A side glance at the works of Werner Klotz

An encounter with the works of Werner Klotz involves not only entering rooms that harbor wondrous apparatus, these rooms are also of full of light, refraction, dazzlement, an immaterial internal radiation given off by sparkling things. One feels transported into the spheres of another time, when star-gazers still existed, and the test-tube homunculus, and flasks, and lens grinding. Yet it is not just the light and the rupture in one’s sense of time that give rise to a cheerful restlessness. One also enters a linguistic space where designations and words seem to drift, forming conglomerates of associations that immediately relieve one of the burden of contemporary aesthetic discourse and all its metaphors, so often a source of frustration, because something falls victim once again to an imposed interpretation that has nothing to do with the intended message: a trash can transcends nothing, not even the throw-away society.

Werner Klotz proceeds in a different way. Nothing of that superficial sheen applied by well-equipped communications strategies to banner and object, leaflet and chance photograph, to gestures full of the kind of meaningful mystery that often adheres to arty realities and their material information carriers. Instead the room is filled with clear, stimulating, partly poetic, partly cuccinct, partly mindful, and in any case enlivening items that awaken our curiosity: mirror, prism, perception instrument, mirror cabinet, kaleidoscope, sensor, glass, light sculpture, lens, camera, monitor, loudspeaker, spectrum. There are also references to actions and procedures, such as rotation, transformation, sequence, cut, projection, non-verbal narrative structure, visual axis, interaction, vacuum metallising, light painting, reflexion.

At first glance, given their technical origins, all these seem to have very little to do with art. But that impression is soon allayed. This is not an exhibition in the conventional sense; no one and nothing is simply being put on show here. Yet the observer is immediately geared towards himself becoming one of the room’s objects. When he approaches the things, much to his surprise, he is transformed into a transition medium.. The closer he comes to the various kinds of eye-pieces, mirrors, neon tubing, shades and magnifying glasses, i.e., the optical tools, the more he uses them, the more intensely he exposes himself to them, the more he becomes an actor, paying a visit to himself through the encounter with the instruments. The focal point are his own senses, above all, his own eyes. Once again, in an almost antiquated sense, the eye is the point of departure and objective of art. The category of perception is honored yet again by being made accessible in a concrete, tangible, practical way, and not as if it were derived from a thesis of alienation which fails to achieve what it presumes to achieve, though still tries to acquire new insight from the associated rebuff.

Here among Werner Klotz’s visual and acoustic laboratory-like arrangements, a slightly maddening irritation is caused by the realization that when his implements and objects function, they actually have no real practical function: visual ordering systems are subtly suspended, the co-ordinates of left-right, inside-outside, above-below lose their meaning. The old theme of art history, namely, the provision an aesthetically defined description of the relation between appearance and reality, returns as a receptive precondition of the encounter. We look into the instrument and lose all certainty about where we are, about our visible certification of existence, but also about the quality of our being: our consciousness is infiltrated by possibilities of sublation; psychological compression processes take place in the simultaneously operated “image mixing machines”, as the artist calls them. Our own movement brings about changes in how we look at things, and thus in who is looking. The viewer is transposed into a visible reality which does not exist as he perceives it. Wonder chambers and delusive instruments, figurative rhetoric, flimmering, imagination, and confirmation keys, the objects are captivating. There is still something behind and inside them that one did not immediately see. In the face of these objects, the term “still” takes on a whole new meaning. No longer do they present themselves boldly as solid sculptures, as a function of immobility, but merely as apparatus in a still state. Movement-which the ancient and baroque sculptors repeatedly dreamt of and tried to achieve by highly complex techniques using illusion and deception-is a constitutive moment here, a plausible rendering of vitality, though showing all the signs of having been deliberately construed: At any moment the fixed image can change, into comical rigidity or motion and back, and then break out again. It all depends on if and how the viewer moves and allows himself to be captivated by the respective tools of refraction and diffusion, reflexion and duplication, depth and limitation. Reflexion receives a reflector, the viewer, who becomes an applicant, is it were, someone who offers themselves for the purpose of gaining a view which he or she makes possible in the first place.

What today is called interaction applies in the case of the smallest of Klotz’s implements, as it does in the case of the central installation, which entails a controlled video projection. In the foreground is experience, flooding the eye with the joyful states granted by the freedom to encounter. To reflect is to throw back, to shine back, to return and mirror, but also to twist and turn, to guide and topple: Art in the midst of game techniques! These resolve the primeval theme of art and artifice in the experience of one’s own perception.

To this extent Werner Klotz’s intention of setting a “practice room” in Jena, the city of optics, science, and fine mechanics, is marked by his characteristic artfulness. The anthropological aspect of his perception apparatus not only reflects the current art scene and the related crisis in the concept of image, but also science itself. Through his constructions and inventions he takes science over into the sphere of art, while at the same time disempowering it, in Marcel Duchamp’s sense. The latter regarded his turn to science as an escape from the vacuous practice of the art of his time, in which he found no adequate expression for science and technology’s encroachment on social life, though that art regarded itself as modern. For this reason Duchamp developed a new, destructive, but fruitful point of departure, remarking: “I did not do this out of a love of science, on the contrary, I did it so as to cecry science in a gentle, quiet and inconsequential way.” There is no better way to describe what Werner Klotz’s works are attempting to do, namely, to reflect on a relation to the world that is not just of a rational kind. To do this, he builds apparatuses and systems which in no way forgo the possibility of just being beautiful. Above and beyond that, he constructs spaced osf self-encounter, where fantasy can be experienced as a reality that we seem to have lost. Klotz awakens it, albeit by the reflector, reflectant and refexions mutually practicing how to gain access.