An essay on the recent project by Ljubljana-based artist and photographer Peter Rauch, entitled Minimal Difference between This and That that has been exhibited at Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana (19 October – 11 November 2016).
[Photo: Peter Fettich / Cover photo: Peter Rauch]
Peter Rauch is an architect who, in his professional career, did not design or build objects very often; instead he devoted his attention to theory and photography, even though his photography has been gradually moving towards object art. This cycle of leaving and returning is probably the result of a constant need to search for the new and a reflection on the ontology and phenomenology of (everyday) things and phenomena. If Rauch had ordinarily employed photography to record and analyse all sorts of objects that have incurred as a result of human intervention, then, in his comprehensive work, entitled Minimal Difference between This and That, he focuses on the fundamental questions of objects as such. What is it that defines and constitutes a physical object? Does an object really represent an overall structure composed of smaller elements that by themselves have no particular role? In their everyday life, people today constantly encounter carefully designed objects, be it simple packaging for products or objects of high symbolic value.
The saturation of the contemporary environment with all kinds of objects triggered the artist’s obsession with them. First, he creatively dealt with objects through mediated image – photography, but then the two-dimensional image and its frame became too narrow. The works expanded into space, which is a logical sequence of things related, among others, with the technological development of photography and other visual media. All these factors led to an in-depth theoretical and practical research of the structural endowment of physical objects and the consideration of their mutual dependencies. In order for a certain matter to change shape or start moving, it needs a force triggered by another matter. The artist’s body thus became a mediator and at the same time the motor of the transformation of various matters. Moreover, the central point of the work is therefore the act of throwing. Rauch was continuously throwing selected objects into artificial matter, which was yielding and softened enough to change shape upon contact with physical force. This resulted in amorphous forms that show traces of the object entering the matter and the consequent splash.
In the history of (Western) art, the image of a thrower was a frequent iconographic motif, originating in the classical antique sculpture of a discus thrower, which depicts raw bodily strength. With the predominance of contemporary media, the character of a thrower, which in the past usually symbolised a heroic individual, was thoroughly profaned. Some of the emblematic motifs are, for example, the photo of a revolutionary throwing a Molotov cocktail towards something outside the frame that Susan Meiselas shot during the 1979 popular uprising in Nicaragua or the numerous images of young Palestinians in occupied territories throwing stones at the heavy military machinery of the occupying forces as a gesture of resistance. But compared to these, Rauch’s throw is not burdened by particular ideology. What he is interested in is primarily the act (of throwing) as such, which always contains a good measure of intuitiveness and randomness. Even though a throw is a conscious and a controlled act, its result is always somewhat unpredictable. This is why the traces of the splash in the exhibited works are to a large extent accidental. Every trial brings a unique result.
The central starting point of the latest work thus lies in the unpredictable reactions of the chosen objects to the stimuli from the environment triggered directly or indirectly by the artist himself, whether it is a round rubber finger strengthener rotating around its axis even though it is hollow in the middle, an uncoordinated encounter of two objects such as a failed handshake or a look under the rug where by-products from the immediate environment (may) pile up. However, the mentioned phenomena are mostly short-lived. A splash in the water appears and disappears in a matter of seconds, which is why it can usually be captured and frozen in time only by a camera. Rauch perpetuated the splash without using any optical devices, i.e. by simply creating a direct imprint of its own materiality. Despite this, the work preserves connections with his past production since his photographs often included elements of performativity and randomness. He built compositions for photographs and compositions out of photographs; he left photographic objects to the chain of events and intervened in them in order to ultimately change their shape and purposiveness. This time, he similarly creates installations which transcend the idea of the bare representation of reality, while carrying the traces of physical force.
© Miha Colner, 18 October 2016