Dieter Rübsaamen : Visuelle Erfahrbarkeit unsichtbarer zu verortender Prozesse

  • Dieter Rübsaamen : visual perception of invisible processes yet to be positioned

Müller, André; Markschies, Alexander (Thesis advisor); Bleek, Jennifer (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2016, 2017)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2016


The dissertation analyses by means of art science the work of the artist and August Macke Laureate of the City of Bonn Dieter Rübsaamen, who as of handing in the dissertation request lives in Bonn, and it contributes to further developing scientific (e.g. epistemological) methods. The catalogue raisonné constitutes the empirical basis of the dissertation and comprises 3450 works of the artist which have been archived by the author over a longer period and gathered from different places. The catalogue raisonné begins in 1948 and ends in 2015 with the artist’s preliminary latest works. It contains, as far as retraceable, information on the year of origin of each single art piece, title, technique and dimensions. As the works are located mostly in the artist’s workshop, yet at other places too, the catalogue raisonné adds anti-chronological numbers to the single works. Catalogue raisonné and pictures of the work cycles, which are mentioned in the following, are integral part of the dissertation. Based on the empirical primary material of 3450 works, the author deviated 15 work cycles and attributed to them 100 works which he subjected to an analysis by means of art science. This analysis was oriented towards guiding research questions, the classification of the artist’s work against current theories of contemporary art, pre-iconographic, iconographic and iconological analytical and interpretative elements as well as the structure of the works, the story of the artist’s life, his work process and communication style as well as the recension and reception by others.The guiding research questions refer to the following aspects: Which mode of procedure does Rübsaamen choose as artist and scientist; in which way would this approach to be operationalised in the sense of his steps of emergence?Under which conditions do the works of Rübsaamen materialise; which role do play circumstances that are part of Rübsaamen’s personality, his daily work routine and his social environment?Which influence does literature exert on the works of Rübsaamen?Which relation does exist between his works, their presence and their perception by potential observers?Which additional elements exert influence on his works in the sense of the current paradigm shift to be stated from the pictorial and iconic turn (cf. William J. Mitchell 1992; Gottfried Boehm 1994; Christa Maar, Hubert Burda 2004) towards the visual, sensitive and preceptive turn (cf. Ulrich Ratsch, Ion-Olimpiu Stamatescu, Philipp Stoellger 2009) as well as the performative turn (cf. T.C. Davis 2008; Elin Diamond 1996; Michael Lingner, Pierangelo Maset, Hubert Sowa 1999; Stanislav Roudavski 2008; Hubert Sowa 2004; Hubert Sowa, Alexander Glas, Monika Miller 2012) Are Rübsaamen’s works part of a new way of thinking and observing Rübsaamen is a trained lawyer with a doctor’s degree, is living in a second, intercultural marriage and was an executive at the Secretariat of the Standing Conference of the Minsters of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK). He has never been trained as an artist in any traditional sense and has thus acquired artistic tools in an autodidactic manner supported by his social environment.A key moment in Rübsaamen’s life was the visit to CERN (Centre Européen de la Recherche Nucléaire) in 1992. Visiting the centre and talking to the scientists there made him be convinced that some natural scientific phenomena cannot be illustrated because of their natural haziness, though art might be able to illustrate this non-representability.Thus, he has developed in the course of his artistic work steps of emergence. They are his blue print for the formation of a painting, the composition and elements of which he provides; yet the interpretation is handled by the observer who finally produces the image in his head. Rübsaamen is thus unintentionally close to, amongst others, Pierre Huyghe. The steps of emergence have been derived from some sentences of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that are crucial to Rübsaamen.Rübsaamen works in space and time, he explores in an attentive manner the premature and incompleteness, calculates the things yet to be located, visualises processes yet to be positioned and creates possibilities with his art as well as he develops some kind of art-in-between. In doing so, he proceeds scientifically, systematically and oriented towards concepts. Rübsaamen always entitles his works by himself. Off-the-record conversations with journalists and curators offer him opportunities to influencing the interpretation of his works. Altogether 57 solo and group exhibitions can be retraced.Both, the work analysis as well as its discussion, suggest that Rübsaamen may serve as an example of the paradigm shift from the pictorial and iconic turn towards the visual, sensitive and perceptive turn as well as the performative turn. Classifying his work against current theories of contemporary art (e.g. open pieces of art, observer’s participation in the production of the painting, art as cross-bordering activity between sciences and disciplines, including the artist himself as a cross-borderer) cannot be delivered however in an explicit manner. Alike, Rübsaamen cannot be labelled with one single unquestionable type of artist. Due to his artistic neighbourhood to Shusaku Arakawa, Joseph Kosuth and Glenn Ligon he might be called a conceptional artist who devoted himself to the graphic and pictorial value of the word. In dependence of the exhibition Globale: Reset Modernity! being on stage at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe in 2016, which had been curated by Bruno Latour and others, the description of Rübsaamen as artiflex diligentiae et innovationis as well as artiflex disciplinae argumentum seems obvious. It is this approach of a method that turns into the content, which characterises the artistic work and life of Rübsaamen. Rübsaamen, by the way declared in 1985 his own juridical dissertation on Minorities’ Rights in Non-Consolidated Limited Companies of 1971 to be a master piece on My Beloved Minority - Shareholder Minority which he contributed as an artist book to a group exhibition in 2010. The 30 Leitz Folders containing his juridical surveys and expert statements had been declared by himself a total work of master pieces. He smuggled his work on the Elementary Button of 1998, which is an original smoke detector emergency button treated in an artistic way, into an exhibition of students’ works in the secretariat premises of KMK and thus got awarded an exceptional price by its president.


  • Chair and Institute of Art History [218010]