Mirror.Alignment.Reflection — Thomas Wallraff | Katalog GEGENLICHT, MAM Kunstverein, 2021

An auditory hall of mirrors – a visual echo chamber. Conceived and created by Raymund Kaiser, filled with sound and composition by Stefan Thomas. The title: Alignments. ‘Alignment’ in its meaning as a straight, unbroken line in which, for example, interior spaces are strung together. The plural ‘Alignments’ is applied because the symmetrical duplication of image and space through mirroring is constitutive for this spatial installation. 

A space placed in the room: space behind the room, space in front of the room, space next to the room, space under the room, space opening upwards and at the same time enclosed on all sides. It is a space that can be bypassed at first, a cubic sculpture when viewed from the outside. However, the original Greek word ‘kýbos’ did not initially refer to the cube (the die) itself, but to the ‘cavity’, the ‘pip’, the ‘eye’ on the die. And here, too, the cavity (the space) and the eye (the seeing, the perception) are the essentials. It quickly becomes clear that this pictorial space or spatial image is designed to be seen from the inside. On the one hand, the audience is drawn in by the words and sounds emanating from the interior; on the other hand, the rough-hewn wooden scaffolding visible from the outside and the panels suspended inside, labelled on the back in terms of construction, convey the entirely correct impression of being behind the scenes. Show and play – in other words, the real thing – obviously take place within.

Inside, everything is mirrored, even the floor underfoot, only the ceiling is left out. Upwards, reflection can be evaded, and even a deus ex machina would have the possibility of intervening if necessary. Everything here is clear and light and bright. Perfect symmetry. The absolute opposite of the Platonic cave. There, in the semidarkness, shadows flickering on uneven walls – confusion and deception. Here, crystalline clarity in geometric order – enlightenment and insight. Sculpture from the outside, walk-in pictorial space, walk-in spatial image on the inside. But also something else, namely a place of contemplation and reflection. Reflection is a concept of pronounced ambiguity. On the one hand – the objective-physical, the actual – the vocabulary denotes the phenomenon of the reflection of rays or waves, on the other the subjective-psychic or metaphorical – the reflection on or the examining contemplation of things, events, beings. The instrument of reflection is the mirror. And that too in a double or mirrored sense, objectively as a light-reflecting mirror or metaphorically as a mirror of mental reflection, as a reflecting surface or space of thought, as a reflex or reflection. The mirror’s manifestations are manifold, its reputation ambiguous. Some see the mirror as an absolutely incorruptible judge, while others consider it to be vanity’s chief accomplice. It probably carries the capacity for both, depending on who or how you look into it. There are practical pocket mirrors and huge parabolic mirrors with which one looks back into distant pasts; there is the obsolete fairground attraction of the distorting mirror, which amuses through alienating exaggeration, and the fool‘s mirror, which every veritable sovereign allows to be held up to him, because he knows that the greatest possible freedom lies in laughing at himself. But no matter what kind of mirror it is, they are all heralds of truth. You just have to be ready to face them. Since antiquity at the latest, truth has been connoted with the beautiful and the good, even the beneficial. But there is undoubtedly also an excess of truth, light and clarity. At this point, the true turns into the cruel and the beautiful into the terrible. If one gets too close to the sun, the primordial symbol of truth, the wings burn and the fall into the depths is inevitable. Too much light blinds or even leads to blindness. And Perseus could only confront the truly terrible thing in Medusa’s face by not looking directly into her face, but only at her image in his mirrored shield. Also, her own sight in the mirror of his shield will have weakened her and favoured his victory.

Mirror and image, as well as their composite ‘mirror image’, as an image in and on a mirror, are the constituents of the spatial work Alignments. Raymund Kaiser is a painter. The picture is the starting point and perspective vanishing point of his work. The wall piece #reflect was initially created in 2013 from the basic idea of picture panels that fit together to form a larger whole, the aforementioned rectangular panels in portrait format, covered on the front with mirrored cardboard and partially provided by the artist with matt-silver hatchings. Rightly apostrophised as an .installation., it is essentially still a 60-part, wall-filling panel painting. Just one year later (2014), Raymund Kaiser presented ‘Open Surface’, a decisive further development of his initial modular idea. This time, the mirror elements are hung at right angels to each other, so the work steps out of the surface into the room, a genuine room installation emerges from the wall installation. The essential distinction, however, is the fact that the work is now reflected in itself: It becomes self-reflexive. The reflection of the reflection of the reflection is reflected in the reflection. On basically infinite visual axes, image space is lined up with image space, perspective lines or alignments are created. The spaces in which people move are limited; their experiences, their knowledge, themselves – all this is limited. The boundless, the infinite are actually only abstract ideas of the mind. Perhaps the juxtaposition of mirrors is the only way in a limited space to make the abstract idea of infinity meaningful, to make it visible. The fact that Raymund Kaiser succeeds in this with his work ‘Alignments’ is truly nothing minor. However, it is also significant that the created space is surrounded by ‘mirror images’, i.e. images on mirrors. A purely mirrored cabinet in which one would only look at oneself would be solipsistic. Being content with one’s own reflection testifies to a large ego and, at the same time, a weak character. By painting his mirrors, the artist completes and limits infinity. Only through limitation does form arise. The unlimited diffuses into infinity, it is everywhere and nowhere, it is everything and precisely therefore nothing. The monochrome-silver hatchings guide the form into this hall of mirrors of visible infinity through their outlines, their contours, their boundaries. 

One last thing was needed to turn this work into a total work of art. The spoken word, sound, music. Whatever music is – and it is unspeakably many things – it is always a sequential event in time. Stefan Thomas’ composition thus opens up the pictorial space to the fourth dimension: time. Time, however, is the mirror image of infinity. Time is the element in which one exists and floats, the element whose constant flow one cannot resist. Through its progress and its effects, time belongs to experience and sensation at every moment, but there is no abstract idea of what it is. — Translated by Thomas Wallraff