I know it's annoying, but let's talk about boundaries again. The subject keeps cropping up in recent art where artistic processes are used to show how concrete boundaries are drawn in social, political and economic areas. Alice Könitz explores what can be done with the 'boundary' concept on patently safe ground: the gallery space. The formal language and materials of her sculptures are restrained. It seems that she wanted to start with the absolute basics. But this is not just her reaction to previous ways in which she has tackled what is one of her main motifs. It is because this is her first one person exhibition.
On entering the gallery you find yourself in an enclosed corner of the space. A dark grey strip of wood with an opening to the floor is placed on four shallow wooden blocks. The first impression is of an old-fashioned water supply system that has been turned upside down, and thus relieved of its actual function (well, it couldn't function anyway as both ends are open). The work is titled Dichterviertel Erkrath (Erkrath Poets' District), (1996). Dichterviertel areas in German cities that have streets named after famous writers are quite often well-to-do areas with detached houses. But Erkrath, a suburb of Düsseldorf, where Könitz studied and now lives, is certainly not like that. An 'Erkrath Poets' District' would tend to suggest sparseness and simplicity. Könitz builds up tension in the link between this work and its title by contrasting the reality of the piece (the object, the actual district in Düsseldorf) with the culturally predetermined pretensions that exhibition visitors associate with the title. In this way, an apparently simple work acquires a social component.
The titles of other works seem equally important. Aspen Colorado (1996) comprises a grid structure, 2.4 metres high and of variable breadth, evenly built of thin timber strips, leaning against a gallery wall. The points where the wooden strips meet are wrapped with differently coloured metal foil. Aspen, the exclusive ski resort in the Rocky Mountains, is famous for its large numbers of celebrity visitors and coherent social structure: the white upper-middle class. Könitz says that the work reminded her of a landscape with snow-capped summits, so she devised an appropriate title that sounded good as well. The fact that Aspen is apparently a random choice gives the piece a poetic character, but also a structure which cannot be pinned down precisely of transcendent meanings spanning the boundaries between the object, its title and the impressions and connotations associated with each of them.
The fact that Könitz transposes everyday materials into the context of art is nothing special; but particular understanding is shown in the way in which she handles the contrasts between these materials and questions the boundaries between their applications, thus making new spaces accessible to them. An untitled work of 1996 looks like a pile of briquettes, but you don't see black, dusty sooty lumps, rather cuboids wrapped in gold foil. The first impression, that they are hollow, and thus quite light (in contrast with the heavy heating fuel), is deceptive: the foil is wrapped round plaster of Paris. Another untitled work from 1996 looks like a school blackboard. The easel is made of roof slats, and the 'blackboard' section is covered with silver foil. Here, the surface does not function as a writing support, but as a reflector, which directs light falling into the gallery from the outside onto its ceiling. In both works, objects are removed from the constraints of their everyday use. This is not intended to negate some boundary between life and art, but to enhance their aesthetic value. And this enhanced aesthetic value derives from the way in which the bounds of the material used are handled, from the differences in its use and its composition.
The subject of the 'boundary' is taken up more concretely in two other works. Schranke (Barrier, 1995) is a stand assembled from used, flat timber slats, leaning in a corner of the gallery. On the left-hand side of the two-legged sculpture a hand towel hangs over the horizontal slat. A similarly constructed stand called Zaun (Fence, 1996) stands under a canopy outside the gallery window opposite Schranke. Both works are connected by the diagonal of the space, and this axis underlines the motif of a 'boundary' that they convey. But the imminent boundary-drawing quality of the works is diluted, in the case of Schranke by the 'soft' material of the applied towel, and in the case of Zaun by the fact that it is outside the gallery. Here it is not clear whether the work itself is excluded, or whether it forms the gallery's boundary with the outside world. Additionally, neither of the works are able to stand up on their own; Schranke and Zaun thus show that boundaries between inside and outside, between inclusion and exclusion, between presumed contrasts are always based on more than their virtual and material power to create facts.