16 16 NENWEU CEE KREARMAIMCSIK M maräcrhz / aApril 2016


March / April 2016 NEW CERAMICS 17

Christoph Möller

from the beginning ...or the Seeker of the Origin

Walter Lokau

A potter, ceramist and sculptor delving into the past

Scarcely anything exists that has a similar metaphysical attraction to the beginning, then and there at the point of the greatest potentiality, when things began to be, this is where their essence lay, this is where meaning and truth of a phenomenon or of a life, of life itself, history and all stories sprang from. It is retold thus by religions and philosophies, sciences or arts, even when the latter do not narrate representationally. The modern imagelessness of the avant-gardist secretion of superfluous subjects, media, techniques and rules is targeted towards the fundamental, the presuppositionless absolute zero of creation. Yet time cheats this striving for the elemental: fatefully, there is no way back to an ideal beginning – ultimately because time never runs backwards. Having recourse to the innocence of a beginning becomes entangled in paradoxical temporality: having recourse to the past aesthetically is in fact a progressive process, which does not restore primeval unity, but which through repeated starts and stops ultimately only dissects again, but perhaps more finely and more thoroughly. Thus the dwindling “beginning” remains merely another desire rather than ever becoming or having become reality. Nevertheless: in the unexpected appearance of the products of art, a hint of the beginning always shines out. But primal states are never sweet and charming, they tend to be ugly. All aesthetic recourse demonstrates this: the more primally, irregularly, fundamentallyvfreely a work is approached – not to be confused with casually – the more disconcerting its essence finally appears, the more nameless its truth, the rawer and rougher its beauty. This improbable phenomenality distinguishes the radical sculptures of Christoph Möller to a particular degree. This tendency to revert to the beginnings has been present in his work from the start, but goes back to a varying extent, as it were: born in Frankfurt in 1952, he was originally a potter, became a ceramist and finally a sculptor. He encountered the craft of pottery in Jörg von Manz’s workshop in Gottsdorf, an imposing, strongwilled, outstanding figure in German ceramics, a solitary renewer of the centuries old tradition of Lower Bavarian Kröninger Hafnerware (pottery from Kröning) as well as a cheerful modeller of figures – this was a formative encounter. On fire for the profession, Möller began an apprenticeship with Horst Kerstan in Kandern in 1975, who infected him with his enthusiasm for the millennia-old vessel traditions of China, Japan and Korea. After two years’ apprenticeship with the Far-East enthusiast from Kandern, Möller returned to Manz’s pottery and continued to throw traditional pots, unambitious but happy, and then in 1979, together with his wife Mary, he took over the well-established pottery. But over the years, this recourse to historic wares, however authentic they may have been, no longer satisfied Christoph Möller, and he relocated to Diessen am Ammersee in 1993. In a sudden liberating leap, he faithful repetition of functional craftsmanship made way for imaginary archaeology: strange, non-functional cultic objects emerged, defamiliarizedthrough their interpretation in ceramics, tools implements, vessels and housings, assembled, thrown, modelled, handbuilt, model thrones, palanquins, weapons, shields, funnels, sieves emerging from a carbonizing, magically patinating black-firing, a technique adopted from the ceramic tradition of Hungary, auratic relics of a nonexistent, preindustrial culture, presented as installations filling whole rooms, cult site, constructs of archaeological sites, aesthetic assemblages of man-made relics. But as if these historical phantasies of vanished cultures no longer sufficed to correspond to the draw of the beginnings, Möller looked back first to an organic-creaturely state, the biology of a lower class of fauna, then, ontologically, before all time, as a sheer sketch of creation of mythical landscapes, frozen creation scenarios in miniature. The still blackfired shells of burst larvae, scarred pupae, split pods were followed in time by double-walled, matt-white engobed mushroom shapes, bulbous husked plants, distending their swelling insides outwards, festering capsules, tubers or cobs, until finally, elongated colourless islands of matt, naked matter remain from which isolated stems spurt forth or entangled tracks, turning back on themselves, sensually and hesitantly kneaded like doughy sketches of a mute childlike demiurge testing roughly and on a small scale how the creation might look: futile models of a primal scenario, unnamed and frozen in a state of nascency, before completion, growing and forming without imagined goal or evolutionary line, simplest effect of upwards striving, pressing, kneading force on bare, yielding, submissive matter like in the beginning of all beginnings. That Christoph Möller now uses coloured clays in his latest work makes it all the more creational – as if the uncultivated, tangled gardens were growing on the second day of What looks so awkwardly formless, even childishly bizarre, causes immense difficulties in the making. Firstly there is the deregulating, deculturising one’s own body: what has been tamed and trained for a whole lifetime, shaped to the very bones, instructed and defined by culture, must to take this dare renounce and refrain, shrug off, forget in the moment, deny oneself the knowledge of what he is doing, not listen to any voice,become blind and deaf toward his own skill, knowledgeand ability, as well as to all demands, objections, precepts, towards propriety and shame. Venturing to dare approach the beginnings, already being lifetimes away from the origins, is bitter. And then, there is the making itself: only a small action – an addition, a pressure, a kneading, here or there, more or less, firmer or softer, slower or quicker – without imposing an act of will on the whole, without having in the remotest an overview of these minute branchings from the possible, not to mention in detail. In a state of judgement-free, evenly floating attention, one remains poised in the moment, little by little creating minimal differences, making moments of past time, deciding the future that, scarcely has it begun, remains close and unpredictable because of its possible branchings. Whatever is afterwards, it continues to vibrate with improbability. The pleasure, against all the ballast of ego and culture, the joy of permitting oneself the greatest potentiality in microcosm is sweet. It requires willingness to be able to appreciate such bitterness and sweetness.

Dr. Walter H. Lokau has a PhD in art history. He currently

lives in Bremen as a freelance writer.