Q: Why didn’t you make it larger so that it would loom over the observer?
A: I was not making a monument.
Q: Then why didn’t you make it smaller so that the observer could see over the top?
A: I was not making an object. (1)
Sarah Pichlkostner’s work can be understood as an investigation into the potential and limits of sculpture as a catalyzing structure. The structure as an object. The artist’s “sculptural objects” are not functional per se and they do not necessarily have in common the usual multiplicity features of objects. Blurring the dissociation between subject and object they activate the space they inhabit suggesting a dynamic, triune system between the space, the object, and the viewer. A space into a space is created, a personalized spatial experience is then proposed.
Sarah Pichlkostner’s artistic practice focuses mainly on duality, on the tension arising when opposites are set into dialogue. When confronted with their immaterial possibilities, she explores the intrinsic qualities of materials: sculpture as a consitutent of a negative space, visibility and transparency of the structure; sculpture as an object (and its related functions) generated from a material and its malleable status: When a material is brought to an object whose function is continuously developing over time, that object is ultimately reflecting us. The artist is consequently concerned with the double meaning of visibility: the contrast between visibility and transparency of objects, as well as their secondary visibleness through conversation and interaction.
Pichlkostner engages with sculpture through a consideration of the surface as materialization of the form on one side and, using the negative space as building material, as the absence of the form itself. The relationship between the negative and the positive, becomes necessary in order to overcome the passive relation object/space and object/subject. How does the subject influence the object and how could this effect be made visible and readable? By addressing the void, by exploring the negative space, Pichlkostner alerts us to the intricate, ambiguous nature of the surface. How to determine the relationship between the object and the surrounding space? How can an object be located? Where does it begin and where does it end? One possible approach suggests that an object’s limit coincides with the limit of its material form, therefore with its concrete dimensions. The surface of an object is a delimitation of matter and an incision in space – the object occupies a certain place– but its surface designates what it is and what it is not. The question neverthless remains: can there (ever) be a satisfactory or conclusive answer, namely a solution? An object’s specific manifestation can only be an implication of perceptibility, production, presentation, social behavior, timescale, light: hence, the factors and conditions that affect both artist and object.
In Sarah Pichlkostner’s minimalistic approach to space, the solid forms the physical limitation, while the in-between spaces represent more than moments of emptiness. The construction of a (new) space represents the accomplishment of the artwork, an act which repeats itself each time a new configuration is proposed. This continuous development over time, the reoccurrence of shift and adaptations, raises not only questions (and intrinsic doubts) about the possibilities of the artwork in regard to its mutability and adherence to transient circumstances. It is the durability of the object and the identity of the artwork which are threatened. In reiteration of Pichlkostner’s diplomacy over opposites, her work usually follows a binary code. Unlike paintings and traditional sculpture which maintain their status whether they are shown or stored, Pichlkosner’s sculptures are and are not. When concealed, the works lose their own specifications: reduced to mere material they enter into a deactivated “silent” mode. This seeming lack of immance sets the artwork as a social agent, conferring character (and a different visibility) by means of conversation and interaction. But is it total immanence? Only in its dynamic condition, in the blinking between being and not being. The materials which compose Pichlkostner’s works, respond to an inherent logic of processes, evolving statuses and conditions.
Make your self more comfortable (2015) is comprised of sand, glass, plaster mixed with sand, and liquid latex. A range of interrelated materials, producing systems at different degrees: an own-cosmos where multiple states cohabit in a time short-circuit coming from within. Resuming different states of evolution, the work lies constantly in a continuous present. Does this consequently mean that the state of an object is never finished? Does this closed-system project into the viewers a sense of intimacy, by which they feel more “comfortable”? What lies in between those different states is manifested while the work takes hold of the space: how all the elements are connected, how they relate to one another, and how they are perceived by human senses.
Expanding her experiments with the hsitorical legacies of minimalism and its ideologies, Sarah Pichlkostner often chooses from a range of materials inherent to the tradition of modern sculpture, such as plaster, concrete, iron, glass. Despite its strength and materiality, the work still creates around itself an allusion to mobility, aiming for multiple realities, and continuous, permeable settlements. Configurations as possible solutions, possibilities as forthcoming answers.
1 Tony Smith’s replies to questions about his six-foot steel cube. From Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture (Part II), ” Artforum, October 1966.