Seite o. S. im Original
Lothar on a Stairway to Heaven
The fundamental coordinates of our relationship to the world are horizontal and vertical values – in other words we experience space in flat and vertical planes. Mankind has had a particular fascination with this intersection between height and linear distance ever since he managed to stand on his two hind legs, so as to get a better sense of the surroundings of his habitat. In order to extend their domain further, people built homes in trees or on hilltops. The first structures were built for surveillance – the basis of all power structures – for commanders and guards. Even in late Hellenic times, a king still had to perform the sacred duty of standing on Mount Haemon and in a ritual manner, survey all his surroundings by turning his body 360° to confirm the unity and cohesion of the world, through that gesture.
The topos of the shape of stairs provides us with another example of man’s early development. Stairways are perhaps the most successful realisation of the aspiration to extend one’s command over the vertical axis by progressing horizontally. A stairway combines horizontality with the dynamism of an upward and forward movement, which – with the exception of the stairway to heaven – was a mere speculative figment of Jacob’s imagination.
Early stairway constructions, such as the step pyramids of ancient Egypt, the Tower of Babel, the Colossus of Rhodes’, or the internal stairway constructions in the westwork elevations of Christian cathedrals, all first appear to their makers as fantastical dream-images.
Stairways in both early civic and religious buildings, such as castle keeps and Italian towers, were conceived as imaginary ladders that would deliver us a step closer to salvation: staircases would literally take us to places where we would be safer because we were closer to God. Entire cities carved out of the rock face, were in later years connected by a network of stairways that were also
accessible by animal-drawn carts.
The notion of the imaginary stairway to heaven and the architecture of the stairwell culminated in the development of the lift, which became the device through which one could unlock vertical space the world over.
In recent art history there are three ‘staircase jokes’ that became lodged in practically everyone’s mind. The notion ‘staircase joke’ initially referred to the hushed mutterings of domestic servants, who cracked jokes about their masters on the back-stairs. The author of this text himself is one of those humble servants of Art whose masters are the artists we serve. We write for a pittance about works of art that sell for millions and millions of dollars.
Staircase joke N° 1: Before the First World War, Marcel Duchamp submits his painting ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ to the Armoury Show in New York.
Staircase joke N° 2: Eric Charrell creates the show stairway for 1920s Berlin, via which glamorous showgirls descend onto a stage for the entertainment of a male audience.
Staircase joke N° 3: Oskar Schlemmer designs the stairwell of the Dessau Bauhaus in order to [make] any reuse of the building by the Nazis more difficult.
These three stairway jokes, avidly discussed at the time by the Vorticists who, under Ezra Pound’s leadership found a way to express them visually through their shared imagination and outlook. Vorticism means rapid rotation, a movement characteristic of both whirlpools and wind turbines in the desert. The vortices of colour, words and music inspired by these rotating columns have their origin in the Archimedes screw; the technical prototype of devices that rotate in a fixed position. Robert and Sonia Delaunay, for example, wove strings of colour to the top of the Eiffel Tower, when these colours seem to flow into the rainbows of the transcendent bridge.
And now to Lothar Götz, with his surname (which sounds like the German word for idol) suggesting to the astute that the working of art is idolatry. We must be careful now; we know from the mathematical genius Schrödinger that idols have power even if they do not exist, and psychologists have taught us that placebos are effective even if patients are aware of them, suggesting that psychodynamic forces can easily stand in for missing active ingredient. And artists are professionals when it comes to making one thing stand in for another. Our usual response to visual attractors, such as those created through painting, is to scan horizontally in front of them. The bare white gallery wall is a curatorial placebo, allowing us to perceive isolated objects within a hint of framework. In any case, one’s gaze moves back and forth across the surface of paintings and as we note where the works are placed we confirm the authenticity of the continuity created.
Lothar has always consistently broken this suggested continuity by working in several smaller places within a single space. The staircase, as a form of spatial organisation, is ideal for experiencing this sense of continuity at different levels. As soon as one passes through the colour space, it becomes a memory. Expectations about the staircase’s next levels contrast with what the viewer actually sees, creating a surprising experience. As one climbs the stairs, the [viewer is] continually challenged. The colour composition that one sees on every landing is enhanced by simultaneous recall of the previous composition and anticipation of the next. The aim here is to achieve classical forms of transformation or rites of passage, a metamorphosis in the here and now. The transformation process itself (including the stationary image of the swirling column of air) conveys an experience of durable happiness. In classical terms, constant change is the sole form of proven permanence, as the Fata Morgana demonstrates to every traveller through the desert. Today, all we know about the true nature of the Fata Morgana cannot spare us, nor take us away from the ‘real’ experience of the virtual, the imaginary, or the mind’s power of invention.
Even this, which demystifies all creative powers by reducing them to technique informed by artistic calculus, cannot negate the illusion of the unreal made real that we call art. And so, thanks to Lothar’s power to create a sense of space through colour, I ascend the winding stairway, towards a heavenly space.
[Übersetzung: The Translation People]