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German language version
MAK - Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst
Hatje Verlag

On Bruno Gironcoli

In: Bruno Gironcoli. Die Ungeborenen / The Unbegotten
MAK - Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst
deutsch / englisch
Hatje Verlag. Wien 1997

Essay zur künstlerischen Arbeit von Bruno Gironcoli

Weitere Beiträge von Peter Noever, Donald Kuspit, Franz West, Bettina M. Busse



lf it were possible to fade out memories and to feel completely unfettered, i.e., freed from the weight of everything that has happened until now, like a person who, unfoundedly, feels alienated, then rooms filled with Bruno Gironcoli's works would simply appear to be a place where the present is concentrated in strange ways. That these do not exist elsewhere could first go completely unnoticed. To what extent archaic and futurist aspects merge cannot be determined. Such ascriptions would simply make no sense since no questions regarding this can be posed. Since everything remains immobile, that is apparently the same, time only appears by way of varying light conditions, as an illumination of forms. What is visible could take place anywhere and anytime. All sense of proximity has been eliminated without the consequence being strangeness and distance. Thinking and imagery unite in an almost fictive way, driven by their contradictions, by the counterforces of each and every civilized state. The objects cannot even be grasped as an intermediate stage; for this they are too voluminous and have been manufactured with too much precision. Their smooth surfaces declare them as something finished, they could be taken for factory-made products, for which no one has any real use. Their variations manifest unknown processes that have nothing to do with demand and supply. These objects create their own, circular, self-interrupting continuity. One thing leads to the other but does not become obsolete by this. Visitors and beholders alike are only sporadically called for. While people do not disturb, they might sense how superfluous these and other types of reality make them. They are incorporated at any rate, as soon as these things preoccupy them. The author does not want to attract attention - neither by presence nor by special skills. He has time. He is concerned with something constitutional, as condition and physical structure. Movernent is the fiction that lies beyond this. What is produced could just as well survive in a storage room until it is, some day, taken out.

But this is about everything which could give one hopes for other states. Gironcoli reacts with every form of intervention he is capable of - through concentration, waiting and trying things out. There is analysis and conception without any perspectives being assumed. This neutrality asserts more than it relates. The only thing that has to do with the future is, at best, the impression that artificial intelligence is at work here. It is not indebted to anyone for more legitimation, it tests certain possibilities, without hardly worrying about being accepted. What could result from all this simply emerges step by step. Impulses serve to reinforce or to vanish, form results from fragments without there being need for construction plans. There is something artificial in the sense of a feeling or emotion that is at work here. Untapped storages set free ideas, filters are switched on and off, images become clearer or increasingly blurred. What is diffuse seeks provisional forms, coherency evolves from transformations. The resulting accesses to virtual worlds are still material ones, in some way antiquated but at the same time transformed, artificially cool. The ego looks on, amazed at its parallel and hypothetic identities, and at some point says: finished, since it knows that it can refute it all so as to be able to pur ue sornething for a while.

Gathering material for discourse and argumentation on Bruno Gironcoli's work by constructirig faded memories, non-chalantly accepting alienation and making assumptions on artificial intelligence can only halfway do justice to the subject and person if such an approach is immediately interrupted and enriched by other perspectives. To avoid a simplistic understanding in the process it makes sense to bring up the subject directly, as for instance through recourse to an apodictic conclusion drawn by Max Horkheimer: The way people are today, they understand each other only all too well. If they would once begin to not understand each other anymore, neither themselves nor the others, if the forms of their communication would become something suspect to them and what is natural would become unnatural, then the horrible dynamic would at least come to a stillstand.1 Whether this appears antiquated in view of meanwhile radically different conditions of communication or not, this creates a connection between latency and time. Such demands could also stem from a medieval mystic seeking other forms of communication as an alternative to an indifferent, pseudo-active acceptance of the inferno described above - in prayers, in silence. Cursing as something liberating is a related counter-impulse, something that frames everyday phenomena. As such they are repeated, both in the sense that one becomes used to how difficult it is to convey many things and in the development of functional, ambiguous, playful, consistent or less consistent idioms that expand their repertory of signs, before falling silent again and again. Disturbances and interruptions are key aspects of any understanding, even if dissent is no longer central. It has long been clear that normal communicational distance and apathy are not linked to the course of the world and its objects, whether Horkheimer's people or others understand each other or not. Not even what they experience creates links or something binding. What remains valid is the refererence to destructive, paradox conditions, including the ever-recurring preoccupation with autonomous forms of communicative and non-communicative action, to which also its negation belongs.

Processing what could not be known yet

Bruno Gironcoli was born in a time in which non-understanding was conjured up, a collective, inimical euphoria - one by no means shared by his immediate surroundings. This movement had approached a maximum of organized consent, following the preceding low. As a consequence, this civilisatory rift, which he, too, experienced, every assertion of continuous progress has since been linked to an ultimately impossible state of being able to remember and wanting to forget. With its monstrous dimensions this rift remains inconceivable and undepictable, and was also experienced as such. Nothing can be shown in this connection. Everything general mocks the singular. It is impossible to liberate oneself from it. Be that as it may, the presence of signs which he assimulated as a child (in Carinthia and, in part, in Frankfurt am Main) and pictorial emotions left such a strong impression on him that traces of them still surface in his work today. Here we are not confronted with a reaction to a latent intention to renew happy moments but to a complexity in which such desires and stereotypes can no longer be recognized. What is unfathomable in events, including horrible experiences, is present at any rate, even if there are no direct references to them. In conversations and texts, he refers to such impulses only reluctantly, refusing to feign affliction, to counteract far-reaching references and an equal status of existential situations. Instead he emphasizes that perceptions recalled are of the same importance, as a sculptor coming from the thousand-year past of Chinese and electric ages - at least - as design.2 Such a statement is both a defense strategy and a subversive distancing of onself, a way of protecting larger perspectives and one's own minimum possibilities. Here it is insinuated that memory involves such complex, intertwined mechanisms as storage and processing that it is not possible to make any direct connection to the concrete work. With regard to suffering (or ist absence) that is experienced or has otherwise become conscious such a transposition would not make sense, and at best only simulate affirmations. Nevertheless, processes of translation do take place. Thus clear connections to history cannot be deduced anywhere, if there is not any knowledge at stake. Its relics and the meanings ascribed to them become an intrinsic, idiosyncratic assertions on how the general and the individual are forever in conflict in an obscure, only sometimes accessible way. Every experience and every object is something unique. Forgetting and the desire to forget are not confronted with admonitions but with silent signs. Speaking is left to decide what is to be the subject of speaking.

That something can appear once cheerful, once desolate, that something makes sense, no sense and is simply non-sense can entertain special relationships to something else - not as opposition or lack (as this was, for instance, actualized by Gilles Deleuze) 3 - is accepted as a prerequisite of life and work without too much mitigating irony. Surface and depth are not dealt with as if they existed separately of each other. It is clear that there can only be access to non-delimited, multiple layers if there are differentiations, i. e., when sornething is identified and related to something else. In terrns of form and formlessness, separate dependencies of thinking on action result; causes break away from the original, reconstructions of such processes would always bring forth something else. What is signifkant about the selected procedures is that sacral and political symbols, with their interpenetration and popular connotations, as trivial and innocent parts resurface as if they - and the related structures - had been subjected to a process of demythologization. They are long not needed anymore, yet they are still there. That is to say, nothing can be completed. lf they trigger memories, then they do so challenging the substratum of all mnemonic potential, the difference of meaning and referent, the exaggeration which has become debris. However, all of this is a matter for others, since the object itself no longer asks anything at all. Instead, it draws its provocative effect from simply waiting.

To suggest that Gironcoli makes a horrible dynamic visible, as is often done, when he is cited in connection with nature endangered by technology, machines, power, would unrightly reduce him to a role of aestheticizing usufruction. His work, aloof of concepts, seeks other insights. He does not experiment anymore. He sticks to what he knows, yet he breaks away from it, working with inaccessible idioms of reality. In any case, I see no indication of this sort of critical stance which thrives from its own dubious ideas of harmony. lf at all, then such ideas are tackled without minimizing what is evident, but also without lamenting losses or benefits lost, say, of sensuality, individuality, happiness, which would imply that it was once better or could ever be better. The metier selected has its own complexity. And Gironcoli has his own, to boot. What is created proves what he is capable of. lt has to do with presence, mental presence would already be too dramatic, not material enough. Which fields of reference come to bear is decided in a highly personal way without anything personal having to become visible. His obstinate, autistic approach becomes something counteractive, in the early years as timid revolt, reserved aggression, sporadically interspersed by sadism, perversion, penetration, but at the same time also more distanced. lt is based on soft and inconspicuous forms to express aggression and to combine elements in unforeseeable ways. Readily available - that is, allegedly poor - materials have interested him from the beginning. What confusion of ideas each is based on slowly emerges in a process which takes the pressure off time and dispels it. Pertinent laws must again and again prove their worth anew before a codex can evolve. The individual work is met with skepticism, and what counts more are the processes. Consummation is no theme. The parts precede the whole. They determine how they fit together.

What is perceived, what can be perceived is determined by how the individual parts are assembled. Freedom from disruption, fear, blocks is more important than a preoccupation with the final product, with death since every form of life by necessity remains incomplete. This cannot be shown, only worked out. The related speechlessness requires form to ake concrete what cannot be made concrete in any other way, that is, to document that a lot of things are simply not possible. Contents result without their specificities having been formulated with sufficient precision. This also means that accompanying sentences must come to terms with their dubious nature. Arrogance in the face of banalities does necessarily make them any more substantial. An allusion can allude to something. For instance, in Gironcoli, notwithstanding all intwinements of strangeness and familiarity as reflected in his approach, the following can be noted: force, even with regard to emotions is never only a matter of others. We are still dealing with causes and their negation, with sequences, differences, meanings, only that the ways in which they appear and interrelate are subject to constant change.

Since he limits himself to the essential, a lot becomes clearer. Since he does not excuse himself by saying that he cannot know what he is doing, there is a vexing openness. The hermetic and static quality of his forms also is no contraction. lt protects what is hidden from being encroached on. Yet it also states that something not immediately visible requires a constant preoccupation with it, as a potentially subversive activation of memory. To point to something would exclude one's own perpetrator-victim potential. To tell a story would bespeak naturalness and artificiality the effects of which would be subject to the influence of an agent. To represent something would introduce movement in a situation calling for consolidation and observation. All of this is replaced by an approach based on perseverence which does not speculate with deliberate absurdity but rather challenges absurdity by enhancing it, making it recognizable as such by keeping it on kilter. What results is a separate image of the state of affairs. What cannot be known yet is processed. Explanations have a rough time since they are supposed to have a hard time, but does by no means implies that they are superfluous. An art that seeks to completely evade concepts and an understanding is not his bag. Nevertheless its substance resists being transformed into texts. The spheres are different without such differences requiring a pathetic distance. Lightness is not regarded as an inferior category. The categories themselves are lured into traps. What is general becomes special, what is special becomes general. With the overlappings of commonplace and universal being seen and acknowledged as family similarities. Nor can anything definitive or reassuring be derived from the big words usually employed, either. Since a lot is kept silent in Gironcoli's work, more casually and without a mise-en-scéne of a final silence, it becomes part of a reality which cannot simply be obscured by diverse forms of consensus.

Something that simply sits there, silently vegetating

A lot of what has been said up to here could be delegated to the realm of overall arguments where precision is constantly confronted by new revisions. As a generalization this always holds for something that could not be implied. lf it comes too close to the special, it makes itself superfluous. Linguistic, i. e., formal precision can make something become more understandable but also less understandable. The observation of sequences, of sequences and cross-references, which provide other accesses to Gironcoli's silent aesthetic could possibly free us from this antagonism. My goal was an aesthetic one, he says so resolutely that glib comments are suddenly left there alone, and then slowly intensifying his remarks to eruptive categorical statements he goes on to say: I was always only able to find an answer to this world by means of the object. / I was only concerned with something exclusive without a lot of gestures, with something that was to be as simple and still and unattractive, so rough and jagged as possible. / I always wanted to find something that is completely at home in its silent aura and does not show anything indicating the outside. / I was interested in finding beauty in something which has its existence without a lot of articulation. / I was always interested in the phenomenon of production, this immediate process und not the indirect one of interpretation. / My consciousness and my aesthetic desire have created a tendency toward silence, toward things which lead to silence by virtue of their simple surface. / I was not after expression. I was interested in the sculptural idea behind it, that is, a certain silence and rigidity consolidation. 4

The conciseness of such selected statements, however, negates the nuances of what led up to them, of what else is at work here. Secondary matters ultimately have the same importance, for instance, when he indicates how interested he is in the most ordinary things: In department stores I kept looking at plastic cups, Vim and A TA bottles, soap dishes, boxes; that is, all sorts of things that are not indicative of a luxury world but are used by people in everyday life. I was touched by all of this. / I tried to find something grand on a small scale. / I was impressed by how such things construct their self-awareness in the world with their thin walls. / Even though this is not interesting design at all, really the worst, it has something intrinsic and this is what I tried to unearth. / Children's toys also have such a quality of the object-like, the selfmade and purchased things. Almost all things of the world were modelled after them. There are dolls, cars, planes, Christmas trees. What is available as something that can be reproduced is reproduced. My silent world shows instances of this. You simply have to find them again, to reencounter them in their realization. / Only: at that time I was not interested in design. In my thoughts, in my dreams I was much too unbourgeois that I could have tolerated a restoration of bourgeois demands. This, in a sense, is strange. Where I hung out everything was withont quality, that was the crummiest exploitation of an idea, but this I liked.

The phase of the first exhibitions (1967, Galerie Heide Hildebrand, Klagenfurt / 1968, Super-Design, Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, with Roland Goeschl, Hans Hollein, Oswald Oberhuber, Walter Pichler) alluded to had been preceded by years of dogged experimentation. He pursued drawing after nature up to an extreme point, in constant preoccupation with van Gogh, with Giacometti, in spite of the fact that figuration was taboo at that time. After dropping out of school and working as an apprentice at a metal-processing company in Innsbruck, he began to paint and to study on and off at the Vienna University of Applied Arts. Today he describes his dogged study of his own possibilities as a largely autodidactic process. First he tried copying things, then he drew mainly heads for years, yielding to his tendency to the concrete, until this sort of observation had been sensitized to the extreme that he was no longer able to bring forth anything else. Finally he had only been able to come up with drawings which attempted the concrete in view of the model but at the same time raised questions of life in an expressive idiom, fairly wild drawings, as he says, parallel to his work but increasingly detached from the context of his aesthetic emotions. The head drawn perhaps one, two hundred times was actually almost my last drawing, he now claims, as a step to systems of reference in space and to the sculptural side of drawing, that is, the attempt to develop what is affable. I am not disputing the fact that pictorial solutions have remained important to him as a two-dimensional condensation of multi-dimensionality, but only bringing them into perspective with the earlier phases of his work. The experiments in which he skillfully mounted metal pieces into the pictures like a craftsman encouraged him to make the step from painting - which I never siicceeded in, as he states, because he liked the primings much better than the resulting picture - to sculpture. This then led to his main preoccupation, namely creating formations. The early polyester works are Heads (1964/66) as well as the Wire Sculptures (1960/64, exhibited at the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1970) are caricature-like drawings referring to the head in which he seeks to conquer an open space and a spatial atmosphere to surround it. The desire for something simple became increasingly pronounced for the very reason that what he created always appeared insufficient, measured against the art views of his time and his own values as split subject. He discontinued a number of experiments since repetitions could not have been pursued, since in such a way too little was said about this world, if such a thing can he represented at all.

He finally became tired of using the head as a model. Proceeding to work with forms - those - of others and of himself - he suddenly saw their assimilation to pieces of furniture. He then turned to sculpture and the theme of the surface, as it is addressed in the clothes closet, closer to silence, to immobility, away from the automatic dynamic of drawing towards something that rests in itself, that exists without a lot of articulation. That is to say, it stems neither from a new expressionism nor from the abstract image, which seemed moot to him at the time. His statement on this today: If one looks at the thousand or odd shapes of closets today that people have developed, there are some that raise the issue why they, in particular, have become closets. They could have become something else, for instance: sculpture, vitality, as he emphasizes, would result from the designed surface with its surface dynamic, symmetries, in turn, could show how something vegetates silently before itself: only in this shabby design does the aesthetic assume its full value.

Waiting for movement

I was looking more for a sound, not abstraction, is a further comment, I didn't want to make anything what others had already done; I wanted to hit upon my world and questions that are still unanswered for me. I will have also wanted to design the lost image of man without using it for this. That he reflected a lot on existentialism and the Frankfurt School - this reading of materialism / the interpretation of the second line of socialism / this was dear to me / Adorno interested me very much - is brought up and is also seen as related to his occasional attempts to add something verbal to his drawings and sculptures and to provide information on the points of departure for his action have. Ort a number of occasions, this has prompted persons writing on him to apply seemingly fitting expressions. Ultimately, though, as he believes today, the objects protect themselves, since such a thing is also an expression of the times and of a certain helplessness of a verbal statement vis-a-vis the issue of sculpture. Nothing can be changed in the mental points of departure anymore, only in the way one relates to them. But nothing more. They simply imply more than that the collected experiences cannot be detached, just as the theoretical focus has shifted from politics and economy to the aesthetic realm and political alternatives have been deconstructed, first in the highly developed system of the commodity economy, which has remained more a residual variable than a winner, then everywhere where its expansion is worthwhile. From the formal expressive qualities it can be concluded with a certain logic that an aesthetic serving this rational-irrational economization is neither provided material in the strict sense of the word nor with conversation material. Something insular emerges which wants to remain by itself, without indulging in such an isolation. Nevertheless the self-defined realm provides enough space for diversity. As much as a specific economy is included as a decisive force, he hardly yields to the general laws of his sculptures and drawings when making and using them. This he does less out of refractoriness than out of a disinterest with regard to these mechanisms and their limited scope.

My judgement is that already early there was a hidden indifference and humor - a stoic element - shimmering through in the desolate, tormented dimension of his work. This interplay of exaggeration and reduction becomes clearly recognizable at the latest when a change in consciousness is brought on from the outside. He only shares this change to a certain extent, since such self-analyses were not possible for him. When he was younger, all of those things happening around us in life scared (him) much more than now. Since he is now inereasingly often checking whether what he perceives is right, a sort of serenity becomes visible which is also reflected in his work, only it, when related to himself, is usually taken to be a brutal tiredness which he often shows. The scuIptures and drawings insisting on waiting, waiting for movement to be halted, for the fulfillment of desires, for a potential not yet tangible, meets with reserved approval. Only my waiting - as he says to relativize this - resembles more the waiting of a snake which is irritated by a source of light and does not know what it should do; it stays where it is and is run over by a car. This waiting is not a well-considered, speculative waiting; with me it is more a nervous waiting, a helpless gesture. Related to this is also the fact that electricity or gas is addressed in a number of works but never actually used. lt is never sure whether switches, plugs, faucets, pipes and tubes actually function. The threatening appearance only makes a dilapidated impression. At the same time it seems to be a waiting for energy and a fear of unknown consequences. Ultimately, though, this symbolism is certainly more complex and not just an analogy for fear of a thunderstorm. Its function as the moral theological place to remember one's bad conscience, since thunder and lightning were, for the longest time, regarded as premonitions of the Last Day has been eliminated through our knowledge of electricity (and the lightning rod). 5 Yet there are repetitions of such situations in the sense that we are vulnerable to existing energies, as such energies are set free. On this, Gironcoli states laconically that he basically sees himself as a drive unit, as an operator of mechanical vehicles, which he activates in the form of an idea. The processes are mechanical as dependencies in the mind, not as objects themselves. Movement does not really have to take place, it only has its own multilayered possibilities. For him, power is thus a flashy metaphor, an image for many things, as, for instance, weapons, in a figurative and in a literal sense, since the threats acquired through expanding fields of activity have made man a hermophrodic being with a passion for prostheses; his insights are usually based on the forced confessions of others. Since a lot is also derived from the realm of eros he cannot, and also does not want to, touch on this explicitly, since, in his pictures, he often very much pursues a sort of pornography dribble. For him, power is also a very primitive process of hypnosis. To wait for it is like the player waiting who says from the outset, I won't win anyway, I simply wait to see what happens. And these plugs do not represent a global connection, they are not intercommunicative, but rather the forgetting of such things. I do not plug something in to get a reaction but rather to state how nice it would be if all of this would happen but at the same time how dangerous it is ifyou do it.

It does not, however, necessarily follow that waiting, at some point, will provide a certain relief, that is, that wildness will go away, nervousness become patience and a compulsive search for perfection become rampant. Gironcoli subverts the mania to make everything consummate, by leaving everything more or less unfinished. A rough and fragmentary streak that leads to the smooth and closed, and heavy can still be noted. Matter becomes dense. Volume and weight increase. Whether we are not really facing hollow bodies does not become clear. The skin is important. Colors underscore the fact that other materials would have been desired, conceivable but not necessary. Their metallic tendency, first with lead, zink, silver tones, anticipates the later talk of leaden time. 6 The ever-more dominant bronze layer, that can even become a gold color, breaks with this, without giving up a shabby impression. Finally, aluminium is used to bring coldness, heat, light and reflections to the surface for possible final versions. Associations with genetic engineering could result, but they are produced by the observer and his/her biases. The embryonic, doll-like quality of the figures often mounted in vegetative or technical formations is closer to the provisional than some unknown new state. It suffices that still unformed potential rests in the unfinished. More precision would not yield anything at the moment. That man might vanish like a face in the sand on the seashore (Michel Foucault) 7 could be cited as an implicit counterthesis to this. Claude Lévi-Strauss was not reluctant to pinpoint it in clear terms: The world began without man and will end without him. 8 With its dimensions time seems to provide protection against such a drama. An aesthetization of the apocalypsis only encourages habituation. Gironcoli is not interested in this.

His realm of considerations is perforce a feminine one, with the pale, reactive presence of the male whose phantasies seem to feel how dependent he is and how aggressive and compensatory his way of dealing with them is. To what extent an accompanying madness is genuine or feigned cannot be determined. However, it does become clear that someone is instinctively working against so-called self-interests. One can then surmise, even if only vaguely, variations of a complex, tormented and unknown eroticism, also of thinking, with hybrid forms whose coherency is dependent on a outer shell. As a sort of climatic given, it becomes evident that sexuality is a basic form of misunderstanding and thus also of understanding, drawing its intensity from communion and separation, accompanied by emotional excesses, ersatz acts, concealed secrets, with jealousy, rivalry, exhaustion and uncontrollable ramifications. For what can be determined, what allows itself to be determined, becomes negation. This, alone, brings forth constantly new approaches. The tension remains since the resulting elementary, combinatorial signs do not seek to free themselves from analytic rationality and the real. However, many things can only be expressed in a provisional manner or in non-verbalized idioms.

This even becomes clear in his approach to things themselves. In each case, it will depend on the final place of installation whether the provisional is sufficient or whether aluminium casts have to be created. Until this point, he lives with the works lying around in pieces, as in a deserted storage house, which is full to the brim. Its atmosphere resembles Rod Steiger's Pawnbroker more than any clear arrangement. 9 The ordinary and the not-so-ordinary relate in such a natural way since - like at a second-hand dealer - the valences are equal or have been changed. Only through ideal recycling and final mounting are suggestions made regarding new nuances and combinations. Gironcoli is interested in reconstructing and reformulating requisites and high-flung imagery, not in the direct use of some found objects. What can be used again from recognizable objects proves, and assesses from his point of view, to what extent meanings and concepts change depending on their function: household objects, buckets, receptacles, loudspeakers, ears of corn, the edelweis, wine leaves, grapes, light bulbs, photos, war material, dogs, monkeys, sheep, birds, plumbing, cutlery, airplanes, death's-heads, machine parts, grids, a Madonna, pillows, mirror, dolls, the swastika, a heart, high-heeled shoes. The often appearing squatting man defines the dimensions, but at the same time it remains completely unclear what he is up to in this setting. Yet references to it and its devices exist, precisely because he appears as a template, shell, silhouette. The observer and what is observed relate to each other, whether this is intentional or not. Gironcoli sometimes refers to him as apprentice or Robert, sometimes also as Murphy, simply like that, with the vague reference that one can find seemingly exhausted sentences referring to him in Beckett, such as: There is no Mrs. Murphy - and elsewhere - The window was not lit, but this did not reassure them, since they knew how addicted he was to darkness - with the repetition a few lines further down - No sound came from Murphy's room but this did not reassure her, since she knew how addicted he was to silence, so as to remain in it for a long time. 10

The thing in space, not action

Up to this very day, Bruno Gironcoli sees such persistence as being completely typical of his approach, his limitation to formal categories, which means categories belonging to the object world. Direct human involvement leading up to action was thus excluded, very much in opposition to the situation in Vienna at the time with the provocative actionism of Nitsch, Mühl, Brus. The claim to, and the work with, such simple possibilities, with dust, blood, red wine, seemed very logical to him. He himself, though, was more interested in the autistic quality of an object reference. That an actionist had to step into life, with self-assurance and sincerity, in which he rests and bathes his work, in turn made other things possible for him, namely to also remain timid in his work. He has concentrated on the object, not on the possibilities of a person or even of the body. What mainly appeals to him is the spatial representation of the actionists. This led him to the sculpture which extends out over the floor, to his openness of sculpture developed at this time. In the works shown in 1969 at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan he uses a sort of gymnastic equipment which does not intervene in postive forms of life to refer to a history of sadism, but also to gaffes. The situation of exploitation and being held captive in a household is dealt with by means of a pair of shoes on a clearly defined floor with scrub brush, bucket and tiles. A column with a death's head and table and lamp becomes a dissecting room for the psyche. A radiator has been built into a model doll of a woman so as to be able to make her warm or completely hot, as imaginary game. With this, he is touching upon a primitive brutalism of life, as he says today, referring to the conceptual models of Marx and Freud, reactivated at the time, and to later related theories, in the sense of a differentiated, advanced analysis of the causes of psychic deformations. For some time he was very involved with Joseph Beuys' work because of such connections, only soon he was not able to follow his digressions into mystic spheres. His remarks on other artistic positions that were dominant in these formative phases were also rather defensive. Claes Oldenburg, for instance, he found too ingenious, Edward Kienholz too superficial, furthermore he concentrated on a large theme alien to him. Anselm Kiefer did not touch him, primarily not with his sculptures, more as a painter with the paintings processing a certain German milieu. Gironcoli also could not become involved with concept art: This form was not possible for me, since it requires a social self-consciousness to represent and propagate this. In Vienna, he felt an affinity to Walter Pichler, with his blurring of the boundaries between sculpture and architecture and his permanent self-description, only that he ultimately could not see it as something exemplary. He himself, as he emphasizes, always preferred a sort of big city life as the basis for his own observations, not as partaking but as an area of experience. Another person might simply need to be able to take recourse to specific themes for his art. What he sees as positive refers more to a now, to moments, he cannot even think of the names just like that, and art history only interests him as history. The claim that theory was deserted, in particular, as a shift from literary premises to philosophical ones took place, is not seen as a shortcoming that cannot be discussed but more as a specifically local phenomenon. In spite of the professional skepsis expressed here he follows everything that I like in other artists and what is liked in me. What this actually is cannot be stated so simply, it cannot be expressed either, for it just appears.

Statements made by artists on their own work and on that of others are based on a different distance than that of analysts and observers. lt would be more in line with conventions directed exclusively at facts to completely negate them, to leave conditions and motives unconsidered, excluding any additional dimensions regarding the person and his/her work, as connection and detachment. To not yield to this would simply mean to not yield and to ascribe the appropriate significance to artistic intention. In the zones where meanings, values and sense are constructed, changed, destroyed, where degrees of senselessness are posited, where a lot emerged contrary to the low effectiveness of education and information and wherever a decoding in opposition to culture must defend its field, the statements and models no matter how desperate they are, are - in any case - again and again the only forces that do not succumb to the non-contradictory sum total of competent or lesser competent views. To describe something like that as vital places everything else in opposition to it. Gironcoli, however, sees his position in such theory-formative processes in a provocatively unflustered way: The sculptor always is in the happy situation of putting something that is called into question in a room. It is questioned by society, questioned in terms of form, it is accepted or it is not accepted, looked at or not looked at. A sculptor has this old-fashioned edge. A so-called modern sculptor, however, goes further, he makes his personal reality converge with those of society, by offering something for consultation and consumption. Thus the matter is not brought to fruition in its way but by becoming dissolved. Since I did not feel the strength in myself to act beyond my sculpture, I was only able take recourse to an old-fashioned understanding of the artist, with a relatively conventional form of sculpture. Nevertheless, his notion of sculpture had soon become detached from a single coherent piece. For him sculpture was no longer a bundle of energies but a surface of considerations spread out over a room, that is to say, an architecture of reflections. Thus he contributed to defining contemporary art, be it the thematization of the artwork in a spatial setting and the elimination of the boundary with architecture, the question of authorship and related skills, destruction and reconstruction, the heterogenous and hybrid, the interest in direct intervention (but in one's own reservedness vis-a-vis this), the differentiation of object-like corporeality and the exploration of the mechanisms of memory and remembrance.11 Instead of constant progression a circular movement has again and again appeared more consistent to him.

He responded to the elaboration of his notion of open sculpture with a new condensation. Further production of similar objects, as he describes this turn, would have led to a series of moves, which, in a contemporaneous extension into the surrounding space through offensive positioning and distribution would have made impossible demands on him. He also did not want to work on his own retrospective. To be able to integrate all of his capabilities he, in a sense, made use of the old static principle of sculpture. He also used something that he could load with things preoccupying him. In this sense, he concentrated increasingly on figures, like the ones he makes now, obsessed with them to varying degrees, that they should be modern, a contribution to modernity, that is, more objective. However, the result was again and again, scuIptures with a completely normal form, their otherness, as he emphasizes, is probably what no other person can transcend, his personal emotion in this period. Their size and unwieldiness resulted, in part, from a revolt against the otherwise so ingratiating quality of his forms, in part from the spatial possibilities at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he had been asked to succeed Wotruba in 1977. A new precision and statics, however, also resulted from the fact that a reconstruction of sculpture had become possible. The need for further variations vanished, since the focus on certain basic, archaic themes, not as an orientation in the past but because of their presence and recurrence had proven to be exhaustive. For similar reasons, there was a preoccupation with the ever-same. It always has to do with a slowing down, with distance. The alarm he felt over repetitions everywhere motivated him to apply himself even more. What could not be overcome had to be processed in references as complex as possible. In such perspectives, Walter Benjamin's scenario is confirmed: With the rapid speed of technology, to which an equally rapid decline of tradition corresponds, the part of collective unconscious, the archaic face of an epoch comes to light much faster... 12 Thus the space for memory had to be expanded to provide an opportunity for perception and reactions. Yet such a gaze also activates self-examination, in the sense of Bazon Brock's statement: Not a fascist is only someone who knows that he himself could have been one himelf. 13

More specifically, the contents result largely from the working process itself. The preoccupation with an emerging figure, of which no image exists even in the mind, only brings forth something through sustained effort - something which defies any arbitrary predestination. Increasing resolution is dependent on wilful repetitions, as he emphasizes, and on a constantly renewed process of having to relinquish oneself as personality. Which formal wealth is still possible is something which continues to preoccupy him, for instance, in the interaction of metal and the comparably more important soft parts supported by it. Body and software remain visible material, but their transformations into language, as a matrix for world models, seem tangible. A short summary of this: I do not make any machines. Especially the huge sculptures of recent years, those made of steel, wood and polyester, are often referred to as Untitled. The artist also sometimes uses simple words or word sequences such as Large Figure, Maternal Figure, Uterus, Paternal-Maternal a Fictive Model Idea, The Parents with Two Centerpieces as titles. The bleakness that can be sensed throughout his early works where everything which could serve as protection against forlornness, against fright, against an agonizing normalcy is absent, has gradually given way - at least this is something that one could claim - to an attempt to provide himself consolation. Sometimes he even speaks of a utopia ofself-consolation. 14 The smooth forms, which have been robbed of all meaning, of the first polyester works resurface, juxtaposing something to the figural forms. This mix brings forth something that could be likened to unknown sound structures. These pulsating blends have consolidated in their visualization, forming complex surfaces creating bodies, perhaps, as it seems, only temporarily. They are structures where there could be movement again, they resemble more independent, self-contained objects. Their static is necessary, because they comprise the mobility and immobility of the considerations they are based on so as to gain time, time also to look closer, to listen attentively, to undertake further explorations. His persevering presence in the room is an interruption of processes, a confrontation with silence. A hardly noticeable, indifferent laughter, awkward, inquisitive moves, seeking protection - all of this seems to be present. An increasing number of ornaments allude to a little bit of generally accessible happiness - one would hardly be able to grasp one that is greater. At the same time, the drama of dimensions opposes such a self-sufficiency, without pleasant details becoming secondary for this reason.

His professional activity as a teacher, bis interest in following the work of others in bis own thoughts, can be seen as an enrichment. Franz West, for instance, often cited as one of his most outstanding students, is thus for him some phenomenon in this sum of people. He is interested in the open form of possibility with uncoordinated references to an unlimited, changing image of contemporary art manifestations which can contradict, defy each other, but sometimes also do result in something together. Any indirect, cautious communication, including observation, is more important to him than interfering remarks. Resoluteness still results. Even with regard to himself he claims that he has hardly made any public statements on his art in the past ten years. As exaggeration he states: Since then I have never thought about art anymore. The last thing that preoccupied him had, by contrast, been the question to what extent a form is not only completely external, i.e., everything has to be understood as a surface or from the surface and under what circumstances and at what boundaries something exemplary emerges, not just as a controversy between gestalt and structure or sign or between the everyday in an art context and art as continuum related to everyday life, but in a much more ramified sense, as Wittgenstein understood it, from a diversity of points of departure15 or as Duchamp who wanted to create something which is neither an artwork nor a functional object16 or Malevich, Tatlin, Rodchenko with their notion of the artwork as a thing meaning nothing and having no reality outside of art17. Or, more recently, Donald Judd could be named, with bis Specific Objects, for whom a form that's neither geometric nor organic would be a great discovery, and for whom a shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself. It shouldn't be concealed as part of fairly different whole. The shapes and materials shouldn't be altered by their context. 18 Or Bruce Nauman who explicitly stated: what I mean is that everything ultimately is self-contained, and nothing touches itself19 or Vito Acconci with his notion of art as an area which, apart from the name, really has no inherent characteristics20 or ... or ... This could be seen this way, as a reformulation or accentuation of such intellectual positions, even if ultimately the opposite, or a mix, emerges, Gironcoli states, with an interested skepticism vis-á-vis the classification of his own doing. Rules are not enough, one needs examples. They are the models for theoretical reflection. In general, however, the compulsion to ask questions has been driven ad absurdum for him - especially to introduce questions as themes in art, in sculpture which have perhaps long been answered in a valid way. Since I do not see an edge, I also cannot see beyond it.

Given his reserved attitude he often finds texts on his own work too pompuous, unnecessarily heroizing. They do not capture the simplicity of his work (thus this desideratum is at least documented here). Nothing, not even he himself, could be captured in a sort of coherent way, with this or that complete oeuvre. He is totally lacking such a romantic view of totality. Thus, there are only sequences of what happens in the course of a lifetime, what can emerge from intransparent situations. Thus he can only see himself as a fractual being subject to structure, a being which can, under certain circumstances, live up to expectations, and under other circumstances, experience total failures. A notion such as a life's work thus has, for him, too much humanistic connotation and is oriented to a fictive salvation and closedness. The only space in which some things can still be brought together thus lies inside the cranium, since it is from here that thinking is deployed in images, and spaces emerges if being incorporated in sensual sensations of the body is also accepted. To make at least some of this visible has to yield to a constant urge to attempt this. In his case, this again and again leads to structures formed by considerations based on the craft, structures which become concrete in the elaborate conglomerations of things he has conceived of and made. They mark a sort of intermediate state, as fragments, as an expression of ideas and reactions, with the tension between the final product and the unfinished, between the consolidated and the still-evolving becoming evident in a very specific way as the presense of a diversity of intensities. When Bruno Gironcoli goes public with his works, then he does not, as he sums it up, present anything greatly different from what has already been prepared, simply sculptures with a certain appearance, with specific themes, which are not just intrinsic to these sculptures - and there is not more to it than that.

An alleged hermeneutics proves to be a complex openness. Mass and size bear something fragile in them. Something smooth can also be unsymmetric and appealing. Which recalls intimacy. A nylon bag is form enough for many. The object present in the room makes something else invisible. Mere contradictions have become something natural so as to not be dependent on aspects of non-verbal thinking.


Bruno Gironcoli: Ohne Titel, 1994 - 1995/97


Bruno Gironcoli: Entwurf zu Polyesterfigur, 1965


Bruno Gironcoli: Entwurf zur Veränderung von Säule mit Totenkopf, 1971



  1. Max Horkheimer: Neue Kunst und Massenkultur (1941). In: Gesammelte Schriften, Band 4: Schriften 1936-1941. Herausgegeben von Alfred Schmidt und Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, Frankfurt/M. 1988, p. 426
  2. Bruno Gironcoli: Entgegnung zum Vorwort. In: catalogue for the exhibition Land in Sicht. Österreichische Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert. Kunsthalle / Mücsarnok, Budapest 1989, p. 154
  3. Gilles Deleuze: Logik des Sinns. (Logique du sens, 1969), Frankfurt/M. 1993, Seite 13, 97 f. / Emmanuel Lévinas Emmanuel puts it even more bluntly: Non-sense is the most justly distributed good of all. (In: Noms pPropres and Sur Maurice Blanchot, two French essays published in the German translation in: Eigennamen. Meditationen über Sprache und Literatur. München-Wien 1988, p. 85)
  4. Bruno Gironcoli in conversations with the author in 1995/96 (from which all further quotations and expressions were taken for this text, which are printed in italics ad not indicated specifially as such.)
  5. Heinz D. Kittsteiner: Die Entstehung des modernen Gewissens. Frankfurt/M. 1995, Seite 32, 89
  6. Die bleierne Zeit (film). Directed and writen by Margarethe von Trotta, camera: Franz Rath, music: Nicolas Economou, actors: Jutta Lampe, Barbara Sukowa, Rüdiger Vogler, Verenice Rudolph, Luc Bondy et al., Germany 1981
  7. Michel Foucault: Les mots et les choses. Une archealogie des sciences humaines, 1966. (p. 398, ... que l'homme s'éffacerait, comme la limite de la mer un visage de sable.)
  8. Claude Lévi-Strauss: Tristes Tropiques, 1955 (p. 447, Le monde a commencé sans l'homme et il s'achévera sans lui.)
  9. The Pawnbroker (film), directed by Sidney Lumet; script: David Friedkin, Morton Fine; camera: Boris Kaufmann; music: Quincy Jones; actorsr: Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald et al., USA 1964. A further reference to such imagery is Elfriede Jelinek's oeuvre, or less, drastic, Christoph Ransmayr's Morbus Kitahara, Frankfurt/M., 1995
  10. Samuel Beckett: Murphy. (1938)
  11. Cf. For instance Rainer Metzger: Kunst in der Postmoderne. Dan Graham. Cologne 1996, pp. 197 ff.
  12. Walter Benjamin: Über den Begriff der Geschichte (Fragmente und Vorarbeiten). In: Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser, with the assistance of Theodor W. Adorno and Gershom Scholem, vol. I. 3, Frankfurt/M. 1974, p. 1235 f.
  13. Bazon Brock: Ästhetik gegen erzwungene Unmittelbarkeit. Die Gottsucherbande. Schriften 1978-1986, ed.Nicola von Velsen, Cologne 1986, p. 443
  14. Armin Zweite: Eine Utopie der Selbsttröstung. Bruno Gironcoli über sich und seine Arbeit. In: Bruno Gironcoli. Bildhauerische Arbeiten 1980-1990, ed. Museum moderner Kunst Wien, Klagenfurt 1990
  15. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Music sometimes seems to be a primitive art, which its few tones and rhythms. But the only thing that is simple is its surface (its foreground) while the body enabling the interpretation of the manifest content owns the whole infinite complexity which we find alluded to on the outside of the other arts and which music is silent on. It is, in a certain sense, the most clever of all arts. Philosophische Bemerkungen, vol. 3, Wiener Ausgabe, ed. Michael Nedo, Vienna-New York 1995, p. 154 / An object should not let itself described in a certain sense. / i. e., the description should not attribute any qualities to it the lack of which would do away with the existence of the object itself. I. e., the descriprion should not say anything that could be relevant for the existence of the object. Introduction, Wiener Ausgabe, taken from vol. 1 of the Philosophische Bemerkungen, ed. Michael Nedo, Vienna-New York 1993, p. 113 / To set down a practice, rules are not enough, one also needs examples. Our rules leave some backdoors open, and the practice must speak for itself. Über Gewissheit (On Certainty), ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, Frankfurt/M. 1970, p. 44f.
  16. Dieter Daniels: Duchamp und die anderen. Der Modellfall einer künstlerischen Wirkungsgeschichte in der Moderne. Cologne 1992, p. 216
  17. Boris Groys: Die Erfindung Rußlands. Munic-Vienna 1995, p. 12f.
  18. Donald Judd: The main virtue of geometric shapes is hat they aren't organic, as all art otherwise is. A form that's neither geometric nor organic would be a great discovery. (1967). A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself. It shouldn't be concealed as part of a fairly different whole. The shapes and materials shouldn't be altered by their context. (1968). In: Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959 - 1975. Halifax - New York 1975, p. 193, p. 196
  19. Bruce Nauman: Cones Cojones. Leo Castelli Gallery, New York 1975, cited after: Coosje van Bruggen: Bruce Nauman. Basle 1988, p. 209
  20. Vito Acconci: When it became clear to me in1969 that it was over with writing that which attracted me to 'art' was the fact that art is an area that is really not one, an area that had no inherent qualities other than its name, other than the fact that it was called art: to have substance art had to import. It imported from all other areas. Put differently: What comes before art for me - in the sende of an influence - is architecture, films, (pop)music. (Yet probably literature and/or philosophy comes before. Books furnish, in a literal sense, a text, a theory. But of course a book can only furnish a text or theory since it is a bulwark of what really comes first: history, the natural sciences ...), in: Vito Acconci, The City Inside Us, catalogue for the exhibition at the MAK - Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna 1993, conversations with Richard Prince, p. 164



Translation: Camilla R. Nielsen

© Christian Reder 1997/2001