Mysticism in a nutshell


An excerpt from a conversation with the artist Wolfgang Ueberhorst


By Arturo Eskuchen





Arturo Eskuchen: Mr. Ueberhorst, together with Michael Denhoffs Opus 76 you have presented a set of sculptures which in general is a reaction to the musical ideas of your composer friend. This reaction is apparently more than just an emotional response to the mood of the music, as I have understood from your various panel discussions. Your basic thesis is that there is a deeper connection between the two media. How do you come to this idea, why in your opinion is not art just art and music not just music?


Wolfgang Ueberhorst: You see, this exchange of ideas was, as Michael Denhoff has repeatedly said, intended as a dialogue and this implied from the start that both artists were viewing their field as language. Instead of some normal comtemporary common Esperanto-like medium the dialogue took place in two different languages but on one thematic level. This is something which both partners could as it were ‘do’ since each one had sufficient personal experience of converting music to visual art and vice-versa.


AE: There is a presumably pleasant aspect to this arrangement that the one partner has to let the other finish his contribution before starting an answer; does this not in fact present a problem? Surely in a real dialogue, even when two partners converse in different languages, in each case different from the natural language of the partner, but are sufficiently well understood by the other partner, is it not so that the dialogue permits the development of a single idea together? In your case there is no single idea, instead a series of single works or rather single statements. In fact Herr Denhoff writes that his final result of music pieces is independent of your sculptures.


WU: In fact it is my opinion on this point that the misunderstanding lies with those people who feel the need to protest that music is music and art is art. Firstly, we should not forget that our dialogue project lasted for a period of nearly ten years and this on an unregimented time scale. Taking a compressed view, of this period – as with the concerts with concurrent presentation of the sculptures, where the complete dialogue is present in concentrated form – then I think that one can well see a single idea which permeates all of the works. It seems to me important to note that before starting the project a definite decision was made to try to give a meaning to the interdisciplinary relation. You have to accept this premise when looking at the result. There are plenty of examples in other fields of human creativity where a definite decision for “meaning” was first taken in order to attain a result on the basis of that decision. You can always say art is art, which in effect only a special case of Ad Reinhard’s art is art and everything else is everything else or you can set a premise that art is communication and is thus able to influence all areas of life.


AE: Let us look at the titles, and as a secondary question why there are six and not five sculptures. There is one title which is not from you: “Sleeping muse” . . . this makes me think of Brancusi.


WU: It should do, because with Brancusi’s sleeping muse in your mind you immediately associate sculpture No. 1 with a head, which is directly intended. The title is, to start with, an aid for all those people who are not familiar with my language of form. I am thinking, for example, of my series of drawings of the chessboard, or my sculpture “by the mouth” – a spectator should manage to immediately recognise a head in the uncommented form.

The title is of course much more than hint at the ides of ‘head’. “Sleeping muse” is the starting point of the whole project, with all the ideas that your head contains and with everything that a muse provides, when she is awake and with you. In this way the title builds a bridge to the later sculpture number 4, “Nascita di una idea”.

Scupture number 2, “Tla reine et la clef” is the first one which derives exculsively from Michael Denhoff’s music; it is also the first sculpture in which an aural experience is formally converted – to reinforce the impression I have used a second metal, silver. “La reine et la clef” is thus the first sculpture in a series which has been realised using the principle “bronze +”. All the sculptures which depend on two music pieces, that is numbers two, three, four and five, all consist of bronze plus another metal: bronze and silver, bronze and enamel, bronze and alabaster, bronze and stainless steel. Only the two works which belong to “intentionless sculpture”, namely “sleeping muse” and the sixth,“Barcarola”, only these two are limited to bronze alone. Note that “intentionless” is not meant in the absolute sense, but refers to the intention to react to a musical predecessor.

In a way, the two purely bronze sculptures present a frame for the “bronze-plus” sculptures together with opus 76, 1-5. The total result is 11 works, which fits in with Michael Denhoff’s liking for prime numbers, perhaps it icould also be a reverence to Messiaen, with which I would heartily agree – but this prime number is made up of two ‘ones’, as if two individuals melting together to make one value which is far above the simple addition.


AE: Is that meant seriously?


WU: With a pinch of salt . . .


AE: from an amateur mystic.


WU: Well . . .at least this is a valid answer to your previous secondary question. It is not by chance that Michael Denhoff’s piano pieces are all entitled “sculpture”.

Sculpture and “Sculpture” stand side by side and when Michael Denhoff talks of his compositions as being independent it is perhaps interesting to remember that independent means independent of others, that is alone, but nearby others – in this case near to my sculptures, despite the fact that opus 76 can of course be performed without their physical presence.


AE: Can you please comment briefly on the seesaw aspect, if I may so call it. All six sculptures have either an extremely precarious or an inert position.


WU: This choice of position arose in the search for a spacial expression which fits the temporal character of music. Via the space-time model of Minkowsky and various other models I arrived at the the classical picture of a stone thrown into a pond, sending out concentric circular ripples. Ripples, water, boat; all these associations of course inevitably lead to what you have called the seesaw aspect, which I find quite fitting to Michael Denhoff’s music. The picture especially fits sculpture number 3 and also sculpture 6 which itself is a reaction to opus 76,5. Number 6 is also a retrospective of the whole project, hence its title “Barcarola” which metaphorically expresses physical rocking. “Barcarola” denotes the three-part song form which derives from the song of the gondolieri, but it is also used – at least in northern Italy, where my sculptures were cast – as the name of a small and not very reliable-looking boat.


AE: . . . which we might call a nutshell?


WU: . . . with seating room for just two people, if you are prepared to take the risk.


AE: Making two artists in a nutshell?


WU: Metaphorically speaking, and for the run of the project I find it quite appropriate to think of Michael Denhoff and Wolfgang Ueberhorst as sitting in such a doubtful vessel, far from any safe land and rocking dangerously.