Susanne Rottenbacher – Artist interview by Liz Yisun Kwon

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Liz Yisun Kwon: I wonder what motivated you to explore and LED and Plexiglass as media of your works.

Susanne Rottenbacher: Plexiglass makes it possible for me to incorporate the surroundings into my works. With plexiglass I can produce transparent constructions giving off and absorbing light at the same time. It enables colored light to flow into the space and natural white light to be taken up in the sculptures; the composition does not remain limited to the perspex corpus. LEDs have the benefits of their small design and monochromatic light. The monochromatic, colored light of the sculptures firstly correlates with the stripe painting and the form of the perspex corpus. It then also interacts vividly with the specific light dynamic of the surrounding space creating a form of a continuous dialogue. With decreasing daylight, the work increasingly radiates into the space in an occupying manner.

Liz Yisun Kwon: In many of your works, the coloured structures define the shape of the pieces during daytime, and they are illuminated by LED at night. How do you examine the color and form of the changing structures when you produce them?

Susanne Rottenbacher: I develop my spatial installations by means of three dimensional models. The models consist of the given architectural exhibition space plus my sculptural elements. Once I am certain about form and proportion of the sculptural pieces or arrangements I have the component parts delivered and produce the installations in my studio. I can then observe and investigate the work and its spatial performance at all times of the day because my studio and living space are located at the same place.

Space, stillness, time and the correlated constant change of appearance are central themes in my work. The impression of the works changes depending upon the point in time at which the works are viewed. There is no SINGLE status quo. Change is the message. A sculptural form, perfectly controlled and defined, begins to change and becomes dependent upon natural processes—day/night, summer/winter, etc. All of this I can test and study beforehand in the run-up situation of my studio.

Liz Yisun Kwon: Please tell us about the process of the commission for the work which was exhibited in Köln. How did your understanding and interpretation of a space that were necessary for the installation at the church differ from those for other projects?

Susanne Rottenbacher: Freiheit is a site-specific intervention in form and content derived specifically from the particular exhibition space of a church. The installation was inspired by a painting by Peter Paul Rubens in the Christian pictorial tradition of large movement scenarios “The great last judgment”, depicting the rising up of the blessed and the falling down into hell of the damned. The grand theatrical entrance of the eleven rings striding across the entire 16 m height of the church interior has no one distinct reading of direction either. The installation can be read both ways.

Suspended from the ceiling by strands of wire, the sculptures seem to be floating weightlessly in space in an imaginary sense – each one by itself and yet all in spatial relationship to one another. Others are placed on the ground, either free standing or simply laid down. And other truncated forms seem to merge into the architecture as half circles, apparently progressing into walls and floors. The specific challenge of the vast church interior appeared to be the creation of a sculptural choreography as grand and dramatic appearance yet with a lightness and transparency allowing oneself to trail away in the almost meditative silence of the sacred place of a church.

Liz Yisun Kwon: How did your study of architecture and planning influence your works of art?

Susanne Rottenbacher: I was always fascinated by space in the first place and started to approach it from different directions. Maybe my technological work method is the handwriting I have found to express myself adequately through my study of architecture and planning. With industrial materials and the ‘mechanical’ depth of materials – transparencies, reflections, superimpositions, fractures, layers of color- I have found my language for creating my sculptural installations as site-specific, self-contained spatial narratives.