The art of the erratic
on the artistic work of Christoph Storz
In my brief address I would like to give you a few tips on how one could
approach the work of Christoph Storz at a somewhat conceptual level.
Unfortunately, I am myself falling into the trap set by these pictures through
my very discourse. Because I am speaking, above all, of the textual level
of these pictures: words and sentences appear almost everywhere in them.
There exists, and we know this at least since Magritte, an incongruence
between the language of words and that of pictures. Because, as literates,
we trust more in the language of words, and expect, for instance, a verbal
rendering of the content of a picture from its title, we are easily mislead.
This waylaying is a consciously set trap in the work of Christoph Storz,
because in his case, as he himself puts it, the erratic has its methods.
The goal and the truth of the erratic is the logical fallacy.
At first glance, one meets with an atmosphere of "muffled sounding"
or "soft-spokenness". As one enters the space where his works
are exhibited, one is astonished by the censorious restraint in the formats
(very often, they are A4-size sheets), and above all, in the colour. A
lot of white on white walls. This impression of quietness mediates itself,
as mentioned, at first glance and from a distance. After this first look,the
viewer blocks out a few stimuli-filters, or, we bring our perception to
a finer focus, to put it metaphorically. One approaches the drawings, drawing
closer to them, and there, in this quietness, comes up against the loud.
Perhaps Loud is not really the right word. Perhaps one should put it
this way: at first, when one sees but little, and is still rubbing one's
snow-blind eyes in the face of so much white, one suddenly recognises an
abundance: the wealth of drawings, traces and ideas.
The pictures hold out the prospect of a play with meanings, metaphors and
verbal statements. We look at the drawings, expecting them to give up their
inner meaning to us, expecting the lines to show us what they represent,
and where they lead, creating meaning along their way. But the gaze is
distracted soon enough by the multiplicity of traces. In the Storzean field
of symbols, we first have to learn the art of track-reading. We must realise
that the hand of the artist traces false tracks on the white surface, placing
only the smallest of differences between the decodable and the meaningless
symbols, and throwing in the ballast of pigments and energy paddings along
the tracks. We come to realise that the readable tracks, words and drawings
do not help us in leaping ahead light-footedly.
Perhaps we viewers ought to take as much time to comprehend the pictures,
as the artist has taken to draw them. In verbal communication, this happens
automatically: I listen to the speaker as long as s/he is speaking. In
the case of visual images, we are habituated otherwise: The rate at which
our sensory perception scans the image could well come from an advertisement
for a new scanner: 30 seconds per A4-size sheet.
In our information-age society, there is a tendency to size up the exchange
of information in terms of clearly encodable units of information and data
bits. The French philosopher Lyotard said: "If you want your sentences
to circulate in the language market (this market is, above all, the media
market), then, they must have a competitive edge. Sentences, of which it
cannot be said, 'here is the transmitted information', will not be registered,
and therefore not communicated. Philosophic and artistic language operates
in a different manner."
The language does not serve as a mere vehicle for so-called messages. Rather,
thoughts and ideas take shape in the language itself; the language is the
object of its own reflection.
This demands from us viewers and readers
of pictures a searching, insistent and perhaps even mistrustful effort.
Mistrustful, insofar as the rules of language, the codification, is displaced
with respect to conventional expectations of artistic language. We must
approach art as we would a work in a foreign language.
These statements are valid, as mentioned before, for art in general, but
I think it makes sense to recall them in the context of the work at hand.
Because Christoph Storz's work consists, to an important extent, in the
creation of a system of meaning with symbolic and verbal language.
In the beginning I used the word "Muffled-sounding"
for the sensual impact. The play with the loud and the subdued, the great/monumental
and the petty, forms an important part of the pictorial content in several
cases. (I use the term content perfunctorily, I am not too comfortable
In one work, the artist speaks, for example, of the Theory of
Everything. One couldn't think of a greater challenge in the construction
of theories. Abbreviated, the Theory of Everything becomes T-O-E, and then
the following sentence appears in the picture: The TOE must go on. The
toe must go on: the theory of everything must be developped further. In
short turns of phrase, the Great in the universal theory is translated into
the Inconsequential in the toe, and brought to the surface in that by-line
of pop-culture 'The show must go on'.
In the next picture, one finds: The shoes belong to the road. I do not
know exactly how the toe relates to the shoe in this theory. Hardly, perhaps,
in the way thought relates to language. The Theory of Everything brings
astonishing relationships to light, and expands ceaselessly, so as to keep
everything including itself in view. In the process, it throws up a form
identical to its own in all directions. (This is a concept from the theory
In the Theory of Everything lies the dream of total abstraction, the idea
of being able to translate objects and language into each other to such
a degree that one finally approaches a metaphysical, primordial big bang;
the moment where everything was still one, the great Whole.
One could imagine the Theory of Everything as an endless text, a neverending
image, but just as well as a reversal to an absolute zero-point, to the
sum of all colours: White. Back to the moment, where the theory swallows
itself, like a black hole.
Just as our astrophysicists can only think up
to and calculate up to a point just short of the physical big bang, the
artist, too, cannot encompass the great Whole; - he labours around the beginning
of differences. From the white emerge traces, signs, words. There is differentiation
between space and movement, mass and energy. The amorphous, and the meaningful
form. And the difficult or fascinating part is, that the universal null
point does not explode into logical elements, into conventional sentences
and data which can be archived. And there, next to the monumental details,
emerges the finely written, softly uttered, word in gray: Universe. I am
now speaking again of the drawings, without metaphors. There are drawn
words and written lines. Nonsense poses confidently next to the meaningful.
The image space, viewed from a central perspective, is criss-crossed by
values taken from the perspective of meaning. In the wall drawing, for
example, the name of the place Baden is written using larger letters than
the word Schweiz (Switzerland). And so on, with decreasing letter size,
the words Europa (Euope), Welt (World) and Universum (Universe). Written
down thus, they create an effect of total lack of meaning, because we know
that Baden is smaller, for instance, than the World. If we look at it as
drawings, from the central perspective, then it somehow appears correct
again. To begin with, we are here first in Baden, which is our foremost
reference point, and only in the second and third instance, do Switzerland,
Europe, the World and the Universe. This way or that, there is something
wrong: the apparent journey of Mr. Turtur from Jim Knopf is not far removed:
on the horizon, he is gigantic, and becomes increasingly smaller as we approach
him, until he shrinks to normal human size at arm's length.
The play with false proportions and hierarchies is a favourite motif in
the work of Christoph Storz. Things are either too small or too big in
relation to others: the inconsequential, the auxilliary, becomes prominent,
the apparently meaningful leads into nothingness.
Orange strips, like those we see on roadside hoardings emphasise the bostitch-fastenings
of the large drawing sheets; and in the drawings on the wall, we find dirty
finger prints, which one would otherwise have only shuddered at if seen
on clean white gallery walls. These trash-traces are quotes from the everyday
life, neatly placed and in apparent defiance of rules, which rap our expectations
on the knuckles, in a light, bemused manner.
Christoph Storz is a specialist in rules and systems. He looks at the neighbouring
disciplines like the natural sciences, philosophy and economics, but also
at everyday culture, breaks off pieces from there and leads them by the
nose in his drawings and writings.
Like he says it himself, logic stands in his works next to pseudo-logic.
Claims to truth questioned.
Nonsense and paradoxes generate heat of friction in our brains, till the
assurances of rationality are burnt through, and we get an unprejudiced
view, at best.
The semanitc turning point in sentences like "What is appropriate,
does not belong", or terms like "Erratic" snap the logical
connection through the multiplicity of meaning, and through verbal contradictions.
I turn them round and use them in my head, and feel a slight irritation,
a stimulation of the brain and the laughter muscles. Here, the serious literalness
of a moral theory or of an academic discipline is hinted at, and sent back
to the wilderness once more, with an appropriate chuckle. This sabotage
follows the laws of the comic.
In the theory of laughter, as propounded,
for instance, by the philosopher Joachim Ritter, the comic does not originate
alone, disparate from the serious, but actually in the admixture of fun
and seriousness, of madness and dignity. This wide world, regulated rationally,
takes on the affectedness that comes from the craziness of trivia. Thus,
its greatness turns grandiose, its dignity to affectedness.
Of course, the subversion of language in the work of Christoph Storz is
directed against his own work as well, against the artist's own activity
of drawing lines. I end with a smal quote from his book:
"The stroke gets straight-jacketed into the drawing in the narrowness
of art. In the friction, it is understood as a sign of fatigue, of a wear-and-tear
of everything concievable, including the conventional concept of art. As
a small scratch, the stroke appears out of the surface of the wall; as a
restricting line, with limited liability, it remains on the path of linear
Inaugural address, Galerie Trudelhaus Baden, 27.8.98
(Translation: Kamakshi S.R., Bangalore)