Moment Monument, Firework 25.06.2011
There are probably very few artists who become skilled in pyrotechnics as part of their artistic practice. Sandra Kranich (b. 1971, Ludwigsburg, lives in Frankfurt am Main) makes art with fireworks. This use of fireworks stems from her great interest in geometric shapes. She had been investigating the dynamics of lines in her drawings for a long time when she realised that, in fireworks, these lines actually become dynamic. She decided to undertake the three-year training course to become a pyrotechnician, which she completed successfully. Now she was able to fire her drawings up into the air: flickering lines of light crossing one another and forming all kinds of different figures for only a few seconds. Time and light also proved to be additional features of fireworks that gave the artist’s work exactly what she was aiming for. Not only are fireworks able to transform the flat drawing into dynamic, three-dimensional figures, but the brightly coloured light also ensures an aesthetic spectacle, while the ephemeral character of the fire makes the experience of the work all the more intense. Kranich designs sculptures as a base for her fireworks and incorporates the explosives into them. Explosions occur at various points on the sculpture, with lines of fire shooting up into the sky and combining with the original sculpture to form the complete artwork for just a brief moment. What remains after the explosion – occasionally the sculpture is entirely destroyed – functions as an artistic object in exhibitions, often accompanied by documentation. Professional photographs and film recordings of the exploding fireworks are made, in order to immortalise the process.
The explosion often produces unexpected images, although with modern precision fireworks Kranich can calculate quite accurately when and at what height the fireworks will explode. This allows her, at least to some extent, to design the stereometric figures produced by the fireworks.
Most of the locations where she exhibits are limited in size or there is a fire risk, so Kranich has to adapt her works to the surroundings. Ten years ago, she even started making firework sculptures that are suitable for display – and ignition – inside a museum. The calculations and the installation work are very time-consuming, especially in contrast with the very brief moment when the fireworks can be seen before fading away.
Kranich always attempts to make both a practical and substantive connection to the location in her work. She based the pyrotechnical work that she created specially for Lustwarande ’11 on a work by the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920-1988). Clark combined her love of geometric abstraction with her desire to encourage the viewer to enter into extensive interaction with the work of art. Clark’s Matchbox Structures from 1964, which inspired Kranich’s sculpture, are constellations of painted matchboxes in different combinations, which challenge the viewer to test all kinds of different variations simply by moving a box. Kranich’s work, which has the significant title Moment Monument, Firework 25.6.2011, was also made up of rectangular boxes, constructed in combustible timber and stacked on a meadow in the wood. At its tallest point, the sculpture was over 3.5 metres. It had explosives inside it and on it. The fireworks were set off during the opening of the exhibition and lasted around five minutes, after which the sculpture burnt away completely. Kranich’s decision to base her work on Clark’s is no surprise. Both are tough women who have won a special place for themselves in art history and the artistic practice of both artists has its roots in Constructivism. Like Clark, Kranich also wants her audience to have an intense experience of her art.