Text & photography by Ryan Gander
Paul & Fritz Kalkbrenner – Sky and Sand
Berlin Calling (2008)
A Firework Rocket
One of the most memorable lessons I learned as a teenager in physics class was the relationship between potential and kinetic energy. From the glossary of terminology that haunts the backs of contemporary art books, we know that kinetic art made an important contribution to the historical landscape of 20th century art. And so what of the potential? Every year I encounter at least three or four titles by art historians and futurologists (it has to be said these are usually in airport bookshops—a context where certainty is craved amongst the uncertainty of air travel) that attempt to speculate the next big movement in both the history of the contemporary art world and the wider world. An impossible objective, and in many respects a totally pointless one. The trajectory of trending in the history of contemporary art cannot be traced; it is an activity that is fuelled by uncertainty, sporadity, ambiguity, counter-movements and actions against the mainstream or the current seemingly strongest direction.
The ambiguity of potentiality is the motivation that drives me, the not-knowing, the transience and the indeterminable trajectory of art is the exact thing which I find pleasure in. Of course there is a lot to be said for that which flashes in a multitude of colours and bleeps and tweets in a vast array of sounds. It is charming and romantic to sit on the beach and gaze at eruptions of fireworks overhead, but somehow the expectation of the lit fuse is more relative to the practice of everyday life. There is something to be said of “making of it what you will”. The allowance of space for the imagination to play and skip freely requires a resistance of closure: for the ending of the story not to be revealed, to hint at a catalyst of imminent kinetics but to always remain potential so that the kinetic manifests itself in our imaginations in every possibility, in the multitudes of colours and the vast array of bleeps and tweets of different sounds that we choose for ourselves.
The Rimowa suitcase is the wonderful symbol of the truly globalised citizen. It tells a tale of decadent exploration, the search for a whiff of home territory as a social crutch of psychological support in a mass of nonspace and foreignness. As if an extension of the traveller itself, the movements of the Rimowa suitcase—from apartment to cab, from the trunk of the cab to the airport, wheeled through the airport and placed onto a luggage belt to a ground staff vehicle to conveyor belt to aeroplane hold, its flight over an ocean to conveyor belt to ground staff vehicle to luggage belt, to owner, to being wheeled through an airport, into the trunk of a cab, a journey to a hotel—reflects to some extent the movements of the traveller; the transportable package, a home from home, containing the bare necessities, the belonging, the signifiers of a personality.
Our present obsession with packing, in-flight magazine questionnaires about what you take where, packing strategies, the idea that you should spread your belongings out on a bed, take away half and then repack, the Internet Flickr pages showing images accounting for the contents of a traveller’s bag or suitcase, images of a great explorer’s equipment being dragged on a sled to the South Pole or hauled on one’s back in a rucksack up the Himalayas.
Read more in N˚4: Flight.