PROJECTIONS ON A PRESENT MOMENT The perception of form
It’s common knowledge that modernity in European visual arts started approximately at the end of the 18th century, while the first use of the Latin adjective ‘modernus’ can be traced back to Pope Glasius I, who lived in the 5th century and wrote the Duo sunt, an influential letter introducing his doctrine of the prevailing power of the church over the secular state. It examined the power relations between the church and the secular state, their struggle to gain influence, and ancient rules and new doctrines with the aim of revealing the church’s century-long attempts to monopolize power. History has taught us that there is no reform without resistance, and the Inquisition, the reformatory Iconoclasm and also the quiet revolutions all had their victims, as soon as social resistance was formed and the underlying intellectual powers had evolved. If such a pressure, very often accompanied by extreme violence, leads to extensive injuries, when, as Freud puts it, “such external excitations as are strong enough to break through the barrier against stimuli”, then we describe them as traumatic.
One of the integral characteristics of the collective and historic trauma is that the symptoms occur in hindsight. The discussions on the essence and concept of modernity at the end of the 20th century in the fields of visual arts and aesthetics are therefore also viewed as the ongoing review of the very concept of modernity. The mere linguistic use of the term ‘modern’ implies uniqueness and also contemporaneity that not only describes its presence but also evaluates its phenomena and conditions: It not only confronts the ‘old’ with something ‘new’, but it also devalues the ‘old’ or ‘bygone’ and even discredits them by labelling them as ‘the other’. Modernity cannot exist and cannot even be grasped without this cruel opposition which has since been called into question. The result is a certain faith in progress, which has a neo-liberal air that persists to this day and creates a palpable sense of unease.
Artists like Katja Strunz confront this dogmatic concept of modernity with alternatives of integrative thought and action. Katja Strunz translates the modernist approach to time and space, to chronology and linearity into works of art, where collages and constellations of fragments of various materials enable diachronic references to past and present. Rusty iron is combined with flawless wood or uncoated, gleaming copper. Instead of formalised continuity, interrupted connections or, in other words, specific discontinuities are the defining feature of Katja Stunz’s works. For example, she distorts the conventional reading of sentences in her letterpress works, mirrors words and prints ‘Continent’ across a landscape photograph. Or when installing her sculptural folded works, instead of duplicating space according to the orthogonal coordinates, she defines it as a structure with visible volumes, thus creating a sense of distortion in space. In her room-related installations and individual large-scale sculptures which she created between 2003 and 2008 as part of her group of works entitled “Zeitraum”, Katja Strunz used folded works to examine the sculptural deformation of space. In these works, she expresses the traumatic symptoms and the depressive inner contractions in a visible and formal structure and places and integrates them as vectors of the present in the respective spatial context. Similarly, her latest work “Roomrobber” (2017) eats its way through the immaculate walls of the White Cube, thus foiling its perfect form in a projective and ambiguous manner like an inkblot test.
Analysis of the possible ‘conditions’ of shapes and their resulting sensory extensions plays a fundamental role in Katja Strunz’s works. In her very first works with paper, in which snippets of paper are positioned to that look like spiky pointers arranged on a surface, the once abstract, time-transcending weightless state of constructivist compositions seem to be lost as they fall downwards. And yet they are preserved as relicts. In her latest group of works entitled “Pulp Paintings”, the traditional panel painting takes on the form of a gravitational field for hand-made paper geometrical elements, which are formally linked and yet juxtaposed in opposition to each other. The “Pulp Paintings” are, as the artist puts it, the setting for ‘temporary structures’ where it would seem the process of implementation and development has yet to be completed. They are structures of folded forms, caught in the free fall of their present pictorial state – which is possibly a sign of transition.