KATRIN BUCHER TRANTOW (Curator, Kunsthaus Graz - Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz, A)
September 2018

 

Fractures, scratches, splinters and traces. Objects patched together, brought into a tenuous balance and quite often joined in a makeshift manner. Sculptures rhythmically segmenting the space, at once holding it together and dissolving it, permeating it and bringing it into a fragile stability. Clemens Hollerer’s works explore the attractive pull exerted by destruction. Fundamentally interested in the question of space and its transformation, he is concerned with our surrounds as shaped by permanent constructions – the city – but also the landscape as domesticated by humans. The photographic gaze, itself taking up focusing as a theme, stands at the beginning of his works and his artistic development. His sculptural works, emerging out of this exploration into how to represent a city, are made up of those painted wooden pickets familiar from construction site hoardings. Glittering adhesive foil or powder-coated aluminium followed, whereby he mercilessly hewed, grinded and cracked their industrial perfection. Much of what results reminds us of battered everyday materials, of functional objects, obviously used on a massive scale and subject to constant transformation in an industrialised and urban context. Often first built, adapted, precisely hung and staged on site, in his works Hollerer responds delicately to the space and proceeds as if creating a scene. With his sculptural constructions he has in the past blocked access to gallery spaces, pierced rooms with hanging wooden constructs or filled up stairwells with an airy construct made of wooden slats (Future Generation Art Prize, 2011). Some of his few works for outdoor space are characteristic: in July 2018 he built a multipart construct out of bright pink wooden slats along a tremendous waterfall in Bad Gastein, which recalled fortified antitank defences, anti-avalanche fencing or the enchainment of over-dimensional organic limbs. His works invariably function as light-footed “commentaries” that, thanks to the spatial interventions and reformulations, not only furnish an experience of space physically but also highlight its sensory perceptible and formal presence. Hollerer pays great attention to the relational and directly addresses the visiting public: for it is precisely the experience of space that is personal, says Hollerer, referring in the process to the congruency between bodily and visual experience and how they complement one another. In Hollerer’s work space stands for the space made by humans, for the spatial positing and architecture, which play an existential role for every individual’s sense of location. Especially this space opens up relations and shows both our history as well as its own. If it is read and sounded out consequentially, then it reveals itself to be a source and becomes a mirror held up to oneself. Hollerer thus exerts a twofold influence on the experience of space: when he appeals directly to the public’s visual and haptic senses with his objects, sculptures and sculptural images, and when he, through the act of violating, evokes the physical presence of space and the public present in it.

In his more recent works as well, where he scratches highly resistant synthetic resin from sheets of aluminium or in collages and montages made out of transparencies or powder- coated aluminium profiles he shows the arms of machines in a variety of positions, he consequentially pursues the (often urban) “happening” of destruction. Hollerer’s intention, to create an “image of the rough” and in doing so allow the “beauty of the unfinished” to crystallise, is based in these works on the observation of the similarities between industrial and natural forces of destruction and the fascination they exude. Composed out of adhesive foil, Hollerer’s “machinery collages” elaborate the photographic observations. The movements of the massive arms of excavator machines, captured with the camera, are turned into idiosyncratic performative compositions when arranged in series on the gallery wall, from where they radiate and gleam out of the dark background. With a perseverance imbued with brute force, he has worked his way through the potent heroes of Minimal Art and, especially here in this case, Land Art. Associations with Robert Smithson are evoked in the observations of the excavator machinery, while the scratched resin images echo with Gerhard Richter. With the sculptures positioned precisely in space Hollerer himself refers directly to the great icon (Blinky) Palermo. Hollerer’s approach is very much a conscious interaction with history and frequently reveals liberating features of post-hard core (music); in core resistive, his work is about – “despite” the burden of art history – recognising in it the continuum of creativity through reworking and destroying. As so often the case, The birth and death of the day is inspired by Hollerer’s passion for rebellious music and taken from a song by the band Explosions in the Sky. As the title of a work that stands at the beginning of Hollerer’s exploration of the theme of machinery, birth and death are encapsulated into one single day and mirrored in the phenomenal creative and destructive force performed by the machinery. As birth and death simultaneously bear within them the virtually erotic promise of the new and the certain realisation of an end, Hollerer reveals the heady fact of an existence that perpetually metamorphoses.

 
 
ADAM BUDAK (Chief Curator, Czech National Gallery, Prague)
July 2011

 

Clemens Hollerer neither conquers the space nor embraces it with an intimate gesture. His 'sculpture-in-action' oscillates between minute and fragile, hardly visible and ephemeral interventions into the urban fabric and monumental, large scale constructions of a radical and invasive, quasi-architectural nature, always providing an impressive evidence of the artist’s critical and alerted perception of space and its formal and sensual qualities. Here, like in Perec, ‚space is what arrests our gaze, what our sight stumbles over: the obstacle, bricks, an angle, a vanishing point. Space is when it makes an angle, when it stops, when we have to turn for it to start off again’. Hollerer’s performative approach results in establishing dynamic sculptural situations that emphasize space’s vibration and instability and set up a viewer’s new, refreshing relationship of both disagreement and negotiation. Sharp edges and curves, sudden turns and uncontrolled twists, broken lines and irregular sequences constitute the substance of the artist’s seemingly solid structures and their porous surfaces. Hollerer’s temporary shelters are indeed subjective architectures of vulnerability - mazes of a dystopian self on a search for mathematical precision and geometric clarity, bridges of conflictual realities, scaffoldings of impossible order. Always as if about to collapse, simultaneously violent and tender, these are edifices of ambiguity and rupture: parasitic yet supportive, zones of both entrapment and repose, oppression and escape. Encompassing a variety of influences, Hollerer’s (breathless, somehow punkish) poetics of space combines immediacy, spontaneity and instantaneousness, typical for photography (the artist’s principal training) with the rhythmical tempo, sequentiality and vividness, coming from Hollerer’s passion for music and live events that involve participation, relationality and interaction. His quasi-anarchic and perplexed installations are in fact kinetic paintings in a liberated space: voluminous surfaces, masterfully choreographed by a passionate follower of Palermo and Matta-Clark, framed within the abstract fields of interrupted lines, born to life by their colors and rough, industrial materials. Mimicking the (anti)form of the everyday (construction sites, public space’s security and support systems, street-work alteration and renovation labor), Hollerer questions the white cube’s paradigms and museological standards. Oversized and aggressive, too disturbing and hardly accessible, the artist’s often monstrous and impulsive structures act like unwanted guests of macabresque fairy tales, self-imposing their improvised presence within always too conservative institutional frame. While critically mapping the claustrophobic space by an interplay of scale, dimension and volume and an oscillation between reduction and accumulation, they tease the viewer with their inappropriatness, lost innocence and nonbelonging thus turning a spatial experience into an imaginery journey through estranged landscapes of postapocalyptic ruin. Theatrical void and operatic plenty are features of Hollerer’s wounded space in blast and explosion. Such is the artist’s radical manifesto for a current world of a suspended disaster and precarious future. If, as it was recently speculated, following Carl Andre’s definition of sculpture ('form equals structure equals place'), Palermo’s definition of painting were 'form equals structure equals place equals time', could Hollerer’s definition of spatial Gestalt be articulated as an organic conspiracy of form and structure towards a deconstructed place as a process-based act. Executed as a spontaneous unfolding of spatial and temporal narrative, Hollerer’s is Mallarmean graceful pacing of a meaning: random and obsessive, heterogenous and transitory.