Hans Winkler; Arche
2001: Pierogi 2000 Brooklyn, New York
New England fishermans dory, maybe twenty feet long. Its 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 isnt an antique,
or a replica, or a simulation. Its definitely a boat.
Of course, you couldnt actually use it, the way its 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 enoughits
a boat, not a donkey.
Then again, its not really a boat anymore, either. Now, its
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, its
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 everybodys part that is modest, normal,
and relatively brief. Ark 2000 sits, parked or moored or installed in
the gallery, in a way thats 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 Winklers 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,
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.
Its a little embarrassing to begin to describe Hans Winkler as a
Bavarian nomad, and especially so because he is exactly that. Part of
whats 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 wont 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.
Theres 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 timeit 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.
New York, New York