Christina Kubisch

Die Idee der Kunstsynthese

Helga de la Motte-Haber

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Installation in "De Vleeshal",
Middelburg, NL 1993

Christina Kubisch was educated both as a visual artist and musician, she studied at the art academies of Bremen and Stuttgart and the music conservatories at Hamburg, Zürich and Milan. The fusion of the visual with acoustic has influenced all of her works, as diverse as they may be from one another. While the focus of her artistic activity at first lay in the field of music, space had already played a large role in one of her first compositions, Language in Progress (1974). In this piece, which was conceived for 16 voices a cappella, vocalists were positioned in four groups around the audience. In numerous performances of the 1970's (some of these in collaboration with the video artist Frabrizio Plessi), spatial asp... and/or the movement of the audience in the room were just as important as the unusual sounds. During these years, Christina Kubisch appeared as the interpreter of her own pieces. In Emergency Solos (1975), she played the flute in many different ways, among others with thimbles, leather gloves, gas masks or just the mouthpiece.

In these early works, the correlation between the visible and the audible is taken for granted. Indeed, this visual music does not belong to any category of art. It developed in that border area between instrumental music and music theater. At the same time technical innovations were also seized upon and explored artistically. A departure from the .. .. artworld was signalized. Inherent to these works is a mistrust of the arbitrarily ... borders between the arts, borders that have their origins in classicist acsthetics.

In the works of Christina Kubisch, it becomes fundamentally clear how the genre of the sound installation developed from performance art by condensing multi-dimensional actions into different installation art forms. About 1980, the transition in Kubisch's work from performance to sound installation was completed (Ohne Titel - "Untiteld" - 1981). The artist retired from performing and relinquished this role entirely to the audience.

Installation in der "Stadtgalerie",
Saarbrücken, D 1996

Interesting in this context is an article that Christina Kubisch wrote for the magazine "Flash Art" in 1978. It affirms to what high degree she answers for her artistic activity. She justifies the departure of the artist from the center of events by explaining that this place in fact belongs to the audience. The rational quality that pervades her work, the self reflection, and the precise titles typical of Christina Kubisch are often coupled with a kind of intuitive new aesthetic idea almost incidentally, namely, that artistic expression must provide the observer and listener with their "own time" by inducing them to act outside of a fixed sequence of envents. She created the possibility for this with the design of new enviroments which require those moving within them to find a system of reference that not only encompasses the stangeness of the newly designed place, but also their own point of view. The observer/listener, who is her and now, and yet in a fictional world, must also determine the coordinates of his own position. In the Sound Installations, the many-faceted theme "space" became central for Christina Kubisch.

Rooms and landscapes were covered with cables to become soundpaths, routes, tents, surfaces and sculptures. With the aid of two cube-shaped receivers, the visitor could listen to sounds in the cables (through electromagnetic induction) and follow them in space. In Magnetischer Wald "Magnetic Forest" (1983) yellow - green electric cables (that matched the surroundings) were laid between trees and around the trunks. Depending upon where one moved with his cubes, one entered into another natural space that ... and chirped as if in dialogue with the people. Beginning 1984, Kubisch used headphones and in1987 proceeded to work with "open" sounds emanating from loudspeakers.

Installation in "Moore College of Art and Design",
Philadelphia, USA 1996

Unusual spaces increasingly attracted the attention of Christina Kubisch. A bunker underneath the subway (Planetaruium, 1987) or underground horse stalls (Kraterzonen "Crater Zones" - 1988) were redesigned. These spaces were usually pitch-dark, with phosphorescent-colored cable glowing mysteriously in the black light, while out of small loudspeakers these places whispered of their past. Ultrasound was thus transported down into the listening range. In Nachzeit - "After-time" (1990), loudspeakers were arranged in a cricular pattern in an old dilapidated movie theater whose original architecture was traced in glowing fluorescent cable. Different sound compositions emanated from each of the loudspeakers combining into structures that seemed random. It was a fictional world that one entered. Brought to light here, was something that is overlooked in everyday perception. The space was represented by the sounds that emanated from the loudspeakers positioned all around. It appeared to expand upon closer listening to these sounds. What on the surface appeared to be a form of repetitive music, with greater attention, revealed itself to be manifold changing mix of frequencies of repetitions was impossible. Listening for the moment was required. The fictional word into which one entered was always, however, situated art in which the concrete place became tangible in an unmistakable moment. The sounds communicated sometimes with the vistitor, as if the particular vibrations of the space were endowed with a voice. Thus the visitor is not a passive witness, standing vis-a-vis a work of art. Rather, he comes and goes in the midst of an art work that compels him to ask "where am I"? Subjectivity is communicated through aesthetic experience.

Installation, "Sound Art 95",
Hannover, D 1995

Zwei Wände und acht Klänge - "Two Walls and Eight Sounds" - was the simple, matter-of-fact title of an installation from 1995, which concerned an old ice factory that was no more in operation. The history of the space was also present in its artistic tranformation. With black light, the traces of decay were made visible on the walls. Something of the original character of the ice factory was also revealed in the crystalline tones of an old glass harmonica from the 19th Century. The narrow intervals of the tones, in the relationship of a minor second to one another, were constantly woven into new interferences, thus lending the space a floating atmosphere. The fluorescent walls that were outlined, glowed as if they were created from colored light. Tachistic painting as video art was one of the first associations though at the same time, one knew that this was false. This room enjoined the visitor to become absorbed in light and sound, removed from time and detached from place. Whether one should trace the artist's path since Nachzeit from 1990 through its forms of imagination is left open. But contemplative forms of perception, in which an investigative-inquiring impulse is of less importance, seem to gain more and more importance.

Not only idea of fictional spaces, but also the idea of fictional nature almost always plays a large role in the works of Christina Kubisch. This is not only true for the installations in forests, parks and gardens, but also for the repetitive structures of her acoustic compositions which seem to be natural sounds, and in recent works, are partly created from natural sounds. The transitions between the artificial and the natural are fluid. The Konferenz der Bäume - "Converence of the Trees" - (1989) displays five real bonsai trees on a table with the aid of headphones, one can take part in their murmuring conference, leaving the real world at the same time. Like blossoms from the interior of the sediment cauldron of a brewery (Kreisläufe - "Circulations" - 1993), pigmented loudspeakers glowed. They were controlled by solar cells affixed to the outside. The sound changed according to the light of day and night. As in Passagen II - "PassagesII" (1994), the artificial flowers needed natural light in order to reveal their speech. Regarding the "Passages". Christina Kubisch noted that they are like a picture made of light that is acoustically perceptible and at the same time, reminds one of a drawing in a botany book. Repoductions of nature are created as if their originals existed only in fantasy. For Passagen III - "Passages III" (1995) "natural" sounds were used without any sort of electronic disortion. These sounds (on six tracks) come from vibrating glass and have the effect of making a glowing flower appear breakable. The fictions form of the plant appears as a symbol of nature whose immediate perception is not (or not any more) possible. But this nature sill appears to be perceivable through art. Many works by Christina Kubisch show that whatever people can comprehend from their enviroment always carries the traces of their interference.

Helga de la Motte-Haber

English translation

Laurie Schwartz