Katinka Bock was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1976. She studied in Berlin, Dresden, Paris, and then at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, before coming to Paris in 2007 for a residency lasting several months at the Cité des Arts. Although she was based in Berlin, circumstances have led her to stay on in the French capital. Sculpture has always been at the heart of her studies and interests, though she has also experimented extensively with video, performance art and projects for public spaces. Since coming to Paris, she has ceased to work on collaborative projects, and she finds that the most fertile place for her is not her studio or house, but her mind itself. At Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee (KHB) in Berlin, where she began her artistic training, the working conditions – from a technical, practical, and logistical standpoint – were anything but ideal, yet Katinka says that these very shortcomings became a crucial factor: a contingent state that proved to be fundamental for understanding how ideas often germinate when there is a dearth of materials. And, I would add, this proved decisive in shaping an aesthetic, an exploration of form and a choice of materials that make Katinka Bock’s work some of the most unusual on the contemporary scene.
This German artist’s pieces are utterly devoid of any opulence or redundancy, and in their rigorous poverty and radical austerity, they resonate energy and tension. Cement, terra-cotta, stone, metal, wood: commonplace materials, chosen not for their natural appearance, but due to their primary aspect, their intrinsic qualities, their vitality. Chosen, or rather, found. The way that one may find “a pebble by a river, sand on the beach, water in a fountain, a flagstone on the street, a newspaper on the sofa or on the subway”.
Materials that have their own colour, their own soul. Materials that take on their form as they are used. Materials that become objects. Objects from everyday life: chairs, tables, fireplaces, floors, things that are always around us, which are our culture, make up our culture. Objects that are what they are because their form has been molded by time. Materials that mankind has shaped into functional forms that represent us: “A tipped-over table is a boat. A hat is also a container. A chair supports me, bears my weight, is tailored to my body and at the same time to the space around it,” says Katinka, and her approach to form and sculpture becomes even clearer and more obvious when we look at pieces like Je te tiens (2008) – two panes of glass held in equilibrium by a small metal hook and precariously propped against the back of a chair – or Landschaft unter dem Tisch (2009) – a square wooden table with a crumpled mass of terra cotta nested between its legs – in which one can palpably feel the artist’s reflection on the work and ideas of Joseph Beuys, on the properties of materials, on their relationships.
Sober, composed, and concise, Katinka Bock’s pieces are dense, penetrating, and profoundly spiritual. They breathe. They hum. They gently stir the air of the space in which they stand. Their dialogue with the site is fundamental: the process of reflection begins with observation of the exhibit space and its context. The design of her solo exhibitions at Centre d’Art Contemporain de la Synagogue de Delme in 2008 and at De Vleeshal in Middleburg, Holland, curated by Lorenzo Benedetti, also shows the importance of how the pieces are positioned in relation to each other and in relation to the site. It is an alchemical approach to exhibit design, as rigorous and logical as a mathematical formula; aimed at a result, yet fluid and changeable, as rhythmic as a musical score. Mathematics, music, architecture. It is a way of conceiving the work, in its complexity and empathy with its surroundings, that brings to mind an ancient, humanist form of erudition. Franciscan friar and Renaissance mathematician
Fra Luca Pacioli, author of the famous, fundamental three-volume treatise De Divina Proportione, published in Venice in 1509, declares on the first page of the first section – the Compendio – that his book is “a necessary work for perspicacious and curious spirits, where all devoted students of philosophy, perspective, painting, sculpture, architecture, music and other mathematical disciplines will find a delicate, subtle and admirable doctrine and will delight in diverse questions concerning a very secret science”. The author considered mathematical disciplines to include arithmetic, geometry, astrology, music, perspective, architecture, and cosmography, as well as a few others “dependent on them”. In our talk, Katinka confirmed her fascination with music, physics, and mathematical problems, due to their logic and clarity, the way they provide explanations of systems and controlling factors, even though, in her work, the loss of control is often a key characteristic. It is an anti-spectacular loss of control. The adjective “spectacular” derives from the Latin noun “spectaculu(m)”, derived in turn from the verb “spectare”, to watch, observe. In this anti-spectacle, what is missing is not just or even primarily the dramatic component, but the spectator, the viewer. “the viewer is always in the space at the wrong time, having missed the instant of silent explosion. Things and situations happen even if we don’t see them. It’s a mental experience”. A sort of failure of the gaze, in the experience of being a spectator. Works of art become experiments, in which “failure is the best part”.
Experiments, questions that Katinka Bock asks herself – and us – about the very fundaments of nature and consciousness, and the intelligibility of the world: time, space, distance. How does one measure time within the timeframe of an exhibition? What is the sound of distance? Sculptures are words, spaces, punctuation and conjugation, in a text that takes on meaning only through a given combination. Sculptural phrases that want to be a conversation, not just a monologue.
-Francesca di Nardo
Text via Mousse Magazine
Images via Galerie Jocelyn Wolff
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