IF THE PHONE DOESN'T RING, YOU KNOW IT'S ME
Michael Hakimi’s work is situated at the intersection of medium, form, and meaning. As such, it cannot be easily assigned to one of the categories of painting, sculpture or installation, but instead operates on and with these categories. Sculptural, pictorial, and installative elements overlap one other, thus forming a nexus that opens up relative to the phenomenal, contextual, and discursive conditions of aesthetic reflection. [This exhibition consists of two constructs, which might be called sculptures and might be seen as interrelated in terms of installation, but not necessarily. Ohne Titel (Großer Phönix I) references a modernist sculpture of the 1960s, Bernhard Heiliger’s Großer Phönix I, which was installed in the entrance area of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg in 1965. The other, Rauch 2, depicts a cloud of smoke in the form of a free-standing “shaped canvas,” which is mounted on a kind of tripod. It is a highly ephemeral object that does not easily align with the qualities of classical sculpture. In both cases, the photograph serves as the medium for initiating a remediation, in which genre-specific issues as well as their formal and content-based resonances are negotiated.
Sculpture is traditionally characterized by a special presence, both in terms of its material permanency as well as its presentational form, for instance, relative to a specific location. Hence, a space and an assertion of timelessness are denoted simultaneously or charged with symbolic meaning. Modern sculpture has generally adhered to these genre-specific qualities, even if abstraction made diffuse its content-based and paradigm legitimating function. Only in the minimalist and post-minimalist works since the 1960s are sculpture’s specific location and exquisite material programmatically abandoned in favor of the emphatic promise of an “expanded field,” in which sculpture is to finally be democratic, participatory, and thus truly public. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this gain could never really be realized, and that more of a shift would be seen towards installative constellations, which are in themselves quite open-ended but nevertheless outwardly calculated, and along with it the increasing focus on a fragmented art world and thus, ultimately, even a loss of the public and overall meaning.
Hakimi’s work updates this problem. It provides neither a solution in the sense of an expansion nor in the sense of a return to sculpture; rather it presents sculpture as an under-theorized and self-biased authoritarian category, which is, however, simultaneously full of potential in terms of its formal, public-constitutive, and allegorical possibilities. However, these cannot be simply asserted; they must first be developed in the difference between medium, form, and content, and therefore shown as the kind of space in which sculpture can appear both impossible and possible at the same time.
The photographic image surface, mounted with multiple views of Bernhard Heiliger’s sculpture, is converted into a completely new form through the folding of the image support. Now it has less to do with Heiliger’s expressive and symbolic gesture, which opens upward from a point, than with the movements of the observer before and around the sculpture. The “screen” produced by this wave-like flowing of movement results in a new object, which, in turn, is penetrated by a cardboard tube. This stabilizes and cuts across the form simultaneously; it can be seen as drainage, which corresponds to the clearly visible traces of weathered patina on Heiliger’s sculpture, as well as a view, perhaps of another kind of sculpture. Heiliger himself had, to be sure, understood his work as a dynamic expression of a transformation of death into new life, a national allegory regarding the “resurrection,” as it were, of the German Federal Republic after the war.
By circling around it in a dual, photographic and sculptural motion, Hakimi’s construct articulates first and foremost a distance to that pathos, but a certain fascination with it also remains palpable. A kind of reinterpretation takes place through the means of assimilation, which is understood neither as a question of sculpture’s potential specificity nor as a pure reconstruction of heroic modernism. Rather, the object, as an equally receptive and reflexive medium, opens itself up to a series of questions: on the fundamental relationship between form and seeing, on the comparability of the locations of the two “sculptures,” and the therefore implied positions of the respective observers, but also on the possible public-constitutive functions and allegorical meanings of art.
In a similar fashion, the second object also links connotations of meaning and formal interrelationships together. The three-leg metal brace of the image support, for instance, can, in its constructive, static as well as its pictorial function, be read as a kind of hearth, from which smoke, presented on the image panel, rises. For the most part, the pictorial form appears to follow the object depicted, the cloud of smoke; and even where differences seemingly stand out, such as between the ephemeral and “immaterial” shape of the smoke and the hardness of the metal frame, or between the pictorial front-side and the constructive, sculptural backside, the categories are ultimately related to one other. Both sides are open to the interplay of literal and metaphorical interpretation, between indexical and symbolic signs, in which ultimately nothing appears fixable and the categories of object and image, front and back, materiality and phenomenality are continuously exchanged with one another.
In particular, it is the unstable balance that links the two motifs, the sculpture of Bernhard Heiliger and the cloud of smoke, together. It references the specific, sculptural, and meaning-laden location of traditional sculpture, which Hakimi invokes in both of his works, without confirming or defeating it. Rather, he transfers it, on the one hand, from heroic unambiguity to a multiplicity of ambiguous readings, and, on the other, to a multi-layered, installative, inter-relational logic. In the display window’s line of sight, the two constructs overlap one another, thereby articulating a simultaneity of autonomy and relatedness.
It is no longer the circular view of sculpture that defined sculpture’s distinguished location, but a dominant field of view that remains yearned after and thus worthy of investigation. The public that has emerged from this is no longer the emphatic, all-encompassing, and representative public of modernism, but a public conditioned by the display window, meaning an expansive yet differentiated and selective art world public, which is only capable of constituting itself in the difference between categories and the therefore given range of experiential possibilities. Its presence indicates the absence of another idea of sculpture and public, and can thus only be addressed as such in a kind of calculation of gains and losses — Helmut Draxler.