Hans Rudolf Reust

Ways Out of Space in Space

Way In A longish stairway leads down into the dark damp vaulting of the basement gallery. There one's gaze meets a curiously involved galvanized air shaft leading to a bricked up archway at the end of the room, where only a ventilator in the wall gives any indication at all of a room concealed beyond. At the foot of the stairs is the entry into the passageway, dimly lit with neon lights. Upon entering, one winds one's way along bare metal walls, stooping, finally reaching a hot-plate glowing red in the dark – a black object radiating light: a solid, dissolving in light, and yet retaining its metallic hardness. Radiant, it remains a rigid body in space within space.

Technomorphic Grottoes / Split View Shafts, transverse ways, cabins and berths, interfaces, fields and squares – a hideout, passageways, a way through, the way out: Alone this list of words, some ancient, some more recent – mere raw material for a description – evokes mood changes linked to Bob Gramsma's spatial conglomerates. Technomorphic structures open up interstices, creating sub-cells and transitions between worlds that are static even if often built out of vehicle interiors. On the paths laid out in these complex spatial suites one's gaze repeatedly shifts between unexpected in-sights, top views and glimpses. While one's initial encounter with the spaces/rooms generally occurs as a surprising – frontal – confrontation, one takes away with one no coherent picture of the structures. Nor does one experience them sequentially, as in a film; it is more a question of mental collages of real views, dream images and memory fragments that thrust themselves peremptorily into sight, triggering a constantly growing disorientation. While the concatenation of components is plain and harbors no secrets, it ceases to found relations among meanings. Where the laws of statics are manifest, those of association are released, not into boundless freedom, but for a temporally limited experience of deviant models of thought.

The Burrow Kafka's short story The Burrow (1923/24) takes place in a wild animal's den in the woods and to that extent has nothing to do with Gramsma's technoid daytime constructions in urban zones. Yet simply for the way perception is constantly switching among sensations of touch, sight, hearing and surmise, the story might equally well take place in Gramsma's passageways: »Even if I just head towards the exit, even when I'm still separated from it by passageways and junctions, I seem to sense the presence of a great danger, sometimes it feels as if my fur were getting thinner, as if soon I might stand there in my nude, bare flesh and at that moment be greeted by my enemies' howling. Of course, the very exit on its own sometimes elicits such feelings, the end of domestic security, yet it is precisely this whole entranceway that also torments me so. I sometimes dream I've rebuilt it overnight, unbeknownst, with heroic energy, changing everything, and now it is impregnable; the sleep in which I experience this is the sweetest of all, tears of joy and deliverance sparkle on my beard when I awake. So I have also to bodily overcome my anguish in this labyrinth when I go out, and it is both annoying and moving when I sometimes loose my way for a moment in my own construction, as if the work were still struggling to prove to me (my judgement is long since fixed) its reasons for existing. But then I'm under the blanket of moss, which I sometimes allow – I stay indoors for so long – to grow over with the rest of the forest floor, and then all it needs is a head-movement and I'm abroad.«

Anonymous In his constructions Bob Gramsma deliberately renounces the option of interactive manipulation to concentrate on viewers' movements around, between and through a sculptural ensemble. Matthew Barney's epic worlds are a long way off, as is Hannelore Reuen's Chinese box-like house which Gregor Schneider is constantly modifying and remodifying, or Mark Mander's Selfportrait as a Building. Gramsma avoids express subjectivity while in no way perpetuating the smoothly sugary and nondescript allures of 1990s utility art's party-lounge ambience. His constructed pictures make their mark because their strange threshold world between technoid neutrality and anonymous alienation calls to life viewers' own personal subjective worlds. His spaces are neither invented nor fantasied; rather, they are thoroughly familiar everyday realities, seen from a hitherto uninvestigated angle, which thus appear new.

Clash of Worlds Thanks to the spread of mobile communication we are constantly living in at least two worlds – here, now, and potentially everywhere, in the present space surrounding us inside and outside.Walls are porous. How we experience reality is increasingly fissioned. Euclidean space offers our bodies only one of several possible orientational parameters.We can, at any given time, acoustically, optically as well, be somewhere else. Dreams and thoughts have always held out this freedom. Now technological prostheses are perfecting it in the form of an evercloser replica of our sense experience, as if it were part of a comprehensive perception of reality. Bob Gramsma's constructions work by spatially including and intensifying distances and differences between worlds, to the point where meanings collide and collapse. Via an ante-room, a private kitchen perhaps, or a greenhouse, we are led, past the constriction at the toilets, into the spacious, empty interior of a jet airliner: no seats, no light, except what enters through the round portholes from the exhibition space outside. While the eye is yearning to roam in the familiarity of a cabin interior, it abruptly hits up against a third sidewall at the end of the short rump section. Captive of this unexpected spatial turn of events, thoughts take to the air. In Bob Gramsma's dreamlike spatial collisions, the borders of Euclidean space become fluid, although their contours remain clear. The floor remains gravity's fixed benchmark and, unlike in surfing, does not itself move. And yet, at times, between the static worlds of these internal sculptures, something like »flow« can set in: motions of perception and fixed space intermesh, an incessant hovering, the never-ending, coat-flapping free fall in the sky's window of a video projection on the ceiling. Bob Gramsma invites us to enter real spaces in order to lead us out of space. Sounds and noises are an important part of the seduction-abduction-refraction process. When the outside world erupts on the car radio, the vehicle interior isolates itself even more from the site beside the museum where it is buried. Large as Gramsma's structures can be, their dimensions remain elusive. Monumentality and intimacy are inseparable, for after all only one trail is laid at a particular site, comparable in spatial extension to a drawing. At the end of this trail reevaluation occurs, as cognition, as when Gramsma refers to the Mediterranean as a piazza – visible, yet, as field of social relations and encounters, eluding imagination. From the roof of the Villa Malaparte he wants to look out on this unifying level and call to mind the countless other houses and their occupants round the piazza.

Way Out Down a long escalator we float serenely toward the subway and Hades, realm of the dead. Once there, a horizontally positioned lift shaft receives us. No ride, only echoing footsteps. The passage opens at its end toward the ceiling, in a stairway tower, compelling reascent under an open sky, only to arrive inside a van parked at one of L.A.'s countless parking lots. In this as yet unrealized project, Gramsma once again combines upper and underworld, floating and walking, ascent, standstill, and, stilled for a moment, the dream of untrammeled travel. Paul Virilio has pointed out that the last vehicle will be stationary. We will roam future universes motionless in front of a screen or in our data-suits. But waking in the van at the parking lot will always be accompanied by a brief query that comes like a shock: Where is the exit? There is no way out of Gramsma's worlds. For surprises and the unknown occur, above all, amid familiarity, where reason still considers itself safe.

First published in: Bob Gramsma (Translation Michael Robinson, Nürnberg, 2003)