Struck Modernism

(Haus Konstruktiv)

Sound installation

Audified recordings of sculptures set into natural vibration with hammer or mallet, five speakers inside and outside the museum
Measurements and sound editing together with Kaspar König (Zurich)
Sound mastering by Johannes Schütt (Zurich)
Programing by Peter Aerschmann (Bern)


Struck Modernism

Isabel Mundry writes in her essay Counted and Recounted Time:
"At first glance, the title 'Struck Modernism' is amusing, but it does create an oscillation between two meanings. Here, namely, it is not that modernism has been struck, but that it gets struck – with a percussion mallet. Its representatives get struck: sculptures from Museum Haus Konstruktiv’s collection, by artists born before 1960. Thus, in this work by Florian Dombois, the sculptures no longer serve to be seen, but to be heard, i.e. as instruments. However, as there is no mention of sculptures in the title, where the term 'modernism' is used instead of 'modernist sculptures', the literal 'striking' returns to its metaphorical meaning. Therefore, it is also the case that modernism has been struck after all. We just would not have expected this to generate a sound.
The wit of the title recedes into the distance as soon as we physically encounter the installation, because what it refers to is no longer visible. The production of sound is over. The sculptures are once again standing somewhere in the museum’s rooms. We merely hear a trace of the process, via sampled sounds. Thus, the title converts into a poetic symbol, as it encapsulates a past occurrence in condensed form. Objects once made to be seen have temporarily transformed into sounding bodies, but have also disappeared again as such. Therefore, the title tells of the temporalization of works that, under the name 'modern', once wanted to claim eternal currency for themselves. As a consequence of this, it also refers to the central theme of the installation itself: time.
The audio material in Dombois’s clock consists of 23 samples, recorded while the sculptures were being struck. [...] However, 23 sounds do not fit with 24 hours. To make up the difference, a second order is defined, night after night: each of the sequences is given a gap, to occur at some time during the day, also based on the principle of random selection.
Modernism claimed to know which direction the arrow of time is pointing. Postmodernism reacted to this claim with irony and relativism. With the title of his installation, Florian Dombois leaves both positions behind him. Modernism was already struck in advance, and irony vanishes with regard to the encounter with the work. Yet the work shows us (also in a sensory way) where both positions are no longer effective. The installation puts the postulate of the arrow of time into perspective by means of its cyclical renewal of the unforeseeable. In turn, it responds to the indifferent attitude toward temporality with an internal differentiation and reflection of this very same phenomenon, whereby this work also calls itself into question, hour after hour. We never know which sounds will be heard, or whether they will come at all. Perhaps we just stand there and listen to nothing. Then, however, it does carry on again. Between presence and absence, enablement, definition, disappearance and renewal, this installation constantly generates a new presence, in constantly new ways.
Florian Dombois has positioned his clock installation at the entrance to Haus Konstruktiv. Internally, we take its sound and temporal form in with us when we enter the exhibition spaces. Or else we have missed it, because a gap was presiding at the exact time of our entrance. In this case, we might hear the clock (or the not-actually-a-clock) only when leaving, or perhaps only once we are already outside again, because a second one is installed there. At the threshold, we can also hear both in synchrony, then they develop into two spaces. Then, outside, traffic noise and other sounds blend in. The further one moves away, the greater the degree to which everyday life obscures the clocked sound of the installation. I walk on, and feel like taking it with me, into my time."

Published in Museum Haus Konstruktiv (ed.): Florian Dombois: Angeschlagene Moderne / Struck Modernism (, Berlin, The Green Box 2014, pp. 16-23.

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