Martin Walde

»From Moment to Moment«


Kunstraum Dornbirn, Austria

April 11 — June 2, 2013


What immediately strikes you as you enter Kunstraum Dornbirn is an enormous funnel. It is black and hangs from the ceiling, tapers off towards the bottom, where its opening points to a small plate. And this plate stands on another construction that dominates the room: a platform that takes up a large part of the exhibition floor. It is just as high as the windowsills of the industrial building, which is thus given a pavilion-like character.

If you proceed to the walk-on floor level, other elements of the exhibition become accessible. Through a trap door a video projection can be seen; objects hang from long poles; an indefinable substance lies half-unwrapped in plastic foil on a pedestal; black amorphous objects quietly send up a rustling sound, while orange ones waft through the room. But what is all this good for?

The black plastic funnel, for instance, was a consequence of the following observation Walde made: “In a labyrinthine corridor at the airport in Rome, I see something disconcerting but at the same time deeply functional. A funnel-shaped, glued-together industrial foil construction is attached to a ceiling segment of approximately 650 square feet. Under this construction stands a small container, into which the debris and dust collects that directly trickles from the ceiling through the funnel and into the container. [...] Therefore, the construction is a hyperbolic funnel. Such funnel shapes are part of the standard vocabulary of bionic forms in nature.” Walde hypothesizes that there are no qualifiers behind the function of dust conveyance other than simple material logic. He therefore modifies only slightly what he observed and plans his own version of an irregular hyperbolic funnel. It not only tapers off, it even forms a vortex much like the ones you see whenever water is siphoned off. The fact that this functionality is reproducible is very important to Walde, especially in order to assure a margin of interpretation if the work should be set up under another name, in another context, and with different meta-functions and characteristics.

In Dornbirn the work has the title Stardust and thus leads to a number of associations and evokes certain narratives. Is it really dust from the universe that is collected in the soup plate under the funnel? It reminds you of Grimm’s fairytale of “The Star Money” while you try to discover the origin of the dust on the ceiling. And the presence of the dish transforms the wooden floor, elevated about 50 inches, into a set table at which we can eat whatever Mother Earth provides. However, what remains in any – also future – version of the installation is a metaphor that allows the hyperbolic funnel to be recognized as a universal model for singularities in a diagram language, i.e., for space warp and for the depiction of dark matter and black holes. Thus it represents an abstract view into the cosmos, a reach for the stars. “Pure Science Fiction,” as Martin Walde thinks of Stardust, “because from a singular space, matter has no escape.”

The door sunk into the middle of the floor looks like a trap or a dead end. It stands open and steps lead downwards. You can sit on the steps and watch a video: From Moment to Moment, the work that also gave the exhibition its name. You see shots of a summer meadow. The camera is handheld. It moves in slow motion and always onwards. Not wielded in a linear fashion, it follows no continual choreography. At the same time there is perceptible movement in the meadow, occasioned by the wind, the change in light, and insects. What at first seems static, with time becomes visible as a gradually changing segment of the meadow. Since the mid-1990s, Walde has worked continuously on a series of film takes. What they all have in common is the attempt to compile sequences of almost imperceptible camera movement without cuts over a period of time that is as long as possible. Against the dominant narrative pattern of our time that no longer pauses but only hastens from action to action, Walde holds up the prospect of a seemingly timeless progression “from moment to moment.” Yet, the work is not only about deceleration. As it subverts our habits of looking and media-watching, we can digest what is processed in a much more differentiated way. The unfocused ramble across the meadow thus becomes a meditative journey into a microcosm and, in relation to Stardust, to a reflection on what is infinitesimally small in a gigantic space.

You also feel relatively small standing in front of the next work located alongside the trap door. Flowers loom 30 feet high. But it is only a stylized bouquet and the blossoms are made from waste material: plastic bags, sticky tape, blown up latex gloves, foil, and so on. The stalks are carbon fishing rods; they weigh little and are highly elastic and stable. But why are they mounted on steel springs? You quickly discover that the springs allow you to pull the rods down easily. When you let go, they move back up on their own. The higher up the weight is at the top, the gentler and slow the movement. If the weight is too heavy, the stalks remain grounded by the leverage. The title of the work, I-Point, alludes to the concept of “information points,” (i.e., information centers). The work was planned for outdoors where, in public places, it may also have a signaling effect. Messages and slogans, lost-and-found articles, or objects of barter can also be brought into circulation in this way, and the flower bouquet can become a communication center.

The interaction lends form and character to the artwork and expands its spectrum. A series of black, oval objects spread around the floor has a similar effect. The objects emit a soft rustle, and cables jut out of them. Here, too, you soon notice that you have to pick them up in order for something to happen. Nothing happens unless you walk around with them: With a bit of luck you find a position that is both agreeable and allows the reception of a pleasing radio program. Walde has covered small radios with silicon, therefore making the tuner unworkable. If you want to hear something clearly, you must actually take matters into your own hands and physically search for a reception. Here, too, the artist arouses our curiosity and desire for play.

As early as 1992, Walde had given in to a strong urge and produced Forever sticky, forever wet. For this he crumpled up a silicon puddle measuring several dozen square feet. He used then-standardized industrial substances and, by deliberately misinterpreting the instructions for use, hoped to arrive at unexpected results. By ignoring the package insert, a physical state between fluid and solid was produced. And removing the wrapper and its natural drapery yielded an object that might recall a flower, but which, just like a flower, could not perform any standardized function (except an aesthetic one). Forever sticky, forever wet is part of the series of Hallucigenia Products. Within their framework, the material properties and their uses are manipulated in a way that, through calculated serendipity – the observation of something which was not originally sought and turns out to be a chance and happy discovery – results in quite new possibilities for their usage. Hallucigenia, an animal species similar to velvet worms that lived 500 million years ago, triggered a long-lasting discussion on its physical appearance. For his series Walde took over the “principle of parallel fictions of a creature with different manifest forms,” which also yielded many “abortive results,” which in turn “found an equal place among the Hallucigenia Products, since Hallucigenia themselves are creatures whose possibilities are not exhausted by being right or wrong,” as Walde remarked.

The last items in the exhibition are also the results of a “wrong reaction” of specific kinds of material. Alien Latex is made up of neoprene, latex, air, and helium, but the helium and air supplies gradually lessen. The sun and the atmospheric conditions cause the material of the weather balloons to deteriorate. The skin becomes porous; the balloons go increasingly limp, until in the end they only creep along. At this time they are taken down from the rods and begin their second life. As indefinable creatures they crawl through the exhibition, each bit of air and each little bustle breathes life into them. Likewise dependent on interaction, they scrape out an existence as a planned, but quite simpatico, obsolescence.

Since the 1980s, Martin Walde has been engaged in expanding the concept of art and of nature. In his exhibitions we can immerse ourselves in microcosms and macrocosms, experience the transformation of objects, and witness the metamorphoses of materials. The floor level is not only a platform for Walde’s art, but also a stage for us viewers. With From Moment to Moment, Walde goes beyond merely assembling art objects: He creates a trail to follow, along which we complete his artistic work – via playful processes that often recall natural ones. Martin Walde transforms the Kunstraum into a garden full of cultures that strangely resembles an artificial world.


Martin Walde, born 1957 in Innsbruck, lives and works in Vienna. More information on him here. The exhibition catalog can be ordered here.