The Bern-based Swiss artist Frantiček Klossner is a creator of video art, installations, performance, photography, drawings, and visual poetry. While his cross-disciplinary oeuvre is steeped in existential questions, the focus of his inquiry is on our contemporary self-image as humans. The human body in his video installations and performative sculptures, and even in his drawings and photographic works, stands for processes of psychological individuation and social interdependency. Klossner addresses political and social issues, but does so in a visual language of extraordinary poetic intensity. So striking is the aesthetic of his works that they engage his audiences in direct dialogue. The vehemence of his pictorial worlds is sustained by the sensuousness of his materials. Thus, as if by subterfuge, viewers of his works find themselves questioning their inner images and reviewing their own thinking.
Since 1990, Klossner’s art has featured regularly in international exhibitions and media art festivals. Among the institutions to stage solo exhibitions of his work are the Kunsthaus Grenchen, CH (2001), Centro d’Arte Contemporanea, Bellinzona, CH (2002), Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires MAMBA, ARG (2004), Galeria de Arte Universal, Santiago de Cuba, CUB (2005), Centro de Expresiones Contemporáneas, Rosario, ARG (2007), Kunstmuseum Solothurn, CH (2008), Kunsthaus Interlaken, CH (2013), Kunsthalle Wil, CH (2014), and Kunstverein Ruhr in Essen, NRW, D (2015).
Education and Training
Frantiček Klossner trained as an artist at the F+F School of Art and Design in Zurich (1985–1989), among whose teachers were the artists Hansjörg Mattmüller, Hermann Bohmert, Norbert Klassen, Vollrad Kutscher, Valie Export, Peter Weibel, and the philosopher Gerhard J. Lischka, and among whose guest lecturers were Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and Vilém Flusser. On graduating, he won a City of Bern art scholarship, thanks to which he was able to move into a studio in the East Village in New York City and there focus on video art, performance, and installations. He won a scholarship to the Istituto Svizzero in Rome in 1995 and after two years at that institution decided to settle in Rome, where he remained active as an artist until 2000. On returning to Switzerland, he headed the exhibition project Identité mobile at the Murten arteplage of the Swiss National Exhibition, Expo.02.
Klossner taught video art and performance at the F+F School of Art and Design in Zurich from 1993 to 2000. After the Swiss Expo.02 he was invited to lecture in media art at the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz FHNW and in performance art at the École cantonale d’art du Valais ECAV. He has been teaching at the Institute of Transdisciplinary Art and Research at Bern University of the Arts since 2006.
Museums and Public Art Collections
Works and groups of works by Franticek Klossner now feature in numerous collections, among them those of the Swiss National Museum, Kunsthaus Zürich, Kunstmuseum Bern, Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Kunstsammlung des Kantons Bern, Kunstsammlung der Stadt Zofingen, Graphische Sammlung der Schweizerischen Nationalbibliothek, Bundeskunstsammlung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, Collection Banque Bonhôte Neuchâtel, Sammlung Ketterer-Ertle, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Sammlung Ursula Blickle, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere Vienna, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires MAMBA Argentina, ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Karlsruhe, Sammlung Reinking Hamburg
Frantiček Klossner describes his series with frozen portraits and bodies as an “infinite performance.” The performative concept is not only laid out for the duration of an exhibition; he applied it as early as in his first “freezings” (1990) and continues to do so to this day, each time in a new context, in numerous installative or media variations. Each new staging is a temporary process in which the viewer involuntarily participates. Hence it is not just about the coexistence of images layered one over the other or about the portrait made of ice that slowly melts, but also, and above all, about interpenetration and overlaying in a conceptual, aesthetic sense. The elements placed in the exhibition space depend on each other and in their entirety are in a position stimulate thoughts, feelings, and memories whose coexistence is already art-specific. The rhythmically moving video image and the ice head prompt meditating on time that is trickling away, one’s own lifetime, and impermanence. The fact that the material used to create the head is frozen water, which melts over time, makes it an ephemeral “human image” that visibly changes over time and ultimately dissolves. This “always-becoming-less” of the solid, icy substance and the gradual dripping away of the melt water thus belong to Klossner’s understanding of the work and his concept. A temporary sculpture, so to speak, an image undergoing permanent dissolution that is capable of prompting multiple, by all means contradictory associations in the viewer. In actuality, what is occurring here is a completely normal physical process for the purpose of demonstrating the transformation from a solid into a liquid aggregate state. Yet Klossner is not concerned with a scientific test arrangement but with a work of art and thus a polysemous symbolic placement and with the conscious reactivation of millennia-old concepts of time. The artist is furthermore concerned with the palpable generation of a concept of humankind that embodies time, as it were, and thus in terms of its theme is also concerned with the existential question as to an individual’s “internal time” and “external time.” (Text: Peter Friese)
A self-portrait of the artist made of ice hangs above a large surface of water that has been placed on the floor of the exhibition space. It is initially an exact one-to-one cast of the artist’s head. Just out of cold storage and hung upside down on a metal loop, this impressive body of ice initially becomes covered with a velvety white layer of frost before it gradually begins to melt and drip off due to the ambient temperature. This physical process occurs in what for the viewer is amazing slowness, which in turn demands one’s awareness. The waiting time becomes part of the performative concept. The fine white ice crystals ultimately dissolve, and the melting process can be experienced as a permanent rhythmic process within the exhibition.
Image and counterimage
Alternately projected onto the water is video footage of an attentive eye and the image of a naked young man in a fetal curl. A video projector was placed in such a way that these images are reflected from the surface of the water onto the opposite wall of the space and enlarged. The drops of water constantly falling from the melting head, however, produce concentrically pulsating circles on the surface of the water, like individual raindrops on a lake. And because the video projection is a “light image,” these waves create multiple light refractions and visual amplitudes within the image mirroring. An impressive, constantly changing situation develops—both on the surface of the water as well as in the actual video, into which the viewer is automatically integrated. It looks as though the viewer’s gaze is responded to by the counter-gaze of the large eye, which the curled up body of the naked young man then follows. And all of this is permeated by the dynamically concentric circles and oscillations emanating from the drops of water to ultimately condense into a striking overall image.
18/06/2011 - 18/09/2011
curated by André Lindhorst, Christel Schulte, Rik Reinking
Participating artists: Hermine Anthoine, Vanessa Beecroft, John von Bergen, John Bock, Baldur Burwitz, Heinrich Brummack, Wim Delvoye, Birgit Dieker, Brad Downey, Johannes Esper, Günther Förg, Gregor Gaida, Till F. E. Haupt, Damien Hirst, Franticek Klossner, Clemens Krauss, Sherrie Levine, Grayson Perry, Marc Quinn, Deborah Sengl, Daniel Spoerri, Haim Steinbach, Yukiko Terada, Nicola Torke, Andy Warhol, Pae White, Erwin Wurm, Herbert Zangs
In his interdisciplinary work, Swiss artist Franticek Klossner deals with existential subjects. The human body plays an important role and acts as a representation of the processes of mental and social individuation. In the current exhibition at Kunstzeughaus Rapperswil-Jona, Klossner presents a fascinating video installation, which visualizes the idea of man in an impressive manner. As a screen for his video projections, the artist uses big demijohns filled with water. The arched water volumes distort and stretch the projected images like a convex mirror. Naked bodies squirm in the glasses like restless fetuses. The scenery resembles a bizarre testing lab out of a science fiction movie. The liquefied bodies of the protagonists, between dissolution and transformation, become a symbol for human existential states. Klossner’s video work reminds us how fragile and process dependent the “human” in us can appear. In mysterious words, the encased ghosts speak to themselves and to us. Their monologues layer into a hypnotic poetry score and allow us to experience the act of communication in an unconventional manner. The video installation's striking esthetics involves the audience in a highly direct physical dialogue. The vehemence of the physicality is supported by an extremely sensual materiality. The audience experiences Klossner's video installation in an almost physical way. / Manuel Rodriguez, 2015
Museum of Fine Arts Bern, 2013 / 2014
With this exhibition, the Kunstmuseum Bern is addressing a topic that, until now, has hardly been tackled in a museum context. Who or what makes a man? How do men define themselves in art since feminism; how do they reflect on their gender and the portrayal thereof? Whereas the preferred angle of engaging with female artists is still today via “gender”, this is still a novel angle for looking at male artists. And as feminist art has finally become an established entity in major institutions, it is time to take a closer look at the art produced by men about men. The Sexual Revolution as well as the feminist and gay movements did not have only one side to them: they likewise impacted the roles of men and transformed images of masculinity. The exhibition therefore explores how contemporary Western artists of both sexes have, since the 1960s, invented new notions of masculinity or shattered existing ones.