A red tongue of salt flows out of a dark, cavernous mouth, in the depths of which luminous stalactitic teeth can be seen: The Toothache of Romanticism was the title of Gerda Steiner’s and Jörg Lenzlinger’s joint contribution to the exhibition Pulsions at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris in the year 2000, an ironic game with the whole category of anthropom orphic landscape fantasy. The wide-open cavern of the mouth was tormented by toothache and in the course of the exhibition its flowing red saliva gradually solidified into friable crystal.
The process of crystallisation, which is of central significance in many works by Steiner and Lenzlinger, gives them a dynamic all their own. Depending on how the salt solution is prepared and its evaporation rate, crystals can develop quickly or slowly from the coloured liquid that provides them with nourishment, can remain small or grow large. At first, the solution is an energetic pool of liquid but then, as it progressively crystallises, it is overtaken by a creeping, brightly glittering solidity. If it is suitably supplied with more salt solution, it gradually takes possession of the space, grows and grows, until it ultimately covers everything with a solidified image of its creation. These crystal gardens are beautiful to behold – and a little uncanny at the same time. Homeland Machine, the work that the two artists set in motion at Expo 02 in Murten, was a huge, pulsating organism and not just a crystal garden. In the same way as blood circulates in the human body, so the machine pumped urea through countless tubes, thereby feeding the organs of recollection: plants, toys, shelves with household goods. A conserving layer of bright crystal gradually enveloped everything. The organic vitality of the process was shown most clearly in Crystalliser: every night, when the temperature dropped, a feathery, white crystal composed of thin needles of salt was built up. When the temperature rose in the afternoon, the deposit dissolved again, like a heart that pulsates to the rhythm of the day.
Garden of my Heart grows a rainbow of diamonds