The Ability to Experience Tracks
On Max Scholz’s art
By Heinz-Norbert Jocks

 

Standing in the middle of his workroom, I have the prolonged feeling that this is not a studio n which works of art produced and the fantasy runs free, but rather that this is a laboratory in which experiments and analyses are performed. Surrounded by strange vehicles that serve no purpose and sections of track fastened to wires that float in the air or lie on the floor, one first believes to be visiting an impassioned researcher or fiddly technician who not only examines space, time and movement, but also tracks, path and trails. One of the first things that Max Scholz says to me is that everything around us has been set in perpetual motion and that we only believe to be sitting or standing still. Like death and standstill, movement and life are only synonyms.

Searching for a way to describe his artistic activity, what occurs to me is the (however inadequate) term of kinetic engineer, who as a young man dreamt of be-coming an inventor and for this reason worked out arbitrary formulas. In principle, this absurd calculation of something non-existent is the expression of pure pointlessness, a play instinct specific to art. The more absorbed one is in this imaginary world, the stronger the impression becomes that someone is struggling to acquire visually conceived knowledge that presses for what is essential. He wants to discover why people build mobile machines and wheels, transforming himself into one in the process, and he incessantly plans motion within spaces in order to fathom it out.

Human beings as kinetic machines who tirelessly leave their tracks all over our planet in the form of endless traffic routes that intersect, temporarily run parallel to each other, pass through tunnels. Highways that drift away into different directions, swing out, undermine mountains, thwart rivers or bridge them over, connect countries, places and islands in such a way that are also becoming more and more pervaded by different cultures. The surface of the earth, which has been covered by a dense traffic network, proves to be an ingenious, autonomous system of tracks that consists of thoroughfares, bridges, thresholds and frontiers, Intersections are nothing more than meeting places, and tracks are nothing more than lines that have been engraved into the surface and refer to the presence of people absent.

When asked what caused him to build serial vehicles that run on tracks through rooms, producing changing choreographies of movement, Scholz expresses his initial discontent with small objects of art that revolve around themselves and have no relationship to space, when one of the uncircumventable basic human instincts is to ascertain the world. This is how space is made temporal, and time is made spatial. Yes, space is sacred to him, and movement is a feature of our being that is welded together with time. It is no wonder that Scholz is fascinated by Virilio´s theory of velocity, which holds that interspaces disappear with increasing speed and spaces become smaller and smaller. And it is no coincidence that he discovers all too existential issues through his avid and permanent occupation with motion sequences.

Whoever catches sight of the tracks and the archaic looking vehicles will be spontaneously reminded of the glorifies era when men began to develop the endless expanses of the prairie by train, or of the epoch when the USSR and the USA ran a relentless and promising race into space that cost the lives of many cosmonauts and astronauts, ending with the legendary moon landing.

Max Scholz´s most recent room installation, “auto bahnen”, in the Alte Rotation stretches over a surfaces of 100 square meters. Fitted with vertical and horizontal, parallel tracks laid in such a way that the course of the lines come together to form a generous grid pattern, ten black plastic vehicles travel over the carpet of automobiles. Not an accident, a disturbance, or any other kind of incident occurs. The spaces between the driverless vehicles, which seem to be steered by an invisible hand, precisely calculated. In those places where lanes intersect and the danger of a collision could loom, the vehicles seem to stop at an imaginary red light and give others the right of way. The smooth flow of traffic, which seems to have been choreographed, is due to the harmonious interaction of motion sequences. The artist has so precisely coordinated the speed, the distance between the vehicles, the driving cycles and the pauses that we gain the impression of absolute, perpetual motion. It seems as if someone is dreaming that something functions in and of itself.

We are merely witnesses at a crime scene looking down into the industrial space and following the unbroken lines of escape drawn by the vehicles. It is a perpetual coming and going. A noisy back and forth. A ceremony of endless repetitions made possible by technology. Although there is nothing much to see because everything has been reduced to an aesthetic, even practical minimum, this kind of experimental arrangement evokes complex thoughts that revolve around the world’s dynamics. Below these are basic questions about the actual meaning of driving, about the age-old idea of transportation, and about the universal meaning of being in transit. It is as if we had suddenly gained more distance from the casualness with which we let ourselves by carried from here to there a daily basis. It becomes evident that we, as sedentary beings, tend to eternalize our tracks in the form of connecting lines, and that in this way we take possession of all space-that below and above the ground as well as that in the air.

It is sufficient to outfit a miniature vehicle with a pencil so that it literally goes over the lines it experiences in order to clearly show that laying tracks is like the act of drawing. Each drawing requires a movement, so that the line is nothing more than the extended trail of a hand moving over a sheet of paper. The tracks are ultimately nothing more than a path in time. The laws of nature are embodied by the technical equipment, which not only achieves another form of visibility, but which is translated into an aesthetics of tracks.