[This text is based on an attempt I made at the time (end of 2016) to explain the conceptual framework to the gallerist.]

The exhibition was about speculative theories in physics that had since been proven wrong. Two of the main theories were Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s idea that vibration was a fundamental principle in nature, and Michael Faraday’s 1869 claim that atoms were a kind of vortex knot of ether.

Both theories were hypotheses about how the world could be understood. The first was directly from the Romantic era, while the second was derived from romantic ideas of the ‘Naturphilosophie’. During my research, I discovered that the wrong theories circulated within personal networks that were not exactly identical, but were at least largely the same as those in which the correct scientific findings were exchanged.

The wrong theories eventually led to other important insights and were therefore very important. The physicist and mathematician Peter Guthrie Tait began to systematize the knots after Faraday’s knot hypothesis and thus gave an early, important impetus to mathematical knot theory.

Tait and Kelvin, who often worked closely together, also made significant studies on kinematics (1879). And then the circle closes again to Ritter and his successors, such as Hans Jenny’s Cymatics (Kymatik). Jenny still moves in a gray area between science and pseudoscience, but all the wrong theories have not disappeared. They are no longer discussed in the scientific context, but today in particular in esoteric circles.

One of the works that I wanted to show was created during a six-month stay in New York. I referred to the experiments of the German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter from the romantic Jena circle. I have been dealing with the two opposing poles of this figure for some time: the destructive and at the same time very successful experiments, the lucid personality and his “dark” language, his precise research as well as his absurd and occult hypotheses.

I focused on his investigations of a reinterpretation of a cosmic Musica Universalis. He developed this on his assumption that the energetic primal principle of nature is based on oscillation. Light and sound are ultimately the same phenomenon in different frequencies.

The romantic physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter was familiar with the experiments of Ernst Chladni, who vibrated his plates with sound and caused fine sand on them to form geometric patterns. Chladni’s experiments confirmed Ritter’s thesis that oscillation is a fundamental principle of nature, and thus light/image and sound represent the same phenomenon, albeit with different frequencies.

The contradictory figure of J.W. Ritter has fascinated me for some time, his position between rational research – with impressive results: the discovery of UV light, the foundation of electrochemistry, inventions such as the rechargeable accumulator are due to him – and at the same time highly speculative theory formation. He flirted with occult activities, understood physics as art, and left his contemporaries somewhat helpless with his contradictions. Goethe was impressed by his knowledge and conclusions, but at the same time repelled by his “dark language”. Later, Walter Benjamin also held J. W. Ritter in high esteem, because his approach went beyond that of an ordinary physicist.

Today, as the role of natural sciences is being questioned again (cf. Curtis White “The Science Delusion”, 2013, or Thomas Nagel, who sharply criticizes the reductionist approach of natural sciences “Mind and Cosmos”, 2012), this person gains great importance for me. I understand Ritter’s life in different ways as exemplary. And the question arises whether a scientist can be described as a “trickster”?

All series of the work group are based on Chladni figures in liquids (similar to the ‘Cymatics / Kymatic’ by Hans Jenny from the 1960s), and a representation of J.W. Ritter of a planetary music reflected by the sun. I have processed a recording of a radio telescope from New Mexico (according to the EVP guidelines: filtered, duplicated… but no new tones added) and vibrated liquids with it. In one case, brandy, or also cheap sachet soups, both in reference to Ritter’s lifestyle.

The second main axis of the project takes up knots from the first knot theory or systematization of P. G. Tait, who started from flat projections. These were designed on the assumption that they form the basis of all elements as knotted ether vortices. In principle, each element could be assigned to a knot. An overview of all possible basic knots would thus have displayed chemical elements.

In the end, the exhibition is about the figure of the “trickster” and the question of whether and, as already mentioned, to what extent scientists can be described as tricksters. Studies of tricksters in West Africa show that they achieve their status and reputation from the highly contradictory behavior of knowledge, wise attitude, but also simultaneous cheating.

Situation views. 

The photo prints consisting of several sheets were stuck on the wall like wallpaper. The nodes were mounted above them as violet neon tubes, which were painted over with black paint so that the light could escape through small open parts.