Hans Winkler; Arche 2001: Pierogi 2000 • Brooklyn, New York

A New England fisherman’s dory, maybe twenty feet long. It’s not damp, but it has obviously seen some use: the paint is a little tired in places, one of the oar cleats is splintered, a third of one gunwale is missing altogether.
The shape of the boat is traditional, but its manufacture is clearly contemporary: plywood and power tools have been used. This dory isn’t an antique, or a replica, or a simulation. It’s definitely a boat.
Of course, you couldn’t actually use it, the way it’s equipped: a set of pine bookshelves has been added, spanning the midsection, and standing another five feet high. The shelves are full; the whole assembly is sort of cartoonish in its proportions, and top-heavy.
The shelves have been built with the same kinds of materials and tools as the boat, but not engineered for the same weather: the new wood is unpainted, and the bookshelves are definitely not intended to withstand much rocking or knocking.
On the shelves, there must be a couple of hundred phone books, from all over the world. On closer examination, you would notice that they are from a particular category of city: ones with sea ports. Fair enough—it’s a boat, not a donkey.
Then again, it’s not really a boat anymore, either. Now, it’s the general idea of a boat, and of a particular kind of travel, and of the life of a particular kind of artist, who seems to be reasonably lucid and/or honest about his own circumstances, and those of his audience.
The first honest aspect of this piece, which is not really a boat, is the fact that it does not pretend to be site-specific. In fact, it’s exactly the contrary of site-specific. . . the piece, and the boat, are made to travel exactly as far, and as often, as anybody takes the trouble to move them, which is a reasonably manageable task, as everything involved is either made to be portable, or made to carry. In other words, the piece assumes an involvement on everybody’s part that is modest, normal, and relatively brief. Ark 2000 sits, parked or moored or installed in the gallery, in a way that’s consistent with the actual length of its stay, a month or so.
The second honest aspect of the piece is that it very clearly represents the way of life of an itinerant extrovert named Hans Winkler. This is the work of an artist who makes arrangements, rather than objects. The piece represents/records/proves the extent of his travels over a period of time, plus the extent of his ability to arrange for people to send him phone books from other “ports of call”)—In other words, the sum of Winkler’s physical displacements, and of his tele-communications, and of the efforts of friends and acquaintances living in, or just passing through port cities.
And so it happens that you will find the Montreal phone book in the Ark 2000 shelves, but not Halifax; Lisbon and Tunis, but not Vladivostok. This is a particular and personal Ark. Its scale and scope are human, incomplete.
The phone books are already yellowing, sagging a little, dog-eared. The small fishing boat then evokes not so much a lost or historical tradition as a contemporary trade, a day-to-day business of making arrangements in a place, for a while, and moving on, and keeping in touch. In this context, tri-band cell phones and e-mail are already as familiar, as typical, as lobster traps and beer.
It’s a little embarrassing to begin to describe Hans Winkler as a Bavarian nomad, and especially so because he is exactly that. Part of what’s embarrassing about it is the recognition that we, the sort of people who provide and/or consume this publication, are all members of a modern nomadic caste, that spreads more or less freely between states, nations, tribes. The little boat in the gallery is a sort of euphemism for the un-place to which we are native, ie air travel. The gallery space, meanwhile, isolates the work from the surrounding neighborhood, in favor of an imaginary proximity, to all the other galleries for contemporary art, in cities with phone books.
The long lists of names of complete strangers in the telephone books have another kind of honesty, in their presence on a phone book boat. . . The longer the boat travels from gallery to gallery, the greater the number of outdated entries.
More books will certainly be added along the way, which will be more current. Even so, they won’t be phone books anymore. They will be an abundance of names and numbers of strangers none of US will ever talk to, that the artist never talked to, who have no idea that this boat is in this gallery, with these shelves on it, with this phone book among the others, with their name next to a number that was their phone number in 2000.
The boat will always be familiar. As the piece travels, so will the artist. There’s no question of shipping the dory back to Bavaria, or on to Sao Paulo, or Sydney, or wherever the next biennale trumpets another smorgasbord of identity in its unspecific spaces. It will be a simple matter of getting off the plane, and driving around wherever people keep small boats nearby, and borrowing or buying or improvising one, as local circumstances dictate. Ark 2000 might not be made of plywood next time—it might be bamboo, or leather, or fiberglass, according to the local practice. Those phone books might end up in a canoe, a coracle, or a catamaran, no problem.
The phone books will be familiar, everywhere, for other reasons. And every time, the artist will work with local people, and the local phone system, to make arrangements to set up a local boat in a local gallery, as a temporary monument to people like us, who are always touching down, on the line, making contact, trying to keep in touch, taking off.

Carl Skelton
New York, New York