Mediamatic Magazine vol 5#1+2 Ricardo Füglistahler 1 Jan 1990

Panta rhei

The Artists

The Ascension of a Digger


Panta rhei -

How to make a sculpture from lead and Portuguese granite, naturally creating an impression of leaden heaviness, while its theme, on the contrary, is light and almost implicit? For most artists, such controversies may be the most ordinary things in the world, but not for Ricardo Fiiglistahler.

Panto Rhei is a sculpture which, at first sight, looks like 0 primitive, alchemistic appliance for squeezing sap out of the clouds, a kind of distilling apparatus to be used for preparing secret elixirs from cumuli and, at the same time, a rain machine invented to render the rain dance permanently superfluous. At second sight, it is a work of art with as its theme the cycle, the cycle of water.

On two small monitors, we see clouds glide by, very slowly. Under one of the monitors 0 dropper is fixed with under it, in turn, a block of granite, eroded at the spot where the drops fall. The cycle is clear: clouds make rain, raindrops make puddles, and water evaporates. However, what do we learn from this, except that everything flows (panla rhei), as Heraclitus phrased his eternally quoted principle?

Füglistahler's other work can perhaps provide us with an answer. The main preoccupations behind the video installations that preceded Panto Rhei, from (the first versions of)Moving, Fish and Initiation up to and including the impressive black coffin of Requiem, were religion and rite, myth and technique, life and death. Laden and heavy subject matter, visualised and elaborated in on equally laden manner. Soil, leaves, bark, branches, candles, dead fish (sometimes strung together), blood, decay, decomposition, cadaverous smell, dork, usually brownish colours, droning and shrill noises - those are the components of the installations. They are applied in order to create a sacral atmosphere allowing the viewer to become aware of his own finiteness and the infinity of the ritual universe. The starting point is that primitive cultures and their knowledge of the concrete ore superior to modern societies which, due to their advanced technology, have lost all affinity with the concrete as well as the mythical. The conclusion is less than promising: man has lost himself due to his blind belief in progress and his hysterical worship of technology.

All these 'earthly' installations undeniably demonstrate concern about Nature as she withers away. However, now that a few years ago the Environment was invented and Nature perishes in a sour flood of concern, sympathy and empathy, it is time to let go of the earth and to cost one's glance at higher places. At the Universe, for example. It is highly imaginable that Fiiglistahler has made Panto Rhei (and Orbit, an installation from the same period on the orbits of moon and earth) to distance himself not only from the religious, ritual dimension of his earlier work, but also from the hysterical worship of Nature. Stripped of any form of mysticism, this typical transitional work (to quote the artist himself) is purely dominated by the course of things, the cycle of water, the progress of time, the movement of the planets.

It is therefore no surprise that one of the works made offer Panla Rhei roguishly settles the score with the entire earth-and- nature cult. Picture Stocked Wood: three wooden screens plastered with pointing canvas, treated with 0 stamp and painted in such a way that they really look like pieces of wood. On the screens, neatly arranged in 0 rack, it is written in large letters: wood. This work in fact produces more dishevelment than his ritual works. It is sharper and more intense because it simply does not express a positive or negative opinion on one of the poles (primitiveness versus civilisation, nature versus culture, etc.) but undermines the poles and the polarity itself. Is this wood, or is it not? Is it real or is it fake? The question spins around. There is no solution.

Apart from sculptures with the norm of measurement as a theme (it must be possible to express everything in terms of measurements), FOglistohler is now also working on a sculpture dedicated to Michael Collins, the forgotten astronaut from Apollo 11. While Armstrong and Aldrin gained immortality, Collins circled the moon and is apparently still doing so, because here on earth the memory of his heroic deed has faded. We may be mistaken but if an artist, who five years ago still rummaged through a rotting Yugoslavian wood for pieces of bark to exhibit in a gallery, combined with sardines, is now concerned with the memory of an astronaut, this would seem a substantial shift in his work from a religious and ritual to a cosmic and 'cosmonautical' perception of the world. Can you imagine a finer kind of levitation?