Dark Matter | Sorry We’re Closed | Brussels | 2013

Dark Matter

“There’s more to Art than meets the eye.”
Unknown Artist

Dark matter and dark energy compose the majority of the mass of the universe.
Mysterious and invisible, dark matter easily overwhelms any positive light matter in
the cosmos, and yet balance is maintained. This disproportional opposition of dark
and light illustrates the human condition according to Stefan Rinck.
What is life?

Mr Rinck has created a diagrammatic illustration of the metaphysical dynamics of
the moral cosmos with his assembly of black and white stone-carved sculptures
engaged in a ball game.

Ten figures play this game. Eight of the ten figures are made of German diabase, and
two figures have been crafted from marble. Diabase, otherwise known as dolerite, is
black volcanic basalt, seemingly abandoned by light, a humble stone commonly used
as street pavement. Arranged on two walled sides as well as the floor of the court,
the black diabase figures are against two white figures, who appear agitated by
alarm and fear. Made of sugary white Italian marble, a noble and prestigious stone
they stand in contrast to the lowly diabase figures. Connoted in this confrontation
of materials is a Manchaean opposition, what Goethe would have characterized as
a contrast between the implicit health and sunny light of Classical Italian marble,
celebrated and respected, as opposed to the plutonian sickness of the German
Romantic soul represented by the diabase, a dark mineral created by hellfire and
forgotten. A battle is underway between the outnumbered forces of light and the
greater forces of darkness.

The ball game defining Mr Rinck’s universe is modeled on the ballgames of Pre-
Columbian American civilizations. Sloping plinths used to support the figures
on either side of the square court are used to suggest the architecture of Mayan
ballgame courts. The ball in Pre-Columbian ballgames was a skull wrapped in
layers of rubber and bounced off the hips of the players. This was a game of life and
death, and the player who lost the game would also lose his life; the loser would be
sacrificed to replenish the cosmos. It was a serious game.

The figures in ‘Dark Matter’ are quarter life-sized, gnomish characters. Their
size and cartoonish qualities are disarmingly comic. The implicit humor only
underscores the game’s gravity.

The characters of the game are as follows:

Presiding over the court sits the ‘Referee’. The ‘Referee’ is positioned at the dividing
line separating Team Black from Team White, or Dark Matter from Light. The court
is square, and the ‘Referee’ sits enframed within a circular ‘spotlight’, which is
painted on the wall behind her. Seated in the center of this theatrical ‘spotlight’ and
wearing a conical crown the ‘Referee’ resembles the hand of a clock, and as a clock,
the ‘Referee’ strikes midnight.

The ‘Referee’ is a figure made up of two arms with hands wielding drumsticks and
two large breast-like eyes descending from her dunce-cap cone. She beats on a toy
drum. She is an orthoconic nautiloid, a Paleozoic cephalopod predator. She is an
ancient fossil; she is Time. Having no mouth, she is unable to dictate rules. The game
therefore has no rules to speak of… She only watches in impartial evolutionary
judgment as she beats out an inexorable march towards extinction. The tick-tock
of her drum, her eyes bulging, the ‘Referee’ observes mutely with her expectant
mother nipples, while the hapless white player below her, a frightened animal, an
aardvark-like character splayed Christ-like with outstretched arms, is ready to avoid
or catch the next ball. This hapless player struggles as a to survive an eternal game.

Off the field of play, behind our lonesome protagonist, on a plinth, stands
the ‘Skeptic’, an owl of white marble. ‘The Skeptic’ either prays or claps with his
hands/wings seemingly in syncopated rhythm with the drum of the ‘Referee’ in
support of the ‘Player’. The ‘Skeptic’ is agitated with anxiety and worry. He is a
symbol of knowing wisdom, rational morality, and while he is sympathetic to the
plight of the ‘Player’ the ‘Skeptic’ is unable to provide anything but the cheering
support of a witness looking on. He is the only figure on the ‘Player’s’ team. Life is

The ‘Skeptic’ is positioned in direct opposition to his diabasic counterpart, the ‘Black
Owl’ who sits on top of an empty skull. The ‘Black Owl’ stares blankly, with dollar
signs for eyes, over his shoulder. With only money in mind, he is unreflective of
humanity. He is the Sleep of Reason, a benighted messenger of Death. The ‘Black
Owl’ is part of a downward triangle in the composition of the installation. This is a
triangle of power at work in the universe. This power configuration includes two
figures other than the ‘Black Owl’. They are the ‘Crusader’ and the ‘Fortune Teller’.

The ‘Crusader’ represents religion. He assumes the form of an ermine in the role
of an altar boy. The ermine is an animal whose pelt decorates the shoulders of
kings. The ermine is a weasel, and in this case a royal weasel. Decorating himself
with a sign of religious power- the crucifix- the weasel stands as the true nature of
religious authority, which is revealed to be a swindling authority. The weasel is a
dishonest and unreliable agent of this swindle. He smirks as he undermines trust
in religion. If this impostor is dictating and explanation of the cosmos, and it is
actually a slinky weasel who impersonates divine consciousness, then we can take
no refuge or comfort in the divine. In the absence of providence the alternative is
the existential chaos of chance outcomes. The ‘Fortune Teller’ is the alternative to
religion’s claim to determining the destiny’s course.

The ‘Fortune Teller’ is a happy-go-lucky dog, whose armless body is encased in a
cubical die. He is trapped. This lazybones gambler relies on unpredictable luck.
Fate is a toss of the die. The faces of this die display not numerical sets of dots,
but the suits of a deck of cards: spades; hearts; diamonds; and clubs, while his
head and legs protrude from the top and bottom of the die; heads or tails for this
uncongenial, selfish bum in a magician’s top hat. He was once wolfish and wild,
an animal of instinct now domesticated and tamed, perverted by civilization, he
has been removed from Nature, and follows any master, regardless of his leader’s
moral standing. The dog of chance doesn’t work he only shakes, dumbly relying
on fate without structure. He represents an unreliable and random plot of destiny.
The ‘Fortune Teller’ is an unsavory alternative to the treachery and hopelessness
of religion . Together with their base, the ‘Black Owl’, these two complete a negative
triangle that excludes hope.

Flanking the ‘Black Owl’ on their plinths stand two more nocturnal characters.
The first is the ‘Black Cat’ a scowling animal, never satisfied, always meowing
forever for ever more. She is always taking, never giving, a self-absorbed needing
machine, persistent and sturdy in her stance. Meanwhile, the sculpture titled ‘I,
Troglodyte’, stands on the other side of the ‘Black Cat’ and is the most disturbing
figure in the composition.

‘I, Troglodyte’ is a droopy. He is a degenerate character, his head is a polished drop
of carved diabase forming an eyeless helmet. It is a sightless penis head. A blind
astronaut in the black vacuum of space, holding between his dwarfish hands a
tadpole tail extending from his head. But the tail is ambiguous, like a shiny elephant
trunk, or a saxophone, or a straw through which he seems to suck energy from an
inky, oily environment. The ‘Troglodyte’ embodies a primitive lack of consciousness.
The undeveloped fetal figure slurping away in his dismal existence. He is a bottom
feedering egocentric who lives in the darkness of a black hole.

The game goes on…

The players are separated by a line, and stone balls lie scattered on the floor of the
court, evidence of previous attempts at the white champion. The arrangement looks
like a checkmate move by black in a jumbled game of chess. Two diabase players
occupy the floor. One holds a stone ball aloft, poised to lob it at his white opponent,
while his fellow black figure turns to face the plate glass wall of the installation,
the fourth wall of the stage. Ready with his black ball in hand he stretches an open
palm towards the glass, as if to feel beyond the limits of his enclosure, beyond the
border of the ballgame. He seems to be searching for something in the space of the
audience. He seems to be searching for the audience and the audience is us.
We are to be the next target. With this ominous groping gesture the cuddly troll has
included us in the game, and he is threatening us. He seems to promise to eventually
find us and to deliver us a well-aimed death no matter how well the game is played.
No matter how nimbly we dodge and duck, he will get us in the end.

Life is always fragile. We are vulnerable and face ultimate tragedy; our destination
is inevitable endless darkness; nevertheless, we must play. We have to put up
a sporting struggle and resist the missiles of demise no matter how pointless
the game the game may be. In the careening senselessness of existence, Rinck’s
sculpture installation sends up the cry, “Lets’ Play!” because this really is the only
game in town.

Text: Christopher Hammerlein