Gerhard Richter, Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum, 2018, 51°57'43.236"N 7°37'50.7"E

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Gerhard Richter, Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum, 2018. Installation view

Credit

Since June 2018, the work Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) has been installed in the Dominican Church which was built in 1708–1725 based on designs by the architect Lambert Friedrich von Corfey as part of a monastery complex. The architecture is considered an outstanding example in the style of Franco-Italian high Baroque. Together with his window in Cologne Cathedral (2007), the Münster installation is Richter’s second piece created for a church – in this case, one that has been deconsecrated. At the work’s centre is a Foucault pendulum designed by Richter and constructed in collaboration with the Physikalisches Institut of the University of Münster. It consists of a metal sphere (ø 22 cm, 48 kg) suspended on a 28.75m long stainless steel cable from the crossing dome of the Baroque church. The sphere’s uninterrupted swinging motion is provided for by an electromagnetic motor installed beneath the circular floor plate made of greywacke – sedimentary rock 380 million years old. The pendulum’s relationship to the earth’s surface as it rotates can be ascertained from the 360° goniometer scale engraved in the outer rim of the floor plate. The scientific experiment relies on the artistic design of its setting to be fully understood.

For his installation, Gerhard Richter adopted the experimental set-up established by the French physicist Léon Foucault. In 1851, Foucault discovered that the ground beneath a freely swinging pendulum slowly rotates. Since gravity only exerts its force vertically, it was evident that it was not the pendulum but the ground that was moving. With the very simple construction of his experiment involving a pendulum in the Panthéon in Paris, Foucault gave the first-ever visible demonstration of the earth’s rotation to a broad audience, which although not directly perceptible, affects everything. Even though proof of the earth’s rotation had already long been established by the mid-nineteenth century, the novelty here was the possibility of verifying the earth’s rotation on its own axis solely from observation of the planet itself. As the historian of science Michael Hagner has remarked, “On the one hand, the pendulum experiment is a landmark in the history of physics and astronomy […]. On the other, it also belongs to the history of science’s public self-presentation.”1

The pendulum and the floor plate are flanked by four upright, oblong, grey panels of glass (each 6 x 1.34 m), whose material and colouration have featured repeatedly in Richter’s work since the late 1960s. The glass panes have been grey enamelled on the rear, while their front sides have been vaporised with a mirror coating. The sheets are mounted in pairs on the walls of the church’s transept. Two of the glass panels have an identical tone of dark grey, the other two have different tones of light grey. As Gerhard Richter observed in 1975, “Grey. It makes no statement whatever; it evokes neither feelings nor associations […|. It has the capacity that no other colour has, to make 'nothing' visible. To me, grey is the welcome and only possible equivalent for indifference, noncommitment, absence of opinion, absence of shape.”2 It is visual perception, vision per se, that interests Richter. For over fifty years he has been exploring the medium of painting, challenging its conditions and possibilities in his works. One of the questions that has continued to preoccupy the artist concerns the correspondence between painting and reality. In the process of fathoming this issue he has played out all the variations of subject critique in painting, with recourse to the most advanced techniques available at any time. Considering painting as a surface, as a field of vision and a vista takes us to Richter’s artistic exploration of mirrors and panes of glass.

Everything that takes place between the double mirrors in the Dominican Church is unavoidably incorporated into the work. The observing subject thrown back on themselves and confronted with the possibilities, but also limitations, of their own perception. Richter’s glass panels and mirrors allude to the infinity of possible representations and the simultaneous finite realm of what can be represented – no truth can be declared absolute, no image of reality created that can be definitively grasped. The interplay of the various elements in this installation transforms it into something more than a physics experiment. We rediscover ourselves caught up in a mélange of science and visual art, of laws of nature and subjective experience. The installation opens up to sensory experience something which would otherwise elude our limited perception, while at the same time challenging our compulsion to see and understand.

Merle Radtke

1

Michael Hagner, Foucaults Pendel und wir. Anlässlich einer Installation von Gerhard Richter, Köln 2021, 12.

2

Gerhard Richter, “From a letter to Edy de Wilde, 23.2.1975”, in: Dietmar Elger, Hans Ulrich Obrist (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interview and Letters 1961–2007, London 2009, 92.

Accompanying Programme:

17/07/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

21/08/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

18/09/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

16/10/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

20/11/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

16/01/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

20/02/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

20/03/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

24/04/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

15/05/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche

19/06/2022, 11:30 am, 12:00 pm,

Guided tours through Gerhard Richter's installation Two Grey Double Mirrors for a Pendulum

, Dominikanerkirche