production.
FW: Do your works represent offers based on a world of perception allowing flexible contemplation without the need to take a fixed position or perspective?
JE: A specific point of view isn't the decisive factor in contemplating our works. It is rather the interaction between different possibilities or variations of experience. One might describe the various situations of engagement with the piece like an experimental set-up that doesn't allow for a fixed point of view.
Translation: Brenton Iversen/ Thorsten Schülke