Stephan Berg, Soft Architecture, 2018/19 (ENG)
Lisa Seebach’s sculptures, drawings and installations are clearly motivated by an urge to transform the space in which they are located by creating their own intermediate physical-psychological space. This is a primarily nocturnal world which, dominated by impalpable shadows and fragile nightmares, unfolds before our eyes: an artistic cosmos that leads away from measurable parameters into an imaginary reality in which Sometimes night comes too quickly, strange Machines (to) produce sad thoughts and (How) stars are just holes in the sky (Seebach). Everything in this world arises on the basis of drawings, in the medium that is most suited to registering outer and inner impressions directly and seismographically, as it were. With her small-format drawings done by hand in black ink, the artist records concrete observations as well as mental fragments.
The subsequent transferal into steel and ceramics remains indebted to the graphic impulse even as it simultaneously generates its own sphere of intermediacy. With their compact ceramic counterweights, the extremely delicate steel structures achieve a precise balance between materiality and dematerialization. While we move between them, we encounter on the one hand the physical lines of demarcation of a black industrial steel which not only defines the space of the work of art, but also divides the surrounding space into interior and exterior sections. On the other hand, the curved, black line of steel also imparts a much crisper palpability to the emptiness of the space that it designates and defines than could a two-dimensional drawing.
The artist’s spatial drawings thereby create a paradoxical reality: their actual material presence determines in a certain sense the intangibility and unreality of their contents.
With his spatial drawings in steel, Norbert Kricke (1922–1984) had already worked towards dematerialization, transparency and the creation of an individual reality—but within the strict framework of pure abstraction. In the case of Lisa Seebach, on the other hand, her fragile explorations of space are not only charged with psychological energy but are also clearly oriented towards an associatively operating meta-narrative which works in particular with anthropomorphic references and with an architectural frame of reference.
She thereby distances herself quite clearly from the normative claims of an abstraction deemed to be absolute; instead she creates spaces that are full of confusing, subjective echoes.
From a generic viewpoint, there are evident parallels to the approaches of Mark Manders and Tatiana Trouvé. This involves not only an atmosphere of melancholy and absence which, suffused with surrealism, characterizes the interconnections of all three oeuvres, but also the fundamental methodology of a transformation of psychological and mental processes into sculptural constellations which are articulated primarily in the figures of a mental architecture charged with anthropomorphism. Moreover, in all three cases the reference to architecture gives rise to an intentionally productive paradox. On the one hand, the fundamental architectural orientation towards rational functionality and structural calculation with respect to what has been built stands in maximum contrast to the respective sculptural, mental constructs. On the other hand, the intended purpose of each architectural structure in relation to human beings in turn constitutes a bridge to the essentially subjective nature of the works. To this extent it is possible, in a further train of thought, for each and every claim to objectivity to always be manifested solely in the paradoxical form of an (architectural) objectification of a subjective inner world.
In his epochal Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa wrote from the perspective of art about exactly this collision between a rationally ordered external world and a subjective, internal perspective: “Why is art beautiful? Because it is useless. Why is life so ugly? Because it is a pattern of intentions, plans and agendas. All its paths are arranged so that someone can proceed from point A to point B. I would offer very much for a path that leads from a place that no one comes from to a place that no one goes to.” The works of Lisa Seebach are embarked upon a similar path; each of their journeys begins at a definite point but possesses no awareness of a defined, unambiguous end. With their black steel, these works trace out a narrow, rounded arch that seems to stand on two legs and extends forward in two further elongated lines of steel which are anchored to the ground by means of a ceramic, pillow-like form (Hide and Seek, 2017). With their lines of steel, they mark the outline of a wardrobe-like construct which has an extension resembling a lectern and from whose upper edge two ceramic weights attached to curved steel hang down almost to the floor (Sometimes Night Comes Too Quickly, 2016). In meandering loops revolving around themselves, they guide a line of steel from a bulging ceramic form lying on the ground to a ceramic sphere located in direct proximity to the point of departure (From The Outside (World), 2017).
Not only do almost all the works of Lisa Seebach issue an invitation to make associative comparisons; indeed, they positively demand such a mental activity, only to reject with a smile each and every attempt at an unambiguous decoding. With their steel drawings that are positioned in space and sometimes seem to be projected outward, they appear to be reminiscent of furniture, housing, containers, mattresses and beds—in other words, things that are indivisibly connected with human beings; yet they do not actually flesh out this recollection and cause it to become reality. Like dream images, they recede when one tries to grab hold of them and to specify a status of reality for them. One is seldom further away from Frank Stella’s dictum “What you see is what you see” than in the encounter with these objects. They find a more apposite echo in Adorno’s thesis that all works of art negate the objective world and accordingly possess an enigmatic character. As spatial constructs which in essence consist solely of their outlines, they formulate a disquieting dialectic between absence and presence.
The line of steel that demarcates a border with what is outside and thereby renders the works comprehensible in formal terms simultaneously engenders a presence of absence, creates an irrevocable void and process of emptying that exercises its rule over these phantom spaces.
This is affected in no way by the ceramic bodies which, with their physical mass, seem to anchor the steel drawings to the ground and which serve as a counterweight to the airy lightness of the lines of steel. On the contrary—their black, nontransparent heaviness seems to be the materialized correspondence to the emptiness that is circumscribed by the lines of steel.
It would perhaps be appropriate regarding these creations to speak less of individual works but instead of a cosmos which can repeatedly be assembled into new situations out of single elements that are handled as modules. At least this is how the oeuvre manifests itself in exhibitions: as a field upon which the delicate spatial bodies combine optically and situationally into an overall image, where the steel lines of one object link up with another, quite distant one into a strange hybrid structure, so that in fact the complete ensemble literally appears to be a group of actors who have taken up the positions for their performance.
What is special about them, however, is that they function not only as portrayers but also as what is portrayed by them. They are protagonists and simultaneously the space of action in which they themselves move.
And to make the entire matter even more confusing, but at the same time more aesthetically productive: they are not permitted to know exactly what their role is and in which space they are moving if they do not want to lose their innocence, their dreamy lightness. The winner in this poetical, enigmatic game is clearly the viewer, who experiences in a most appealing manner that, although there are neither unambiguous designations nor designated objects that can be named precisely, there nonetheless exists in the world of Lisa Seebach an intermediate space in which “it is possible to touch the twilight from within” (Touching The Dusk (From The Inside), 2017).
1: Fernando Pessoa: Das Buch der Unruhe, Paris 1999, p. 328.2: Theodor W. Adorno: Ästhetische Theorie, Frankfurt am Main 1973, p. 182.