Jürgen Klauke, Hannes Jähn (Red.)

JÜRGEN KLAUKE Fotosequenzen 1972 - 1980

betzel verlag 1982

Gerhard Johann Lischka
The Sequences

To show us the world by revealing his inner self – that is Jürgen Klauke's aim. Not a modest one, but a surprising and convincing aim. In 1970, he begins to make a photographic record of this venture. He does this in close connection with drawings which register seismographically the daily stirrings, the external circumstances and the inner vibrations: The flow of lines needs no stage-setting. it brings out the variety of the photography and enriches the great motion of the sequences.
The first pictures (Polaroid) show the transformation of the features through make-up, the accentuated eyes and lips, the complexion, the features, supple or plain, the male sex emphasized by female characteristics, interspersed by impressions of appliances and surroundings. A girl's face – light and dark. A naked young woman is wound round with string. The torso relates in varying ways to breasts, pelvis, neck, belly and pudenda, shoulders, buttocks and legs and changes it subtly. It is partly covered with foam-rubber and felt. And a last variation: stuffed stockings shaped into headless trunks, sagging on a chair. Victims, strangled, the threat of Death.
The entire range of subjects unfolding later on, is already present here in status nascendi: I am the subject, I am the object, I am myself and the other one, I am alive and carry death within me, I am the man who loves women and I am the man who might seduce men, I am kind and I am brutal, I am the conqueror and the victim.
10 years later, during the period of "formalized boredom", this point of view re-emerges in large symmetrically arranged compositions, in stark black-and-white contrast, in conscious scantiness of content. There is an awareness of a reduced scope and of the results of social mechanisms. A more merciless criticism of the limiting of sensual perception is unthinkable. The head is a black plastic pail, it is covered by a black vest and a chair; the body drops into a black hole, the eyes are closed, a side-long furtive glance, the body is stooped or bent over, mindless hanging-around, frozen movement, hanging on the wall, helplessly; the naked woman shivers with the cold, the water is running – the only action: on TV.
Between the period of the "Ich und Ich" and the period of "Formalisierung der Langeweile" ("formalized boredom"), there is the time of characterization, the subtle distinction of timeless basics, which – after all – reflect the compulsions and needs but rarely the joys of life.
The space in which all this happens is the usual one – Klauke's apartment, which is, at the same time, his studio. It is a large, white-washed, divided room in a backyard, with windows like the ones in small private plants. Most pictures show one of the white walls or the black paper hung on it: the town appears only sometimes. the apartment is a stage – always available, with objects of daily use, or alternately a neutral background giving voice to happenings. No scenery, no story other than the concentrated performance. The theatre, invaded the four walls on the apartment. It was swallowed by the maelstrom of the media and you have to become the actor yourself. Thus, this room contains its own limitations and compared with the pompous stage-settings and the omnipresence of the farthest corners of the earth, which robs us of the belief in the existence of a cosy nook anywhere, it offers us the peace of being settled, of letting our thoughts roam and yet cling to our surroundings.
Pieces of clothing, veils and plastic props play the part of the intermediary between the space and actor, alternately hiding and revealing it. The focus, however, is solely on mimicry and gesticulation. They are emphasized and intensified by carefully chosen clothing. In fact the clothing itself sometimes represents the actor, since in one way or another it modifies and symbolizes the person. That is why Klauke himself made some of the earlier fabric-patterns. A piece of clothing was impressed on soft paper with a printing press and then painted over.
The veil represents a net gathering life with its limited span. Stockings, as well as panties, pieces of fur and high heels are fetishes; leather stands for smoothness but also for animalism and power. Cowboy-boots make the best equipment for roaming the night. And when Klauke wants to emphasize the legend of a sequence, he puts on a plain black suit. Thus clothing becomes neutral and an integral part of the scant, abstract, black-and-white language.
Objects are used for the sole purpose of making an important statement in connection with the body-action or if they are meant to convey an unmistakable meaning by their very isolation. They sparkle. There are a few pieces of furniture, some Kitsch-knick-knacks, sex-utensils and balloons; unimportant, incidental things which suddenly appear to be loaded with significance because of a new and different combination and thus acquire an uncanny weight. The incidental reveals its subliminal substance. The terror of the commonplace. By virtue of their ubiquity, which noone can ignore, they fulfil their task and we never even grok it in its fullness. The burst balloon is a good example: Just now beautifully round and coloured, elliptical or round like the world, it demonstrates clearly: The self is shattered into stroboscopically chopped up instant photographs, it is frightened of the bang and where there was something only a short while ago, there is nothing now.
Even though acquaintances and friends play parts occasionally, Klauke strives for only one thing: The self-portrait. All these actors play only one part: the other side of the self. Their only purpose is to scan the female as well as the male aspects of a person and to demonstrate the effect of the self on others and vice versa. Thus the aim is never the representation of the actor’s personality, but an extended self-portrait. It is impossible to represent the self by itself alone in all its present-day invalidity. Too much of it has plunged into the obscurity of the soul. Portrait painters like Kokoschka were still able to grasp the essence of the face; in Bacon's pictures, they are already blurred, whereas Close painted huge face-scapes which need to be read like a map. The reason why it is so difficult to paint a self-portrait is the shrinking of distance, caused by a lack of communication, which focused the view on the face itself. Thus it has to be scanned from the inside and the outside and increased by others. Since the self does not derive support from the others, which would give it a chance to rest within itself, the others have to provide the real support of the self. This results in a reversal, which can be observed in all good self-portraits: They reflect the image of the society which produced it … Thus, when Klauke shows himself as performer and object at the same time, his self-portrait becomes representative for the appearance of man in our time.
Since our lives become ever more hectic and therefore more sterile and stereotyped, the pictorial representation had to adjust to the speed of life. This is automatically the case in the media because of their time-sequence nature. But in art, we have the possibility to evoke the elapsing of time, to compress the time-sequence into a single moment, which is transformed into the time-dimension by looking at the picture. The sequence of images, the various tempi and the arrangements of space are brought together. The latter has the desire to demonstrate elapsing time and action and is therefore close to the scenic sequence and performance. This too, however, shows that the effect is not due to accumulation but reduction. In this way, condensed pictures, sequence photography and performance become very close to each other. If we add to this the stills, the cardinal points of a movie, we have – from a technical point of view – the speed-adequate means of expression. Klauke makes use of a clever mixture of these various possibilities and knows how to give them an even stronger impact by appropriate legends. They are a mixture of play, fullness, seriousness and banality, of quotations, logic and grotesque combinations. It is easy to see that Klauke has entered virgin territory, optically speaking, but has also created a surprise element through the thought which carries the picture.
The basic shape of the sequences is rectangular, and this too, has its own rhythm – mostly he uses the horizontal. In addition to that he uses the circle and the large symmetrically arranged form of the tryptich. A subject is posed, the separate parts are joined together as equivalents.
Since Klauke represents himself in order to make a general statement, and furthermore uses an open up-to-date system, we are confronted with a product which is a vehicle for recognition and revelation. They count among the most interesting of the past decade, comparable to thoughts and œuvres from different areas: The diary and letters of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann (radical and overwhelming in their criticism of our time), as well as his poetry, which evoke simple plastic images, recall situations, grasp atmosphere; the powerful, unruly flow of thought of Deleuze/Guattari, which reduces authority and power ad adsurdum and dare a playful alternative by propagating the small-scale; Baudrillard's glittering statements of simulation, also Virilio's about speed, the new aspects of sexuality by Foucault, Eco's investigation into symbols, Vesper's trip back into adolescence through brutal force and different areas of perception, Theweleit's phantasies of men about the female body, Duerr's invocation of dream-time, Bruckner/Finkelkraut's amusing love-disorder, the fragile music of quick-change artist Bowie, Barthes' lecture, one of the most fascinating works of universal thought, full of surprises, which found home in so many places.
One has to regard Klauke's sequences in this connection in order to give them a chance to unfold fully. Then, they will tell us everything, not verbally, but by making use of photography as an instrument of recording sensual form and direct statement, which strikes us, the moment we encounter it, with the spell of sudden recognition.
Our eyes atrophy with the ubiquitous repetition of optic clichés and worn-out patterns of beauty. The simple but tough language of Klauke's sequences leads us back to the source and gives us a chance to experience ourselves through his work. Klauke is one among many artists or intermediary action-artists, i.e. creators in the manifold media, who not only use them, but let us communicate with them in a way that makes sense. Klauke tells us: That's the way it is, that's the way it should be and that's the way it will be.