"The making of things corresponds to the pursuit of power. Only in philosophy and art is there the possibility of productivity, which leads to reflection and expressivity, which puts things on another level of responsibility."(Tony Cragg)
Since the early 1990s, Stefan Sous, a former student of Tony Cragg at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, has been combining technical everyday objects with light. He "collected" it in plastic containers or made park benches contribute to enlightenment in a planned outdoor work. The main focus of Stefan Sous' sculptural investigations has so far been on technical everyday objects from the field of appliances, which he deconstructs piece by piece and releases for analysis. Sous takes mass products apart, separates them and presents them in a "floating" state to gain the greatest possible insight.
Sous is most interested in vehicles that promise movement and convenience: Cars and household appliances, lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners, a hand mixer, an elevator, or a cab were among the apparatuses that the artist, who was born in 1964 in Würselen near Aachen, has recently transformed into expressive space-time structures. The objects come from a world far removed from art. At best, they stand in the tradition of the ready-made, which ranges from Marcel Duchamp to Jeff Koons. But Sous does not feed the everyday world into the art context one-to-one like those predecessors; instead, he takes things apart and examines the technical everyday world that still stands for the belief in progress of our Western civilization. Sous challenges this belief in his installations with scientific method and light hand.
"Pallas – a space flight" was at the beginning of his series of investigations in 1996: Sous was lying under a Citroën DS 19. He wanted to refurbish the aged vehicle for daily use. Due to tight space conditions and in old Shaker tradition, he simply hung the numerous spare parts from the ceiling during the repair work. After a few days the whole situation seemed absurd to him and the invested time was wasted. Sous came up with the idea of bringing life and art closer together, artistically redirecting his purpose-driven operation. He then dismantled the entire cart and hung all its individual parts on fine threads in the entrance hall of a Düsseldorf bank for which he was about to design a public sculpture. This process met with a surprised, irritated, but thoroughly positive response, not only from the bank's staff, but also from the art scene.
With the care of a watchmaker, Stefan Sous has since consistently pursued an artistic strategy that reduces technical icons of consumption to their pure materiality. As a spatial event, objects lose their utility value. As works of art, however, they recharge themselves aurally, like Christian relics. But Sous does not only revalue the objects, his procedure is a highly playful attack on the belief in progress and thus also on art itself: on the Constructivism of the 1920s and the Pop Art of the 1960s. Instead of glorifying machines, technology and mass production with almost religious reverence, Sous takes the opposite approach. He deconstructs the coveted objects that have hardly lost their appeal since a euphorically lived economic miracle. Deconstruction and analysis follow philosophical methods when he takes the objects apart like conceptualities and releases them to be viewed from all sides freely in space. They become visible from the root. Form new contexts on a mentally higher level. Sous purifies the mass product and deprives it of its irrational potential: stirrers and lawn mowers still stand for modernity and progress. Cars still have highly erotic connotations today. In Japan, for example, they are consecrated in temples at the turn of the year, and in Europe any conversation among car enthusiasts loses its objectivity surprisingly quickly.
Stefan Sous took the significance of the car to an extreme in the spring of 2001 at the Kunsthalle Osnabrück, when he installed the parts of a cab in the choir of a profaned chapel, thus directly recalling the situation of the Charles shrine in Aachen Cathedral, which has been venerated for centuries. Cream-colored, in solemn lighting the cab floating in space seemed like a flying object to the afterlife.
Roland Barthes enthusiastically commented on the appearance of the Citroën in 1957 at a Paris motor show in his book "Myths of Everyday Life" in this sense. According to the French cultural scientist, this car was a great creation that had obviously fallen from the sky and was "conceived with passion by unknown artists."For Barthes, the Citroën was the nautilus of time. It appeared seamless in its aerodynamic appearance like the robe of Christ or like the space ships in science fiction movies.
With matter-of-fact precision, Sous has reduced the much-loved car to its simple parts, placing them like puppets in three-dimensional space. By separating the parts, he returns the vehicle to its structures, as in a flying construction kit. While according to this principle the transparency of the objects increases, he at the same time removes from the objects the mystery of their function. The measured displacement of the parts in the room, in which the original silhouettes are preserved as in exploded drawings, ensures that the technical commodities are charged with magical-expressive meaning.
This effect of the enchanted comes about not least because one hardly notices the threads on which the individual parts of the devices hang. But they span the whole in each case into a mathematical system of horizontals and verticals. It is no coincidence that Sous named one of his early works – a disassembled hand mixer – "Mondrian". At the beginning of the 20th century, the Dutch painter. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to dissolve landscapes into geometric systems. In this sense Sous transfers the complicated inner life of technical devices into the square system of horizontal and vertical crosshairs. However, unlike Mondrian, he does not reduce reality to purely abstract values, but breaks it down into its elements without giving up the recognizable overall context.
In the series of spatial objects, Stefan Sous has mainly taken on technical objects from a time when the inner workings of household appliances were still controlled mechanically with toggle switches and motors instead of microchips. With a certain melancholy, he once again presents an almost past present for critical analysis. In doing so, he pursues two different forms of representation of art and advertising: on the one hand, his installations represent a sculptural problem that seeks to make hidden forces and worlds visible; on the other hand, he illustrates advertising strategies, such as those pursued by AEG in the fifties, when the electrical corporation advertised its appliances in a comprehensible way with sequence photos and kit representations.
Sous dissects technical bodies in a scientific way. Hunch becomes knowledge with him. Objectivity replaces emotion. And yet the result generates hilarity reminiscent of absurd situations in comic films. Sous transforms the objects into energetically charged, spatial instructions for use, in which each part appears in the right place according to its functional value. At the moment of drifting apart, however, the devices only temporarily lose their functionality. The Citroën, with which the series of his spatial objects began, has long since been reassembled into a drivable car and sold as a used car. The "Explosionsplastiken" of Stefan Sous provoke not only spatial stretching, but also the exact opposite. The objects are captured as if in an unnatural moment of suspense that could snap back as if in a dream with a blink of the once popular HB man's eye, leaving nothing but the sober reality of a vacuum cleaner, a hand mixer, a car on the ground. With the means of scientific analysis, Sous not only deciphers the technical device and the belief in it, but by singling it out he puts it into poetic moments that correspond to the highest turning point of a ball thrown into the air. By seemingly overcoming logic and gravity, Sous provides the greatest possible insight.