Into Darkness...

by Johnnie Beton

In their most recent works, Janine Eggert and Philipp Ricklefs investigate the significance of sublimity and transcendence in relation to our time. They examine the psychological components that affect the human psyche when experiencing sublime moments.


While their larger installations (Ghost Rider, The Dynamic Sublime Device, A Diamond, Big As The Ritz, etc.) primarily examine the body as an immediate space of experience, the vitrines pick-up on the viewer's perception for a psychological experiment.


Each of these works consists of an aluminum-cast object presented in a glass vitrine, which is equipped with two-way mirrors. By appropriating the technical process of aluminum casting, Eggert and Ricklefs produce these castings themselves. In doing so, they made the necessary tools, such as a crucible and furnace, themselves and moved the casting process to the open, to the beach of Amrum, in order to use the sandy soil as the lost form, as it is done in industrial sand casting processes. For this purpose, a model made of styrofoam is embedded and buried in place on the beach. The molten aluminum is then poured through a casting funnel in the sand, which causes the styrofoam to evaporate quickly due to the heat.


So far, the process is a technically controllable procedure for the artists. By placing the melting in the beach sand, which as a natural substance was previously exposed to weathering and other influences, however, they relinquish their authority to chance. During casting, the shape is distorted, burned or even destroyed by sand that is too wet or too loose, by other materials and inclusions.


Instead of getting the sand into the workshop and filling the molding box as usual, Eggert and Ricklefs go to the sand and understand its source, the beach as a place of transformation. After all, a fragile object out of a light and snow-white material is buried, and shortly thereafter recovered as a distorted representation of it in a completely contrasting material; hard, silvery and patinated. The latency of the procedure makes the process a metamorphosis. The technical process becomes alchemy.

The objects thus created have a dystopian appearance in their incompleteness, destruction and fragmentary existence. Placing them in an infinite space, into which the physical world has no access - as the two-way mirror makes the interior of the vitrine visible to us, but obstructs the view - the objects lose any scale and location. At this point the psychological experiment begins. For the fact that the aluminum castings are found as destroyed architectural fragments in a contextless room allows the spectator to sense the subtle and unusual nature of the surfaces and forms. Furthermore, the lack of reference generates a sense of unattainability and immeasurableness.


Thus, these works constitute the psychological counterpart to the large installations that Janine Eggert and Philipp Ricklefs have created in their collaboration since 2005. Already the collaborative grad show "A Diamond As Big As The Ritz" (2009) as well as the recent installation "Ghost Rider" (2015) deal with variants of the sublime. The latter oscillated in an abandoned industrial monument as an ephemeral expression between a supernatural phenomenon and a last sign of life of former industrial activity. The work consists of a self-developed and computer-controlled cannon shooting out smoke rings. Out of the darkness of a long manufacturing hall, it horizontally shoots a ring of fog towards the spectator. Every few minutes she or he is surprised by such an appearance.


Another work that also deals with the experience of the sublime is the site-specific sculpture "The Dynamic Sublime Device" (2012). It is inspired by the difference in speed in the propagation of sound and the propagation of light as well as the experience of witnessing a rocket launch. The structure itself represents a second of the sound recording of the Apollo 11 Mission's launch sound, scaled to the architectural shape of the exhibition space. Eggert and Ricklefs have perceived its architectural segmentation as the units of a time code. For the implementation, the artists have formed the waveform of the audio file on a self-developed lathe in styrofoam.