back to Christiane Möbus

Text zu der Arbeit von Christiane Möbus:
Berge versetzen, konzipiert 1984 und erstmals realisiert 1991
im Kunstforum der Städtischen Galerie im Lenbachhaus.
Dieser Text entstand für den Katalog der Ausstellung Parallels
der Altlanta College of Arts Gallery, Atlanta 2001,
in der diese Arbeit gezeigt wurde.

Manfred Schneckenburger

Moving Mountains

The city is important. When the weather is clear, you can see the Alps from Munich. In addition to this stunning vision, one also sees in this region the Gamsbart 1, a traditional chamois tuft that decorates Bavarian men's hats, priced just as much as the horn buttons on lederhosen. In every tuft hides a trophy. The wearer of such a hat unwittingly becomes a hunter, the victim is the chamois.2

The place is important. We understand that the chamois does not belong in an underground pedestrian walkway. It is removed from the mountains into a cavernous underworld to become a sad creature, eventually to hang by its own horns 3. But it still hangs on tightly. The steel bars, which usually hold cement together, now temporarily saves the chamois. It is now in a "non-place"4, but has not yet tumbled into the abyss.

The attempt to spin tales grows larger every day. Of course, there could be a completely different story in Atlanta or even Berlin. Does the chamois dream itself back to its Alpine home? Does Christiane Möbus help it in its darkest hour of need when she forges, pushes and rearranges seven cement stones out of the wall? Will this wall be as mountain cliffs, which allow themselves to be climbed step by step? Do the moved stones give us pause? Can art move not only stones, but also mountains?

Christiane Möbus once said: "The present is always only a point". Is the scenario with the chamois just such a point? A frozen moment that waits to be thawed? If so, the associations pour as if into a river, and we see the cement wall as cliffs – and every stone as a saving reef – through the act of art. And then the mountain comes, if not to the prophet, then to the chamois. The spare epigram of the piece gains an imaginative depth, and the "associative order" (in the words of German Romantic poet, Novalis) becomes alive, because the impetus is so fundamental. Nothing declines into anecdote, nor does it become flat or linear. Everything remains wide open to our fantasies.

We can say that Christiane Möbus is a diviner, moving between concept and poetry. Her works have broad depth and tie her message tightly and concretely to her subject. They are literally saturated with experience, not lacking strict and methodical discipline. The works are limited to only a few pieces of data from our external world – an almost let us see that for this most restrictive and monosyllabic use of data, a much more open, rich and graceful message is achieved. Connotations and memories are contained in this work. Its precision stems from sharp and orderly formulation rather than being buried in unambiguous codes. The lucidity grows from renouncing every superfluous word, not from easy readability. The short key words – chamois, steel bars, moved stone – do not whisper to us, rather they occupy the room in clear contours where objectivity neither adjusts to an open horizon nor diminishes their moving emotionality. If the mountain comes to the chamois, if the chamois can save itself in the mountains, if the story ends in an animal-tragedy, if the piece has a pure and poetic or even critical character – these things can, should and must remain open.

Manfred Schneckenburger




1 The German word "Gamsbart" literally means a larger shaving-brush tuft of hair from a chamois (e.g., the goat-like antelope, similar to a mountain goat, not the "sheepskin cloth" most Americans are familiar with) worn as a hat decoration.   This is a very traditional sight, one experiences almost daily in Southern Germany.

2 The chamois is an animal unique to the Alps, and lives in absolute freedom. If it is caged or captured, it dies. The animal does no experience with humans, that is to say very, very few people ever have face-to-face contact with it. Only speial types of hunters in Sothern Germany are allowed to take its horns, which they than hang above the entrance to their homes. It is considered a moral infraction for anyone but members of that group of hunters to take the chamois.

3 The first installation of this work was displayed in an underground pedestrian walkway which, ironically pedestrians did not use a lot. This cavernous area then was, at that point, reminiscent of the dungeon-like underworld of the mountain.

4"Unort" is relatively the opposite of the word "Ort" which means place. The translation of "non-place" does not offer the deeper philosophical aspect of the original German intent of the word.