Rolf A. Kluenter

In Search of Secret Rooms

The secret room is part of a continuous series of installations - the "black paper project" in which Kluenter combines paintings and objects made of black paper into powerful spatial creations.

Taking up the idea of the secret room as a place not lived in but bearing the traces of its users, a place of hidden treasures and secrets, of fantasies and memories, Kluenter wants to evoke the different connotations of such a room for the viewer. The use of the colour black serves to underline the slightly mysterious connotations of the secret room šC creating a sense of darkness and infinity, also indicating forgetfulness and secrecy. Kluenter¡¯s extensive use of paper as the primary ground and substance of his installations reminds the viewer that paper is often being utilized to cover and wrap, to hide and conceal.

The concept of the secret room is deeply anchored in many cultures and religions, the idea of the sacred often being connected to something mysterious, not open to the public but accessible only to the initiated and empowered. Taking Catholicism as example there are the mystical communion, in former times performed behind a jube, dividing the laypersons from the clergymen, or the confession, the almost secret conversation between believer and priest, performed in the specially designed room of the confessional. In other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism similar rituals can be found, the secret often signifying the mystical vision or communication with the subtle, sublime and the divine.

But the secret room can also be interpreted in a profane sense: it can be a back room, used for the storage of data or objects or memorabilia, it can be an archive, even a library. Yet - even a simple sober storage room or archive can become a treasure room for the one who searches it and is rewarded with information or memories from the past.

The secret room might also be a room to hide in, providing safety and quiet, a room to be alone in, a room for thought. It doesn¡¯t need to be restricted to a real, material room but could also be applied to the part of people¡¯s minds reserved for dreams and fantasies, desires and longings.

These ideas also were of great influence during the age of romanticism, which was one of the most important and widespread artistic movements since the Middle Ages, acutely transforming all forms of art. As a reaction to rationalism and enlightenment, artists like Caspar David Friedrich's, Eugene Delacroix and Joseph Mallord William Turner turned against the confining rules of classicism and towards the secret and sublime, the divine, the mystical and the exotic. Also the archaic, which shouldn¡¯t be mixed up with ignorance or nescience but rather describes a basic human knowledge, played an important role. But as one of most significant developments of Romanticism can be seen the rise in the importance of individualism.

In our present society where mass media is omnipresent, everything being openly accessible and transparent - or at least giving the impression of being so - the idea of the secret room again takes up a counter-position. In a world of total publicity it promotes the private and the intimate, the subjective and the spiritual.

This shows that the secret room can be seen as a dual concept, the secret always implying two different sides: on the one hand there is the insider, the initiated, the knowing, while on the other hand there is the outsider, the one who isn¡¯t allowed in, hasn¡¯t got the necessary knowledge. For the one it is a room to hide, to draw back and recreate while the other has to remain outside, either knowingly or unknowingly. In general the knowledge of it's being there however is a very important component of the secret room, emphasizing its mystic connotation, the hidden and mysterious evoking dreams and fantasies, awaking desire and longing. Sometimes the outsider might be allowed a glimpse behind the veil, which is shrouding the secret room from public view. Sometimes it might be possible for him to require the knowledge, to get admitted into the secret, although this process usually requires some effort on his end. In some cases the secret room might loose its mystery once you are admitted, in other cases the enchantment, the sense of discovery, might get even stronger and more satisfying.

The idea of the secret room perfectly ties in with the development of Kluenter's oeuvre. Always interested in finding intercultural, basic mythological and religious truths, his works explore concepts of - often religious - writing, scripture, books, manuscripts, fonts and calligraphy. The use of paper as prime medium of expression compliments these ideas. Deeply connected to the evolution of human culture and the preserving of history, paper signifies transience and permanence at the same time, the material being extremely fragile on the one hand, but very durable on the other hand, being the prime medium of recording and preserving history and information until the rise of computer and Internet.

In Kluenter's work paper is never just confined to the background, the pattern and structure of the paper is interacting with the painted surface - colour and paper either complementing or contrasting each other, thus creating multi-layered works of great complexity. Woven or glued together, soaked in water, shaped and left to dry again forming mats and nets, flat and three dimensional shapes, it is often impossible to distinguish between painting and object.

Exploring paper in all its various uses, its different attributes and qualities, Kluenter combines large, two-dimensional pieces with smaller, more varied objects, reminding of books, storage cases, index cards, boxes, piles of papers - all of which can be put into the context of the secret room. Kluenter's consistent concept allows for unlimited possibilities of combination for his works without ever becoming uniform. Every single work can be combined with others, integrated into a larger context; while at the same time the uniting quintessence can be found at the core of every single artwork.

The predominant use of the colour black represents a conscious reduction of aesthetic choice - it's either black or white, like a binary system. While brilliant white colour is used to give accents and contrast, the deep shimmering black colour of the paper prevails - the artist often even dispensing with the use of white at all, letting the paper's shape and structure speak for itself.

Rolf A. Kluenter: The Back Room

Andrea Neidhoefer

In his "Black Paper Projects" a continuous series of installations, Kluenter combines paintings and objects made of black paper to powerful spatial creations. His latest black paper project "The Back Room" could recently be visited at Art Scene Warehouse in Shanghai. 1

Taking up the idea of the back room as a place often neglected and forgotten, a place not lived in but bearing the traces of its users, Kluenter wants to evoke the different connotations of such a room for the viewer. Used for storage and the archiving of information, the backroom can be a place of hidden treasures and secrets, of fantasies and memories. The use of the colour black serves to underline the slightly mysterious connotations of the back room - creating a sense of darkness and infinity, also indicating forgetfulness and secrecy. As the medium of books and newspapers, cards and boxes, paper on the other hand is inextricably connected to the preserving of information and things. But Kluenter¡¯s installation also reminds the viewer that paper can also be used to cover and wrap, to hide and conceal.

Thus several maps of Shanghai which are mounted on one of the windows of Kluenter¡¯s ¡°Back Room¡± hide the view outside, while at the same time their content serves to tie the microcosm of the back room into the macrocosm of the mega-city. By referring to the wide space outside, inhabited by millions of people - by contrasting the small enclosed, uninhabited space of the back room to the noisy, bustling crowds of a city like Shanghai, where everything is rapidly changing and developing, Kluenter ultimately links it to the universal principles of order and chaos, light and darkness, time and transience.

1 Art Scene Warehouse, 2/F Bldg #4, 50 Moganshan Rd.