Creative Fusion: Rainer Prohaska at Transformer Station
At Play, with Ideas and Objects
International exchange programs like Creative Fusion give Clevelanders a window onto the wider world, and they give international artists an intimate view of Cleveland. But of equal value is the way in which they give Clevelanders a fresh perspective of themselves and their city.
When Rainer Prohaska came to Cleveland from Europe (he’s from Vienna but also works in Berlin), he noticed something of which Clevelanders take little note: an abundance of trees and cars in our landscape.
Prohaska was also aware that the Forest City was integral to the automotive industry in its earliest days and still has a role in their manufacture. It was this fascination that led him to propose constructing a gigantic scale atop the Transformer Station—where Prohaska is a Creative Fusion artist-in-residence—from which would hang, on one side, an automobile and, on the other, a tree—roots and all. With projects all over Europe and even in China, Prohaska is accustomed to navigating complex local regulations. But he soon realized the scale presented insurmountable obstacles. He also worried thought it was too easily misunderstood, its message oversimplified. “I don’t want with my art to point a finger,” he says.
Instead, Prohaska is installing, on five parking spots in the Transformer Station’s parking lot, five very plain looking automobiles. Upside down.
The cars will be strapped down on their rooftops using uniformly-colored ratchet straps, which have become a leitmotif of Prohaska’s art—unifying the separate pieces of his site-specific installations, as well as unifying his wide-ranging, globe-spanning projects. Using ready-made materials and industrial supplies, he reimagines objects and structures to reimagine their meanings.
“I like very much the aesthetic if you tie things with the same color,” he says. He’s attracted to the belts because they are “practical, super-strong, and the way you tighten them is nice. Few people know how to work with them.”
Prohaska first learned how to use the straps as a hot air balloon pilot, one of the many entries in his colorful resume that helps explain where he got to where he is now. Educated to be an engineer, he is able to make the complicated calculations that will bring stability to the cars so they won’t teeter-totter. (He might have also learned a bit about cars when he ran a driving school outside of Vienna.)
“You can play like Legos, but in a huge dimension,” he says of the ratchet straps. Some of his work he happily compares to giant Jenga sets.
“I like to play,” Prohaska says. “With ideas, but also with objects.”
The installation (GETTING NAME) opens November 19 and runs through January 2, 2017.
Prohaska will give an artist talk at the Transformation on Sunday, November 20 at 2 pm.
Prohaska is part of a show, Apparat. Retrogression through technological progress, at the Scultpure Center, with former Creative Fusion artist Przemyslaw Jasielski.
Photographer Donald Black, the local artist who was originally going to work with Prohaska, is photographing Creative Fusion artists and will create a photo essay published by the Transformer Station and printed by Guide to Kulchur. Black will also be creating a mural on the Van Rooy Building.