BACK

BARBARA BARSCH
GYMNASIUM FOR THE EYES

The works of Werner Klotz "Gymnasium for the Eyes" is a group of works that is central to Werner Klotz’ oeuvre. He has been involved in this project since the early 1990’s, and so far it entails about 30 different works. Gymnasium for the Eyes includes works that deal with sense perception, with seeing and hearing. One of the key works in the group is the installation Boreas (1992-98), called after the god of the north wind in Greek mythology. And the wind constitutes an essential, interactive moment in this work. A camera is installed at the window of an exhibition room; through the reflection in a mirror the camera takes a photograph of the exhibition visitor who is at a particular point in the room, far removed from the camera. The picture, which the visitor can see on a video wall, rotates more or less quickly, because the camera is linked to the outside and reacts to the movement of the wind. This installation creates spatial links without intervening in the room’s ambience. It is part and parcel of the artist’s concept that his works alter the room as little as possible. Room and work refer to one another, are intended to enter into mutual relationship, much as the visitor and the work do. Werner Klotz creates a visible link between inside and outside space, making it possible for the observer to perceive them; he thus achieves a philosophically interpretable connection between internal and external existence.

In the installation UNIDAD Syndrom (1992/98), as in Boreas, Werner Klotz also creates lines of tension in the room that can only be experienced through the active participation of the visitor. “By the continued use of the intrument, the spatially separate parts of the UNI/DAD (unity) seem to be briefly unified”, as he himself once said while explaining the work.

A moment of major importance in the artist’s experiments with the visitor is when the senses, perception is deceived or irritated. This irritation, or surprise, is awakened in the visitor by unfulfilled, unconscious expectations. The artist constantly refers the visitor back to himself. Whether he looks into his own eye or perceives things which he did not expect to perceive in that way, it is always a reflection on himself. And a surprising experience for the artist is that the “user” of these “perception instruments” can be so readily motivated to think about himself and often even becomes quite communicative. This reaction demonstrates just how strong the stimulus produced by these irritations of perception is, and how the works become sensually perceptible, above and beyond their conceptual and experimental aspect.

Although the works also make an impact as objects in space through their unusual aesthetic fusing of technical instrument and artistic object, they only function when the visitor “uses” them and thus activates his senses. Werner Klotz’ works are “perception instruments ”in a dual sense: Instruments which perceive and translate something –wind or movement- and instruments which allow the visitor to perceive something, namely, hearing and/or seeing.

It is one of the fundamental intentions of contemporary art to come to terms with phenomena of perception. Artists react with appropriate artistic means to the changes taking place in a world in which visual media prevail. In the era of virtual worlds, it is consistent to question the perceivable world and its tangible reality. The changes referred to are also having an effect on the human psyche, as they question the balance which man has achieved through experience. And though they also have an epistemological aspect, Werner Klotz’ artistic examinations and experiments are free of any scientific aspiration and concentrate solely on aesthetic impressions. As a result, the artist has ample scope to handle things playfully, to approach the problems purely empirically, and to present the findings freely and without commentary, leaving things hanging in the air, as it were. Yet this playfulness is not just for the sheer fun of it; it also entails a serious engagement with the phenomena of our time.