Thomas Feuerstein

In contrast to Earthworks or Land Art projects that have arisen from a syncretism comprising esotericism, ecologic brutalism and a compulsive artistic expansion in sync with the times, Kleinlercher’s works seem immune and thoroughly at ease when compared to a naïve belief in the future or to fatalist astrology. If, on an art-theoretical basis, Earth Art tried to mediate between natural laws of necessity and artistic improbability – which Diderot had exemplified as between molecular theory and Venus’ derrière – Kleinlercher in his works goes a decisive step further by staging the symbolic transformation of the world and nature not as a landscape super sign, but by relating landscapes to historic, geographic, biographic, etc., charts. What we have in the work Demontage are processual transformations within a topographic and symbolic Möbius strip, where the issue is of 36 stones – that have been removed from the same number of Alpine peaks – each of which has been ground into dust. The 36 mountains chosen have cultural-historical as well as scientific relevance and can, in fact, be considered the “most famous” 36 mountain peaks in the Alps. The project deals with civilizational vanishing lines or vanishing points, in which the concept of nature proves to be a culturally constituted construct that tells us more about our culture than about an ontology of nature. With Kleinlercher the nature question is transformed into a Wittgensteinian language problem, which the artist as a so-called observer of the second order, however, imports into the white cube of the art system.

The work Demontage could – à la John Austin and his book How to do Things with Words – be understood as a speech act, since Kleinlercher transforms a performative speech act such as “de-montare” (from Vulgar Latin montare: to mount) into a performance in which 36 mountain summits are “dismounted” or ascended downwards. This paradoxical undertaking not only refers to an obsession with alpinist defloration, but also implies a deconstruction of the history of culture and art. The mountain peaks ground down into stone meal depict a particularization of nature that in its quality as a particle-form proves to be re-codable and re-mountable. The fact that the world can be programmed is addressed on a submolecular, nanotechnical level, while Diderot had imagined his molecular worldview to be indissoluble. If Cézanne deconstructed Mont Sainte-Victoire into sphere, cone and cylinder, Kleinlercher pulverizes the mountain itself and grinds it down to pigment that he then heaps into a cone. We are invited to partake in an ascent to observe the dismantled/demounted Alpine panorama, whereby the walking tour in question is a virtual one (as it was for Diderot). But in contrast to an illusionist painting style, the question for Kleinlercher is not about textures but about the code with which his works correspond to structural charts. Denis Diderot would have thus found in Toni Kleinlercher a disputant, tried-and-tested on stony paths and steep rock faces, who works through the relationship between nature and culture on a systematic level and dismantles landscape in order to recode art.

From the German by Jeanne Haunschild





© 2012 Toni Kleinlercher