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Karin Stempel

"I cannot say what I see, but when I speak of my perceptions, I sense that I see different things in a different way."
Theo Kneubühler

Triangles set in the landscape, inscribed in space, floating, suspended in the air or propped up at one end; triangles which point a way forward, focusing energies and conducting forces; triangles as markers in the void, forging links and establishing connections, as objects whose nature is intrinsically relational.
Johannes Pfeiffer's experiments in bestowing images on the world by giving it visual shape are based on the ancient art of trigonometry, which uses certain mathematical functions - sine and cosine, secant and cosecant, tangent and cotangent - to calculate the proportions of figures and bodies, where constuctive geometry has shown that the whole of such a figure con be calculated from its known parts. A distinction is drawn, depending on the field of application, between plane and physical trigonometry: from the latter, prompted by the realization that the earth is not a perfect sphere, spherical trigonometry evolved as a method of land surveying that is still used today.
Apparently following the immanent logic of this system, Johannes Pfeiffer brings his triangulations to bear on a given spatial situation, from which he constructs a new situation whose inner logic constitutes and brings forth a second level of reflection. In 'Das ungenannte Tier' ('The unnamed beast') built in 1991, this second level seems to part company with the earth, like rough skin peeling away from the body, raising the evenly patterned skirt of bricks and exposing the naked ground to the gaze. 'Triangulation III' exhibits a somewhat different approach: here, Pfeiffer employs round lumps of marble, mounted on steel rods, to create a separate geometrical level which is entirely independent of the terrain beneath. This in turn contrasts with one of the artist's first triangulations, made in 1985, which consists simply of a three-cornered layer of rough stones set out in a ploughed field. But whatever means are used, the fundamental aim is always the same: to question everyday perceptions of specific landscapes or spaces by literally driving a wedge into them; a wedge so obviously unnatural and synthetic that it forcefully occupies the space and transforms it into an experience. Energies are concentrated, localized and focused; relationships of tension and conflict - between husk and shell, body and skin, level and plane, matter and form, geography and geometry, culture and nature - and identified and rendered manifest, in terms of an image on whose still-visible ground the various potential forms of perception and experience, appearance and perception are clearly identifiable, as conflicting yet complementary forces.
A crucial element in these works is the interplay of openness and closure, chance and necessity, emptiness and fullness: elements which Pfeiffer continually relates to one another, but without dissolving them into discourse. Instead, the ongoing dialogue establishes a further, durable, structure in which anything is seemingly permitted, yet everything is bound by rules; a structure which is meaningful but indecipherable, whose details are precisely delineated but whose overall shape is uncertain.
The structure is the image, which spreads itself out, like the grid of an undrawn map, over a surface which can be a field, an olive grove, a stretch of ground with a particular formation, or a section of a building. Here - and this is a characteristic of all these works - idea and appearance enter into a truly symbiotic relationship, in which the image drapes itself around reality like a transparent veil, a distant sound, a dying echo, nameless and stripped of all sense of place, left to seek its own way at the mercy of reality, entirely present yet continually on the point of vanishing, of dissolving and simply ceasing to be.
There is nothing coincidental about the constitutive - rather than merely tonal - relationship between triangulation and the triangle; the percussion instrument, emitting a vibration which sounds forth across the void and fills the space in which it hovers, ebbing backwards and forwards and eventually coming to a standstill. Thus in Pfeiffer's 'Triangel' ('Triangle'), the layer of bricks suspended from the ceiling is poised above the ground, with the bottom corner of the triangle pointing downwards to pick up every vibration and impulse from below and absorb it into the structure as a whole - floating, hovering, oscillating to and fro until the balance of conflicting energies is restored and the movement stops.
Without exception, Johannes Pfeiffer's works are open systems with the capacity to register movements and energies, sounds and vibrations, which are picked up, passed on and refocused, conferring spatial qualities on emptiness and paraphrasing space in terms of the void. To an increasing extent, the defining parameters of these systems are opening up and shifting outwards, from the local to the global, and even to the universe beyond. In his most recent work, 'Triangulation IV - Die Argonauten' ('Triangulation IV - the Argonauts'), Pfeiffer is no longer content to seek out and extrapolate relationships of conflict on the territorial and terrestrial plane: here, he represents the entire solar system as a universal reflecting mechanism. Huge slabs of roughly hewn marble, with black solar collector panels attached to their upper surface, are arranged in an enormous white triangle, set in an olive grove, which alternately stores and consumes the sun's energy, absorbing and reflecting light, in a simultaneous exchange of black and white, light and shadow, nature and culture, culture and technology, material and energy.
Image and reality are estranged from one another like the cosmos and the world, but at the same time they remain linked by an invisible bond; they are caught up in the network of the gaze, which continues - via the image - to translate potential imaginings and perceptions into ideas which are no longer capable of dissimulating or concealing anything - not even themselves.