< zurück zur Übersicht
Prof. Dr. Manfred Schneckenburger

"Phantasmogorie zweier Welten"
The yearning for simplicity has become more and more complicated ever since the archaic and primitive has proved not to be as innocent and naive as was once thought. Even Gauguin used to have his problems in this direction. Whilst copying out the mythological tales of Tehuras and enthusing about bananas, hanging enticingly like bunches of grapes, suspended tantalisingly just abeve his mouth, he wouid await with anticipation the ship from Paris bearing tinned preserves and engage in petty squabbles with the local colonial bureaucrats. The redeubtable revolutionaries from Dresden and Paris were the first to win exotic fetishes as their allies in their struggle for modern art. It was they too who recognized earlier than most, if not all, anthropologists that they also had their own rules of form. They were less interested in intellectual associations. A story related by Kahnweiler about Picasso marks the (not quite historically correct) point in time when the individual European artistic idea began to take on board exotic and foreign influence. It is not the African" mask-like "Demoiselles d'Avignon" of 1908 or even the historically recognized watershod, periode negre, which attest to the first entrance of masks on the stage of Picasso's recherche des formes but the Guitar Reliefs of 1912. A mask of the Wobe tribe is reflected in the sound hole of the guitar, which sticks out like a top hat with the eye sockets protruding from the rest of the face. That same year, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner from the Brücke movement, alludes to the tight composition of wood beam carvings from the Palau Islands. His own work was also moving in the same direction, albeit totally independently. Africen, Oceanic and modern art all build on a related system of form and their structures converge. Even surrealism still merely provided variations on this basic theme, although it may not have achieved the cognitive logic of form of the Wobe mask or the two dimensional styling of the hieroglyphics on the Palau beams. Surrealism leaves behind form, and turns instead to shamanistic dream voyages, magic rites and primordial symbols. It defines and lives by the conviction that universal ecstasies and knowledge lay submerged in the deeper reaches of the soul. André Breton, Max Ernst and Roberto Matta take anything but an analytical approach in their work. For the surrealists Oceanic and Indian sculptures lay bare the archetypes and buried forces of the unconscious mind. This is one reason why they tend to concentrate so much on external motivs. The deepost reaches of the human mind are all interconnected by canals. In this respect, the sürrealistic assault also meant a rejection of theories put forward by the French anthropologist Henri Levy-Bruhl drawing a ciear differentiation between and civilized thought, and which enjoyed great popularity at the time. Fifty years later, another French anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss, revisod this idea of Eurocentric exclusiveness by bringing together thought structures from places as far afield as Australia and Paris in one worldwide system. He discovered, or created, depending upon your point of view, an intellectual superstructure uniting mythical, religious, scientific models on an equal footing. Is this evidence that anthropology has at last managed to achieve what Picasso was saying with his Wobe mask? Do these comments on the wider history of art distract from the work of Harald Fuchs? His work confronts and coordinates the signals put out by modern science with the experiences of a primitive world. Fuchs has no desire to return to an ambivalent paradise like Gauguin, neither does he integrate these influences into his work as subtly as Picasso. His world view - unlike that of the surrealists - is broad enough to encompass molecular biology and atomic physics. This introduction is not intended to catapult Fuchs into the rarefied atmosphere inhabited by the "greats". it is merely intended as a rough preliminary sketch. Like his contemporaries, Fuchs is not merely secking to rejuvenate art on a formal or intellectual level by injecting it with a dose of primitive art. He goes a stage further than adapting form language and anthropological in-depth psychology. He extends the "auld alliance" of primitive and modern art to include modern science, his aim being to lay bare hidden common ground between the three through his artistic medium. On the one hand, he presents us with scientific, biological and physical diagrams, formulae, models, photagraphs taken in a particle accelerator, quotations from scientific works, recipients and rubber bellows out of the laboratory. Under the electron microscope the leg of a fly is dissected, blown up to enormous proportions and presented in overlapping sections - a vivid metaphor for the world of science, "which extends the realms of its knowledge by dismembering, dissecting and then putting everything back together again" (Fuchs). The artist suddenly leaps from a macro-world to a microscopic one without any reservation, he projects images through lenses, juxtaposes crystal ciear images with others which are virtually unrecognizable in their degree of over-exposure. These pictures suggest varying spheres of perception, distances, different degrees of transparency. Fuchs works with the approach and methods of a world of science introducing itself. At the same time he transforms the iconography of science into a dynamic visual language through the means of limited perspective, rotational movement, a creative fusion of images. Parallel to this he documents an older natural world, teeming with life - which wouid appear, at first glance, to be an extreme contast. People instead of formulae, the elementary climate required for life instead of abstract text or experimental methods, rituals instead of diagrams A merging of life, cult and knowledge instead of the methods of abstraction and dissection. Fuchs has collected a great many photographic images - his voodoo utensils - on arduous expeditions to Togo and other countries. His photographs depict markets, dances, hunting scenes, tribal hair fashion and ceremonial scars, images of the dry and the rainy seasons. Again and again, a small cult figure crops up in his pictures, throwing an enormous shadow. Is this Fuchs`s attempt to highlight the gap between two worlds which can never be bridged? His exhibition, however, would appear to say something different. Documentary photographs and calculus juxtaposed, superimposed on top of one another, and intermingled like some illuminated palimpsest. These are not dualistic or even polarisod presentations but integrative ones. A physical model in which several ellipses are interwoven forms a mask araund a head-dress, a black face, which is in turn illuminated by the aura of a world formula. Another photograph depicts explantations taken from the tails of tadpoles which have been manipulated in a genetic solution. The changes in the explantations have been superimposed upon a picture of two African herdsmen. A scrap of text recalls almost casually for us the disappearance of racial characteristics. Everything remains open to interpretation. Fuchs is not heavy-handed enough to engrave his words in stone. Even so, l believe that with his disparate methods of representation, which almost verge on the surrealistic, he wishes to create space where our imaginative forces are free to wander. He is not trying to illuminate cracks in a heterogeneous world, but is attempting to build bridges. This is the motivation that lies behind all his images. His approach involving projections and superimposed images permits symbols to break through pictures and vice versa. Transparencies merge, fuse and continue to exist as shimmering reflected images elsewhere. Overhead projectors throw sharply defined spots of light which are refracted and transformed by lenses, unfolding a subtle painting in light. These images are not merely superficial effects, they reflect a state of uncertainty between the hard bright light of enlightenment and magical suggestion. It is interesting that where Fuchs directs his most heavily orchestrated mixture of transparent images, the production becomes the actual message itself. Out of the immateriality of superimposed images, what couid be described as a mystical unity seams to emerge. At the same time, the fact that no attempt is made to conceal all the technical and optical equipment required for these effects from the spectator provents the images from being interpreted as mere wishy-washy spiritualism. Fuchs maintains strict neutrality in his presentation of the experimental scientific world and the magical ritual sphere, without any hint of regression whatsoever. He only ever uses objective representations from text books and the most streightforward of documentary photographs. His work is entirely free of sentimentality. Fuchs is not trying to recreate some longlost continent or city of Atiantis. It is just as easy to see his images as a phantasmagoria of rich tense imagery and suprises. However, the images used also imply the artist is casting his eye over forgotten knowledge obscured by divided cultures and ciothed by them in the aura of an artistic vision.