kurt spitaler

fil conducteur


When one searches for the "fil conducteur" (the red thread) in Kurt Spitaler’s sculptural production one immediately discovers that his works essentially are composita. Analogously speaking, one could view the modular parts as morphemes. They are the smallest linguistic units in a language system but each has a meaning, that is, a function. Frequently the parts are sewn together with ropes but they are also secured with connectors made of plastic. The composition of the  components is all but heterogeneous. Within each work the artist remains true to the chosen material, perhaps true to the motto: What belongs together will come together. A case in point is the cooking pot with a lid sown to it. In contrast, the two black plastic buckets from the hardware store – detached from their original function and sewn together  – are the scurrilous outcome of the play between inside and outside. In those wworks that are composed of intentionally transparent materials, the inherent openness is further augmented and the boundaries of permeability are moved. But the shell has no core: It is per se the object. For in contrast to the empty word, which materializes when a term is worn down to meaninglessness, in Kurt Spitaler’s approach, something like a free space unfolds. For 70 days the artist kept a transparent diary; devoid of any apparent content they provide the viewer with an ideal projection surface.

Similar to inflection in language use, variation and series are part of Spitaler’s artistic principle. However, the consistent use of raw material and technical conditions limit the choice of colors. According to the sculptor the plastic ropes he uses for sewing can be extremely brittle, especially the black ones (which he therefore does not use). The red variant is more robust and, due to its makeup, also very flexible. In addition, the color represents vitality. The exact coloring changes with the task at hand. In some works, the principle of additive combination, according to which the unifying thread of the composition functions as a signifier, transcends any emphasis on the contours and evolves into a purely graphical surface structure. In a few objects, the regularity of the pattern is deliberately broken. However, such divergence is much more difficult to produce and requires more detailed planning than the clear order of things.

In Spitaler’s work, the contrast between organic forms that arise from the choice of material, wood, and technoid fabrics is striking. At the same time, it signifies an abandoning of the specific substance in favor of idea and form. The basic motive – the coniunctio – consists of several strands: “We understand that the English navy has a certain arrangement by which every rope in the royal fleet, from the stoutest to the finest is spun in such a fashion that a red thread runs through it which cannot be extracted without unraveling the whole rope, so that even the smallest piece of this rope can be recognized as belonging to the Crown.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wahlverwandschaften. Trans. R. J. Hollingdale, Elective Affinities)