A Prototype of a Wall

A prototype is usually defined as “a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction” or as “a standard or typical example” (Webster’s dictionary)

In connection with artistic work, discussion about prototypes points to material, technical or spatial experiments. In addition to this, it also points to experimenting with time or deals with imaginary issues.

In a test setup one can find out how a given prototype artwork behaves and functions in specifically chosen surroundings. The experience gathered from this test setup is used to develop the next work in the next test setup. The altered work leads again to the next altered work and after that – comes nothing.

This “nothing” means that artistic work and artistic research take place mostly in this state of being a prototype. In my experience as an artist, modified versions of the same work can be developed only once or twice. In order to be able to proceed with the work it is necessary to determine the development of one piece and to build a new test setup from scratch. To display a work in public means to me often to stop developing it. That also means that the development of a work and even the content of a work defines itself often only in the process of implementing it.


A prototype launched by imagination

The prototype introduced here has one particular feature. Namely it is to be found as a hidden quality in already existing situations and existing objects. It originates from something that already exists and is in use but we have not yet noticed it. It has an imminent potential feature pointing to a different situation or a different use than it has had until now.

The prototype discussed here is not on its way to production. Instead it already exists as a thing or as a situation. It is also not a typical example of its kind, but something in a situation or in an object that is still unknown, something that is just about to develop. This something-in-development is waiting for the moment to surface, as it is waiting to be thought of and to be worked into a piece of art (Heidegger 1960/2003).  

In this prototype setup the work functions like a “frottage” of something that does not yet exist. Frottage is a drawing technique in which a textured surface is covered by paper and the hidden surface is then made visible by rubbing over the paper using a pencil or other drawing material. Like a frottage, the prototype reveals itself in the action of making visible what is covered or hidden. The artwork’s origin is in the action of the making-visible and, to be more specific, in the ongoingness of the making it visible action.  (Heidegger 1960/2003.)

In the work the artist is testing what kind of future situation this present situation could be a prototype of. Prototype thinking turns upside down along the timeline. An existing found situation provides clues in order to find out of which future situation could be considered the starting point or prototype. In this setup, the artwork reveals the prototypical potential of what already exists.  


A slumping wall

Working with this kind of prototype allows me to add time to a situation. For example, I can extend a moment of a situation in order to be able to remain in that moment a bit longer. I demonstrate this kind of tear in time with the following test setup, an existing situation that was given a prototype treatment.

In the test setup I used latex as a material because of its elastic quality and its capability to adapt to the surroundings. The work is called Wall and Floor (Ziegler 2018). I got the idea for the work in my new and still empty studio.

I attached a vertical strip of latex to the wall. It was approximately 150 cm high and 15 cm wide. The strip reached down to the floor and continued at a 90-degree angle on the floor into the room. The latex strip consisted of many painted layers of latex. Each layer was applied with a brush and it had to dry before the next one could be applied. The result was a rubbery strip half of which was sticking to the wall and half to the floor.

As the latex strip acquired a certain thickness, I peeled it off the wall and the floor and then I rubbed the latex with talc so it would no longer be sticky. The floor part of the strip looked almost the same as before being peeled as it was laying on the floor.

The wall part could not sustain itself. It was slumping. The reason for that was that latex is a passive material, adapting to the conditions of the surroundings. The law of gravity allows the latex strip to rest on the floor, while the same law forces the strip on the wall to slump.

I held the latex strip with my hands up against the wall. I released it. I picked up the latex strip again and repeated the action. I wanted to depict the moment when the latex strip is slumping.

If the wall itself was made out of some other material it could have an alternative property to only standing upright. It could possibly slump.

Denise Ziegler, 2018




Heidegger Martin 1960/2003. Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes (Reclam Verlag GmbH, Stuttgart)

Ziegler Denise 2018. Seinä ja lattia (Wall and Floor)

merriam-webster.com (18.3.2018)

 Wall and Floor, 2018  still image

Wall and Floor, 2018

still image