“There’s more to Art than meets the eye.”
— Unknown Artist
Dark matter and dark energy compose the majority of the mass of the universe.Mysterious and invisible, dark matter easily overwhelms any positive light matter inthe cosmos, and yet balance is maintained. This disproportional opposition of darkand light illustrates the human condition according to Stefan Rinck.What is life?
Mr Rinck has created a diagrammatic illustration of the metaphysical dynamics ofthe moral cosmos with his assembly of black and white stone-carved sculpturesengaged in a ball game.
Ten figures play this game. Eight of the ten figures are made of German diabase, and two figures have been crafted from marble. Diabase, otherwise known as dolerite, is black volcanic basalt, seemingly abandoned by light, a humble stone commonly used as street pavement. Arranged on two walled sides as well as the floor of the court, the black diabase figures are against two white figures, who appear agitated by alarm and fear. Made of sugary white Italian marble, a noble and prestigious stone they stand in contrast to the lowly diabase figures. Connoted in this confrontation of materials is a Manchaean opposition, what Goethe would have characterized as a contrast between the implicit health and sunny light of Classical Italian marble, celebrated and respected, as opposed to the plutonian sickness of the German Romantic soul represented by the diabase, a dark mineral created by hellfire and forgotten. A battle is underway between the outnumbered forces of light and the greater forces of darkness.
The ball game defining Mr Rinck’s universe is modeled on the ballgames of Pre-Columbian American civilizations. Sloping plinths used to support the figureson either side of the square court are used to suggest the architecture of Mayanballgame courts. The ball in Pre-Columbian ballgames was a skull wrapped inlayers of rubber and bounced off the hips of the players. This was a game of life anddeath, and the player who lost the game would also lose his life; the loser would besacrificed to replenish the cosmos. It was a serious game.
The figures in ‘Dark Matter’ are quarter life-sized, gnomish characters. Theirsize and cartoonish qualities are disarmingly comic. The implicit humor onlyunderscores the game’s gravity.
The characters of the game are as follows:
Presiding over the court sits the ‘Referee’. The ‘Referee’ is positioned at the dividingline separating Team Black from Team White, or Dark Matter from Light. The courtis square, and the ‘Referee’ sits enframed within a circular ‘spotlight’, which ispainted on the wall behind her. Seated in the center of this theatrical ‘spotlight’ andwearing a conical crown the ‘Referee’ resembles the hand of a clock, and as a clock,the ‘Referee’ strikes midnight.
The ‘Referee’ is a figure made up of two arms with hands wielding drumsticks andtwo large breast-like eyes descending from her dunce-cap cone. She beats on a toydrum. She is an orthoconic nautiloid, a Paleozoic cephalopod predator. She is anancient fossil; she is Time. Having no mouth, she is unable to dictate rules. The game therefore has no rules to speak of… She only watches in impartial evolutionary judgment as she beats out an inexorable march towards extinction. The tick-tock of her drum, her eyes bulging, the ‘Referee’ observes mutely with her expectant mother nipples, while the hapless white player below her, a frightened animal, an aardvark-like character splayed Christ-like with outstretched arms, is ready to avoid or catch the next ball. This hapless player struggles as a to survive an eternal game.
Off the field of play, behind our lonesome protagonist, on a plinth, standsthe ‘Skeptic’, an owl of white marble. ‘The Skeptic’ either prays or claps with hishands/wings seemingly in syncopated rhythm with the drum of the ‘Referee’ insupport of the ‘Player’. The ‘Skeptic’ is agitated with anxiety and worry. He is asymbol of knowing wisdom, rational morality, and while he is sympathetic to theplight of the ‘Player’ the ‘Skeptic’ is unable to provide anything but the cheeringsupport of a witness looking on. He is the only figure on the ‘Player’s’ team. Life isunfair.
The ‘Skeptic’ is positioned in direct opposition to his diabasic counterpart, the ‘BlackOwl’ who sits on top of an empty skull. The ‘Black Owl’ stares blankly, with dollarsigns for eyes, over his shoulder. With only money in mind, he is unreflective ofhumanity. He is the Sleep of Reason, a benighted messenger of Death. The ‘BlackOwl’ is part of a downward triangle in the composition of the installation. This is atriangle of power at work in the universe. This power configuration includes twofigures other than the ‘Black Owl’. They are the ‘Crusader’ and the ‘Fortune Teller’.
The ‘Crusader’ represents religion. He assumes the form of an ermine in the roleof an altar boy. The ermine is an animal whose pelt decorates the shoulders ofkings. The ermine is a weasel, and in this case a royal weasel. Decorating himselfwith a sign of religious power- the crucifix- the weasel stands as the true nature ofreligious authority, which is revealed to be a swindling authority. The weasel is adishonest and unreliable agent of this swindle. He smirks as he undermines trustin religion. If this impostor is dictating and explanation of the cosmos, and it isactually a slinky weasel who impersonates divine consciousness, then we can takeno refuge or comfort in the divine. In the absence of providence the alternative isthe existential chaos of chance outcomes. The ‘Fortune Teller’ is the alternative toreligion’s claim to determining the destiny’s course.
The ‘Fortune Teller’ is a happy-go-lucky dog, whose armless body is encased in acubical die. He is trapped. This lazybones gambler relies on unpredictable luck.Fate is a toss of the die. The faces of this die display not numerical sets of dots,but the suits of a deck of cards: spades; hearts; diamonds; and clubs, while hishead and legs protrude from the top and bottom of the die; heads or tails for thisuncongenial, selfish bum in a magician’s top hat. He was once wolfish and wild,an animal of instinct now domesticated and tamed, perverted by civilization, hehas been removed from Nature, and follows any master, regardless of his leader’smoral standing. The dog of chance doesn’t work he only shakes, dumbly relyingon fate without structure. He represents an unreliable and random plot of destiny.The ‘Fortune Teller’ is an unsavory alternative to the treachery and hopelessnessof religion. Together with their base, the ‘Black Owl’, these two complete a negative triangle that excludes hope.
Flanking the ‘Black Owl’ on their plinths stand two more nocturnal characters.The first is the ‘Black Cat’ a scowling animal, never satisfied, always meowingforever for ever more. She is always taking, never giving, a self-absorbed needingmachine, persistent and sturdy in her stance. Meanwhile, the sculpture titled ‘I,Troglodyte’, stands on the other side of the ‘Black Cat’ and is the most disturbingfigure in the composition.
‘I, Troglodyte’ is a droopy. He is a degenerate character, his head is a polished dropof carved diabase forming an eyeless helmet. It is a sightless penis head. A blindastronaut in the black vacuum of space, holding between his dwarfish hands atadpole tail extending from his head. But the tail is ambiguous, like a shiny elephanttrunk, or a saxophone, or a straw through which he seems to suck energy from aninky, oily environment. The ‘Troglodyte’ embodies a primitive lack of consciousness.The undeveloped fetal figure slurping away in his dismal existence. He is a bottomfeedering egocentric who lives in the darkness of a black hole.
The game goes on…
The players are separated by a line, and stone balls lie scattered on the floor of thecourt, evidence of previous attempts at the white champion. The arrangement lookslike a checkmate move by black in a jumbled game of chess. Two diabase playersoccupy the floor. One holds a stone ball aloft, poised to lob it at his white opponent,while his fellow black figure turns to face the plate glass wall of the installation,the fourth wall of the stage. Ready with his black ball in hand he stretches an openpalm towards the glass, as if to feel beyond the limits of his enclosure, beyond theborder of the ballgame. He seems to be searching for something in the space of theaudience. He seems to be searching for the audience and the audience is us.We are to be the next target. With this ominous groping gesture the cuddly troll hasincluded us in the game, and he is threatening us. He seems to promise to eventually find us and to deliver us a well-aimed death no matter how well the game is played. No matter how nimbly we dodge and duck, he will get us in the end.
Life is always fragile. We are vulnerable and face ultimate tragedy; our destinationis inevitable endless darkness; nevertheless, we must play. We have to put upa sporting struggle and resist the missiles of demise no matter how pointlessthe game the game may be. In the careening senselessness of existence, Rinck’ssculpture installation sends up the cry, “Lets’ Play!” because this really is the onlygame in town.
— Christopher Hammerlein