CHRISTOPH WEBER’S SCULPTURAL BODIESVienna-based artist Christoph Weber chose the tongue-in-cheek title “Not yet titled” for a concrete floor sculpture gently laid on a steel plate, thus playing with the idea of the moment when something is determined, i.e. takes form. Weber is fascinated by the qualities of concrete; it is “his” material. The artist is drawn to its malleability, its ability to be processed, and its inherent creative potential. He takes full advantage of the process of drying and curing, manipulating the concrete’s form for his sculptures while subjecting it to different forces: laying it on a steel plate, tipping it over, letting it collapse. These movements are always visible in his sculptural bodies. The work becomes a kind of frozen or hardened process.
With their folds and faults, Weber’s sculptures could be (mis)understood as artistic models for tectonic processes, but this would be too one-dimensional a reading for his artistic material. Concrete is inevitably associated with industrial processes used in architecture and is a quintessential example of the promises of Modernism. “Concrete” was also a term used by the “no future” generation of the late 1970s to describe the ossification of bourgeois society. Artistic materials are thus never neutral; their potential to create meaning remains inscribed in the finished objects. Works made of concrete evoke metaphors of violence and power. Weber expands on these associations in the formal processes he initiates – adding decisive moments of vulnerability or fragility, for example – condensing his sculptures into multifaceted metaphors that oscillate between power and impotence, creation and destruction.
In terms of formal characteristics, Weber’s sculptures can be traced back to artistic traditions that had their breakthrough in the exhibition Live in Your Head. When Attitudes Become Form in 1969 in Berne, when the notion of the artwork as an artifact was fundamentally challenged by process-related approaches. This postminimal spirit was recently recaptured in the exhibition Post / Postminimal in the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen in 2014, which brought works from Postminimalism together with sculptures by contemporary artists. Provoking social change and overthrowing an artistic canon are no longer the main concern of today’s artists. They are interested first and foremost in redefining material qualities and subject matter in art. Contemporary artists like Christoph Weber naturally build on the formal research of past artists and combine this with today’s experiences. They create works that develop their own sensitivity while confidently exploring the possibilities of contemporary sculpture. Thomas Trummer calls Weber’s concrete works a kind of a “stress test for the thingliness” that brings something vital to contemporary art – a double perspective that focuses on both material and thematic qualities. The eminently present-day aspect of Weber’s artistic works is thus founded on the interconnectedness of these qualities. While his sculptural bodies address their own material foundations, they also serve as metaphors for the human condition in a world that Gerhard Polt so poignantly describes as a “paradise of colorful concrete.”